As a writer and executive editor for Texas Monthly, S.C. (Sam) Gwynne ’74 covered big names of the early 21st century, including White House adviser Karl Rove and football phenom Johnny Manziel. But as an author of nonfiction books, Gwynne has found a niche telling the stories of notable 19th-century figures. His 2010 book about Comanche chief Quanah Parker,Empire of the Summer Moon, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Critics Circle Award. His new release,Rebel Yell, a biography of Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, has spent four weeks on the New York Times Best-Sellers list and earned praise from reviewers.
The New Yorker said “Gwynne stirringly re-creates the bloody, error-plagued battles of the early war and argues that Jackson’s legend galvanized the South, outmanned and outgunned, to keep fighting.” The Wall Street Journal hailed Gwynne’s prose, particularly his description of Second Bull Run, which it called “probably the finest short account of that battle on offer.” And Huffington Post reviewer Kate Kelly wrote that the book would “add enlightenment” to Civil War buffs and newcomers alike.
Jackson, in Gwynne’s telling, made a rapid transformation from being seen as a “mild-mannered, eccentric physics professor” to being hailed as a military genius and war hero. But those who see only the military achievements miss the complexity of a remarkable man. “Jackson was a lover of poetry and Shakespeare,” Gwynne said in a video produced by his publisher, Simon & Schuster. “He had an almost mystical sense of God — he was a deeply religious man. … Behind closed doors, he was this tremendously joyous and affectionate person, even though the outside world perceived him as this stern and severe eccentric.”