Sara B. Bearss, Editor
Kevin R. Hardwick and Warren R. Hofstra, eds. Virginia Reconsidered: New Histories of the Old Dominion. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2003. ix + 459 pp. $29.50 (softcover).
It has been twenty-six years since the appearance of the last full-length history of Virginia, Louis D. Rubin's Virginia: A Bicentennial History (1977), and thirty-two since Virginius Dabney published his heavily political Virginia, the New Dominion (1971). While we await John d'Entremont's and Peter C. Stewart's state histories, Virginia Reconsidered: New Histories of the Old Dominion fills an important gap on the library bookshelf. This collection of fourteen essays, all previously published in other forms and venues, brings together pivotal scholarship addressing issues in Virginia history writ large from 1609 to 1960. The individual authors focus not on the well-known public names and big public events but on broad subjects of race, gender, class, ethnicity, religion, and conflict. Taken together, the essays, in the words of the editors' perceptive introduction, "focus on the projection of power within and across Virginia society" and restore to the historical stage the cast of thousands whose roles have traditionally provided only background for the big-name, usually political, stars.
Virginia Reconsidered opens with J. Frederick Fausz's 1990 essay on the First Anglo-Powhatan War (1609–1614) and continues with Edmund S. Morgan's 1972 presidential address to the Organization of American Historians on the simultaneous rise in the Virginia colony of liberty and equality on the one hand and of slavery on the other, a chapter from Darrett B. Rutman and Anita H. Rutman's pioneering 1984 study of Middlesex County during the colonial period, Jack P. Greene's classic 1976 essay on the political culture of eighteenthcentury Virginia, Woody Holton's thought-provoking 1997 article on how class conflict transformed elite white Virginians into revolutionaries, and Jan Lewis's 1993 essay "'The Blessings of Domestic Society': Thomas Jefferson's Family and the Transformation of American Politics." Thomas E. Buckley, S.J., provides a case study of class and power in an interracial Campbell County family during the early republic. Elizabeth R. Varon's pathbreaking essay on Lucy Maria Johnson Barbour's leadership of a Whig ladies' association intent on erecting in Richmond a statue to Henry Clay restores Virginia women to the equation of nineteenth-century political culture, and Elna C. Green's study of the Virginia campaign for woman's suffrage brings the story into the twentieth century.
Stephen V. Ash's 1990 essay emphasizes the "disruption, upheaval, and partisan conflict" experienced by white Virginians living under Federal occupation during the Civil War. Essays by Deborah A. Lee and Warren R. Hofstra, on the murder of a Frederick County physician in May 1818 by three of his slaves, and by Fred A. Bailey, on efforts of Lost Cause sympathizers to perpetuate Confederate values through control of textbooks used in Virginia schools, address important questions about historical memory. The volume closes with essays by Gregory Michael Dorr on the teaching of eugenics at the University of Virginia and by J. Douglas Smith on state delegate Armistead Lloyd Boothe and the politics of moderation during Massive Resistance.
These carefully selected essays paint a rich and vibrant portrait of Virginia's past and provide a focused snapshot of the best scholarship on Virginia history written during the past twenty-five years. Virginia Reconsidered would be an ideal book of readings in any college-level Virginia or southern history class.
— reviewed by Sara B. Bearss, Senior Editor, Dictionary of Virginia Biography
Phillip Hamilton. The Making and Unmaking of a Revolutionary Family: The Tuckers of Virginia, 1752–1830. Jeffersonian America Series. Jan Ellen Lewis, Peter S. Onuf, and James Horn, Series Editors. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2003. xii + 250 pp. $35.00 (hardcover).
Part family history, part Virginia history, and part American history, this well-written volume by the Christopher Newport University historian Phillip Hamilton treats the extended family of St. George Tucker, who immigrated to Virginia from Bermuda shortly before the American Revolution and became a planter, an attorney, a judge, and a law professor. A member of a far- flung Bermuda family of influence and talent, he tried to re-create in Virginia the close-knit family ties that had served his ancestors well. Marriage into the Randolph family allied him with several of Virginia's great families, and a second marriage into the Skipwith family deepened his connections with the landed leadership of eighteenth century Virginia.
