William C. Davis (historian)

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William C. Davis
William c davis 7355.JPG
Davis at the 2015 Gaithersburg Book Festival.
Born William Charles Davis
1946 (age 68–69)
Residence Montgomery County, Virginia, U.S.
Nationality American
Other names W.C. Davis
Education Master of Arts in History (1969)
Alma mater Sonoma State University
Occupation Historian
Known for Studies of the American Civil War
Notable work The Cause Lost: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy (1996)
Home town Independence, Missouri, U.S.
Website http://www.civilwar.vt.edu/

William Charles Davis (born 1946) is an American historian who is the professor of history at Virginia Tech and Director of Programs at that school's Virginia Center for Civil War Studies. Specializing in the American Civil War, Davis has twice been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize (for Breckinridge: Statesman, Soldier, Symbol and Battle at Bull Run). He has written more than 40 books on the American Civil War and other aspects of early southern U.S. history.[1] He is the only three-time winner of the Jefferson Davis Prize for Confederate history and was awarded the Jules F. Landry Award for Southern history. His book Lone Star Rising has been called "the best one-volume history of the Texas revolution yet written".[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Davis earned Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts of History in 1969 from Sonoma State University. For many years he was editor and publisher of Civil War Times Illustrated and lived in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.


Davis orating in 2009.

Davis's expertise on Confederate and southern U.S. history has made him a valued consultant for newspaper articles[3] as well as television productions, including the Arts & Entertainment Network/History Channel series "Civil War Journal".[1]

Davis served as a consultant for the creation of a United States postage stamp of Jefferson Davis and has had input into the formation of the Museum of the Civil War in Petersburg, Virginia.[1]

He was awarded the Sonoma State University Distinguished Alumni Award in 1993.[4] He is a past president of the National Historical Society.

In 1996, Davis authored the book The Cause Lost: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy, a critical examination of mythical claims made by neo-Confederate and Lost Cause members regarding the Confederacy and the American Civil War. Davis states that "it is impossible to point to any other local issue but slavery and say that Southerners would have seceded and fought over it." However Davis contrasted this with the motivations for individuals in the confederate military. He wrote, "The widespread northern myth that the Confederates went to the battlefield to perpetuate slavery is just that, a myth. Their letters and diaries, in the tens of thousands, reveal again and again that they fought and died because their Southern homeland was invaded and their natural instinct was to protect home and hearth."[5]

In 2000, Davis became a professor at Virginia Tech, where he serves as director of programs for the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies.[1] He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.


Original works[edit]

  • Breckenridge: Statesman, Soldier, Symbol (1974)
  • Duel Between the First Ironclads: The Famous Civil War Battle at Sea Between the Union Ironclad Monitor and the Confederacy's Virginia, the Redesigned and Rebuilt U.S.S. Merrimack (1975; 2nd ed. 1994)
  • The Battle of New Market (1975, 2nd ed. 1993)
  • Battle at Bull Run: A History of the First Major Campaign of the Civil War (1977, 2nd ed. 1995)
  • The Orphan Brigade: The Kentucky Confederates Who Couldn’t Go Home (1980; 2nd ed. 1993)
  • The Imperiled Union, 1861-1865 (2 volumes)
    • Deep Waters of the Proud (1982)
    • Stand in the Day of Battle (1983)
  • First Blood: Fort Sumter to Bull Run (1985), Time-Life Series: The Civil War
  • Death in the Trenches: Grant at Petersburg (1986), Time-Life Series: The Civil War
  • Spies, Scouts and Raiders: Irregular Operations (1986), Time-Life Series: The Civil War
  • Rebels & Yankees: The Battlefields of the Civil War (19??) with Russ A. Pritchard
  • Rebels & Yankees: The Fighting Men of the Civil War (1989) with Russ A. Pritchard
  • Rebels & Yankees: The Commanders of the Civil War (1990) with Russ A. Pritchard
  • Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour (1991)
  • “A Government of Our Own”: The Making of the Confederacy (1994)
  • The American Frontier: Pioneers, Settlers, and Cowboys 1800-1899 (1995)
  • A Way Through the Wilderness: The Natchez Trace and the Civilization of the Southern Frontier (1995)
  • The Cause Lost: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy (1996)
  • Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis (1998)
  • Lincoln's Men: How President Lincoln Became Father to an Army and a Nation (1999)
  • The Union That Shaped the Confederacy: Robert Toombs and Alexander H. Stephens (2001)
  • Portraits of the Riverboats (2001)
  • An Honorable Defeat: The Last Days of the Confederate Government (2001)
  • Look Away!: A History of the Confederate States of America (2002)
  • The Civil War Reenactors' Encyclopedia (2002)
  • A Taste For War: The Culinary History of the Blue and the Gray (2003)
  • Lone Star Rising: The Revolutionary Birth of the Texas Republic (2004)
  • The Pirates Laffite: The Treacherous World of the Corsairs of the Gulf (2005)
  • The Rogue Republic: How Would-Be Patriots Waged the Shortest Revolution in American History (2011)

As editor or co-editor[edit]

  • The Image of War: 1861-1865; The National Historical Society: Doubleday & Company, Inc
    • Volume I: Shadows of the Storm (1981)
    • Volume II: The Guns of '62 (1982)
    • Volume III: The Embattled Confederacy (1982)
    • Volume IV: Fighting for Time (1983)
    • Volume V: The South Besieged (1983)
    • Volume VI: The End of an Era (1984)
  • Touched by Fire: A National Historical Society Photographic Portrait of the Civil War (1985; 2 volumes)
  • Dairy of a Confederate Soldier: John S. Jackman of the Orphan Brigade (1997)
  • Civil War Journal: The Battles (1998) with Brian C. Pohanka and Don Troiani
  • Civil War Journal: The Legacies (1999) with Brian C. Pohanka and Don Troiani
  • A Fire-Eater Remembers: The Confederate Memoir of Robert Barnwell Rhett (2000)
  • Civil War Journal: The Leaders (2003) with Brian C. Pohanka and Don Troiani
  • Faith in the Fight: Civil War Chaplains (2003) with John W. Brinsfield and Benedict Maryniak
  • Virginia at War, 1861 (2005) with James I. Robertson, Jr.
  • Virginia at War, 1862 (2008) with James I. Robertson, Jr.
  • Virginia at War, 1863 (20??) with James I. Robertson, Jr.
  • Virginia at War, 1864 (20??) with James I. Robertson, Jr.
  • Virginia at War, 1865 (2011) with James I. Robertson, Jr.

Wrote foreword[edit]

  • Troiani, Don and Brian Pohanka (1999), Don Troiani's Civil War
  • Meade, Robert Douthat (????), Judah P. Benjamin: Confederate Statesman
  • Lowry, Thomas P. (????), Tarnished Eagles
  • Kunstler, Mort (2007), The Civil War Paintings of Mort Kunstler, Volume 3: The Gettysburg Campaign
  • Lowry, Thomas P. (????), Curmudgeons, Drunkards, and Outright Fools: The Courts-Martial of Civil War Union Colonels


  1. ^ a b c d Sluss, Michael (May 10, 2000), "Civil War Historian Coming to Tech", The Roanake Times (Roanoke, VA) 
  2. ^ Barra, Allen (April 4, 2004), "Books on Texas Take on State's Prickly History", St. Louis Post-Dispatch 
  3. ^ see, for example, Fagan, Kevin (September 4, 2005), "Surviving Katrina", San Francisco Chronicle, retrieved February 2, 2010 
  4. ^ http://sonoma.edu/uaffairs/notables/authors.html
  5. ^ William C. Davis, "The Cause Lost" pp. 182-183

External links[edit]