Reviews prepared by staff members of the Library of Virginia Sara B. Bearss, Editor
Simon Schama. Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves, and the American Revolution. New York: Harper Collins, 2006. xii + 480 pp. ISBN 0-0605-3916-X. $29.95 (hardcover).
Exact numbers are not known, but many more black colonists (including black Virginians) ran away to seek freedom with the armies of the king than actively supported the revolution that white Americans (including white Virginians) led. The Continental Congress and the commander in chief of the Continental army at first refused to enlist black soldiers, although the necessity for filling the ranks eventually led to a relaxation of the rules to permit some free African- Americans and even some enslaved persons to serve in the army and gain their freedom.
From the very beginning, though, the king’s officers encouraged enslaved men to run away from their masters and gain their freedom fighting for the king. Tens of thousands of black Americans did so, although many of them tragically died of disease during the war, and only a portion of them enjoyed long lives in freedom afterward. Many did, though, some of them in the British colony of Nova Scotia (which then included both the present provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick). And of that group, a small portion immigrated to the coast of West Africa and there established a colony of freed people at Sierra Leone. A full generation before African- Americans under the auspices of the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Color of the United States (popularly known as the American Colonization Society) founded Liberia, these free Loyalists attempted to create their own nation.… the king’s officers
men to run away ….
Rough Crossings is a vivid account of the experiences of black Americans who sought freedom by siding with the king during the American Revolution and of the difficulties that the small party of Nova Scotians who colonized Sierra Leone faced. It also weaves into the dramatic story of those men and women who repeatedly risked their lives for freedom the story of the evolution of the antislavery movement in Great Britain. Some of the Englishmen who helped sponsor the Sierra Leone colony inspired the later antislavery campaigns that helped end slavery in the British Empire long before it was ended in the so-called Land of the Free.
—reviewed by Brent Tarter, Editor, Dictionary of Virginia Biography
Charles F. Hobson and Joan S. Lovelace, eds. The Papers of John Marshall. Volume 12: Correspondence, Papers, and Selected Judicial Opinions, January 1831–July 1835, with Addendum, June 1783–January 1829. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, 2006. lxvii + 603 pp. ISBN 0- 8078-3019-4. $80.00 (hardcover).
The twelfth volume of The Papers of John Marshall brings to a conclusion the publication of the first comprehensive collection of the writings of John Marshall (1755–1835), best known to American history as the Great Chief Justice. In addition to the letters that Marshall wrote and received and the judicial decisions that he rendered during the last four and a half years of his life, the volume includes more than fifty pages of letters and documents that the editors discovered too late to include in their proper chronological places in the earlier volumes.
The Papers of John Marshall is the first of the large modern editions of the papers of Virginia’s found- ing fathers (the three-volume set of George Mason’s papers only excepted) to be finished. The final volume exhibits the same scrupulous attention to detail that characterized the transcription and editing of the other volumes. The completed set is not only a valuable resource for studying Marshall and his career and times but also a model of excellent historical and editorial craftsmanship.
During the final years of his long and influential career, Marshall suffered from painful illnesses and endured the death of his wife, to whom he was devoted. He also received many touching tributes that testified to the almost universal respect that he had earned, even from many men with whom he had been politically at odds. Maintaining to the end that the Union (which he had helped bring into being as a soldier in the Continental army) and the Constitution (which he had helped ratify and interpreted for nearly thirty-five years) were the creation of the whole American people, Marshall was deeply worried about the fate of both at the hands of southern states’-rights politicians whom he believed were the misguided disciples of the potentially destructive political theories of his distant cousin and old political adversary, Thomas Jefferson. Some of the most interesting of the letters that Marshall wrote during the final years of his life reflect on the meaning of the American Revolution and the uncertain fate of the American nation to which he had devoted nearly his entire life.
— reviewed by Brent Tarter, Editor, Dictionary of Virginia Biography
Harold Holzer and Tim Mulligan, eds. The Battle of Hampton Roads: New Perspectives on the USS Monitor and CSS Virginia. New York: Fordham University Press for the Mariners’ Museum, Newport News, Virginia, 2006. xviii + 222 pp. ISBN 0-8232-2480-5. $44.95 (hardcover). ISBN 0-8232-2481-3. $24.95 (softcover).
