The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993

Book Reviews

157

Gen. Sam Williams are as good a reason as any to read and learn from Hanging
Sam: A Military Biography of General Samuel T. Williams.
U.S. Army Avzation Center, BURTON WRIGHT III
Fort Rucker, Alabama
Carolzna Cavalier: The Life and Mind of James Johnston Pettzgrew. By Clyde N.
Wilson. (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1990. Pp. xiv+303. Preface,
black-and-white plates, notes, sources, index. $35.)
The current fashion in history is to dismiss southern cavaliers as either swag-
gering fops or Confederate myths. Robert E. Lee, described by his biographer
as "a wholly human gentleman," was neither fop nor myth; even before Ameri-
cans remade him into "the Marble Man," most Southerners considered "Marse
Robert" the ideal cavalier. Of the many real cavaliers that wore Confederate
gray, scarcely any placed a higher value on honor than the Confederate presi-
dent. An aide also reported that Jefferson Davis "knew more about horses than
any man," and was "a consummate rider, graceful and easy in the saddle." But
if horsemanship alone made a man a cavalier, then General Ulysses S. Grant
had some claim to the title.
No person better embodied the highest standards of the southern cavalier
than Johnston Pettigrew, the remarkable subject of this remarkable biography.
Born in North Carolina, Pettigrew died at age thirty-five from a wound re-
ceived during the Confederate retreat from Gettysburg. But before his death
he had established himself as a talented scholar, scientist, author, traveler, law-
yer, politician, agrarian, and soldier-a man who lived and died according to
his cavalier ideals.
If certain reviewers have their way, Clyde N. Wilson's elegant study of
Pettigrew and his times may receive less attention than it deserves. Last De-
cember in a rudely negative review for Choice, a magazine that tells libraries
what books to buy, E. K. Eckert of St. Bonaventure University called both the
life and biography of Pettigrew "limited and not very laudable." Burdening his
assessment with intolerant pronouncements, Eckert denounced Pettigrew as "a
self-centered romantic," who "squandered his intellectual abilities, monies, and
talents on himself," and charged Pettigrew's biographer with the crimes of rev-
eling "in the romance of antebellum southern chivalry," but ignoring "the
vigilantism, sexism, illiteracy, poverty, and racism that chivalry helped to main-
tain." No surprise that Eckert judged Wilson's book, "Not recommended." This
means that many libraries will not order Carolina Cavalier.
What a loss! Clyde Wilson knew that to write honestly and sympathetically
about Pettigrew and his times would offend both the setters and the followers
of current fashions in history. Fortunately, that failed to prevent Wilson from
writing this book or perceptive critics from reviewing it favorably; they have
called its author "an exemplary historian," "clearly one of the best of his gen-
eration," and Carolzna Cavalier "outstanding," "most impressive," "magisterial
intellectual history." With such evaluations, I concur. Wilson deserves honors

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101215/. Accessed April 17, 2014.