Wednesday, January 07, 2009

"Virginia at War, 1863"

[Virginia at War, 1863 ed. by William C. Davis and James I. Robertson, Jr. (University Press of Kentucky, 2008). Hardcover, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total: 211/232. ISBN: 9780813125107 $35]

For some time now, essay collections published by university presses have been directing their focus away from traditional military subjects (e.g. battles, campaigns, generals, etc.) and toward addressing the wide variety of topics dealing with the intersection of war and society. Virginia at War, 1863 [the third of a planned five volume Virginia at War series from University of Kentucky Press] is very much a part of this trend; however, each volume does include an essay outlining military events in the state for that particular year. In this case, historian A. Wilson Greene provides the 1863 chapter. Another contribution with a significant military theme is James M. Prichard's discussion of William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield's Civil War. Prichard is a noted scholar of Civil War irregular operations and his essay adds to our understanding of the guerrilla war along the Virginia-Kentucky border, as well as the famous Hatfield-McCoy feud.

Other essays include James Marten's account of the plight of Virginia's children, who were forced to personally experience the war as residents of occupied and/or frequently contested territory. Benjamin Trask's chapter examines the failures and successes of northern missionaries who sought to educate freed slaves in southeast Virginia. The effect of the war on the state's churches is studied by David Rolfs. Another chapter (the contribution of series co-editor William C. Davis) explores the role of scrapbook keeping in documenting the personal wartime experience of middle and upper class civilians, and in providing source material for future researchers. Jared Peatman reveals the Virginia press's reaction to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and rounding out the volume is series co-editor James I. Robertson's third annotated installment of the diary of Judith Brokenbrough McGuire. All essays are annotated, and the collection also features a select bibliography and index.

The scholarly essays brought together in Virginia at War, 1863 are an eclectic bunch. The ordeal of the Civil War reached deeply into all segments of society, as clearly demonstrated by these explorations of the personal experiences of Virginia women, children, and ex-slaves, along with the wider scale damages warfare brought to many religious and border communities.

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Other CWBA reviews of University Press of Kentucky titles:

* Kentuckians in Gray: Confederate Generals and Field Officers of the Bluegrass State
* Contested Borderland

3 comments:

  1. I'm curious, do you know anything about James Marten's research into Virginia's children? I've never heard of him before, and I would be interested in reading his work.

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  2. I haven't read any of them, but he has written a great deal about childhood experiences in different eras. You might try his "The Children's Civil War" (UNC Press, 1998).

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  3. Thank you so much, I just ordered a copy.

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