Times changed, though, and low tobacco prices, scarce land, and limited opportunities left Tucker's male children and stepchildren with few opportunities to succeed as planters. Following Tucker's advice, most chose to pursue the law as their profession. In the new economy and the new politics of the early national period, almost nothing went as Tucker planned and hoped. Direction of public affairs and of their own destinies seemed to fall out of the grasp of the landed elite into which Tucker had married, and he and his sons and sons-in-law who followed the law were unable to retain their hold on public affairs in the changed world of the nineteenth century. Less prosperous, less well respected, and disillusioned, Tucker and the members of his extended family who retained an interest in public affairs were unable to accept the democratizing of Virginia and America. They longed for an earlier time when landed gentlemen lived independent of the masses and directed their own affairs and the colony's as well, thriving on well-regulated extended families of persons with similar interests and responsibilities. St. George Tucker, his stepson John Randolph of Roanoke, and his sons Henry St. George Tucker and Nathaniel Beverley Tucker became profoundly influential exemplars of southerners who could not adjust to the modern America. They were among the first Virginians to decide, not long after the War of 1812, that union with the northern states was not sustainable, and they were influential in ways not yet fully appreciated in leading the next generation of southern politicians to the same conclusions.
This excellent study is both eminently readable and educational, and it is an important contribution to understanding the dynamics of leadership and of family life in Virginia following the American Revolution.
— reviewed by Brent Tarter, Editor, Dictionary of Virginia Biography
Jeffrey Ruggles. The Unboxing of Henry Brown. Richmond: The Library of Virginia, 2003. xv + 232 pp. $25.00 (hardcover).
On 23 March 1849 Samuel Smith shipped a box from Richmond, Virginia, to James Miller McKim, resident agent of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, in Philadelphia. Inside was a man named Henry Brown, and the box served as the vehicle for his dramatic escape from slavery. He became forever known as Henry Box Brown. In The Unboxing of Henry Brown, Jeffrey Ruggles puts Brown's harrowing journey to freedom into the context of his life and puts Brown's life into the context of the times in which he lived.
Born in Louisa County about 1815, Brown suffered his first recorded separation from family at age fifteen when he was sent to Richmond to work in a tobacco factory. He was able to take advantage of the opportunities of urban slavery and managed to save some money. He married, had children, and had a home. But in 1848 his wife and children were sold south, and Brown suffered a second rending of his family. Brown determined that he would escape from the world that had twice destroyed his family through the capriciousness and greed of slave owners. He devised a plan to ship himself in a box north to freedom, and he secured the help of a sympathetic white storekeeper named Samuel Smith.
Smith traveled to Philadelphia and arranged for James Miller McKim, of the Pennsylvania Anti- Slavery Society, to receive Brown's box. Despite McKim's hesitancy, Smith shipped Brown north on the morning of 23 March 1849. Crated in a box with not much more than some water, crackers, and small air holes, Brown endured a twentyfour- hour trip by rail and boat, often upside down. At least once his box was almost left behind, saved only by the fact it was an express shipment. When the box reached McKim the next morning, McKim was relieved to find Brown alive and jubilant to have reached freedom.
Because of the nature of his escape from slavery, Brown immediately became a sensation on the abolitionist circuit. He shared lecture stages with other prominent abolitionists and escaped slaves, including Frederick Douglass. Brown developed a panorama show on slavery and traveled throughout the North displaying it to audiences. When the Fugitive Slave Act was passed as part of the Compromise of 1850, however, Brown knew that even the North was no longer a safe place for a prominent escaped slave and that he faced possible recapture at any time. He packed up his panorama and traveled to England.
There he remained for about the next twenty-five years of his life. First he displayed his panorama on the English abolitionist and lecture circuit. But during the American Civil War and its aftermath, interest faded. Brown, who had married again, became a magician with his family as part of his act. In 1875 he returned to the United States, bringing his wife and daughter with him. He resuscitated his reputation as Henry Box Brown in his advertisements as they traveled performing in the North. Unfortunately, the date and circumstances of Brown's death are unknown, but Ruggles has provided a keen, informative biography of a man whose first disappearing act was his greatest.
— reviewed by Trenton E. Hizer, Private Papers Archivist
Richard F. Hamm. Murder, Honor, and Law: Four Virginia Homicides from Reconstruction to the Great Depression. The American South Series. Edward L. Ayers, Series Editor. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2003. xi + 263 pp. $49.50 (hardcover); $18.50 (softcover).
In this well-researched book, Richard F. Hamm, associate professor of history at the University at Albany, State University of New York, looks at nineteenth- and twentieth-century Virginia culture as seen through the pages of the local, regional, and national press. Using four sensational court cases, Hamm studies how the concept of honor and its role in the Virginia judicial system was viewed throughout the country in the press coverage given to each trial.
