Virginia Libraries Logo

Virginia Libraries

Current editors:
Beth DeFrancis defrancb@georgetown.edu, Editor
John Connolly jconnolly@nsl.org, Assistant Editor

Virginia Libraries
Volume 46, Number 1

DLA Ejournal Home | VALib Home | Table of Contents for this issue | Search VAlib and other ejournals

Virginia Books

Reviews prepared by the staff of the Division of Publications
and Educational Services of the Library of Virginia
Julie A. Campbell, Editor

Jan Ellen Lewis and Peter S. Onuf, Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson: History, Memory, and Civic Culture. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999. x + 280 pp. $65.00 (hardcover), $17.95 (softcover).

The eleven essays in this volume and an introduction by the editors derive from a symposium held at the University of Virginia in March 1999 following publication of DNA analysis that appeared to confirm Thomas Jefferson was the father of at least one, and probably all, of the children of his slave Sally Hemings.

These distinguished scholars did not debate the question of whether Jefferson was the father of Hemings's children. Rather, they explored the implications of interpreting their history as true. The kinds of questions they asked and for which they provided preliminary answers were numerous. What might it teach us about Thomas Jefferson if he engaged in a long relationship with his slave, concealed it, and probably lied about it? What can we learn about family history if we accept that Jefferson had two families who lived both separately and together at Monticello? What do we learn about the institution of slavery and the human relationships between masters and slaves?

What do we learn about gender relationships-those of Jefferson with his wife and daughters, between Jefferson and his second family and his second set of daughters, even between Jefferson's two sets of daughters? What do we learn about the values and standards of the larger community within which Jefferson and his two families lived? Was it really a secret that Jefferson and Hemings had children? How did people who knew, but did not want to acknowledge that they did, deal with it? How did subsequent generations of Jefferson's two families react?

These essays are original and thought-provoking. They explore intense and deeply personal subjects and human relationships in an elegant and sophisticated way. Even people who are not inclined to accept that Jefferson was the father of Hemings's children will find valuable insights and lessons for the study of history. For those who have been persuaded, the essays may seem like the opening chapters of a whole new way of inquiring about a past that was once familiar but now is not. For any library that needs to keep current on this important subject and its ramifications, this book is essential.

-reviewed by Brent Tarter, Editor, Dictionary of Virginia Biography

Stuart Leibiger, Founding Friendship: George Washington, James Madison, and the Creation of the American Republic. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999. x + 284 pp. $35.00 (hardcover).

In this well-written book, Stuart Leibiger contends that the friendship between George Washington and James Madison is the least examined but most crucial collaboration in the creation of the American Republic. A working relationship that existed before the two men actually met, it deepened into an intimate friendship essential to the founding of the new nation, only to be destroyed by partisan politics.

Leibiger ably chronicles how Washington and Madison developed an almost symbiotic relationship. Each realized the other possessed talents and abilities that complemented his own, and both desired to create a stronger federal government to protect the republican values of the Revolution. Washington brought leadership and prestige to the collaboration, while Madison gave it his legislative skills and capable pen. Together, their efforts resulted in the creation of the Constitution and the establishment of the federal government. The apex of their relationship occurred in 1789-1790, when as president and congressman respectively, Washington and Madison set the executive and legislative branches into motion.

However, as the two became involved in their particular duties, they drifted apart. Madison, who had understood Washington intuitively, now seemed to misjudge the president's intentions. Washington, who had trusted Madison implicitly, now possessed serious misgivings about the congressman's loyalty. Alexander Hamilton's economic program exacerbated the rift. Washington believed it necessary to strengthen the new nation, while Madison perceived it a threat to liberty and republican virtue. When Madison openly opposed policies that the president supported, Washington terminated the friendship. Thus, the collaboration that Leibiger skillfully sketches ended-short in duration, but long on achievement.

-reviewed by Trenton E. Hizer, Private Papers Archivist

Mark E. Neely, Jr., Southern Rights: Political Prisoners and the Myth of Confederate Constitutionalism. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999. vii + 212 pp. $35.00 (hardcover).

In 1992, Mark Neely, Jr. won the Pulitzer Prize for The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties. In his newest book, Neely once again examines civil liberties during the Civil War but this time focuses on the Confederacy and its president, Jefferson Davis. The author shows that Davis and other Confederate leaders, like their Union counterparts, frequently trampled on their citizens' constitutional rights "in response to the real or imagined threats of wartime."

