In the Fall of 1984, the concept of an organization devoted to the study of the Civil War grew out of a conversation between Grady McWhiney (d. 2006) and Jerry L. Russell (d. 2003) at a Congress of Civil War Round Tables in Charleston, South Carolina. The following year McWhiney and Russell arranged an organizational meeting at the Southern Historical Association conference in Houston, Texas. More than two hundred people joined, and the first gathering of members was at the Southern in New Orleans in 1986. Russell, who served as the Society’s first secretary and executive director, began to take a less active role in the early 1990s, and in 1992 Dr. McWhiney asked Anne J. Bailey, who earned her Ph.D. at Texas Christian University, to take over editing the newsletter. In January 1994, Steven D. Engle, who received his Ph.D. from Florida State University, took over as executive secretary/treasurer; he became the book review editor for the newsletter in Fall of 1997.
Presidents of the Society have included Grady McWhiney (1985-1996); T. Michael Parrish (1997-2000); Gary W. Gallagher (2000-2004); George C. Rable (2004-2008); James Marten (2008-2012); Anne Sarah Rubin (2012-2014); Caroline E. Janney (2014-2016); and Daniel E. Sutherland (2016-).
The first Board of Directors included Norman Brown, University of Texas at Austin; Herman Hattaway, University of Missouri at Kansas City; Grady McWhiney, Texas Christian University; William E. Parrish, Mississippi State University; Richard J. Sommers, U.S. Army Military History Institute; and William N. Still, East Carolina University. In 1993, Daniel E. Sutherland, University of Arkansas, joined the Board. By 1997, the Board had grown to include Lynda Crist, Papers of Jefferson Davis, Rice University; Gary W. Gallagher, Pennsylvania State University; Joseph T. Glatthaar, University of Houston; Lesley J. Gordon, Murray State University; Carol Reardon, Pennsylvania State University; James I. Robertson, Jr., Virginia Tech University; and Charles P. Roland, University of Kentucky. Additions came in 2000 with new Board members including Alice Fahs, University of California at Irving; Thavolia Glymph, Pennsylvania State University; James Marten, Marquette University; James M. McPherson, Princeton University; T. Michael Parrish, LBJ Library, Austin; George C. Rable, University of Alabama; and Joan Waugh, University of California at Los Angeles. William A. Blair joined the Board in 2007 and A. Wilson Green in 2009. Amy Murrell Taylor, University at Albany-SUNY, became a board member in 2012. Recent board members include T. Michael Parish, Baylor University; James Marten, Marquette University; Caroline E. Janney, Purdue University; Anne Sarah Rubin, University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Kenneth W. Noe, Auburn University; Judith Giesberg, Villanova University; Edna Greene Medford, Howard University; Nina Silber, Boston University; and Paul Quigley, Virginia Tech. Steve Engle, Florida Atlantic University, and Anne Bailey, Georgia Southern University, have been part of the Board since the 1990s. (Note: University affiliations are at the time of appointment to the Board.)
Society members gather for a meeting each year during the Southern Historical Society’s annual conference in the Fall. In addition, the first biennial conference was held in Philadelphia in 2008; the second in Richmond in 2010; the third in Lexington in 2012; the fourth in Baltimore in 2014; and the fifth in Chattanooga in 2016. The next conference will take place in Pittsburgh in 2018.
From 2007 until 2010, Society membership included a subscription to the journal Civil War History, edited by William A. Blair at Penn State University. A contributing sponsor of the Society is the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center at Penn State. The Center also serves as base for the Society’s activities through the generosity of its director, William A. Blair.
The Society made major changes in 2010 with the presentation of the first Tom Watson Brown Book Prize of $50,000 at an award dinner replacing the regular meeting during the Southern Historical Society’s annual conference (sponsored by the Watson-Brown Foundation, Inc., of Thomson, Georgia). The idea for a book prize honoring the late Tom Watson Brown of Atlanta grew out of a conversation between his son Tad Brown and Anne Bailey, then at Georgia College. The first recipient was Dan Sutherland, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, for A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War in 2010. The second winner in 2011 was Mark W. Geiger, an independent scholar, and author of Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri’s Civil War, 1861-1865. The 2012 winner was Gary W. Gallagher, University of Virginia, for The Union War. The 2013 winner was John Fabian Witt, Yale University, for Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History. The 2014 winner was Ari Kelman, Pennsylvania State University, for A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek. The 2015 winner was Shauna Devine, University of Western Ontario, for her book Learning from the Wounded: The Civil War and the Rise of American Medical Science. The 2016 winner was Earl J. Hess for Civil War Infantry Tactics: Training, Combat, and Small-Unit Effectiveness.
In another change in 2010, the Society began offering the quarterly Journal of the Civil War Era, edited by William A. Blair and published by the University of North Carolina Press, as part of its membership package. Also, the McWhiney Research Foundation in Abilene, Texas, took over as financial sponsor of the SCWH Newsletter. Original issues of the newsletter are housed in the McWhiney Foundation Archives, McMurry University, and electronic copies can be found at the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center at Penn State University.
In 2015 William Blair stepped down as editor of the Society’s journal after a fifteen-year editorial career, having edited Civil War History from 2000 to 2010, before launching The Journal of the Civil War. The new editor is Judith Giesberg of Villanova University.
Anne J. Bailey
Source: SCWH Newsletter files (1992-) originals located in the McWhiney Foundation Archives, McMurry University