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University of North Carolina Press


The Last Battleground consists of forty-three chapters adopted from essays originally published over fifty installments in Our State: Celebrating North Carolina, a popular magazine, during the four-year sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Each chapter represents a self-contained story of some aspect of the war involving North Carolina, with an eye toward emphasizing the intensely personal nature of the terrible conflict. As Gerard explains of his original goals (p. ix), “The stories would not be sweeping accounts of regimental maneuvers in battle but personal tales of people making the hardest choices of their lives.” In so doing, the author captures the extraordinary diversity of the war’s experiences, with the focus of individual chapters ranging from the famous, such as Confederate general and state Governor Zebulon Baird Vance, a former Unionist, to lesser-known figures like Nancy Leigh Pierson Bennitt, whose two sons died in the war and whose modest parlor hosted the surrender of Joseph E. Johnston to William T. Sherman in May 1865.