Neely bases his study upon his discovery of records revealing 4,108 political prisoners held captive in Confederate prisons during the Civil War. Rather than going into great detail concerning individual prisoners, he describes the governmental system that created them. "Instead of protecting the southern rights and liberty to which politicians had extravagantly pledged their society before the war," Neely discovers, "the Confederate government curtailed many civil liberties and imprisoned troublesome citizens." Although some citizens protested, most white Southerners "submitted docilely to being treated as only slaves could have been treated in the ante-bellum South."

While the book raises new questions about Confederate constitutionalism, it may prove to be somewhat intellectually weighty for most popular readers of Civil War history and disappointing to Virginia readers. Neely's discussion of issues and events in the commonwealth is limited, particularly in regard to the Shenandoah Valley and other parts of western Virginia, where large numbers of religious dissenters and Unionists were prime targets for a system bent on stamping out Confederate disloyalty. Neely's discovery of previously unknown hpolitical-prisoner records should prove a boon to genealogists and other researchers, though the author specifically mentions only 128 of these prisoners in the text, each of whom is listed in an alphabetical index in the back of the book. Academic and research libraries will want this work on their shelves.

-reviewed by Dale F. Harter, Assistant Editor, Virginia Cavalcade

William C. Davis and Meredith L. Swentor, eds., Bluegrass Confederate: The Headquarters Diary of Edward O. Guerrant. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1999. x + 716 pp. $49.95 (hardcover).

Bluegrass Confederate is the war-time diary of Edward O. Guerrant, a Confederate staff officer. A Kentucky native, Guerrant was a well-educated, intelligent, and insightful twenty-three-year-old whose writings were clear and thoughtful. He intended the narrative as a day-to-day account for his future wife and related the routines of camp life, with detailed descriptions of the people, places, and events around him. In addition, as a general's staff officer, he offers a keen insight into the operations (often menial) of that element of military service.

Guerrant spent his army career campaigning in southwestern Virginia and eastern Tennessee, hardly scenes of intense fighting or major campaigning. His story, however, may be more typical of hundreds of thousands of men who served on both sides of the war. Excluding the controversial battle or massacre at Saltville in 1864, Guerrant saw little action of consequence. With the exception of service with Gen. John Hunt Morgan, his staff assignments were inconspicuous. Guerrant spent the majority of the war on the staff of Gen. Humphrey Marshall, but also served with generals William Preston, John S. Williams, and George Cosby.

This should not demean the significance of this book. The fighting in the mountains presented a different type of warfare, and the religious, often prudish Guerrant was frequently disillusioned by what he saw. Readers can see his optimism wane as the war progressed.

Bluegrass Confederate is a useful resource for information on the campaigning in this oft-forgotten region. Any reader looking for a fast-paced, action-packed narrative of the Civil War should look elsewhere. But anyone interested in the detailed minutiae of a rustic military outpost in the Appalachian South, the mechanisms of staff service, or intelligent observations and commentary should not pass up this superbly edited and annotated title.

-reviewed by Eddie Woodward, Local Records Archivist

Jacqueline M. Moore, Leading the Race: The Transformation of the Black Elite in the Nation's Capital, 1880-1920. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999. viii + 257 pp. $37.50 (hardcover).

Moore, an assistant professor of history at Austin College in Texas, considers her book to be part of the most recent trend in African American scholarship. Rather than ignoring or dismissing the elite in the black community, she and other historians study how they transformed themselves into leaders during the era of Jim Crow. She focuses on the black community in Washington, D.C., because it offers a case study of the ties between Washington and other cities, the importance of the city, and the role of transience in the black community. Blacks who settled in Washington in search of federal jobs and to lobby for civil rights made the city a center of black culture forty years before the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Faced with racism and segregation, they turned their efforts to building institutions that served the black community. By the turn of the century, membership in the elite was based more on merit than on family connections or skin color.

The first three chapters give an overview of the black community in the 1880s by examining family and cultural and leisure activities. The next three chapters focus on the church, primary and secondary education, and higher education to chart the changes in elite redefinition. The final chapters discuss how the black elite became racially conscious and committed to racial uplift through their livelihoods and organizations. Despite racial consciousness, Moore points out, they adopted nonconfrontation when faced with increasing racism, without abandoning their push for better education and economic opportunities. The children of this first generation of black elites, however, were positioned better to agitate for change through the strong institutions and organizations their parents had established. For Moore, this second generation became the first true leadership class in the black community.

