Elizabeth D. Leonard Wins 2023 John Nau Book Prize

Thursday, April 20, 2023

We are delighted to announce that Elizabeth D. Leonard, the John J. and Cornelia V. Gibson Professor of History, Emerita, at Colby College, has won the 2023 John Nau Book Prize in American Civil War Era History for her new book, Benjamin Franklin Butler: A Noisy, Fearless Life (UNC Press, 2022)! 

The 2023 Nau Book Prize committee, comprised of Peter S. Carmichael, Jennifer Murray, and Angela Zombek, wrote in its report that: 

"Benjamin Butler was one of the most maligned and misunderstood generals in the Civil War until the publication of Elizabeth Leonard’s Benjamin Franklin Butler: A Noisy, Fearless Life. She shatters the Lost Cause picture of Butler as a ruthless general, who preyed upon Southern women while seeking political and financial gain, even at the expense of Union armies in the field. Leonard shows that Butler was a competent military leader who, in the postwar years, emerged as one of the nation’s most vocal leaders for black equality and civil rights.

"Leonard’s narrative is exceptional, beautifully written, deeply researched, and carefully argued. Leonard demonstrates the power of biography to reveal new angles on familiar subjects. The book tells us so much about the Civil War era. She also unravels the controversies in Butler’s life without engaging in hero-worshipping. As a result, we have a masterful biography that reveals the struggles of a man trying to navigate the revolutionary waters of a war that Butler was partially responsible for unleashing. Benjamin Franklin Butler is a masterpiece."

In addition to winning the Nau Book Prize, Benjamin Franklin Butler was also a finalist for the 2023 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize!

Thank you to Peter Carmichael, Jennifer Murray, and Angela Zombek for serving on our Book Prize committee, and congratulations to Elizabeth Leonard!