Pulitzer Prize-winning author James McPherson to give public lecture

Pulitzer Prize-winning author James M. McPherson, a leading expert on the American Civil War, will present a public lecture focusing on the war’s failed peace negotiations and its lasting impact on the nation at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 20.

McPherson will present the John E. McGinty Lecture in History, “Unconditional Surrender: The Failure of Peace Negotiations in the American Civil War,” in Bazarsky Lecture Hall. Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP at mcgintylecture.eventbrite.com.

McPherson is the George Henry Davis ’86 Professor of American History Emeritus at Princeton University. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in American History in 1989 for his book “Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era.” He was awarded the Lincoln Prize in 2009 for his book “Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief,” and also won the Lincoln Prize in 1998 for his book “For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War.”

In his lecture, McPherson will discuss the various efforts for a negotiated peace during the Civil War and will analyze why they failed – indeed, why they really had no chance to succeed. Most wars in American history have been ended by peace negotiations that led to a treaty between the contending parties: the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, even in some respects the Vietnam War. The two major exceptions are the Civil War and World War II, which ended in unconditional surrender and the utter destruction of the losing side’s government and political structure.

A guest of Salve Regina’s Department of History, McPherson’s visit to the University will also include a private guest lecture in Dr. William Leeman’s class on America’s Civil War, which covers the antebellum period, the war years, reconstruction after the war, and American memory of the Civil War. Students in the course are reading McPherson’s “Battle Cry of Freedom.”

“Professor McPherson is a world-class scholar and his visit is of tremendous value to the University,” Leeman said. “Our students will have the opportunity to interact on a personal level with the leading Civil War historian in the country and will be able to ask him questions not only about the Civil War and its importance to our nation, but also about why he became a historian, how he chooses his research topics, how he conducts research, and how he goes about the process of writing. For the larger University community, Professor McPherson’s visit is an opportunity to explore how the issues and conflicts that shaped the nation during the Civil War era remain relevant today.”

McPherson was born in Valley City, North Dakota, and raised in Minnesota, and earned his B.A. from Gustavus Adolphus College in 1958 and his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1963. In 2007, he was the first recipient of the Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for lifetime achievement in the field of military history. He has served as president of the American Historical Association and the Society of American Historians, and has been a leading voice on behalf of the preservation of Civil War battlefields. He resides in Princeton, New Jersey.

Established in honor of the late John E. McGinty, former trustee and parent of 2001 Salve Regina graduate John W. McGinty, the McGinty Fund furthers the educational advancement of undergraduate students in history.

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