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War Institute

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Michael Shaara Prize for Excellence in Civil War Fiction

 In 1997, Jeff Shaara, the critically acclaimed best-selling author, established The Michael Shaara Prize for Excellence in Civil War Fiction. This prize is named in honor of his father, the author of the novel The Killer Angels. In 2005, the Prize moved to the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College. A $5,000 prize is awarded annually at Gettysburg.

Information about nominating a title for the Michael Shaara Prize.

Nostalgia Cover

Dennis McFarland wins the 2014 Shaara Prize for Civil War Fiction

This stunning Civil War novel from best-selling author Dennis McFarland chronicles the journey of a nineteen-year-old Union soldier abandoned by his comrades in the Wilderness, who is struggling to regain his voice, his identity, and his place in a world utterly changed by what he has experienced on the battlefield.
In the winter of 1864, Summerfield Hayes, a pitcher for the famous Eckford Club, enlists in the Union army, leaving his sister, a schoolteacher, devastated and alone in their Brooklyn home. The siblings, who have lost both their parents, are unusually attached, and Hayes fears his untoward secret feelings for his sister. This rich backstory is intercut with scenes of his soul-altering hours on the march and at the front—the slaughter of barely grown young men who only days before whooped it up with him in a regimental ball game; his temporary deafness and disorientation after a shell blast; his fevered attempt to find safe haven after he has been deserted by his own comrades—and, later, in a Washington military hospital, where he finds himself mute and unable even to write his name. In this twilit realm, among the people he encounters—including a compassionate drug-addicted amputee, the ward matron who only appears to be his enemy, and the captain who is convinced that Hayes is faking his illness—is a gray-bearded eccentric who visits the ward daily and becomes Hayes’s strongest advocate: Walt Whitman. This timeless story, whose outcome hinges on friendships forged in crisis, reminds us that the injuries of war are manifold, and the healing goodness in the human soul runs deep and strong. Click here for details on the November 19 award ceremony.

Peter Troy CoverPeter Troy Wins the 2013 Shaara Prize for Civil War Fiction

Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Civil War, May the Road Rise Up to Meet You is a story of four unforgettable characters who, together, illuminate the quintessential American experience.
Ethan McOwen survived the worst of the Irish Famine and made the treacherous crossing to America, but his endurance is tested by the rough neighborhoods of New York until he discovers a passion for photography; Marcella Arroyo arrives from Spain a high-spirited society girl but defies her father to become a devoted abolitionist; and slaves Mary and Micah plot a clandestine escape on a cold Christmas Eve in the hopes of finding a better future. When war brings them all together, it will dramatically change the course of their individual lives.

The Winner of the 2012 Michael Shaara Prize

Sharon Ewell Foster wins the 2012 Shaara Prize for Civil War Fiction

Sharon Ewell Foster was announced the winner of the Annual Michael Shaara Prize for Excellence in Civil War Fiction for her book The Resurrection of Nat Turner, Part One:  The Witnesses A Novel.  The truth has been buried more than one hundred years . . Leading a small army of slaves, Nat Turner was a man born with a mission: to set the captives free. When words failed, he ignited an uprising that left over fifty whites dead. In the predawn hours of August 22, 1831, Nat Turner stormed into history with a Bible in one hand, brandishing a sword in the other. His rebellion shined a national spotlight on slavery and the state of Virginia and divided a nation’s trust. Turner himself became a lightning rod for abolitionists like Harriet Beecher Stowe and a terror and secret shame for slave owners.In The Resurrection of Nat Turner, Part 1: The Witnesses, Nat Turner’s story is revealed through the eyes and minds of slaves and masters, friends and foes. In their words is the truth of the mystery and conspiracy of Nat Turner’s life, death, and confession.  The Resurrection of Nat Turner spans more than sixty years, sweeping from the majestic highlands of Ethiopia to the towns of Cross Keys and Jerusalem in Southampton County. Using extensive research, Sharon Ewell Foster breaks hallowed ground in this epic novel, revealing long-buried secrets about this tragic hero.

