Historian Elizabeth Varon's Longstreet Biography Wins Inaugural American Battlefield Trust Prize for History

“Longstreet: The Confederate General Who Defied the South” earns $50,000 as exceptional work that amplifies the vital nature of historic battlefields as irreplaceable literary sources

(Washington, D.C.) — The inaugural $50,000 American Battlefield Trust Prize for History has been awarded to historian Elizabeth Varon for Longstreet: The Confederate General Who Defied the South, a richly reported biography of the complicated Civil War leader who after the war encouraged an examination of the roots of the conflict and advocated for racial reconciliation.

Varon’s work was selected from among nearly 100 entries for the new prize, which seeks to underscore the irreplaceable perspective and primary research value of preserving the battlefields on which our nation was forged – during conflicts which we still seek to better understand today.

2024 Prize for History Winner

Dr. James McPherson, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom and one of the prize’s three judges, called Varon’s work “a literary and research achievement.” “The special virtue of this book is it tells us the whole story of Longstreet, for the decades after the war as well as the war itself,” said McPherson, professor emeritus at Princeton University. “It’s beautifully crafted and original in its good many insights.”

In accepting the recognition, Varon said, “It is a humbling honor to win this inaugural award from an organization, American Battlefield Trust, that does so much to promote and revitalize the study of America's formative military conflicts. I am especially grateful to be recognized with such an impressive group of fellow finalists, representing the dynamism of the field and the centrality of landscapes to the historical imagination.”

The American Battlefield Trust Prize for History recognizes an outstanding published work focused on military history or a biography central to the nation’s formative conflicts — the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War. Although the Trust has protected more than 58,000 acres at nearly 160 sites related to those conflicts, many more remain threatened. The prize seeks to encourage further preservation by highlighting the way historic landscapes aid and inform researchers. Because it is endowed by a generous donor, the prize program diverts no funds from the Trust’s critical mission. 

“An excellent book can ignite the imagination,” said Trust President David Duncan. “Reading about the dynamic figures and events of the past inspires millions of Americans to travel to historic sites where they can stand in the footsteps of the past, often thanks to the work of historic preservation organizations who ensure that such places are safeguarded for future generations.”

A selection committee winnowed the list of nominees from nearly 100 from 24 different publishers to 11 finalists, which were then considered by this year’s expert panel of judges: McPherson, Dr. James Kirby Martin, professor emeritus at University of Houston and Dr. Joan Waugh, professor emeritus at UCLA.

The works of two other authors also were recognized with $2,500 honorable mentions: D. Scott Hartwig’s I Dread the Thought of the Place: The Battle of Antietam and the End of the Maryland Campaign and Friederike Baer’s Hessians: German Soldiers in the American Revolutionary War. Each of the three titles focuses on a key discipline within the field of military history — a biography of a notable leader, an analysis of an iconic campaign and a thematic examination of a pivotal group. And each relied upon the power of place for the research that underpinned it.

The inaugural awards will be presented in September, during the Trust’s annual Grand Review weekend in Raleigh, N.C. Publishing houses may submit nominations of 2024 titles for next year’s award after October 1. Further details on the prize may be found on the American Battlefield Trust website.

Professor Elizabeth R. Varon is the Langbourne M. Williams Professor of History at the University of Virginia; her winning title is published by Simon & Schuster. Friederike Baer is an associate professor of history and the Division Head for Arts and Humanities at Penn State Abingdon College; her work is published by Oxford University Press. D. Scott Hartwig spent 34 years interpreting history for the National Park Service, including two decades as supervisory historian at Gettysburg National Military Park; his Antietam titles are published by Oxford University Press.

About the American Battlefield Trust:  From a grassroots organization started by historians 30 years ago, the American Battlefield Trust has grown into one of the most successful private heritage land preservation organizations in the nation. The Trust is dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has protected more than 60,000 acres associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War, representing more than 155 sites in 25 states. Its 350,000 members and supporters believe in the power of place and the continued relevance of history as a means to fully understand our rights and responsibilities as Americans. Learn more at