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Virginia Libraries

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

April/May/June 2000
Volume 46, Number 2

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Virginia Books

Reviews prepared by staff members of the Library of Virginia
Julie A. Campbell, Editor

K. Edward Lay, The Architecture of Jefferson Country: Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000. xiv + 362 pp. $49.95 (hardcover).

Sustained and promoted in the years following Jefferson's death by a cadre of master builders and apprentice architects, Classicism in American architecture has spread to every corner of our nation. K. Edward Lay's new volume focuses on Charlottesville and Albemarle County as a geographical center of this critical movement in our built environment. From this nexus, Lay expands the story into an important record of the development of other architectural trends and styles in Albemarle County, from the earliest settlers through World War II.

The introductory essay by John S. Salmon furnishes a succinct overview of the social and architectural history of Albemarle County. Lay then provides an astonishingly complete survey of buildings in the county, organized chronologically. He extensively describes individual structures and places them in the development of architecture in the county. These descriptions are not confined to the high-style dwellings of Jefferson and his architectural heirs, but also include public buildings, industrial architecture, railroad facilities, and the outbuildings that were once critical to the county's agrarian economy.

A bounty of images illustrates this work, drawing on a variety of sources including period and contemporary photographs, sketches, field notes, color plates, and architectural drawings. A compilation of these images by themselves would mark a milestone in the documentation of Albemarle County. Detailed maps further assist the reader in placing structures in their geographical context.

Attempting an architectural history that embraces a spectrum of structures from a chicken coop to Jefferson's Rotunda at the University of Virginia is an ambitious undertaking. This account of Albemarle County's architectural heritage rises to the challenge, providing an important tool for both the local-history enthusiast and the serious scholar of Virginia history.

-reviewed by Selden Richardson, Plans and Drawings Archivist


David Hackett Fischer and James C. Kelly, Bound Away: Virginia and the Westward Movement. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000. xvi + 366 pp. $65.00 (hardcover), $19.50 (softcover).

This book began as a catalog for one of the most ambitious and successful exhibitions ever undertaken by the Virginia Historical Society. From 1993 to 1994, "Away, I'm Bound Away: Virginia and the Westward Movement" marked the centenary of Frederick Jackson Turner's thesis on the significance of the frontier in American history. While revisiting the issues arising from Turner's much-debated, often controversial thesis, the exhibition primarily focused on the origins of the westward movement and the complex conditions that gave impetus to it. To this end, the exhibit also singled out Virginia's role in the national experience of western expansion as a case study, with Hackett and Kelly collaborating on a detailed examination of the migrations to, within, and beyond the state.

The historical sweep of Bound Away spans nearly three centuries, from the founding of the Roanoke colony to the Civil War. The authors map the particulars of various migration patterns, among them the introduction of English culture to Virginia, the arrival of slaves from Africa during the eighteenth century, the steady progress of the Virginia frontier from the edge of the Atlantic to the mountains and valleys beyond the piedmont, the flight of settlers from the borderlands of north Britain and northern Ireland to the American backcountry, and the migration from Virginia that reached its peak between 1783 and 1860.

After the Civil War, subsidiary waves of emigration carried Virginians into Texas, the Pacific slope, and northern cities. While studying these migrations, the authors concentrate on the cultural continuities that spread with western expansion, emphasizing the importance of the cultural tools that enabled new societies to be created from Old World materials.

The original catalog, titled after the exhibition, comprised two major parts: a richly illustrated, extended essay followed by an inventory of exhibit items, many pictured and all informed with detailed descriptions. In Bound Away, the authors have dispensed with the inventory while incorporating many of the descriptions of the dazzling array of items featured in the exhibition, retaining the connection between intellectual history and the physical artifacts and folkways of ordinary people.

There are few places to which the interested reader can turn for the kind of overview of the Virginia frontier that is provided here. Those who purchased the original catalog will not need to acquire this book, but individuals and libraries who missed it will want to add Bound Away: Virginia and the Westward Movement to their bookshelves.

-reviewed by Don Gunter, Assistant Editor, eDictionary of Virginia Biography


Langhorne Gibson, Jr. Cabell's Canal: The Story of the James River and Kanawha. The Commodore Press (1318 Loch Lomond Lane, Richmond, VA 23221), 2000. 314 pp. $25.00 (hardcover).

In 1716, Alexander Spotswood envisioned a waterway connecting the James and Ohio Rivers that would open the vast interior of the North American continent to settlement and economic exploitation. Spotswood's vision became the dream of succeeding generations of Virginians and the obsession of Joseph Carrington Cabell, whose tenacity accomplished much in the face of an opposition that saw only the costs of a waterway and not its benefits. Langhorne Gibson's Cabell's Canal ably chronicles the rise and fall of the James River and Kanawha Canal as Virginia's gateway to western markets and, thereby, unprecedented riches.