Robin OliveiraRobin Oliveira wins the 2011 Shaara Prize for Civil War Fiction

Robin Oliveira was announced the winner of the Annual Michael Shaara Prize for Excellence in Civil War Fiction for her book My Name is Mary Sutter.  Mary Sutter is a brilliant, headstrong midwife from Albany, New York.  She dreams of becoming a surgeon.  Determined to overcome the prejudices against women in medicine and eager to run away from her recent heartbreak, Mary leaves home and travels to Washington, D.C. to help tend the legions of Civil War wounded.  Under the guidance of William Stipp and James Blevens, two surgeons who fall unwittingly in love with Mary's courage, will, and stubbornness in the face of suffering, and resisting her mother's pleas to return home to help with the birth of her twin sister's baby.  Mary pursues her medical career in the desperately overwhelmed hospitals of the capital.

Author Cornelia Nixon wins 2010 Shaara Prize for Civil War Fiction

jarrettsvilleCornelia Nixon was announced as the winner of the 12th Annual Michael Shaara Prize for Excellence in Civil War Fiction for her book Jarrettsville (Counterpoint, 2009). This is her third novel, and tells the story of a distant relative, who shot and killed her lover just after the Civil War ended. The rest of the novel follows the trial of Martha Jane Cairnes, who is charged with murdering her lover. To find out why she murdered him, the story steps back to 1865, six days after the surrender, when President Lincoln has just been killed by John Wilkes Booth.

Dr. Nixon, a professor of English and Creative Writing at Mills College in Oakland, CA, received her BA from the University of California, Irvine, her MA for Creative Writing from San Francisco State College, and then her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkley. She has taught at Mills College since 2000, and served as the chair of the English department from 2006 to 2007.

disagreementAuthor Nick Taylor wins 2009 Shaara Prize

Nick Taylor has been selected as the winner of the 2009 Michael Shaara Prize for Excellence in Civil War Fiction for his novel, The Disagreement. He is an English professor at San Jose State University, and resides in the Bay Area.  



CWI - Canaan Book CoverAuthor Donald McCaig wins 2008 Shaara Prize for Civil War Fiction

Donald McCaig has been selected as the winner of the 2008 Michael Shaara Prize for Civil War fiction for his novel Canaan. He has also authored Jacob's Ladder and resides in rural Virginia. 




BahrAuthor Howard Bahr wins 2007 Shaara Prize for Civil War Fiction

GETTYSBURG, Pa. - Critically acclaimed author Howard Bahr has won the 2007 Michael Shaara Prize for Excellence in Civil War Fiction for his book, The Judas Field.

Bahr was born August 3, 1946, in Meridian, Miss. From 1964 to 1968, he served as a gunner's mate in the United States Navy, participating in coastal and amphibious operations in Vietnam and the Western Pacific. After his service, Bahr worked as a brakeman and yard clerk on several railroads in the South and Midwest. In 1973, Bahr enrolled at the University of Mississippi where he earned a bachelor's degree majoring in English and history and a master's in English. He completed the coursework and examinations for a doctoral degree, but withdrew before completing a dissertation. From 1976 to 1993, he was on the staff at Rowan Oak, the home of William Faulkner, serving as curator from 1982 to 1993. He was also an instructor of literature at the University of Mississippi. In 1993, Bahr became an English professor at Motlow State Community College in Lynchburg, Tenn., until 2006. Bahr has published in various magazines and journals including Southern LivingCivil War Times IllustratedThe Southern Partisan and The Saturday Evening Post. He is the author of The Black Flower,The Year of JubiloPelican Road and a children's book, Home for Christmas. He lives in Jackson, Miss.

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300 North Washington St.
Gettysburg, PA 17325
P: (717) 337-6300