Divided into four chapters, Murder, Honor, and Law addresses each case in great detail and describes not only the press coverage but also journalistic styles of the time. The first of the cases considered is that of James Grant, accused of ambushing a Richmond newspaper editor and publisher, Henry Rives Pollard, in 1868. Although arrested shortly after the killing with several guns in a rented room across the street from where Pollard lay dead, Grant was eventually found by a jury to be not guilty of the crime because he had shot Pollard outside his newspaper office in response to a compromising article published about his sister. Relying on numerous newspaper accounts from across the country, Hamm shows the reaction of the northern and southern press to the concept of honor that impelled Grant to such action as well as the acceptability of the jury's verdict of not guilty. Northern papers expressed dismay that justice and the law were subjugated by the concepts of honor and chivalry.
The tension between honor and law is addressed in similar detail in subsequent chapters detailing the trial of J. T. Clark, accused of murdering John R. Moffett, a Baptist minister and advocate of prohibition, in Danville in 1892; the Nelson County trial of William G. Loving, an attorney and legislator accused of murdering Theodore Estes for "ruining" his daughter in 1907; and the trial of Edith Maxwell, a schoolteacher accused of murdering her father H. T. "Trigg" Maxwell in 1935 in Wise County.
Exploring the press coverage of these four trials, Hamm illuminates the political and social culture of Virginia and how these values were perceived throughout the nation. For anyone attempting to gain an understanding of the social, legal, political, and moral culture of Virginia from late in the 1860s to the 1930s, this book is particularly enlightening.
— reviewed by Laura E. Drake, State Records Archivist
Elizabeth L. O'Leary. From Morning to Night: Domestic Service in Maymont House and the Gilded Age. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2003. xiv + 182 pp. $27.95 (hardcover).
In From Morning to Night, author Elizabeth L. O'Leary continues her research into domestic service. Whereas her earlier book, At Beck and Call (1996), examined representations of domestic servants in nineteenth-century American paintings, O'Leary, in the current volume, draws from her work with Maymont to tackle the social history of African Americans in domestic service after the Civil War and emancipation. From Morning to Night results from the development of an exhibition at Maymont, a house museum operated by the Maymont Foundation, in Richmond, that will explore the lives of the African Americans who made life comfortable for Major James H. Dooley and Sallie May Dooley, the owners of Maymont. The Dooleys built Maymont on the western outskirts of Richmond in 1893. When Sallie Dooley died in 1925, three years after her husband, she left the house and property to the City of Richmond to be used as a public park and museum. Maymont House opened to the public in 1926 and remained virtually untouched until restoration began in 1970. That effort concentrated on the Dooleys' rooms and collections rather than the service areas in the basement and garage. To sustain their lavish lifestyle, the Dooleys employed between seven and ten people to serve in such positions as butler, second butler, cook, kitchen maid, housemaid, lady's maid, driver, and laundress. Another twenty people worked under an estate manager to maintain the grounds of the 100-acre estate. Although most of the Maymont workers were African American, one servant, Emily Lackmiok, was from Germany, and three drivers (coachmen/chauffeurs) were white men. O'Leary concentrates on the African American workers.
From Morning to Night is an upstairs and downstairs tale. O'Leary explores the Dooleys' life in Gilded Age Richmond as James Dooley, an attorney, amassed a fortune. For the Dooleys, the late nineteenth century was a period of a continued expectation of generally African American servitude to support the couple's wealth and status. Sallie Dooley's only publication, Dem Good Ole Times (1906), reflected the prevailing white upper-class belief that African Americans were grateful for the benefits of slavery and the whites' lack of understanding of the African American need for independence through improved business and educational opportunities. O'Leary then explores the life of Maymont's domestic servants who frequently worked more than twelve hours a day, with Thursday afternoons and alternating Sundays off. Several positions were live-in; others were live out. Nevertheless, days began before dawn and continued long after sunset. Wages were not luxurious but they were steady, although many domestic servants in the early twentieth century often supplemented their income to make ends meet. O'Leary unblinkingly describes the hardships of domestic service and the constant negotiation between employer and employee. She asks the question about how domestic servants felt about their employees. The Dooleys and their kind described their relationship with their servants as warm and loving. Servants, on the other hand, were more ambivalent, although most focused on their work as a job, nothing more. Finally, O'Leary provides a biographical directory of the Dooley employees from 1880 to 1925 with brief, useful biographies of the main characters.
Scant archival evidence hampers O'Leary, but she makes good use of oral histories of descendents of Maymont's domestic workers. The Dooleys' personal papers were destroyed after Sallie Dooley's death, and, although the domestic workers left few papers, several left children and nieces and nephews who remember life working in the Dooley house.
