Blue and Gray for Boys and Girls

Author Profiles


19th Century

Oliver Optic

(William T. Adams) (1822 - 1897)
Massachusetts

William T. Adams assumed the pen name "Oliver Optic" when he began writing children's books in the 1850s. A teacher by trade, Adams gained fame and fortune during his lifetime from the publication of numerous "boy adventure stories." 1

John Townsend Trowbridge

(1827 - 1916)
New York

Beginning his career as a newspaper editor and anonymous contributor to various publications, Trowbridge first earned a name for himself upon publication of an anti-slavery novel. He wrote articles for the children's magazines Our Young Folks and Youth's Companion during and after the war. Of his Civil War novels, Cudjo's Cave was the most popular. According to the new introduction to a recent edition of the novel, Trowbridge was the first American novelist to depict a black man of pure African ancestry as noble and intelligent. Modern critics, however, label the character Pomp a stereotype. 2

Jules Verne

(1828 - 1905)
France

Fantasy writer Jules Verne is famous for his adventure stories; three in particular have contributed significantly to the genre of science fiction and remain popular today: Journey to the Center of the Earth, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Around the World in Eighty Days. Verne's Civil War novel Texar's Revenge, or, North Against South, was published in 1887. 3

Horatio Alger

(1832 - 1899)
Massachusetts

Famous for his "rags to riches" stories of boys coming of age, Alger wrote fiction for Harper's Weekly during the Civil War. Alger's "formula" ensured him commercial success; many authors copied his style hoping to earn fame for themselves.

"A young hero, inexperienced in the temptations of the city but morally armed to resist them, is unexpectedly forced to earn a livelihood. His exemplary struggle – to retain his virtue, to clear his name of accusations, to gain economic independence from the evil squires or stepmothers who seek to oppress him-- this was the stuff of the standard Alger plot." 4

20th Century

James Nicholson

(1844 - 1917)
Louisiana

Mathematics professor and president of Louisiana State University from 1887 to 1896, Colonel James W. Nicholson was a Civil War veteran who remained active in post-war politics. As a member of the United Confederate Veterans, he participated in city events, including ceremonies surrounding the erection of the Confederate memorial in Baton Rouge in 1886. Nicholson wrote one children's book based on his life in the antebellum and Civil War eras: Stories of Dixie. 5

Joel Chandler Harris

(1848 - 1908)
Georgia

Working as a newspaper typesetter and editor, Harris began publishing original work as a young man in the 1860s. He is most well known for his Uncle Remus stories (180 folk tales which have been translated into 27 languages), fables heavy with slave dialect. His Civil War books include: Conscript's Christmas, Tales of the Home Folks in Peace and War, On the Plantation: a Story of a Georgia Boy's Adventure During the War, and On the Wing of Occasions; Being the Authorized Version of Certain Curious Episodes of the Late Civil War, Including the Hitherto Suppressed Narrative of the Kidnapping of President Lincoln. 6

Thomas Nelson Page

(1853 - 1922)
Virginia

The son of a Southern plantation owner, Page held an enduring romantic view of the Old South which he conveyed in his many stories. A lawyer by trade, his first story was published in the 1880s. Like Harris, Page published stories using his interpretation of strong black dialect. Two of his Civil War novels are Among the Camps and Two Little Confederates.

"Through his numerous short stories and novels, Page succeeded in getting many northerners to recognize the ‘glories' of the Old South while reassuring white southerners that they had an origin and history of which to be proud." 7

Joseph Alexander Altsheler

(1862 - 1919)
Kentucky

Altsheler began his career as a journalist and newspaper feature writer. Disappointed with the stories of Horatio Alger, he set out to write his own. Considered by public librarians to be the nation's "most popular author of boys' books" in 1918, Altsheler published six series of books, one of which was devoted to the Civil War. According to Robert Lively, author of Fiction Fights the Civil War, Altsheler was one of the most talented children's writers of his time; he was unusual among his peers in that he insisted on historical accuracy, and made a concerted effort to balance both Northern and Southern points of view. Before the Dawn, a Story of the Fall of Richmond, Guns of Shiloh: a Story of the Great Western Campaign, Star of Gettysburg: a Story of Southern High Tide, Sword of Antietam: a Story of the Nation's Crisis, and Tree of Appomattox: a Story of the Civil War's Close are among his numerous publications. 8

Carl Sandburg

(1878 - 1967)
Illinois

A novelist, poet, historian, reporter, and folk musician, Sandburg was for the most part self-educated, never having completed high school or college. As he worked on the children's book Abe Lincoln Grows Up at the urging of his publisher, he "soon became engrossed in thousands of Lincoln's papers...His growing absorption in the Lincoln research quickly convinced Sandburg that he should write a full-fledged biography that would invoke not only Lincoln the tragic hero but the national spirit his life and death embodied." He won the Pulitzer Prize for Abraham Lincoln: The War Years in 1940, and in 1950 he claimed the same prize for a collection of poetry. 9