Moore conveys the tension between the elite and the rest of the community during Reconstruction and the early days of Jim Crow, as the elite hoped for assimilation and acceptance by the white community. Disillusionment as segregation developed forced them to forge stronger ties to their community and ultimately to establish organizations independent of white patronage or acceptance. The group walked a fine line to maintain their identity. On the one hand, they tried to demonstrate their superiority to the black masses, hoping that white society would accept them as social and cultural equals. On the other hand, faced with racism, they understood their social status depended on their black community, their fate on that of the whole race. Moore concludes that the black elite transformed itself from aristocrats with exclusive social clubs and emphasis on family connections to a leadership class in which elite status resulted from education, occupation, and community involvement.

-reviewed by Barbara Batson, Exhibits Coordinator

Susan Tyler Hitchcock, The University of Virginia: A Pictorial History. viii + 246 pp. $39.95 (hardcover).

The University of Virginia is unique among great American universities, writes its president, John T. Casteen III, in his foreword to this book. It is neither a public land-grant university nor a private school well-endowed by philanthropy. Rather, it is the result of one man's practical vision of higher education's crucial role in a democratic government. As Thomas Jefferson himself put it in 1800, the university was to be "on a plan so broad and liberal and modern" that it would readily receive public support in Virginia and also "be a temptation to the youth of other States" to attend it. Today's battles over budget increases for higher education and admission quotas for out-of-state students notwithstanding, Jefferson's dream has become reality.

The talented Susan Tyler Hitchcock, an alumnus, provides a graceful chronological narrative of the school's founding, growth, and, in more recent years, development into a nationally ranked public university. The design and organization of the book is striking and effective. The ten narrative chapters are interspersed with shorter chapters on such subjects as the Lawn, athletics, the honor code, and expansion of the university.

But I cannot imagine anyone with the discipline not to look first at all the wonderful illustrations. There are Jefferson's designs for the gardens and pavilions, portraits of dour faculty members, and students posing both formally and informally. At the beginning, middle, and end of the volume are numerous illustrations that show first the building of the Rotunda, then its burning and rebuilding after 1895, and its thorough renovation in the 1970s. Throughout the book are scattered numerous contemporary color photographs of the university's buildings and grounds.

The book was produced in partnership between the University Press of Virginia and the University of Virginia Bookstore. The bookstore contributes a portion of the profits from its sales of the book to an endowment for student and faculty programs at the university.

-reviewed by John T. Kneebone, Director, Division of Publications and Educational Services

Scott Hamilton Suter, Shenandoah Valley Folklife. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1999. xiii + 129 pp. $45.00 (hardcover), $18.00 (softcover).

It's no surprise that many omodern-day Virginians want the state song to be "Shenandoah," for that part of the Old Dominion is full of history, legend, and uncommon appeal. It also brims with the folk traditions belonging to generations of Indians, African Americans, Scots-Irish, Swiss, and Germans. Scott Hamilton Suter, director of appraisals and education for Green Valley Auctions, grew up in the Shenandoah Valley and performed much of the research for this book while conducting a survey for the Virginia Folklife Program of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

For a slender book, Shenandoah Valley Folklife contains a lot of information. Suter writes of string bands, bluegrass, gospel, and ballads. He talks about Christmas traditions intriguingly called belsnickeling, kriskringling, and shanghaiing. Traditional narratives of ghosts, poltergeists, and local legends take up one chapter. Religion, medicine, arts and crafts, architecture, a look at agricultural fairs and heritage festivals, and ever-popular food (including a recipe for ham pot pie) round out the book.

Attractive photographs both historical and modern, an appendix, a bibliography, and a bibliographical essay add to the appeal and point the way to further, more detailed reading about each of the subjects.

-reviewed by Julie A. Campbell

Anne Drake McClung, Goshen Pass: A Magical Place in Virginia. Lexington: Alone Mill Publishing, 1999. 71 pp. $29.95 (softcover).

This privately published tribute to one of Virginia's most scenic places would be well worth adding to a collection even without the delightful passage on fly fishing by Sweet Briar College librarian Joe Malloy. The photography by McClung and Ellen M. Martin is remarkable, the history of the road through the pass is fascinating, and the reproductions of historic photos and maps are an interesting contrast to the high-resolution modern shots. The author warns readers that "this book is not a definitive history," but the historical passages on the road construction, the nineteenth-century hotel, and the various state and private efforts to preserve the pass will interest anyone who has come under the spell of the Maury River's passage between Jump and Hog Back Mountains.

