[Yale's Confederates: A Biographical Dictionary by Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes (University of Tennessee Press, 2009). Cloth, drawings, photos, notes. 256 pages. ISBN:978-1-57233-635-3 $45]
Although respected institutions of higher learning existed in the South, wealthy antebellum southerners, then as today, often sent their sons north to obtain what we would today call an "Ivy League" education. In his new book Yale’s Confederates: A Biographical Dictionary, historian Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes (a Yalie himself) has exhaustively researched and compiled a fascinating and comprehensive biographical register of Yale students and graduates that later went on to serve in the Confederate army and/or government. In his introductory essay, Hughes gracefully acknowledges the earlier work and encouragement of Dr. Ellsworth Eliot, Jr., who published his own guide Yale in the Civil War in 1932. In Yale's Confederates, Hughes attempts a much more inclusive listing than those created by Eliot and others, the documenting and sourcing of which is outlined in a short essay.
Hughes organizes his biographical dictionary alphabetically, each entry beginning with name and graduation date(s) or years attended. This is followed by a few lines listing birth and death dates and place, as well as names of parents and spouse(s). The biographical information is presented in narrative form, and varies in length from a short paragraph to around five hundred words or more. If source material is available, Hughes also tells of the individual’s Yale experience. The biographies are largely professional in focus, highlighting the subject’s military and occupational contributions to public service much more than incidents from private life. There is no bibliography, but the author's source notes are bracketed within the narrative.
Illustrations are fairly sparse in the volume. Out of the over five hundred biographical entries, only a few dozen photographs or drawings were included in the book’s pages. However, as is typical with University of Tennessee Press publications, the overall presentation is attractive, and the book itself, covered in blue cloth, is of sound construction for repeated long term use.
Institutional libraries and serious researchers will want a copy of Hughes’s authoritative compilation. Yale graduates with a historical bent should also appreciate this record of the Civil War military service of their scholarly antecedents. Yale’s Confederates: A Biographical Dictionary is a highly useful and recommended reference book.
[adapted from my review appearing in On Point Magazine]