Friday, April 10, 2015

Booknotes IV (Apr '15)

New Arrivals:

1. Decapitating the Union: Jefferson Davis, Judah Benjamin and the Plot to Assassinate Lincoln by John C. Fazio (McFarland, 2015).

Publisher's description: "The literature on Abraham Lincoln's assassination is replete with errors, theories and guesswork. This comprehensive re-examination of the facts seeks to correct errors in the record, reconcile differences of opinion, offer explanations for unknowns and evaluate theories. Drawing on hundreds of sources, the author covers the prelude to the war, Booth's accomplices and their roles in the conspiracy, the kidnapping ruse that concealed the intended decapitation of the government, the mysteries surrounding key players, the assassination itself, Booth's escape, the pursuit of the fugitives, the death of Booth and the trial and sentencing of his co-conspirators (except John Surratt) and one innocent man. The simple conspiracy theory is rejected by the author in favor of the theory that Booth worked with the complicity of the highest levels of the Confederate government and its Secret Service Bureau, whose twofold purpose was retribution and snatching Southern independence from a weakened and chaotic Federal Government."

2. The Civilian War: Confederate Women and Union Soldiers During Sherman's March by Lisa Tendrich Frank (LSU Pr, 2015).

"The Civilian War explores home front encounters between elite Confederate women and Union soldiers during Sherman’s March, a campaign that put women at the center of a Union army operation for the first time. ... To drive home the full extent of northern domination over the South, Sherman’s soldiers besieged the female domain—going into bedrooms and parlors, seizing correspondence and personal treasures—with the aim of insulting and humiliating upper-class southern women. These efforts blurred the distinction between home front and warfront, creating confrontations in the domestic sphere as a part of the war itself. ... Although Sherman intended his efforts to demoralize the civilian population, Frank suggests that his strategies frequently had the opposite effect. Confederate women accepted the plunder of food and munitions as an inevitable part of the conflict, but they considered Union invasion of their private spaces an unforgivable and unreasonable transgression. These intrusions strengthened the resolve of many southern women to continue the fight against the Union and its most despised general."

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