Thursday, October 31, 2019

Booknotes: Mississippi Bishop William Henry Elder and the Civil War

New Arrival:
Mississippi Bishop William Henry Elder and the Civil War by Ryan Starrett (Arcadia Pub & The Hist Press, 2019).

The prosperous river city of Natchez was also the Catholic center of Mississippi, and in May 1857 Marylander William Henry Elder was appointed bishop of the diocese there. He would remain in Natchez for over two decades, with the war years of his early tenure the focus of Ryan Starratt's Mississippi Bishop William Henry Elder and the Civil War

During that strife-filled period, Elder "witnessed many of the pivotal moments of the Civil War--the capitulation of Natchez, the Siege of Vicksburg, the destruction of Jackson and the overall desolation of a state. And in the midst of the conflict, Bishop Elder went about his daily duties of baptizing, teaching, praying, preaching, performing marriages, confirming, comforting and burying the dead."

The footnotes indicate that the book is primarily constructed around the bishop's diary, which was locally published during the Centennial as Civil War Diary (1862-1865) of Bishop William Henry Elder, Bishop of Natchez. Supplementing the text are numerous photographs, artwork reproductions, and other illustrations. Beyond its biographical features, the book looks to be a useful resource for studying Civil War Natchez and mid-nineteenth century Catholic history in the state.

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