And now he's hanging his tools on the wall and calling it quits:
A history of teaching: After 44 years, celebrated Civil War historian James Robertson is leaving Virginia TechI have in my library several of his books. Including General A.P. Hill: The Story of a Confederate Warrior, which was quite good, and one of his masterful works dealing with the life and conquests of Stonewall Jackson. Also superb.
By Tonia Moxley, Roanoke Times
From Fort Sumter to Appomattox Court House, once a year Dr. Bud walks about 300 students through the war that made America. His is thought to be the largest Civil War class in the country.
In it, he talks about battles, yes.
And significant dates, politics and military strategy.
But most fascinating to him are the stories of the people whose convictions and ambitions, foibles and flaws shaped the darkest time in the nation's history.
[James] Robertson studied under Bell Wiley*, a prominent Civil War historian who was the first to chronicle the life of the common soldier. Robertson followed that vein in his own scholarship and teaching.
In his class, students learn about Civil War medicine, such as it was, and that for every one man killed in battle, two died of disease.
Robertson said he wants his students to see the war, not with the benefit of hindsight, but with the narrow blinders through which the people who lived then saw it.
Mostly, he wants them to feel what the war was like, and is gratified when he can make them weep. Teaching history as a compilation of statistics and dates, Robertson says, is a travesty.
"If you don't understand the emotion of the war, you'll never understand the war," he said.
[W]ord of the class has passed down like a legacy through the generations. It's not uncommon, history department Chairman Mark Barrow said, to hear a student say their grandfather and father before them was enrolled.
[Heather] Lewenczuk said she learned of the famous course from her boyfriend, whose father took it while a student at Tech.
Now, word has spread that this year's class will be the last with Robertson. [link]
This is truly a loss for Virginia Tech. But if history teaches us anything, it is that all good things must come to an end.
Be well in retirement, Mr. Robertson. You've earned a good rest.
* Robertson edited a number of books that reproduced Civil War soldiers' letters, which were okay, and he provided commentary in "Civil War illustrated" narratives - picture books; good for bringing in revenue for a publisher, but totally lacking in substance.
** Bell Wiley was a scholar par excellence in his own right. He took Civil War studies from the sometimes mundane analysis of battles and campaigns to the just-as-fascinating examination of everyday life in the armies of North and South. Want to know who fought the Civil War? Read The Life of Billy Yank, the Common Soldier of the Union and The Life of Johnny Reb, the Common Soldier of the Confederacy.