William B. Hesseltine

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William Best Hesseltine (1902-1963) was an American historian at the University of Wisconsin–Madison known for his work on the Civil War, Reconstruction, the American South, and mid 19th century U.S. history.


Hesseltine was originally from Virginia. Hesseltine studied at the Ohio State University.[1] He was, for a time, an active member of the Socialist Party of the United States, accepting its nomination for Vice President in 1948, and opposed Franklin D. Roosevelt's foreign policy in the years before the United States joined World War II.[2]

Scholarly Impact[edit]

A number of his doctoral students at Madison went on to be influential historians in their own right, including Kenneth Stampp, Frank Freidel, Richard N. Current, Stephen E. Ambrose, and T. Harry Williams. and Sam Ross [3] In addition, Hesseltine influenced the development of the field of rhetoric through his mentoring of Robert G. Gunderson.[4]

Awards and Prizes[edit]


  • Civil War Prisons (1930)
  • Lincoln and the War Governors (1948)
  • Confederate Leaders in the New South (1950)


  1. ^ Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The 'Objectivity Question' and the American Historical Profession (Cambridge, 1988): 226
  2. ^ Novick, p. 245, 247.
  3. ^ Novick, p. 15
  4. ^ Kurt Ritter, "Robert Gray Gunderson: The Historian as Civic Rhetorician" in Jim A. Kuypers and Andrew King, eds., Twentieth-Century Roots of Rhetorical Studies (Praeger, 2001): 178; Gunderson, "William B. Hesseltine and the Profession of History: A Retrospective--Dutch Uncle to a Profession." Wisconsin Magazine of History 66 (1982-1983): 106-110.