Friday, April 28, 2023

Booknotes: The Governor's Pawns

New Arrival:
The Governor's Pawns: Hostages and Hostage-Taking in Civil War West Virginia by Randall S. Gooden (Kent St UP, 2023).

As evidenced from the past week of Booknotes entries posted here on the site, I've received a bunch of KSUP titles in the mail recently, their release dates ranging from late-'22 through to today. The publisher's Civil War Era in the South and Civil War in the North series have both been discontinued, their subject matter now folded into the Civil War Soldiers and Strategies and Interpreting the Civil War: Texts and Contexts series. With all four of the most recent arrivals part of it, the latter has been much more active of late. The last of the group is Randall Gooden's The Governor's Pawns: Hostages and Hostage-Taking in Civil War West Virginia.

Civil War students, especially those with a particular interest in the conflict's Border State and guerrilla warfare history, will surely recall incidents of hostage-taking in their reading, but the true scale of the practice is probably more broadly underappreciated. Still, according to Gooden, "it was unique for an individual state government to engage in this practice." His book-length study of the matter "examines the history that led to the taking of political prisoners in western Virginia, the implementation of a hostage law by Virginia’s pro-Union government in 1863, and the adoption of that law by the newly recognized state of West Virginia."

More from the description: "The roots of state hostage-taking took hold prior to the Civil War. Sectional politics between eastern and western Virginia and their local communities, as well as long-standing family rivalries, resulted in the extreme actions of secession and war. Randall Gooden uses genealogical sources to tell the fascinating stories of individuals swept up in the turmoil, including hostages and their captors, freedmen, and government and military officials. Gooden emphasizes the personal nature of civilian arrests and hostage-taking and describes the impact on communities and the families left scarred by this practice."

Sounds interesting.

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