Friday, March 29, 2019

Booknotes: The Last Battleground

New Arrival:
The Last Battleground: The Civil War Comes to North Carolina by Philip Gerard
  (UNC Press, 2019).

During the Sesquicentennial, the Civil War stories of fifty individuals of varying backgrounds were published on a monthly basis in the magazine Our State: Celebrating North Carolina. Their author, UNC-Wilmington creative writing professor Philip Gerard, has now anthologized the articles in book form under the title The Last Battleground: The Civil War Comes to North Carolina.

"Distilled" from the original collection, the forty-three chapters comprising The Last Battleground are not narrative biography composed in the traditional format. What the reader will immediately notice is the present tense writing, "reporting the war as if it were happening in the present rather than with settled hindsight--to capture the dreadful suspense of lives caught up in a conflict whose ending had not yet been written."

Another goal of the project was to present the ground-level picture of Civil War North Carolina using the broadest sweep of actors possible. "To understand the long march of events in North Carolina from secession to surrender is to understand the entire Civil War--a personal war waged by Confederates and Unionists, free blacks and the enslaved, farm women and plantation belles, Cherokees and mountaineers, conscripts and volunteers, gentleman officers and poor privates. In the state's complex loyalties, its sprawling and diverse geography, and its dual role as a home front and a battlefield, North Carolina embodies the essence of the whole epic struggle in all its terrible glory."

More: "As Gerard reveals, whatever the grand political causes for war, whatever great battles decided its outcome, and however abstract it might seem to readers a century and a half later, the war was always personal."

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