Cabell emerges as both the hero and the villain of Gibson's entertaining piece. Almost single-handedly, he drove the legislation creating the James River and Kanawha Canal Company through the General Assembly. As presidUent, Cabell overcame reluctant legislators and delinquent stockholders to fund the completion of the canal from Richmond to Lynchburg by December 1841 and to begin the second leg to Buchanan (opened in 1851).

Yet Cabell failed to realize that Virginia already had lost the canal race west to New York and its Erie Canal long before the James River and Kanawha was even chartered. And he never could admit that railroads were the transportation of the future, and his efforts for the canal retarded railroad growth.

After Cabell's forced resignation from the company, a succession of presidents managed to keep the James River and Kanawha Canal operating through financial difficulties, war, and floods. However, the combination of all three and the competition from railroads forced the company to sell out to the Richmond and Alleghany Railroad by 1880. Gibson's book is an elegy on the canal, Cabell's vision, and the disappointing realities that doomed Virginia's western route.

-reviewed by Trenton E. Hizer, Private Papers Archivist


Pharris Deloach Johnson, ed., Under the Southern Cross: Soldier Life with Gordon Bradwell and the Army of Northern Virginia. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2000. xliiii + 271 pp. $32.95 (hardcover).

Under the Southern Cross is a collection of essays by Private Gordon Bradwell, a member of the 31st Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment who contributed seventy-three articles to Confederate Veteran magazine between 1907 and 1932. Bradwell was around sixty-four when he submitted his first article, eighty-nine when he submitted his last. Editor Johnson has pulled them together, arranged them chronologically, removed any duplication and overlap, and assembled a surprisingly lively narrative.

However, Civil War memoirs should be read with skepticism. Occasionally motivated by some personal agenda, they often attempt to set the record straight but simply add to the confusion. Reinforcing this skepticism is the unsympathetic relationship between interval from event and accuracy of memory; the longer after the fact, the more memories wane. One primary source of these chronic offenders is Confederate Veteran.

But there is no arguing that Bradwell had a good story to tell. His Georgia unit spent the first year of the war stationed on the Georgia coast. Transferred to Virginia in May 1862, the 31st Georgia Infantry served in most of the major campaigns in that theater; the Seven Days, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Spotsylvania are only a few. Bradwell also lent great insight into Early's ill-fated Valley campaign of 1864 and the final Appomattox campaign.

Since Bradwell wrote many years after the fact, it should really not surprise the editor that he wrote with "great understanding and insight" when dealing with the "larger context of military operations." One could argue that Bradwell wrote with more hindsight than insight. The veteran is at his worst when regurgitating the overall causes and history of the war, and the strategy and tactics of its commanders. However, Bradwell is at his best when writing about the detailed minutiae of camp life or his personal experiences on the battlefield. The first chapter, which considers his first year or so of drilling and encampment in Savannah, is exceptional, if only for its insight into those aspects. His illnesses, those of his comrades, and their unfortunate experiences with army doctors and hospitals are enlightening as well.

Written vividly and with seeming accuracy, these details are the obvious strengths of the book. Under the Southern Cross is a first-rate primary resource.

-reviewed by Eddie Woodward, Local Records Archivist


Scott Reynolds Nelson, Iron Confederacies: Southern Railways, Klan Violence, and Reconstruction. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999. x + 228 pp. $18.95 (softcover), $39.95 (hardcover).

This book tells the story of the evolution of a centrally controlled railway system between Virginia and Georgia during and after the Civil War, and its role in the turbulent Reconstruction era. It outlines the battles over the rail lines after the war, especially the Richmond and Danville, a lynchpin of the emerging Southern railroad network. The conflicts inevitably involved state officials and legislators because Southern states owned considerable stock in the railroad companies. The back-room deals between politicians and railroad interests are textbook cases of Reconstruction-era corruption.

The development of the Southern railroads and the struggle for their control features several prominent Virginians, including Moncure Robinson, one of America's premiere railroad engineers and entrepreneurs, and William "Billy" Mahone, former Confederate general and fierce opponent of Northern railroad interests.

Other works have described the political and economic struggles. The most interesting and freshest part of this book is the description of social and cultural conflict in the towns and counties through which the railroads passed. Nelson, an assistant professor of history at the College of William and Mary, focuses on two areas long known as centers of racial conflict and Ku Klux Klan violence during Reconstruction: Alamance County, North Carolina, and the area around Spartanburg County, South Carolina. No Virginia locale is highlighted similarly.

Nelson argues that the railroad was a lightning rod in these cultural conflicts. Conservative whites attacked the railroad systems as foreign invaders bringing unwanted economic change. Many whites also resented the gains of black railroad workers who used their newfound economic status to mobilize for political and social equality, and communities along the railroad witnessed some of the most egregious instances of violence against freedmen and freedwomen documented during Reconstruction.