-reviewed by Cy Dillon, Editor, Virginia Libraries

Virginia Bookends

Peter Viemeister has crafted a From Slaves to Satellites: 250 Years of Changing Times of a Virginia Farm (1999, Hamilton's, P.O. Box 932, Bedford, VA 24523. 151 pp. $24.00 softcover) about what he calls "a piece of land in Virginia, east of Roanoke, west of Lynchburg, north of Bedford, between Kelso and Penicks, with Big Otter Creek running through it and a priceless view of the Peaks of Otter."

Last year's bicentennial of the The Quotable George Washington: The Wisdom of an American Patriot, edited by Stephen E. Lucas (Madison, Wisconsin: Madison House Publishers, 1999, xvi + 110 pp., $17.95 hardcover). "A knowledge of books is the basis upon which other knowledge is to be built," George wrote in 1771.

In 1943, Adolph Newton, of timore, enlisted in the U.S. Navy, just as thousands of other young men of the time did. What made his experience unique was that he was African American and his branch of the military had just integrated. With his first brush with prejudice, "I started to get a feeling for how slaves felt on the block," he writes with co-author Winston Eldridge in Better Than Good: A Black Sailor's War, 1943-1945 (Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1999, 182 pp., $26.95 hardcover). His enlistment brought him to Virginia now and then, once to service school at Hampton Institute and later to Norfolk, where his white colleagues on board the Donner refused to let him use their bathroom. Newton also managed to explore the wild side of military life, resulting in a memoir both blunt and salty.

Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong, by James W. Loewen (New York: New Press, 1999, 480 pp., $26.95 hardcover), examines all kinds of historical sites across the country and finds them lacking in veracity. One of the people to whom the author dedicates the book is Elizabeth Van Lew, a Richmonder famous for her Union sympathies. Her slave Mary Elizabeth Bowser spied from her vantage point as a servant in the Confederate White House. Loewen believes that Richmonders could better interpret their story and others to the public, and through that lens he also views interpretations in Alexandria, Appomattox, and Stickleyville.

The Library of Virginia is proud Ironmaker to the Confederacy: Joseph R. Anderson and the Tredegar Iron Works (Richmond: Library of Virginia, 1999, xviii + 345 pp., $25.00 hardcover). Originally published in 1966, it remains the definitive word on Anderson and his operations. A fine writer and historian, the author makes the reading of history a pleasure.

Civil War Bookends

Dr. Earle P. Barron, Jr. is a retired Presbyterian minister who has turned to local history with Ewell's March Home: The Civil War and Early Times in and around Greenwich, Virginia (1999, vii + 131 pp., $12.00 softcover). He writes in the preface, "October 14, 1863, the day of the Battles of Auburn and Bristoe, is the primary time period. General Richard S. Ewell, who grew up two miles from Greenwich on what is now Lonesome Road, is the principal person of interest." The book can be ordered by contacting Dr. Earle P. Barron, Jr. at 1300 Lester Harris Road, Johnson City, TN 37601 or by calling 423-434-2414.

Robert M. Tombes takes a personal look at the Civil War with Tell the Children I'll Be Home When the Peaches Get Ripe: Letters Home from Lt. Robert Gaines Haile, Jr., Essex Sharpshooters, 55th Va., 1862 (Richmond: Tizwin Books, 1999, xvi + 116 pp., $15.00 softcover). Soldier Haile was a friend to William Latané and great-great-grandfather to editor Tombes, an assistant professor at the Medical College of Virginia. On their wedding anniversary in 1862, Haile wrote to his wife, Mollie: "It is a beautiful clear cool day. This day six years ago I was married. Little did I then think that six years from that time the North and South would be at war with one another... Oh, what a horrid and unnatural state of affairs this war has produced." His book can be ordered from Tizwin Books at P.O. Box 35552, Richmond, VA 23235.

Two new reprints in their Bison Fighting Joe Hooker, by Walter H. Hebert, with a new introduction by James A. Rawley (1999, xi + 366 pp., $15.95 softcover), and At the Right Hand of Longstreet: Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer, by G. Moxley Sorrel, with a new introduction by Peter Carmichael (1999, xiv + 315 pp., $14.95 softcover).


DLA Ejournal Home | VALib Home | Table of Contents for this issue | Search VAlib and other ejournals