Friday, April 24, 2020

Booknotes: Galvanized

New Arrival:
Galvanized: The Odyssey of a Reluctant Carolina Confederate by Michael K. Brantley (Potomac Bks, 2020).

Galvanized: The Odyssey of a Reluctant Carolina Confederate integrates a biographical treatment of author Michael Brantley's great-great-grandfather's life with the story of Brantley's research, writing, and personal thoughts on Civil War memory. In the end, the book tries to show how "the complexities of loyalty and personal belief governed one man’s actions—and still influence the ways Americans think about the conflict today."

Getting back to exactly who the book is about, the "reluctant" Confederate of the title is Wright Stephen Batchelor. "Like most North Carolina farmers, Batchelor eschewed slaveholding. He also opposed secession and war, yet he fought on both sides of the conflict. During his time in each uniform, Batchelor barely avoided death at the Battle of Gettysburg, was captured twice, and survived one of the war’s most infamous prisoner-of-war camps. He escaped and, after walking hundreds of miles, rejoined his comrades at Petersburg, Virginia, just as the Union siege there began. Once the war ended, Batchelor returned on foot to his farm, where he took part in local politics, supported rights for freedmen, and was fatally involved in a bizarre hometown murder." I won't spoil the last part but suffice it to say the deranged pet owner is not a purely modern phenomenon.

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