Power, J. Tracy 1958–

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Power, J. Tracy 1958–

(James Tracy Power)


Born July 3, 1958, in Atlanta, GA; son of James Charley, Jr. (a communications executive) and Claudett (a teacher) Power; married Carolyn Thompson (a college administrator), July 27, 1987. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Emory University, B.A., 1980; University of South Carolina, M.A., 1984, Ph.D., 1993. Politics: Independent. Religion: Protestant.


Home—Columbia, SC. Office—South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 8301 Parklane Rd., Columbia, SC 29223. E-mail—[email protected]


South Carolina Department of Archives and History, State Historic Preservation Office, Columbia, historian, 1986—. Midlands Technical College, adjunct instructor in history, 1993-96; University of South Carolina at Columbia, adjunct lecturer, 1995-96 and 1998.


South Carolina Historical Association (president, 2003-05).


Jefferson Davis Award, Museum of the Confederacy, 1998, Richard Barksdale Harwell Award, Atlanta Civil War Round Table, 1998, and Jerry Coffey Memorial Book Prize, Grady McWhiney Research Foundation, 1999, all for Lee's Miserables: Life in the Army of Northern Virginia from the Wilderness to Appomattox; Lincoln Prize, Lincoln and Soldiers Institute, 1999; Mellon Fellow, Virginia Historical Society, 1999 and 2000.


Lee's Miserables: Life in the Army of Northern Virginia from the Wilderness to Appomattox, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1998.

(Editor, with Frances Wallace Taylor and Catherine Taylor Matthews) The Leverett Letters: Correspondence of a South Carolina Family, 1851-1868, University of South Carolina Press (Columbia, SC), 2000.

Stonewall Jackson: Hero of the Confederacy, PowerPlus Books (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor to books including, Encyclopedia of the American Civil War, Encyclopedia of Confederacy, and The South Carolina Encyclopedia.. Contributor of articles and reviews to journals, including Civil War History, Journal of Southern History, and Journal of American History.


J. Tracy Power once told CA: "My lifelong interest in the Civil War—and in Southern history—began at the age of five, soon after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in the fall of 1963. The next February, when we celebrated Abraham Lincoln's birthday in a suburban Atlanta kindergarten, my teachers drew parallels between the assassinations of Presidents Kennedy and Lincoln, and I later read Clara Ingram Judson's biography of Lincoln. Judson's little book motivated me first to read everything I could find about Lincoln, and then, by its simple but heartbreaking description of ‘a very dreadful war,’ to learn everything I could about that war and the men who fought it.

"Ten years later, more fascinated by Rebels and Yankees than ever, I stumbled across a special issue of Civil War Times Illustrated that was devoted to the common soldiers of the Union and Confederate armies. After reading that and Bell Irvin Wiley's 1943 classic The Life of Johnny Reb—still the most vivid portrait of the Confederate rank and file—I decided that I wanted to be a professional historian. Wiley once wrote that the only way to truly understand Union and Confederate soldiers is to read their letters and diaries.

"All scholars who write about Civil War soldiers and their experiences owe a debt to Bell Wiley, who led the way in an age when manuscript research was the exception rather than the rule. I am personally indebted to him as well. He took the time to promote my interest in the Confederate common soldier while I was still in high school, and once I became an undergraduate at Emory University, where he taught until his death in 1980, his frequent encouragement reinforced my desire to become a scholar and teacher. My ambition to write a study of morale in the Confederate armies in the last year of the Civil War was eventually realized with the completion of my doctoral dissertation at the University of South Carolina and its subsequent publication in 1998 as Lee's Miserables: Life in the Army of Northern Virginia from the Wilderness to Appomattox.

"Lee's Miserables is a social history of the most famous and most successful of all the Confederate armies, focusing on the last year of the war and based on a close reading of the letters and diaries of more than 400 Confederate officers and enlisted men from May 1864 through April 1865. The real war can be found in the letters and diaries of the soldiers who fought it.

"Though Wiley's The Life of Johnny Reb was the earliest, most obvious, and most lasting influence on my work, others of note include Wiley's The Life of Billy Yank, Douglas Southall Freeman's Lee's Lieutenants, Bruce Catton's Army of the Potomac trilogy, especially A Stillness at Appomattox, and John Keegan's The Face of Battle. Other favorite authors—novelists and poets rather than historians, whose works I have long enjoyed but whose direct influence on my own work I cannot claim—include Robert Penn Warren, Fred Chappell, William Faulkner, George Garrett, David Bottoms, Reynolds Price, Ferrol Sams, and James Dickey.

"My philosophy of researching and writing history is unabashedly humanistic, emphasizing real people. My work focuses on the past as one inhabited by individuals rather than faceless groups, shaped by human acts rather than impersonal trends, and as a definite point in time and place."

Power later added: "My long-term project is a book on the relationship between General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia, the Confederacy's most famous and successful army. A Richmond newspaper observed in 1864, ‘General Lee trusts his troops most implicitly, whilst they in turn confide in their chief with child like faith.’ Lee and his soldiers—not just his officers, but the rank-and-file most of all—relied on each other for almost three years and in the process became the hope of the Confederate cause, as much as it had one. My focus, as with Lee's Miserables, is on wartime material, much of it unpublished, and my goal is to write a fresh and original portrait of Lee and his army, to examine in detail how their special bond was born; how it developed; how it contributed to their battlefield successes and failures; and how their shared experiences affected Lee and his men for the rest of their lives. Researching and writing this book will give me an excellent opportunity to test John Keegan's observation that ‘the personal bond between leader and follower lies at the root of all explanations of what does and what does not happen in battle.’"



Emory, spring, 2000, Krista Reese, "Lee's Miserables," biographical profile of Power.