Witching Times, 1856-1857, 1967
Seacliff: Or, The Mystery of the Westervelts, 1859
Miss Ravenel’s Conversion from Secession to Loyalty, 1867
Kate Beaumont, 1872
The Wetherel Affair, 1873
Honest John Vane, 1875
Playing the Mischief, 1875
Justine’s Lovers, 1878
Irene the Missionary, 1879
The Bloody Chasm, 1881
A Lover’s Revolt, 1898
The Downing Legends: Stories in Rhyme, 1901
Poems: Medley and Palestina, 1902
History of the Indians of Connecticut from the Earliest Known Period to 1850, 1851
Oriental Acquaintance: Or, Letters from Syria, 1856
European Acquaintance: Being Sketches of People in Europe, 1858
The De Forests of Avesnes (and of New Netherland), 1900
A Volunteer’s Adventures: A Union Captain’s Record of the Civil War, 1946
A Union Officer in the Reconstruction, 1948
John William De Forest was a member of a wealthy and cultured New England family. Poor health, however, prevented him from following family tradition in his education, and instead of attending Yale he took a two-year trip to the Near East. On his return, he assembled History of the Indians of Connecticut, the first book of its kind and one that is still consulted by ethnologists for its accuracy and detail.
John William De Forest
Afterward, De Forest spent several years abroad, traveling, collecting material for books, and studying foreign languages. He returned to America, married, and was living in Charleston, South Carolina, when the Civil War broke out. He escaped with his wife and child just before the attack on Fort Sumter.
Back in Connecticut, he organized a group of volunteers and led them through a series of Civil War battles. De Forest recorded his experiences in a journal, later published as A Volunteer’s Adventures, which remains one of the best accounts of life in the Union Army. The journal also served as an important source of material for his excellent but neglected novel Miss Ravenel’s Conversion from Secession to Loyalty.
Partly because his writing was factual, accurate, and realistic, De Forest failed to achieve recognition from a generation that preferred sentimentalized versions of history. Only toward the end of the twentieth century did his realism begin to gain renewed appreciation from critics who, like William Dean Howells, admired the way in which De Forest worked, “with a sort of disdainful honesty to the effects of art.”