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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Michael Chesson Examines the Civil War in Exile In Richmond

UMass Boston is fortunate to have many esteemed writers as faculty members, and Michael Bedout Chesson, professor in the history department, is a classic example. His latest book, Exile in Richmond: The Confedearte Journal of Henri Garidel, grew out of his collaboration with Leslie Jean Roberst, who translated the original journals of Henri Garidel from French. Roberts, a professor at the University of Southern Indiana, began translating the journals of Garidel, a clerk in the Confederate Bureau of Ordinance, over a decade ago.

Chesson and Roberts have created an excellent time capsule of life during one of the most tumultuous times in the nation. Garidel’s journals frankly describe the frustration and loneliness of his exile from his native home in New Orleans to Richmond from 1863 to 1865 after he refused to pledge loyalty to the Union. An opinionated man, Garidel describes the city, its inhabitants, and the political and military atmosphere in Richmond during the last two years of the war. His account is unflinching in relating details of the physical and emotional discomforts he experienced and his thoughts on the new Union.

Chesson developed an interest in the Civil War as many people born in the South do, intuitively and intrinsically. He was born in Richmond and spent many of his formative years in the area. His first book came out of his dissertation thesis, Richmond after the War, 1865-1890, which he completed at Harvard in 1978 before joining UMass Boston as a faculty member. His work on Exile in Richmond was supported by several grants including a UMass Faculty Research Grant and a Healey Grant.

Here, Chesson teaches several courses on Civil War history and mentors master’s students working on topics related to the war. He is currently working on research for his next book, which follows the life of a Union surgeon from Maine, Dr. J. Franklin Dyer, who became the third mayor of Gloucester.

(This article appeared in The University Reporter)