Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Booknotes: Deep in the Piney Woods

New Arrival:
Deep in the Piney Woods: Southeastern Alabama from Statehood to the Civil War, 1800–1865 by Tommy C. Brown (Univ of Ala Press, 2018).

Scholarly trends in Civil War home front studies are always in flux and that rarely results in the various sub-regions within states being accorded equal coverage. For Alabama, the recent explosion of Southern Unionist scholarship has diverted much of the attention from the Gulf Coast and black belt to the northern counties. Though many readers will be familiar with Mark Wetherington's superb 2005 study Plain Folk's Fight: The Civil War and Reconstruction in Piney Woods Georgia, Tommy Brown contends in his new book Deep in the Piney Woods: Southeastern Alabama from Statehood to the Civil War, 1800–1865 that the wiregrass region "is one of the most understudied areas in Alabama history." His study "offers a comprehensive and long overdue account of a historically rich region of the state, challenging many commonly held assumptions about the area’s formation and settlement, economy, politics, race relations, and its role in both the secession of the state and the Civil War."

"Historians routinely depict this part of the state as an isolated, economically backward wilderness filled with poor whites who showed little interest in supporting the Confederacy once civil war erupted in 1861." However, like Wetherington did in his own study of five south-central Georgia wiregrass/piney woods counties, Brown "challenges those traditional interpretations, arguing instead that many white Alabamians in this territory participated in the market economy, supported slavery, favored secession, and supported the Confederate war effort for the bulk of the conflict, sending thousands of soldiers to fight in some of the bloodiest campaigns of the war."

More from the description: "This thorough and expansive account of southeastern Alabama’s role in the Civil War also discusses its advocacy for state secession in January 1861; the effects of Confederate conscription on the home front; the economic devastation wrought on the area; and the participation of local military companies in key campaigns in both the eastern and western theaters, including Shiloh, the Peninsula Campaign, the Overland Campaign, Atlanta, and Franklin-Nashville. Brown argues that the lasting effects of the war on the region’s politics, identity, economy, and culture define it in ways that are still evident today."

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