Awhile back I read James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedomthe sixth volume in Oxford University Press’s ongoing series of American history. (The full series list is worth checking out if you’re ever in the mood for thousands of pages of U.S. history – and who isn’t?) I learned a lot of things from McPherson’s tome, but most salient was that the men who fought the Civil War had really, really cool names. I noted my favorites from the book, found a few more, and decided to write about each of the men they’re attached to. Many are soldiers, others journalists or public figures. Together, they tell the story of the era that gave this nation its most fiery trial—and its most fantastical facial hair.

Leonidas Polk
Sylvanus Cadwallader
Clement Laird Vallandigham
Lambdin Purdy Milligan
Zebulon Baird Vance
Samuel Clarke Pomeroy
Rufus Saxton
Jubal Early
Gouverneur Kemble Warren
Thurlow Weed
William Clark Quantrill
Robert Barnwell Rhett
Jasper A. Maltby
L.Q.C. Lamar II