This book compiles scholarship about one of the world’s most significant naval battles from a 2003 symposium held at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News. The USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia, both armored with iron and driven by steam, fought the first engagement of such ships on March 9, 1862, at Hampton Roads.Marshall was deeply
worried about the fate
of both at the hands of
The symposium celebrating the 141st anniversary of the battle was prompted by the deposit at the Mariners’ Museum of the turret and various other parts and contents of the Monitor after their recovery by the United States Navy and the National Oceanographic Administration in the past decade. The museum plans to open a center to display and interpret the artifacts, including the craft’s engine, turret, and eleven-inch Dahlgren guns, in 2007.
The Monitor was a purpose-built ironclad with a technologically advanced revolving turret. This turret mounted two eleven-inch Dahlgren guns. The CSS Virginia was built on the burned hull of the former USS Merrimack, a forty-gun frigate with a screw propeller driven by steam. The Confederate rebuilding made the superstructure an armored casemate with six nine-inch Dahlgren guns and four Brooke rifles inside. Both ships were covered in iron plates above the waterline.
The Virginia sallied into Hampton Roads for but one day, March 8, 1862, unopposed by another ironclad. It savaged the Union fleet in the anchorage, sinking one ship and setting ablaze another. More important, it sent tremors through the Union forces on land and sea. The Monitor arrived the next day for the engagement that essentially ended in a draw. The two ships, although they remained nearby, never did battle with each other again. When the Confederate army abandoned Norfolk, the skipper of the Virginia ran the ship aground and put it to the torch on May 11, 1862. The Monitor, after participating in the Peninsula Campaign with mixed results, sank in a gale off the North Carolina coast in December 1862. The craft was headed to participate in attacks on Charleston, South Carolina.
The book includes chapters on the race to complete construction of the ironclads, the fighting and living conditions on the two ships, and the facts and disputes about which vessel emerged victorious from their baptism of fire. It also includes an account of the recovery of the artifacts, sixteen pages of illustrations of some of the items, and a selection of the pictures produced of the battle.
Harold Holzer, an administrator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and cochairman of the U.S. Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, contributes one of the most interesting chapters on the depiction of the battle in art. Nineteenth-century artists often romanticized seafarers, and the author explains their struggle to present iron machinery in the same light. This struggle was clearly a success, for the Monitor-Virginia contest is the most illustrated naval battle of the Civil War. The battle marks a fundamental turning point in nautical art, one that meant from thence forward, renderings of modern naval battles would have as their heroes machines instead of men. This reflected a world rapidly growing more industrial, and the battle became emblematic of the changing society. In 1881, the Mc- Cormick Harvester company commissioned one of the most popular depictions of the battle. Into its corners the company shamelessly inserted illustrations of McCormick’s reapers. The implication was that the steel farm machinery was as tough as the Monitor.
Howard J. Fuller, a senior lecturer specializing in Civil War naval history and technology at the University of Wolverhampton in Great Britain, contributed a fascinating chapter on the international implications of the battle. He argues that the Monitor’s successful showing and the accompanying publicity in England were important factors in England’s reluctance to enter the war. In 1864, a British naval officer who observed the war told that country’s ambassador to the United States that the American navy was becoming able to fight a war on the high seas with a waterborne force far more powerful than the Confederate States Navy. At least in the waters around North America, the United States Navy with its ironclads was becoming a worthy opponent for the Royal Navy, at the time the world’s most powerful.
A word about the book’s editing: It contains a few dropped words and likely spell-check replacements that jar readers (see, for instance, page 81, where “She ironclad was run aground off Craney Island” and where “lightning” appears for “lightening” four lines previously). Most distressingly, the editors seem to have been unable to decide how to refer to the Monitor’s eleven-inch Dahlgren guns. In places their caliber is rendered as “11-inch,” “eleven- inch,” and “XI-inch.” In the worst typographic error, they are marginalized to “1-inch” on page 143. If the pen is indeed mightier than the sword, a good copy editor is at least a Dahlgren or Brooke gun.
