Sunday, April 27, 2008

Foley & Whicker: "The Civil War Ends: Greensboro, April 1865"

[ The Civil War Ends: Greensboro, April 1865 - A Historical Study of the Civil War in Guilford County ed. by Bradley R. Foley and Adrian L. Whicker (Guilford County Genealogical Society, 2008). Softcover, maps, illustrations, appendices, notes, bibliography. Pages main/total: 106/148 $19 ]

The Civil War Ends* is an edited compilation of articles and primary accounts that serves to illustrate the military and civilian experience during the final chaotic month of the conflict in North Carolina. In the first chapter, general editor and contributor Bradley R. Foley vividly describes the widespread looting that occurred in Greensboro during the period between the surrender of Lee's army in Virginia and Joseph E. Johnston's command in North Carolina. The author provides evidence to contest the traditional view that President Davis received a decidedly cold reception from unionist Greensboro during his flight. Foley also briefly summarizes the actions of detachments from General George Stoneman's union cavalry raiding column in Guilford County in mid-April, and offers a summary account of the surrender negotiations at Bennett Place.

The next section of the book, also by Bradley Foley (with Christina Foley), is a photographic tour of Greensboro. While detailed directions are absent, the locations are helpfully pinpointed on maps from 1882 and 2008. Written by Patricia Kohler, the next two chapters consider divergent subject matter. The first studies the role of prominent citizens' investments in the North Carolina Volunteer Navy and the other furnishes brief biographical data for a select number of soldiers from Company C (Guilford Light Infantry), 45th North Carolina. Foley and Whicker's final essay records the flight of the Confederate cabinet through the state. Eight appendices, largely consisting of official documents and reminiscences (both military and civilian), comprise the rest of the volume.

The study is prodigiously illustrated, with dozens of photographs, drawings, engravings, and maps. The editors have also assembled a fine bibliography, with a satisfying range of source materials consulted. The use of footnotes vs. endnotes was appreciated as well. Like many county history publications directed at a local market, the reader is not presented with a unifying narrative, but rather a loose collection of primary accounts and self contained articles. While there may not be enough context in the study to draw in the broader audience, the articles and supplementary materials contained in The Civil War Ends should be of interest to researchers and students of the war's denouement.

* - One might quibble with the title, as the final organized surrender of Richard Taylor's and Kirby Smith's departments did not occur until the following month, but Bennett Place and the earlier Appomattox surrender certainly ended the conflict in the eastern theater.

[As an aside, Foley is also the co-author, with J. Timothy Cole, of Collett Leventhorpe, the English Confederate: The Life of a Civil War General 1815-1889 (McFarland, 2006)]

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