Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Forgotten Front

Authors are generally at the mercy of their publishers when it comes to titles, and I rather wish we could unofficially outlaw words like "unknown" or "forgotten" in them. Really, how forgotten can something be if it can draw on a rich existing scholarship, a great deal of which is recent vintage? Anyway, that micro-rant aside, I am greatly looking forward to reading A Forgotten Front: Florida during the Civil War Era edited by Seth A. Weitz and Jonathan C. Sheppard (Alabama, June 2018).

My own interest in Civil War Florida was sparked by a trio of fascinating titles from the 1990s, all of which were published by University of Alabama Press. William Nulty's Confederate Florida: The Road to Olustee (1990) started it all for me with a fine overview of the Civil War in the state along with a very good study of Florida's largest and most well-known battle. Later, George Buker's Blockaders, Refugees, & Contrabands: Civil War on Florida's Gulf Coast, 1861-1865 (1993) opened my eyes to the Gulf side of Florida's Civil War, emphasizing among other things Florida Unionists and the interplay between the U.S. Navy's East Gulf Blockading Squadron with white refugees and escaped slaves. Finally, Robert Taylor's Rebel Storehouse: Florida's Contribution to the Confederacy (1995) documented the state's raw materials and food supply importance to the Confederacy (a role that became increasingly critical as the war dragged on).

These were followed by other interesting works. Most recently, I was impressed by Stephen Ash's Firebrand of Liberty: The Story of Two Black Regiments That Changed the Course of the Civil War (2008), Thunder on the River: The Civil War in Northeast Florida (2010) by Daniel Shafer, and Tracy Revels's new overview Florida's Civil War: Terrible Sacrifices (2016).

Getting back to Weitz and Sheppard's upcoming anthology, the description suggests a thematically wide ranging collection of essays. They "examine the most significant military engagements and the guerrilla warfare necessitated by the occupied coastline. Contributors look at the politics of war, beginning with the decade prior to the outbreak of the war through secession and wartime leadership and examine the period through the lenses of race, slavery, women, religion, ethnicity, and historical memory." Sounds good to me.

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