James McPherson ’58 Returns to Gustavus as Sesquicentennial Scholar

Posted on March 5th, 2012 by

Sesquicentennial Scholar and 1958 Gustavus alumnus James McPherson

Gustavus alumnus, Civil War historian, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author James McPherson ’58 will return to his alma mater April 15-17 as a Sesquicentennial Scholar.

Besides visiting several History Department classes during his visit to campus, McPherson will speak publicly during the College’s Monday, April 16, daily chapel service at 10 a.m. in Christ Chapel. His talk will be titled “Two Sesquicentennials: New Beginnings” and will address how the founding of Gustavus provided leadership for a people making a new beginning in a new country and compare it to the new beginnings for Americans – black and white, Northern and Southern – generated by the Civil War. Following his talk in Christ Chapel, McPherson will sign books in the President’s Dining Room in the C. Charles Jackson Campus Center from 10:30-1130 a.m. McPherson’s chapel talk will be live-streamed on the Gustavus website. Both the chapel talk and book signing are free and open to the public.

On Tuesday, April 17, McPherson will speak at Interlachen Country Club in Edina at an event that is also open to the public. McPherson’s lecture will be titled “Why the Civil War Still Matters” and will address the ways in which the war’s impact on America is still being felt today. Those interested in attending this event, which will include a reception at 4:30 p.m., McPherson’s lecture at 5 p.m., and a book signing at 6 p.m., should RSVP by going online to gustavus.edu/go/mcpherson, or by contacting the Gustavus Office of Alumni Relations at 507-933-7511.

After graduating magna cum laude from Gustavus in 1958, McPherson went on to earn his Ph.D. in 1963 from Johns Hopkins University. He eventually earned the title of George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History at Princeton University, where he taught for 42 years. Upon his retirement, he was granted professor emeritus status.

While he wrote and published seven books from 1964 to 1985 on topics including the abolition of slavery and Abraham Lincoln, he is best known for his 1988 book Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. The book broke ground in combining the complexities of the war while maintaining the narrative that made it appealing to the American public. It helped launch an unprecedented national renaissance of interest in the Civil War and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1989.

Several of McPherson’s other works have received special recognition as well. His book The Struggle for Equality won the Anisfield-Wolf Award in 1965. He has received the Lincoln Prize twice in his career – in 1998 with For Cause and Comrades and in 2009 for Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief. In 2007, he received the first-ever $100,000 Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for lifetime achievement in military history.

McPherson’s current book project is titled, War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865, and will be published in the summer or fall of this year. The book addresses the crucial but underappreciated impact the Union and Confederate navies had on the outcome of the Civil War.

For more information about McPherson’s visit to Minnesota as Gustavus Adolphus College’s Sesquicentennial Scholar, go online to gustavus.edu/go/mcpherson or contact Gustavus Professor of History Greg Kaster at gkaster@gustavus.edu.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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