Marvel, William 1949-
Marvel, William 1949-
Born August 14, 1949, in Norfolk, VA; son of Reuben Joshua, Jr. (a naval officer) and Dolores M. Marvel. Education: Keene State College, B.A., 1979. Politics: "Green." Religion: "Greener still." Hobbies and other interests: Hiking, canoeing, camping, old cemeteries, contra dancing, the company of animals.
Home—South Conway, NH.
Journalist and writer. Military service: U.S. Army, 1968-70.
Lincoln Prize; Douglas Southall Freeman Award; Bell Award.
The First New Hampshire Battery, 1861-1865, Lost Cemetery Press (South Conway, NH), 1985.
(With Michael A. Cavanaugh) The Petersburg Campaign: The Battle of the Crater, "the Horrid Pit," June 25-August 6, 1864, H.E. Howard (Lynchburg, VA), 1989.
Burnside, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1991.
Southwest Virginia in the Civil War: The Battles for Saltville, H.E. Howard (Lynchburg, VA), 1992.
The Battle of Fredericksburg, Eastern National Park and Monument Association (Conshohocken, PA), 1993.
Andersonville: The Last Depot, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1994.
The Alabama and the Kearsarge: The Sailor's Civil War, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1998.
(Editor) The Monitor Chronicles: One Sailor's Account: Today's Campaign to Recover the Civil War Wreck, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.
A Place Called Appomattox, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 2000.
Lee's Last Retreat: The Flight to Appomattox, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 2002.
Mr. Lincoln Goes to War, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2006.
Contributor to books, including A Concise History of the Civil War, and The Civil War's Common Soldier, both Eastern National Park and Monument Association (Conshohocken, PA), 1994. Contributor to periodicals, including Historical New Hampshire and Blue and Gray.
William Marvel's books focus on individual aspects of Civil War history: the surrender at Appomattox, the conditions in Andersonville Prison, and the naval battles between the Alabama and the Kearsarge. He has also written a war biography of General Ambrose Burnside, whose actions at Antietam and Fredericksburg sparked criticism both during and after the war. A Publishers Weekly contributor deemed Burnside "first-rate," adding that the work is "a deeply researched and gracefully written biography of an important but overlooked Union leader." Library Journal correspondent John Carver Edwards commended A Place Called Appomattox for its detailed descriptions of the lives of those who called Appomattox Courthouse home during the Civil War. Noting that the scenes describing the fighting around Appomattox and the subsequent Confederate surrender are "dramatically rendered," Edwards also noted that the "thoroughly researched and handsomely illustrated work is recommended for Civil War collections and most libraries." In Historian, Leonne M. Hudson wrote of Andersonville: The Last Depot: "This well-written and readable monograph is more than a recitation of the facts. It is an analysis of the evolution and events of Andersonville." Hudson also commented: "Marvel's book is a valuable contribution to the historiography of Civil War prisons."
In Lee's Last Retreat: The Flight to Appomattox, Marvel recounts the final retreat and ultimate surrender of the Confederacy with a focus on righting the popular misconception that Lee's Army of Northern Virginia lost because of the Union's superior forces. Discounting various memoirs that the author believes were overly inflated accounts, Marvel instead that Lee ultimately lost because of several crucial mistakes made by him and his other officers. Maria Bagshaw, writing in the Library Journal, noted that the author includes "meticulously researched contemporary diary accounts and letters." Harold S. Wilson wrote in the Journal of Southern History: "Overall this book establishes a new baseline for discussions about Lee's last campaign."
Marvel takes another opposing historical view in his book Mr. Lincoln Goes to War. Contrary to what most history books have taught concerning the South's responsibility for beginning the Civil War, Marvel presents a case that, in fact, President Abraham Lincoln bears a large responsibility for the devastating war. According to the author, the war was begun partly due to Lincoln's decision to not compromise with secession proponents concerning certain issues about slavery, and due to Lincoln's insistence that Fort Sumter be held. In the process, Marvel presents his case that Lincoln ignored certain laws of the land, the democratic process, and civil liberties. Reviewers generally praised the book but noted that the author was much stronger in his appraisal of the early military conflicts than in presenting his political case that Lincoln was wrong in his course of actions. For example, Randall M. Miller, writing in the Library Journal, noted that the author "relies on conjecture in supposing political alignments and peaceful resolutions" were more readily available to Lincoln. Nevertheless, Miller wrote that the author exhibits "authority and vigor in relating military actions." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote: "This well-constructed, comprehensively documented revisionist exercise merits consideration and reflection."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 15, 2006, Gilbert Taylor, review of Mr. Lincoln Goes to War, p. 24.
Choice, May, 1992, E.P. Muller, review of Burnside, p. 1458; February, 1995, B.D. Simpson, review of Andersonville: The Last Depot, p. 998.
Civil War History, December, 1992, Joseph L. Harsh, review of Burnside, p. 353; June, 1995, Frank L. Byrne, review of Andersonville, p. 169; June, 1998, Norman S. Stevens, review of The Alabama and the Kearsarge: The Sailor's Civil War, p. 154.
Civil War Times, August, 2000, John M. Taylor, review of The Monitor Chronicles: One Sailor's Account: Today's Campaign to Recover the Civil War Wreck; March, 2001, John Hennessy, "A Typical Southern Town," p. 10.
Historian, winter, 1996, Leonne M. Hudson, review of Andersonville, p. 409.
Journal of American History, September, 1992, David C. Ward, review of Burnside, p. 668; September, 1995, F.N. Boney, review of Andersonville, p. 749; December, 1997, Chester G. Hearn, review of The Alabama and the Kearsarge, p. 1073.
Journal of Southern History, February, 1996, Walter B. Edgar, review of Andersonville, p. 156; May, 2004, Harold S. Wilson, review of Lee's Last Retreat: The Flight to Appomattox, p. 444.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2006, review of Mr. Lincoln Goes to War, p. 336.
Library Journal, October 15, 1991, W. Walter Wicker, review of Burnside, p. 96; August, 2000, John Carver Edwards, review of A Place Called Ap-pomattox, p. 127; September 1, 2002, Maria C. Bagshaw, review of Lee's Last Retreat, p. 193; April 1, 2006, Randall M. Miller, review of Mr. Lincoln Goes to War, p. 108.
Publishers Weekly, November 1, 1991, review of Burnside, p. 64; July 17, 2000, review of The Monitor Chronicles, p. 191; September 4, 2000, review of A Place Called Appomattox, p. 96; February 27, 2006, review of Mr. Lincoln Goes to War, p. 45.
Houghton Mifflin Web site,http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/ (April 12, 2007), brief profile of author.