Monday, October 28, 2019

Booknotes: An Everlasting Circle

New Arrival:
An Everlasting Circle: Letters of the Haskell Family of Abbeville, South Carolina, 1861-1865 edited by Karen Stokes (Mercer UP, 2019).

An Everlasting Circle: Letters of the Haskell Family of Abbeville, South Carolina, 1861-1865 presents the Civil War correspondence of seven Haskell brothers and their parents. As noted in the description, it is indeed an unusually expansive collection of family letters, the volume running well over four hundred pages.

"The Haskell brothers were literate, well-educated men, most of whom became officers highly regarded for their ability, courage, and character. Their letters are particularly strong in documenting the beginning days of the war in Charleston, as well as many significant battles in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. They also tell the love story of Alexander C. Haskell and his bride Decca Singleton, a poignant romance chronicled by Mary Chesnut in her famous diary."

The war was a trial for any mother, and with so many of her offspring in harm's way Sophia Haskell certainly had more than her share of worries and woes. "At the center of the story is Sophia Haskell, the mother whose unfailing love and Christian faith was a source of strength for the family through many extraordinary trials. One of the worst of those trials occurred the day she received news of the death of her brother and two of her sons, but she took consolation in knowing that she would be reunited someday with all those she loved. The messages of condolence sent to her and her husband are some of the most moving writings of their kind, and a letter that Alexander C. Haskell penned to his mother after his wife's death has been called one of the noblest and most beautiful of the war."

Editor Karen Stokes's lengthy opening essay delves into Haskell family history and introduces readers to the volume's many contributing correspondents and their Civil War experiences. The letters are also extensively footnoted. In addition to the editor's epilogue and an afterword by James E. Kibler, the book also has a two-part appendix section. The first is a discussion of the postwar lives of the surviving Haskells and the second a transcription of a biographical sketch of South Carolina Ordinance of Secession signer Langdon Cheves (written by his nephew of the same name).

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