2024 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize Recipients Announced

March 1, 2024 — The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History announced today that Frances M. Clarke and Rebecca Jo Plant, co-authors of Of Age: Boy Soldiers and Military Power in the Civil War Era (Oxford University Press), are the recipients of the 2024 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize.

Frances M. Clarke is an associate professor of history at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her first book, War Stories: Suffering and Sacrifice in the Civil War North (University of Chicago Press, 2011) jointly won the Australian Historical Association’s biennial W.K. Hancock Prize for the best first book in any field of history. After co-editing Remembering the Revolution: Memory, History, and Nation Making from Independence to the Civil War (University of Massachusetts Press, 2013) with Michael A. McDonnell, Clare Corbould, and W. Fitzhugh Brundage, she began collaborating with Rebecca Jo Plant, first on racial politics and war memory in 1930s America, and then on debates over underage enlistment after the American Revolution. Their first article on the latter project, published in Law and History Review, won the Coordinating Council for Women in History’s Carol Gold Best Article Award. Clarke is currently collaborating with other scholars on a project that tracks the aftermath of war from the Napoleonic era through World War II.

Rebecca Jo Plant is a professor of history and an Academic Senate Distinguished Teacher at the University of California, San Diego, where she has taught since 2002. Before turning to the Civil War, she published Mom: The Transformation of Motherhood in Modern America (University of Chicago Press, 2010) and co-edited Maternalism Reconsidered: Motherhood, Welfare, and Social Policies in the Twentieth Century (Berghahn Books, 2012). Together with Frances M. Clarke, she also published “‘The Crowning Insult’: Federal Segregation and the Gold Star Mother and Widow Pilgrimages of the Early 1930s,” which appeared in the Journal of American History and won the 2015 Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Prize and the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Prize for best article in the field of the history of women, gender, or sexuality. Plant has held fellowships from the American Association of University Women, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Australian Research Council. She is past president of the Western Association of Women Historians and current editor of the journal and database Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600–2000.

Clarke and Plant said, “Winning the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize is the highlight of our professional careers. To find ourselves in the distinguished company of the other finalists and prior recipients is both thrilling and overwhelming. We devoted well over a decade to researching and narrating the history of underage enlistment—a seemingly simple topic with surprising legal, social, military, medical, and cultural significance. Our quest took us in many unexpected directions, back to the War of 1812 and forward to the turn of the twentieth century, with forays into subjects ranging from the uses of habeas corpus, to artistic depictions of young soldiers as icons of republican virtue, to military physicians’ investigations of human growth. At times, the work seemed to be sprawling beyond our authorial control. To have our efforts recognized in this manner, bringing attention to this underappreciated aspect of the conflict, is the most wonderful gift imaginable.”

The two laureates will be recognized during an award ceremony to be held at the Harvard Club in New York City on April 4. The award they will share includes a $50,000 prize and bronze replicas of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s life-sized bust, Lincoln the Man.

James G. Basker, president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, said, “Of Age, the winner of the 2024 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize, is not only breakthrough history, it is a compelling and moving read, full of the stories of children, some as young as eleven or twelve, serving in the Civil War, and the struggles of parents to reclaim or liberate their underage sons from armies into which they had enlisted. Every reader will find it gripping, as it opens an entirely new window into the human dimensions of the Civil War.”

Basker is one of the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize board members who selected this year’s winners. In addition to Lewis E. Lehrman, a co-founder of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and co-creator of the Gilder Lehrman Collection with the late Richard Gilder, other board members include Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Trustees Robert C. Daum, Thomas D. Lehrman, Robert H. Niehaus, and Linda Pace, and Gettysburg College Trustee Larry D. Walker.

Of Age adds unexpected depth to our understanding of the tragedy that was the Civil War. This fine book gives the reader a sobering insight into the significance of boy soldiers making up such a large portion of the Union and Confederate armies,” said Larry D. Walker.

Of Age was one of five books recommended to the board as finalists by a three-person jury chaired by 2015 laureate Harold Holzer, Jonathan Fanton Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College and author, co-author, or editor of fifty-six books on Lincoln, the Civil War, and the history of the American media. The other two jurors for the 2024 prize were Edna Greene Medford, professor emerita of history at Howard University where during her nearly thirty-five-year tenure she was the associate provost for faculty affairs, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and chair of the Department of History; and Thavolia Glymph, Peabody Family Distinguished Professor of History, professor of law, and faculty research scholar at the Duke Population Research Institute (DUPRI) at Duke University.

In their report to the board, the jury called Of Age “one of the most significant contributions to the historiography on the common soldier in recent years.” They said that it is “thoroughly researched, clearly written, and comprehensive in scope,” and that it “broadens our understanding of the military, legal, socio-cultural, and economic history of the Civil War era.”

The four other finalists that the jury selected from eighty-three nominations are: Frank J. Cirillo, The Abolitionist Civil War: Immediatists and the Struggle to Transform the Union (LSU Press); John C. Rodrigue, Freedom’s Crescent: The Civil War and the Destruction of Slavery in the Lower Mississippi Valley (Cambridge University Press); Yael A. Sternhell, War on Record: The Archive and the Afterlife of the Civil War (Yale University Press); and Ronald C. White, On Great Fields: The Life and Unlikely Heroism of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Random House).

About the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize
The Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize is awarded annually for the finest scholarly work published in the prior year in English on Abraham Lincoln, the American Civil War soldier, or the American Civil War era, one that also enhances the general public’s understanding of the Civil War era. The $50,000 prize was established in 1990 by businessmen and philanthropists Lewis E. Lehrman and the late Richard Gilder, in partnership with Gettysburg College and Professor Gabor Boritt, director emeritus of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College.

About the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
Founded in 1994 by Lewis E. Lehrman and the late Richard Gilder, visionaries and lifelong supporters of American history education, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to K–12 history education while also serving the general public. The Institute’s mission is to promote the knowledge and understanding of American history through educational programs and resources. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is supported through the generosity of individuals, corporations, and foundations. The Institute’s programs have been recognized by awards from the White House, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Organization of American Historians, the Council of Independent Colleges, and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
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