Following the release of his latest book, Vicksburg: Grant’s Campaign That Broke the Confederacy, and winning the Fletcher Pratt Award, Donald L. Miller, John Henry McCracken Emeritus Professor of History, has earned another award: the 25th annual Daniel M. & Marilyn W. Laney Book Prize awarded by the Austin Civil War Round Table Inc. 

The Laney Prize, which includes a stipend, will be presented to Miller at the Oct. 15, 2020, meeting of the Austin Civil War Round Table Inc. The prize is awarded yearly for distinguished scholarship and writing on the military or political history of the Civil War.

Donald Miller photograph by Austin MedinaPast winner of the Laney Prize, Professor Elizabeth Varon wrote, “At the heart of his story is Ulysses S. Grant, who emerges here as a master of maneuver and improvisation, and a hero made human and real. This is military history at its best.” 

The book is Miller’s first venture into Civil War history. Three of his previous 10 award-winning books, most of them bestsellers, focus on World War II, among them Masters of the Air, which is being made into a 10-part dramatic series by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg for Apple productions. Vicksburg examines Ulysses Grant’s yearlong campaign to take the city and entire Mississippi Valley, arguably the decisive campaign of the Civil War. Grant’s success in the Vicksburg campaign split the Confederacy in two, along the Mississippi River line, and led to his appointment as general-in-chief of all Union armies. 

Miller’s book, a war history not a strictly military history, is a deeply researched examination of the social, economic, and political implications of military conflict—and a book about civilians as well as soldiers. In the Mississippi Valley campaign, Grant freed over 100,000 slaves and put nearly 26,000 of them in Union blue, as soldiers of the republic.  

“In this carefully researched book, written with sizzling and persuasive prose, Miller has found the way to write both military and emancipation history in one profound package,” writes Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David W. Blight.   

Cover of Prof. Donald L. Miller's book Vicksburg: Grant’s Campaign that Broke the Confederacy

The Wall Street Journal called Vicksburg, “an epic story. Books like Vicksburg are exactly what Thomas Hardy had in mind when he wrote that ‘war makes rattling good history.’”  Historian and Pulitzer Prize winner James McPherson declared it, “The fullest and best history of the Vicksburg campaign.” Prize-winning historian John Berry called it “a magnificent book, certainly one the very best ever written about the Civil War. It makes the reader truly understand not only the battle of Vicksburg, not only the Civil War, but war itself.”  

Among the previous winners of the Laney Prize are William C. Davis for The Cause Lost; Gary Gallagher for The Confederate War; Richard McMurry for Atlanta: 1864; Gordon C. Rhea for Cold Harbor; Jeffry D. Wert for The Sword of Lincoln; A. Wilson Greene for Civil War Petersburg;, Craig L. Symonds for Lincoln and His Admirals; Donald S. Frazier for Fire in the Cane Fields; Edwin Bearss and J. Parker Hills for Receding Tide; Elizabeth Varon for Appomattox; and S.C. Gwynne for Rebel Yell.

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