Eventually, Northern railroad men made their peace with Southern whites, recruiting former Confederates as officers of the railroad companies, employing Klansmen, and supporting the end of Reconstruction. The convergence of white interests aided and abetted the return of white supremacy in the South and the closing-off of black political and civic rights. Libraries with an interest in this branch of Southern and Virginia history will want to consider this title.

-reviewed by Gregg Kimball, Assistant Director of Publications


Sandra Lee Barney, Authorized to Heal: Gender, Class, and the Transformation of Medicine in Appalachia, 1880-1930. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000. xiii + 222 pp. $39.95 (hardcover), $17.95 (softcover).

In 1895, Katherine Pettit traveled across Kentucky from Lexington to Perry County in the heart of Appalachia. The journey took three days-one by train and two by wagon. She returned every summer for several years, bringing with her traveling libraries from the Women's Christian Temperance Union and the State Federation of Women's Clubs. Pettit and other Southern women soon realized that mountain residents needed aid beyond that offered in library books. By 1902, Pettit and her colleague May Stone had raised enough money from women's organizations to open the Hindman Settlement School. Settlement workers educated the poor, treated the sick, and battled chronic illness. Women and doctors alike waged a war against trachoma, a chronic eye disease that resulted in blindness when left untreated.

The Progressive Era brought dramatic changes to medicine in central Appalachia. In Authorized to Heal: Gender, Class, and the Transformation of Medicine in Appalachia, 1880-1930, historian Sandra Lee Barney examines the role of female volunteers in bringing professional medicine to the mountainous region where Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia meet. Women came to the mountains as nurses and teachers, working with clubs and organizations to modernize health care. Many fought to require certification for midwives, who delivered babies based on their personal experiences in childbed rather than on book knowledge. Others supported outlawing the profession altogether in favor of modern medicine. West Virginia doctors likewise opposed chiropractors, "the latest of the many new frauds´┐Żto have appeared in this fraud-cursed State."

Industrial development reshaped Appalachia, bringing with it increased risks for illness and death. While men went to work in coal mines and on the railroad, women were faced with a dilemma-new medicine or old. Coal camps and company towns drew increasing numbers of male medical practitioners to the area in the early twentieth century. Joined by clubwomen, they championed scientific methods over herbal and traditional healing.

Modern medicine often cured the blind and tubercular, but also created a divide between those who could afford to pay for services and those who could not, as well as between doctor and patient. In addition, doctors grew increasingly uncomfortable with the involvement of well-meaning, but largely untrained, women and the growing knowledge of the public in matters medical. One West Virginia physician complained bitterly about a correspondence course that educated rural mothers and stressed the importance of prenatal care. "That D-d Motherhood Correspondence Course has got to stop!" he insisted. "I can't even go to church anymore without some woman handing me a bottle of urine."

Authorized to Heal offers an interesting overview of progressive reform and the people who brought it to Appalachia and probes the conflicts between and among female reformers and male physicians. The text is peppered with photographs and statistical charts and supplemented with endnotes, a bibliography, and a handy index. Barney has written a deft history of change in southwestern Virginia that would be useful to have on the library shelf.

-reviewed by Jennifer Davis Mc-Daid, Archives Research Coordinator


Alexander Burnham, ed., We Write for Our Own Time: Selected Essays from 75 Years of the Virginia Quarterly Review. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000. xxiii + 463 pp. $60.00 (hardcover), $19.95 (softcover).

The first issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review appeared in April 1925. The magazine was the brainchild of Edwin Anderson Alderman, the president of the University of Virginia, and he contributed an essay, "Edgar Allan Poe and the University of Virginia," to the inaugural issue. Appropriately, his is the first of fifty-one essays from the Virginia Quarterly Review that are reprinted in this volume.

The VQR has been consistent both in content and in quality across all those years. Each issue mixes poetry, short stories, book reviews, and essays that by now have covered just about any topic under the sun. One recurring topic has been the journal's home region, the American South. (Accordingly, historian Edward L. Ayers's essay, "A Southern Chronicle: The Virginia Quarterly Review and the American South, 1925-2000," is the lead article in the anniversary issue [Vol. 76, No. 2, Spring 2000]). Nonetheless, the VQR always has proclaimed itself "a national journal of literature and discussion," and this collection amply demonstrates the truth of the assertion.

Editor Alexander Burnham, who also wrote one of the collected essays, has organized his selections by decades from the 1920s through the 1990s. One can see a slight trend across those years toward the personal memoir as a preferred genre for the essay, but the essayists resist such generalizations. These are strong writers with strong voices and famous names: Gide, Lawrence, Waugh, Huxley, Eliot, Mann, Sartre, Russell, and so on. There also are fine essays by writers whose names you may not recognize. What they all have in common is something to say and the ability to say it clearly and interestingly.

This volume takes its place next to "Eric Clapton's Lover" and Other Stories from the Virginia Quarterly Review (1990) as proofs of the Review's successful first seventy-five years. The softcover edition of Burnham's collection also is available as a premium for those who take out two-year subscriptions to the VQR.

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


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