Book Review: Unforgettables: Winners, Losers, Strong Women, and Eccentric Men of the Civil War Era


by John C. Waugh

El Dorado Hills, Ca.: Savas Beatie, 2023. Pp. xii, 216. Illus., notes, biblio. index. $22.95 paperSome. ISBN:1611216656

Some Influential, Unusual, and Occasionally Eccentric Civil War Characters,

In Unforgettables, John C. Waugh, author of The Class of 1846, Last Stand at Mobile, and other Civil War-related books, offers short biographies of forty people who had important, interesting, and often dramatic roles and experiences in the era of the Civil War.

While many of these descriptions are generally short, a few are longer. Waugh includes some very well-known figures, such as the “Great Trio” of Henry Clay, John Calhoun, and Daniel Webster, and Presidents Zackary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan. Soldiers covered include Winfield Scott, Ulysses Grant, and Robert E. Lee. There’s a flock of cabinet members and politicians from both sides, notably William Seward, Salmon Chase, Edward Bates, Charles Sumner, Ben Wade, and Thaddeus Stevens, Alexander Stephens and Robert Toombs, and even Lincoln’s secretaries in John Nicolay and John Hay. Among other influential people covered are Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Horace Greely, Adam Gurowski, and Peter Cartwright, as well as some overlooked women, including Kate Chase, Mary Marcy, Sara Rice, and Anna Dickinson.

Each profile is based on extensive research, including primary sources, to give us an informative, often entertaining brief look at each person. Waugh, a former journalist, offers some critical observations about many of these characters, helping us evaluate their roles in history. He makes the very accurate point that the four pre-war presidents were either unable or unwilling to attempt to resolve the issues that led to secession. Waugh also asserts, rather controversially, that neither Stonewall Jackson nor N.B. Forrest was fighting for slavery. In the profiles of Richard Ewell, and George Derby, Waugh concludes that they were two of the most unusual West Point graduates, and excellent soldiers.

The book includes images of each of the people profiled, which are clear and nicely placed throughout the book.

Waugh has generally done a good job of helping bring these people to life, and Unforgettables is highly recommended.


Our Reviewer: David Marshall has been a high school American history teacher in the Miami-Dade School district for more than three decades. A life-long Civil War enthusiast, David is president of the Miami Civil War Round Table Book Club. In addition to numerous reviews in Civil War News and other publications, he has given presentations to Civil War Round Tables on Joshua Chamberlain, Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, the Battle of Gettysburg, and the common soldier. His previous reviews here include A House Built by Slaves, They Came Only To Die, General Grant and the Verdict of History, Gettysburg In Color, Vol 2, Man of Fire, To the Last Extremity, Hood's Defeat Near Fox's Gap, "If We Are Striking for Pennsylvania", Vol. 2, Outwitting Forrest, All That Can Be Expected, Force of a Cyclone, Lincoln and Native Americans, Detour to Disaster, Lincoln in Lists, A Wilderness of Destruction, Twelve Days, The Civil War Memoirs of Captain William J. Seymour, Stay and Fight it Out, Calamity at Frederick, John T. Wilder, The Sergeant: The Incredible Life of Nicholas Said, Contrasts in Command: The Battle of Fair Oaks, Brigades of Antietam, Lee Invades the North, From Antietam to Appomattox with Upton’s Regulars, Our Flag Was Still There, Never Such a Campaign, The Boy Generals: George Custer, Wesley Merritt, and the Cavalry of the Army of the Potomac, from the Gettysburg Retreat through the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864, and Longstreet: The Confederate General Who Defied the South .





Note: Unforgettables is also available in e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: David Marshall   

Buy it at



Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close