Friday, April 14, 2006

"The Tygarts Valley Line June - July 1861"

The Tygarts Valley Line, June-July 1861 by Eva Margaret Carnes (1961--Third Printing 2003, Barbour County Historical Society, paperback, 112 pages, ISBN: 0-87012-703-9) is a useful little booklet written during the Centennial period. On one level, it's a short military history of the June 3, 1861 Battle of Philippi and the skirmishes in the Tygarts River valley during the second week of July; but, through a number of interesting vignettes, the book also paints a nice portrait of the valley's conflicted populace and of individual citizens rarely mentioned in later histories.

Carnes writes perhaps the most detailed and nuanced view I've come across of Confederate Colonel George A. Porterfield and his actions. On the Union side, she writes in admiration of Benjamin Kelley while passing harsh judgement upon George McClellan and Robert Milroy. However, Carnes is certainly no Lost Cause advocate either as she aims perhaps her most strident criticisms at Robert E. Lee for his apparent ignorance of and lack of concern for the region and its inhabitants and also for not following through on written promises of reinforcements, arms, and supplies. Her points are well taken but, given the situation the Confederates were in in May of 1861, it's difficult to imagine alternative results given the resources the Union army was pouring into their effort in western Virginia.

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