Still, the book offers a comprehensive summation of information on the ships, their engagement, and the implications for the war and the wider world. With the opening of the USS Monitor Center coming next summer, those on their way to visit would do well to read this book.
—reviewed by G. W. Poindexter, Assistant Editor, Dictionary of Virginia Biography… renderings of modern
naval battles would have
as their heroes machines
instead of men.
Gary W. Gallagher, ed. The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864. Military Campaigns of the Civil War Series. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006. xxi + 392 pp. ISBN 0-8078-3005-5. $45.00 (hardcover).
This ninth volume in the Military Campaigns of the Civil War series can be read as a companion to The Shenandoah Campaign of 1862 (2003), also edited by Gary W. Gallagher. Its eleven essays by scholars and historians examine the Civil War from an interesting variety of perspectives while making use of the most recent scholarship.
The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864 opens with Gallagher’s own contribution, a study contrasting and comparing the performances of Union general Philip H. Sheridan and Confederate general Jubal A. Early as they faced off against each other in the autumn of 1864. It is followed by Joseph T. Glatthaar’s essay that examines the reactions of Ulysses S. Grant and the Union high command to Early’s raid on Washington, D.C., and into Maryland and Pennsylvania in the summer of that year. It was Early’s success in threatening the Union capital that led ultimately to his own downfall. Concerned about the city’s vulnerability and the Confederacy’s repeated use of the Shenandoah Valley for strategic diversions, Abraham Lincoln and Grant created a new military department and selected a young, aggressive officer to command it. Major General Philip H. Sheridan had enjoyed much success in the Western Theater and would soon pursue the outmanned Early in the valley. Sheridan humbled him at Winchester, Fisher’s Hill, and Cedar Creek before destroying what remained of his forces at Waynesboro.
By 1864, of course, the Union army was better led and battle- hardened than its earlier incarnations, while attrition in the officer corps and in the ranks had weakened the rebel army. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s dramatic victories in the valley in 1862 were yesterday’s news as Confederate soldiers and civilians alike tried to adjust to a more determined Union army. In his essay “Uncivilized War: The Shenandoah Valley Campaign, the Northern Democratic Press, and the Election of 1864,” Andre M. Fleche examines Lincoln’s shift away from a war waged so as not to alienate latent southern Unionism to a war waged against combatant and noncombatant alike. The selection of Grant in March 1864 to assume overall command of the federal armies was the opening salvo as Lincoln attempted to fend off General George B. McClellan, the Demo- cratic challenger to his presidency, and bring the war to an end. Sheridan was the ideal agent to conduct Lincoln’s and Grant’s slash-and-burn policy. He destroyed crops, ran off or killed livestock, burned barns, confiscated property, and generally did all within his power to lay waste to the Shenandoah Valley. In less than a month he reported more than 2,000 barns burned and more than 70 mills filled with flour destroyed. Rockingham County in particular suffered grievous losses, including thirty dwellings.
The success of these operations provoked a storm of criticism in the northern press from editors of Democratic newspapers who deplored the violation of the rules of war that resulted in the destruction of homes and livelihood. Nevertheless, the party’s bid for the White House was upended in the fall elections. At least in the short run, McClellan’s criticism of the harsh tactics as an impediment to reunion was refuted.
In “‘Nothing Ought to Astonish Us’: Confederate Civilians in the 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign,” William G. Thomas employed diaries and recent studies on the experiences of civilians during the Civil War to examine the effect on valley inhabitants who had endured three successive invasions that year under Grant’s evolving war policy. The first, under Major General Franz Sigel in May, had limited effect, but another in June under Major General David Hunter resulted in the burning of part of the Virginia Military Institute and other outrages against civilians and property before he was repulsed by Jubal Early and withdrew to western Virginia. The last was led by Sheridan. Each grew in intensity as Grant’s orders broadened to include the destruction of the economic infrastructure of the valley, although dwellings were not officially targeted.
