Skip to main content

Ninth Annual Holt Lecture featuring Elizabeth Varon

Armies of Deliverance: Union War Aims and Motivation

In her comprehensive history of the American Civil War, Elizabeth Varon argues that the Union was motivated to fight not only to free the slaves but also to redeem white Southerners from the tyranny of the planter class and the slaveholding economy. This politics of deliverance helped unify the North and contributed to the Union victory, but it failed to grapple with resistance from white Southerners who rejected the North’s terms and undermined Reconstruction. Interweaving military and social history, Varon offers new perspectives on the attitudes, goals and frustrations of both sides.

About the Speaker
Elizabeth Varon
Elizabeth Varon is Langbourne M. Williams Professor of American History at the University of Virginia and serves on the Executive Council of the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History. Varon grew up in northern Virginia. She received her PhD from Yale and has held teaching positions at Wellesley College and Temple University. A specialist in the Civil War era and 19th century South, Varon is the author of “We Mean to be Counted: White Women and Politics in Antebellum Virginia” (1998); “Southern Lady, Yankee Spy: The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew, A Union Agent in the Heart of the Confederacy” (2003), “Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859” (2008) and Appomattox: Victory, Defeat and Freedom at the End of the Civil War (2013). “Southern Lady, Yankee Spy” won three book awards and was named one of the “five best” books on the “Civil War away from the battlefield” in the Wall Street Journal. Appomattox won the 2014 Library of Virginia Literary Award for Nonfiction, the 2014 Dan and Marilyn Laney Prize for Civil War History (Austin Civil War Roundtable), and the 2014 Eugene Feit Award in Civil War Studies of the New York Military Affairs Symposium and was named one of Civil War Monitor’s “Best Books of 2014” and one of National Public Radio’s “Six Civil War Books to Read Now.” Varon’s public presentations include book talks at the Lincoln Bicentennial in Springfield, Gettysburg’s Civil War Institute and on C-Span’s Book TV. Her new book, “Armies of Deliverance: A New History of the Civil War” appeared with Oxford University Press in March 2019.

About the Holt Lecture
The first Rush D. Holt Lecture was presented by the WVU Department of History on April 11, 2011. Inaugurating the annual lecture series was the Honorable Rush D. Holt, Jr., a U.S. congressman from New Jersey and son of former U.S. Senator Rush D. Holt of West Virginia, after whom the series is named. The lecture series is supported by the family of Sen. Holt through the Sen. Rush D. Holt Endowment established in 1998.