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“Understanding Present Through the Past”: a review of Gerard’s Civil War compilation

Saturday Review in 2022: Angela Love Moser’s review of The Last Battleground: The Civil War comes to North Carolina by Philip Gerard in NCLR Online 2020.

The Last Battleground is a compilation of Gerard’s essays on the Civil War for Our State magazine. As Moser’s review “Understanding the Present Through the Past” reminds us, these stories are not just an accumulation of facts, but intimate portraits of North Carolina families torn apart by the war.

“While the stories follow the war chronologically, they do not follow the generals and battles emphasized in history textbooks. Instead, Gerard focuses on the citizens of North Carolina who were greatly affected by the war years, believing, “All of those human stories add up to a panorama that is far more interesting and complicated than the kind of North/South battle lines, big battle, and then Lincoln frees the slaves narrative, which is sort of the fifth-grade version that we all got in our history class” (“2019 NC Award”).

Moser then turns from The Last Battleground to the 20th anniversary edition of Gerard’s award-winning book Cape Fear Rising, the historical novel about the 1898 Wilmington race riots. “Gerard argues that the Civil War was the precursor to the 1898 coup, and The Last Battleground “is basically the back story to” the coup that inspired his novel.”

“Today the ghosts of the Civil War and the Wilmington coup are, indeed, still haunting the United States as similarly terrifying events play out throughout the country. Gerard’s two books collectively underscore that it’s past time to break this cycle of hate and violence,” Moser reminds us.