For enslaved African-Americans it seemed as if God had finally answered their prayers as Union forces liberated them from their owners or allowed them to escape into their lines. For white residents, having previously enjoyed protection from invading Yankees, a blessing that they attributed to a beneficent Creator as well as to the prowess of southern soldiers, their new predicament resulted in a crisis of faith. Some wondered if God had abandoned them to a foe bent on conducting warfare in such an unchristian manner. After Early’s retaliatory burning of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, in July, many southerners were convinced that the distinction between soldier and citizen had blurred and left civilians, particularly women and children, vulnerable to violent predations. One valley diarist, a stalwart Confederate, disclosed to her journal that her disgust with the burning of Chambersburg was such that she set fire to a southern flag brought home by her brother after the Gettysburg Campaign.… it seemed as if God
had finally answered
their prayers as Union
forces liberated them
from their owners ….
The other essayists treat their topics in an equally engaging and scholarly fashion. Gallagher’s editorial oversight ensures that this book, like its predecessors, deserves a place on Virginia libraries’ bookshelves.
—reviewed by Donald W. Gunter, Editor, Dictionary of Virginia Biography
Donald B. Connelly. John M. Schofield and the Politics of Generalship. Civil War America Series. Gary W. Gallagher, Series Editor. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006. xiv + 471 pp. ISBN-13 978-0-8078-3007-9. $49.95 (hardcover).
This first full-length biography of John McAllister Schofield (1831– 1906) examines the life and career of a nineteenth-century army general less known than his contemporaries William T. Sherman and Philip H. Sheridan. In this exhaustive account, Donald B. Connelly details Schofield’s distinguished military career, one in which he held every important senior position in the army, while examining overarching themes of the role of politics in the formulation of military policy, the role of the military as a governing body, the professionalization of the army, and the changing nature of military command.
Born in Chautauqua County, New York, on September 29, 1831, John Schofield entered the United States Military Academy in June 1849 and graduated in 1853, ranked seventh out of fifty-five cadets. By 1861 he was stationed in Missouri and for the next three years dealt with secessionist and Unionist factions as commander of the state militia, of the District of Saint Louis, and of the Department of the Missouri. Early in 1864 Schofield was transferred to command the Department of the Ohio and took part in military campaigns in Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
In March 1867, following the passage of the first Reconstruction Act, Brevet Major General Schofield was appointed military commander of Virginia, constituted under the act as Military District Number One. In this command, examined by Connelly in only part of one chapter, he supervised the civilian government (including the removal of provisional governor Francis Harrison Pierpont), directed voter registration (though he opposed black suffrage), and oversaw the writing of the state’s new constitution, which paved the way for Virginia’s readmittance into the Union.
Proving his skill as an able administrator, Schofield served as secretary of war from June 1868 to March 1869, as superintendent of West Point from September 1876 to January 1881, and as commanding general of the army from August 1888 until his retirement in September 1895. He subsequently devoted much of his energies to promoting the development of the country’s coastal defenses, advising the nation’s political leaders, and serving on the board at West Point before his death in Saint Augustine, Florida, on March 4, 1906.
Connelly explains that at each command assignment Schofield, cautious and pragmatic but politically astute, learned how to balance competing political and military agendas. Perhaps more important, Schofield recognized the need for military leaders to subordinate themselves to civilian authority, a central component in the professionalization of the army. Throughout his career Schofield worked for professional development of the military by cultivating an ethic of public service, by committing to expanded knowledge of the science of war, and by strengthening internal codes of conduct. His career exemplified the evolution during the nineteenth century from civilians being appointed as generals toward trained professional military officers.
Providing extensive endnotes, along with maps and illustrations, Connelly grounds his work in scores of primary sources including official government documents, military records, newspapers, and private papers collections. The author, an associate professor at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, demonstrates his knowledge of both the military and political contexts while writing a biography that academic scholars, amateur historians, and military history buffs alike will find informative and interesting.
—reviewed by John G. Deal, Editor, Dictionary of Virginia BiographyAgricultural runoff,
industrial waste, and
have rendered the region
virtually uninhabitable ….
Susan Schmidt. Landfall along the Chesapeake: In the Wake of Captain John Smith. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006. viii + 247 pp. ISBN 0-8018-8296-6. $30.00 (hardcover).
