The Journals of Josiah Gorgas, 1857–1878
345 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 1.00 in, 19 Illustrations
- Published: August 1995
- Published: August 1995
Josiah Gorgas was best known as the highly regarded Chief of Confederate Ordnance. Born in 1818, he attended West Point, served in the U.S. Army, and later, after marrying Amelia Gayle, daughter of a former Alabama governor, joined the Confederacy. After the Civil War he served as president of The University of Alabama until ill health forced him to resign. His journals, maintained between 1857 and 1878, reflect the family's economic successes and failures, detail the course of the South through the Civil War, and describe the ordeal of Reconstruction. Few journals cover such a sweep of history. An added dimension is the view of Victorian family life as Gorgas explored his feelings about aspects of parental responsibility and transmission of values to children--a rarely documented account from the male perspective. His son, called Willie in the journals, was William Crawford Gorgas (1854-1920), who was noted for his fight to control yellow fever and who became surgeon general of the United States.
In his foreword to the volume, Frank E. Vandiver states: "Wiggins has done much more than present a well-edited version of Gorgas's diaries and journals; she has interpreted them in full Gorgas family context and in perspective of the times they cover. . . . Wiggins informs with the sort of editorial notes expected of a careful scholar, but she enlightens with wide knowledge of American and southern history. . . . Josiah Gorgas [was] an unusually observant, passionate man, a 'galvanized Rebel' who deserves rank among the true geniuses of American logistics."
"A superior peice of work. Sarah Wiggins has done a very skillful job of editing the eighteen Gorgas journals covering all three crucial decades of the 19th-century South--the antebellum period, Civil War years, and the postbellum period. The contents of these journals are very significant for telling us much about Victorian family life, as well as for depicting military events, and the political and economic conditions faced by many Southerners during this critical period in American history."—Carol K. Bleser, Clemson University
"This may well be the most engaging edited volume I have ever read. Rarely does one find in a diarist the articulateness, insight, and candor that Gorgas exhibits. Beyond that, Gorgas was involved in many crucial and dramatic events and phenomena. His diaries provide wonderful insights into the secession crisis, the war effort, and conditions on the homefront and within the Confederate government as well. He offers an insider's perspective on key figures such as Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. Gorgas also provides terrific descriptive materials on the postbellum and Reconstruction years. At the same time, his comments about personal feelings and family matters are consistently interesting and compelling. The editing job is first rate. It is restrained, sensitive, and nonintrusive while providing ample detail. The glossary of key individuals is especially helpful."—James Cobb, University of Tennessee