Illustrations are grouped together to divide the story between upstairs and downstairs. The lack of a floor plan of Maymont makes it difficult for readers not familiar with the house to imagine the spaces. Nevertheless, O'Leary has produced a readable and enlightening book on an aspect of race relations in late nineteenth-century Richmond, and Virginia, that should be interesting to students of cultural and social history.
— reviewed by Barbara C. Batson, Exhibitions Coordinator
Virginia's Civil War
Clint Johnson. In the Footsteps of J. E. B. Stuart. Winston-Salem, N.C.: John F. Blair, Publisher, 2003. xix + 174 pp. $12.95 (softcover).
Following up on his series In the Footsteps of Robert E. Lee (2001) and of Stonewall Jackson (2002), Clint Johnson now continues In the Footsteps of J. E. B. Stuart. James Ewell Brown Stuart, the dashing cavalier of Confederate renown, is perhaps best known for his ride around Union general George B. McClellan during the Seven Days' Battles in June 1862. Famous for his plumed hat, his crimson-lined cloak, and his love of parties and flirting with the ladies, Stuart was also a deeply religious man whose reputation rests as well on his being "a careful tactician, a skilled scout, and a bold fighter." Johnson follows Stuart's career beginning with John Brown's Raid at Harpers Ferry in 1859, through his service in Virginia and his death from a wound suffered at Yellow Tavern in May 1864, and then turns to Stuart's early career at West Point and in the West and Midwest, along with his actions in Maryland and Pennsylvania during the Gettysburg campaign.
In readable and action-filled prose, Johnson takes the reader to all of the extant sites connected with Stuart's flamboyant career. He describes Stuart's activities at each place and offers detailed instructions for getting to the sites, along with warnings about dangerous traffic and accompanying photographs of what the traveler will see on arrival.
— reviewed by Emily J. Salmon, Copyeditor
Walbrook D. Swank, ed. Eyewitness to War in Virginia, 1861– 1865: The Civil War Diary of John William Peyton. Civil War Heritage Series, Volume 16. Shippensburg, Pa.: Burd Street Press, 2003. xvi + 208 pp. $19.95 (softcover).
As the result of a fall from a railroad trestle in Danville in July 1861, John William Peyton (1839–1914) became partially paralyzed from the waist down. Unable to enlist in Confederate service, he remained in Rapidan for the duration of the Civil War and began a diary in June 1862. His short, staccato entries routinely record the weather, local military action, and the reaction of Orange County citizens to events on the state and national stages. This civilian account makes an interesting pair with the military diary of his brother, George Quintus Peyton, also edited by Walbrook D. Swank and published as Stonewall Jackson's Foot Cavalry: Company A, 13th Virginia Infantry (2001).
— reviewed by Sara B. Bearss, Senior Editor, Dictionary of Virginia Biography
John C. Waugh. Surviving the Confederacy: Rebellion, Ruin, and Recovery—Roger and Sara Pryor during the Civil War. New York, San Diego, and London: Harcourt, Inc., 2002. 447 pp. $28.00 (hardcover).
Virginian Roger Atkinson Pryor (1828–1919) was a newspaper editor, United States and Confederate congressman, Confederate brigadier general, and post-Civil War member of the New York Supreme Court. His wife Sara Agnes Rice Pryor (1830–1912) was a social leader, founder of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, and writer. Author John C. Waugh uses the lives of this nineteenth-century power couple to tell the compelling story of the ways one elite southern family experienced the Civil War, Reconstruction, and recovery in New York during the Gilded Age. This dual biography slights Roger Pryor's peripatetic antebellum career in journalism and rise to prewar political prominence in the Democratic Party in favor of the Pryor family's wartime and postwar lives. The narrative closely follows Sara Pryor's two engaging memoirs, Reminiscences of Peace and War (1904) and My Day: Reminiscences of a Long Life (1909). In fact, in his acknowledgments Waugh thanks Sara Pryor for her enchanting and thorough recollections and avows, "If she were here I would give her a huge hug." Waugh's graceful cadence makes this a moving and often gripping book, even for those familiar with the storyline, either through Sara Pryor's writings or through Daniel E. Sutherland's analysis of the couple in their larger context in his Confederate Carpetbaggers (1988). A section of black-and-white illustrations, 1,064 endnotes (distractingly numbered continuously throughout the book, rather than broken up by chapter), a thirty-six-page bibliography, and an index conclude the volume.
— reviewed by Sara B. Bearss, Senior Editor, Dictionary of Virginia Biography
Sara B. Bearss is senior editor of the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, published by the Library of Virginia.