Susan Schmidt, a naturalist and college writing instructor, spent about a hundred days plying the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, retracing, more or less, the voyage of John Smith in 1608. On her mid-sized, motorized vessel Landfall (thus the book’s title), aided by an aged dog, she traveled up the James River as far as Hopewell, then back down to the mouth of the bay. As did Smith, she explored first the Eastern Shore of the bay all the way to the mouth of the Susquehanna River before descending along the western edge. Side journeys up the many rivers that empty into the bay and to small towns and big cities that dot its shoreline punctuated Schmidt’s trip.
Smith’s exploration of the bay serves as a colorful backdrop. Schmidt intersperses her narrative with frequent asides to what Smith had reported about the locales she encounters. She demonstrates throughout a sound understanding of and appreciation for the area’s rich history and takes an obvious delight in Smith’s entertaining tales. Reprinted passages and maps from Smith’s work enliven and illustrate (through counterpoint) some of the book’s more contemporary concerns, which center on the bay’s troubled ecology. As befits a naturalist who grew up in the region and spent much of her childhood on the water, Schmidt presents a sobering analysis of the many problems that now confront the bay. Through discussions with watermen and marine scientists, she hammers home distressing statistics about the bay’s environmental health. Agricultural runoff, industrial waste, and misguided developments have rendered the region virtually uninhabitable for many of the aquatic species that Smith encountered in abundance. Reversing these effects will not be easy, to say the least, but throughout Schmidt encounters hopeful individuals struggling to revive the bay’s ecology.
When done well, travel narratives have intrinsic interest for a variety of readers. This one is no exception. Weaving history, environmental concerns, and personal memoir, Landfall along the Chesapeake should find a welcome place on many bookshelves.
—reviewed by William Bland Whitley, Assistant Editor, Dictionary of Virginia Biography
Joe Wilson. A Guide to the Crooked Road, Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. Winston- Salem, N.C.: John F. Blair, 2005. 256 pp. ISBN 0-8958-7327- 3. $19.95 (softcover; includes two CDs).
Recently, Virginia began developing a music heritage trail stretching 253 miles from the Piedmont region east of the Blue Ridge to the coalfields of Southwest Virginia. The trail was dubbed the Crooked Road, and anyone who has traveled Route 58 west of Galax or the back roads of Wise County will concur in that moniker. Along such roads you will need to slow down a bit, which is just as well, because A Guide to the Crooked Road will inspire you to explore little-known jewels along the way — local music jams, native crafts, festivals, natural wonders, and much, much more.
Author Joe Wilson, chairman of the National Council for the Traditional Arts, was one of the prime movers in developing the Crooked Road, and it would have been impossible to find a better interpreter of the region, its people, and its culture. Wilson is a native of the Blue Ridge Mountain region and has given many years of service to the preservation of traditional music through research, sponsorship of recordings, and the organization of festivals. Wilson recently received the National Endowment of the Arts’ prestigious National Heritage Fellowship Award. A Guide to the Crooked Road is based on a lifetime of personal experience with traditional performers. The book is also a work of first-rate storytelling. Wilson weaves together wonderful stories of classic performers, local lore, and his incomparable knowledge of the origins of the music and its key instruments — the fiddle, banjo, and guitar. All of these elements are packaged with the nuts-and-bolts information that a traveler will certainly want — where to stay, where to eat, and, most important, where to hear some of the best traditional music America has to offer.Here are classic 78-rpm recordings of the 1920s from Virginia icons …. WILSON REVIEW
Adding even greater depth to the work are two accompanying CDs comprising fifty-two songs ranging from old-time dance tunes and bluegrass breakdowns to gospel songs and mountain blues. Here are classic 78-rpm recordings of the 1920s from Virginia icons such as the Carter Family and Dock Boggs alongside selections of lesser known, but no less talented, musicians such as Galax’s Abe Horton and Franklin County’s Archie Edwards. Wilson also emphasizes the living traditions of the Crooked Road by including current performers such as Steve Barr and the Mullins Family. The CDs include Wilson’s short spoken introductions for each song that personalize the music and provide a virtual travelogue of the Crooked Road’s musical traditions. Slip the CDs into your car’s player and head out to one of the most beautiful and musically significant regions this country has to offer.
—reviewed by Gregg D. Kimball, Director, Publications and Educational Services Division, Library of Virginia________________________________
Sara B. Bearss is senior editor of the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, published by the Library of Virginia.