Fletcher Pratt

(1897 - 1956)
New York

Pratt's books earned the favor of readers and critics alike for his ability to breathe life into history. Journalist, military adviser, historian, and librarian, his book Ordeal by Fire is still considered a classic. 10

Bruce Catton

(1899 - 1978)
Michigan

A veteran of World War I and information officer in World War II, Catton was inspired to devote his career to the study of the Civil War after spending his childhood listening to stories from Civil War veterans in his home town. He won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for his book, A Stillness at Appomattox, and went on to become an icon in the field of Civil War history. Catton no doubt was moved by his early experience with veterans as he penned the children's books Banners at Shenandoah: a Story of Sheridan's Fighting and Battle of Gettysburg. 11

Allen Tate

(1899-1979)
Kentucky

One of the "Fugitive Poets" of the 1930s, Tate wrote a series of biographies of Confederate leaders General "Stonewall" Jackson, President Jefferson Davis, and General Robert. E. Lee. He enlisted writer Robert Penn Warren to help complete the last volume on Lee. He is best known for his poem Ode to the Confederate Dead. 12

MacKinlay Kantor

(1904 - 1977)
Iowa

Kantor published his first story in the 1920s while working as a reporter on a local newspaper. He went on to publish numerous works of both fiction and non-fiction, and in World War II served as a war correspondent for two major American magazines. His Civil War novels Long Remember and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Andersonville are considered classics; he wrote several other novels on the topic, including the children's books Lee and Grant at Appomattox and Gettysburg. 13

Hodding Carter

(1907 - 1972)
Louisiana

Controversial newspaper editor of the Delta Democrat-Times, Carter fought for fair treatment of African-Americans in the segregated South. In the midst of his participation in the Civil Rights movement, he penned a children's book on Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Known as the "most hated white man in Mississippi" in the 1950s, Carter was a prolific writer of both fiction and nonfiction on the South. 14

Harnett Kane

(1910 - 1984)
Louisiana

A journalist best known for his book Louisiana Hayride on Long era scandals, Kane wrote numerous books on the South, both fiction and nonfiction. Several of his novels were based on the lives of famous women of the Confederacy. 15

James I. Robertson, Jr.

Virginia

Chairman of the Civil War Centennial Commission in the 1960s, Robertson is an award-winning, nationally-renowned scholar of Civil War studies. He has concentrated much of his research on the life of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. A professor of history at Virginia Tech University, Robertson believes that it is "imperative for professional historians to take the time to impart an appreciation of history in young people...America [would be] much the better for it." 16

Irene Hunt

Illinois

Her first novel, the Newberry Award-winning Across Five Aprils, was not published until Hunt was in her fifties. The book is based on the experiences of her grandfather during the Civil War. According to an award acceptance speech made by Hunt in 1964, a poem by Carl Sandburg inspired her to begin writing. 17

Patricia Beatty

(1922 -1991)
Washington

Beatty wrote many Civil War books for young readers as well as stories set in the American West.
Her book Charley Skedaddle (1987) is required by many middle-school teachers nationwide even today.

James Haskins

The author of award-winning books on black history, Haskins explores religion, politics, economics, history, and social issues that affect the African-American community. Haskin's Civil War–related books for children include Get on Board: The Story of the Underground Railroad, and Black, Blue and Gray - African Americans in the Civil War.

Joyce Hansen

New York

Hansen is an award-winning children's book author whose fiction and non-fiction illustrates the lives of slaves, freedmen, and soldiers. Her books cover the antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction eras, and include the titles Between Two Fires: Black Soldiers and the Civil War, Which Way Freedom?, and I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary of Patsy, A Freed Girl. 18

Connie Porter

New York

Connie Porter's popular "Addy" books make up the first children's book series to focus on an African-American girl in the midst of Civil War and Reconstruction. Porter is a graduate of the
M. F. A. program in creative writing at Louisiana State University, and has received several national awards for her novels and short stories.

Sources:

1 - Garraty, John A. and Mark C. Carnes (ed.). American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
2 - Trowbridge, John T. Cudjo's Cave. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2001.
3 - Encyclopedia Britannica, online edition: 1999-2000. www.britannica.com.
4 - Garraty, John A. and Mark C. Carnes (ed.). American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

5 - Fleming, Walter L. Louisiana State University 1860 - 1896. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1936.
6 - Garraty, John A. and Mark C. Carnes (ed.). American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
7 - ibid.
8 - ibid.
9 - ibid.
10 -Current Biography. 1942.
11 -Garraty, John A. and Mark C. Carnes (ed.). American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
12 -ibid.
13 -ibid.
14 -ibid.
15 -Current Biography, 1947.
16 -Interview: Civil War Book Review, Summer issue, 2001.
17 -http://www.edupaperback.org/authorbios/Hung_Irene.html
18 -Authors Online Biography: http://teacher.scholastic.com/authorsandbooks/authors/hansen/bio.htm