Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"FAITH, VALOR, AND DEVOTION" & "A PALMETTO BOY": A pair of edited South Carolina letter-diary collections

[Faith, Valor, and Devotion: The Civil War Letters of William Porcher DuBose edited by W. Eric Emerson and Karen Stokes (University of South Carolina Press, 2010). Cloth, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. 390 Pages. ISBN:978-1-57003-912-6 $49.95]

The publication of Faith, Valor, and Devotion is the fortunate result of an exchange of manuscript material between the Charleston County Public Library and the South Carolina Historical Society. William Porcher DuBose (1836-1918) was a privileged young man with an excellent education (graduate of South Carolina Military College and studied at the University of Virginia) when the Civil War interrupted his seminary studies. Joining the Holcolme Legion, he accepted a post in the unit the equivalent of regimental adjutant.

During the war's first year, the Legion was stationed at various places along the South Carolina coast. Sent to Richmond in the final stages of the 1862 Peninsula Campaign, the South Carolinians participated in the summer campaigns in northern Virginia and Maryland. At Rappahannock Station, Dubose was wounded in the knee, and he was hit again at Second Manassas. Recovering from both, he fought at South Mountain, where he was captured after a bit of picket line carelessness. Exchanged in November, he rejoined Evans's Brigade in North Carolina, and was yet again wounded, this time in the hip at Kinston. Newly married in the spring of 1863, Dubose returned to military service that year in Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina. However, in the fall, he left his adjutant job behind for the chaplain's position for the brigade of Joseph Kershaw, meeting the spiritual needs of the men until the very end of the war.

Faith, Valor, and Devotion comprises a very large collection of lengthy weekly letters to and from DuBose. Most of the letters from DuBose are addressed to his fiance, Anne Barnwell Peronneau, with much of their content consisting of personal devotions and social banter. Christian faith was obviously at the very center of Dubose's being, as his letters are filled with religious expression and invariably carry his thoughts on the latest sermon. Military details are very thin, and DuBose's writing offers very little in the way of specific information about his adjutant duties. However, military context that is only hinted at in the letters is provided by the editors in their excellent footnotes, which are located at the end of each letter and extensively researched. From these, readers also gain a much fuller understanding of persons, places, and events mentioned in the correspondence.

[A Palmetto Boy: Civil War-Era Diaries and Letters of James Adams Tillman edited by Bobbie Swearingen Smith (University of South Carolina Press, 2010). Cloth, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. 200 Pages. ISBN:978-1-57003-905-8 $29.95]

James Adams Tillman came from a big South Carolina family of 13 children, with brothers that would go on to hold high office at state and federal levels. A Palmetto Boy comprises both letters to and from these individuals as well as J.A.'s diary entries. He was nineteen when Civil War broke out, enlisting in the 24th South Carolina infantry regiment. His unit was initially stationed on Coles Island near Charleston, fighting later on on James Island (Secessionville) in 1862 and '63. In between, the 24th spent a few months in North Carolina near Wilmington. Spring and summer 1863 found Tillman in Mississippi as part of Joe Johnston's Vicksburg relief army. In September, he was wounded at Chickamauga, not returning to the western army until the Atlanta Campaign was underway. Now a captain, Tillman saw the loss of that vital railway junction and later participated in Hood's Tennessee Campaign. He finished the war in North Carolina with his comrades, but his wounds never completely healed and he died a year later.

Like the DuBose letters, the early diaries and letters of Tillman do not concentrate heavily on military affairs (he often tells his correspondents to refer elsewhere for this type of news). Not surprisingly, camp life, personal needs & wants, the weather, and family news are common subjects. However, with his promotion to captain perhaps expanding his perspective, more military detail emerges beginning with in his Atlanta Campaign letters. Tillman's wartime diary entries are very brief (just a few lines), largely focusing on weather reporting and very general military movements and events. They do extend into 1866, providing a record of his efforts to restore the family's home and farm.

Editor Bobbie Swearingen Smith (Tillman's grandniece) arranges these letters and diaries together in chronological order. In addition to a brief general introduction, she also provides footnotes, although these are limited to full names and service record summaries of individuals mentioned by Tillman. Gaps, and lost pages, are duly noted by the editor, the most significant being the destruction by fire in 1920 of Tillman's papers dated between September 1863 and June 1864. As appendices, Smith also offers a short history of the Tillman family home (written by Tillman's nephew), a timeline of J.A.'s military service, and a battle list.

See Also:
* Twilight on the South Carolina Rice Fields: Letters of the Heyward Family, 1862-1871
* Never for Want of Powder: The Confederate Powder Works in Augusta, Georgia
* Upcountry South Carolina Goes to War: Letters of the Anderson, Brockman, and Moore Families, 1853-1865
* Cuban Confederate Colonel: The Life of Ambrosio Jose Gonzales
* The Good Fight That Didn't End: Henry P. Goddard's Accounts of Civil War and Peace
* Guardian of Savannah: Fort McAllister, Georgia, in the Civil War and Beyond
* High Seas And Yankee Gunboats: A Blockade-Running Adventure From The Diary Of James Dickson
* Vital Rails: The Charleston & Savannah Railroad and the Civil War in Coastal South Carolina

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