Sunday, August 20, 2006

Burke Davis RIP

Greensboro writer and historian Burke Davis died this weekend. He wrote numerous histories and biographies of the American Civil War and many other topics of American history. A journalist, he wrote in an authoritive, but entertaining style. Writing like his stirs more interest in history than scholarly tomes, if you ask me.

I left the Greensboro Public Library yesterday with five copies of biographies and histories of the Civil War Davis had written. I have no way of knowing how to pick out a classic Davis paragraph so I'll just quote one that stood out as I skimmed "JEB Stuart: The Last Cavalier." Davis is describing the arrival of Colonel Robert E. Lee and his aide Lt. JEB Stuart as they disembark from the train at Harper's Ferry to end John Brown's raid:

Lieutenant (Israel) Green met Lee and Stuart as they dismounted from the engine. He remembered few details of their appearance. Of Lee: "He was in civilian dress...He wore no beard, except a dark mustache and his hair was slightly gray.

Of Stuart he noticed only the rakish rolled brim of a big brown hat. The young cavalryman was broad in the shoulders, standing about five feet ten inches. The two might have been a pair of merchants on a holiday, for all the concern Lieutenant Green could read in their manner.

That whole chapter is fascinating. It's non-judgmental and gives a great deal of dignity to Brown. That's the kind of writing that got me interested in history.

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