Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Booknotes: A History of the Ozarks, Volume 2

New Arrival:
A History of the Ozarks, Volume 2: The Conflicted Ozarks by Brooks Blevins (Univ of Ill Press, 2019).

Though I did not read the first book, I was happy to find that Brooks Blevins's ambitious three-part Ozarks history series devotes the entire middle volume to the Civil War and Reconstruction. A History of the Ozarks, Volume 2: The Conflicted Ozarks "begins with the region's distinctive relationship to slavery. Largely unsuitable for plantation farming, the Ozarks used enslaved persons on a smaller scale or, in some places, not at all. Blevins moves on to the devastating Civil War years where the dehumanizing, personal nature of Ozark conflict was made uglier by the predations of marching armies and criminal gangs. Blending personal stories with a wide narrative scope, he examines how civilians and soldiers alike experienced the war, from brutal partisan warfare to ill-advised refugee policies to women's struggles to safeguard farms and stay alive in an atmosphere of constant danger."

Roughly 60% of the book discusses slavery and the Civil War years. The rest of the volume covers the region's decades-long recovery. "The war stunted the region's growth, delaying the development of Ozarks society and the processes of physical, economic, and social reconstruction. More and more, striving uplanders dedicated to modernization fought an image of the Ozarks as a land of mountaineers and hillbillies hostile to the idea of progress. Yet the dawn of the twentieth century saw the uplands emerge as an increasingly uniform culture forged, for better and worse, in the tumult of a conflicted era."

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