Reviews prepared by staff members of the Library of Virginia
Sara B. Bearss, Editor
Keith Egloff and Deborah Woodward. First People: The Early Indians of Virginia. 2nd ed. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, in association with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, 2006. x + 96 pp. ISBN- 13: 978-0-8139-2548-6. $12.95 (softcover).
This new edition of First People, like its 1992 predecessor, is a wellcrafted, workmanlike monograph that will appeal to the general public and particularly to the amateur archaeologist and historian. Its brevity makes it an excellent introduction to the fundamental ideas of Indian research. This overview is full of basic information on the precontact history of Virginia’s Indian tribes and articulates the archaeological research methods used to obtain the precontact and historical material. To that end, First People includes a glossary, list of resources, and discussion of specific actions that readers can take to assist in preserving these ancient and fragile archaeological sites.
Keith Egloff and Deborah Woodward focus on the ways archaeology enables us to decipher Virginia’s Indian cultures and those cultures’ evolution toward greater complexity from their arrival in Virginia as long ago as 15,000 b.c. to contemporary Indian life. They explain that because this work is written from an archaeological perspective, the anthropological theory of “cultural and natural areas” is invoked to classify and differentiate the various Indian groups in Virginia and to explain the diversity of cultures within the same time period. This concept assumes that a society develops in harmony with its environmental setting and is “inclined to spread over an entire [setting] area before expanding to a new environment.”First People includes …
specific actions that
readers can take to
assist in preserving
these ancient and fragile
EGLOFF AND WOODWARD REVIEW
Throughout this second edition, the authors’ respect for their audience is apparent. This volume subtly updates the original edition of 1992 with information on the Werowocomoco village archaeological site and the tribes’ quest for federal recognition. It also uses a more attractive format. Egloff and Woodward inform their readers of their interpretive conclusions while introducing those readers to the controversial nature of all archaeological and historical research and interpretation. They also include short imaginative sections that allow the readers to envision Indian life at various points of cultural and political evolution. Throughout, photographs, charts, and drawings inform the text. This monograph deserves its place on many a bookshelf.
— reviewed by Patricia Ferguson Watkinson, research archivist
Karen Ordahl Kupperman. The Jamestown Project. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007. viii + 392 pp. ISBN-13: 978-0-674-02474-8. $29.95 (hardcover).
Karen Ordahl Kupperman’s Jamestown Project places seventeenth- century England and the fledging English colony in Virginia in a global perspective. Beginning at the fracturing of Europe and Elizabeth I’s rule, Kupperman sets the stage for England to become a global power. She recounts England’s alliances with the Ottoman Empire and against Spain and other Roman Catholic countries as well as the English thirst for a share of the African and Mediterranean trade. She shows how the English learned international trading and saw the advantage that other countries had by having gotten to Africa and the Ottoman Empire first.
Helping the reader to understand the intentions behind establishing Jamestown, Kupperman explores the different perspectives of the people involved or affected by the colony. She draws not only from writings of the time but also from recent archaeological digs and scholarship. Kupperman examines the motives of the key players involved in the endeavor and its forerunners, such as Sir Walter Ralegh, John Smith, and Pocahontas, while also telling the stories of less famous individuals, particularly men left behind by their ships or captured by the American Indians and American Indians captured by Europeans. Evidence about any one person of lesser name is scarce, but by poring over the documents and contemporary publications Kupperman was able to glean much information about how common sailors and settlers and American Indians must have interacted with one another.
Kupperman’s examination of how often and skillfully many individuals moved between cultures is fascinating. These men were highly adaptable and skillful in their socializations. Kupperman depicts a world with a great deal of movement between cultures as people traded, toured, and were captured by enemies. She examines the Europeans who came to America, particularly the Spanish and French with whom England was in direct competition. She also tells of the Indians who came to Europe and what they learned of European culture and languages, as well as what kind of information they probably brought back to America. Particularly interesting was the practice used in many instances worldwide of trading young men or boys to learn respective languages. These interpreters were very valuable for communication between the societies.… for most of the men
involved, Virginia was
never their only project.
Kupperman describes the establishment of Jamestown and follows the colony through its first fifteen years. She portrays the adventurers and the investors, reiterating that for most of the men involved, Virginia was never their only project. These men were traders and fortune seekers; they were often military men. Many of them had taken part in defeating and settling Ireland. Indeed, the colonists used many of the same tactics they had used in Ireland, often finding them just as inadequate for controlling the American Indians. Exploring the arguments between the colonists and the Virginia Company of London, Kupperman examines letters to demonstrate that they were not usually at cross-purposes, and how many of their problems came from the ever-present belief that a profit could be turned with little effort. She shows the difficulties that both sides faced in raising money and searching for profit to the detriment of settlement and sustenance. The English brought their experiences at trading and colonization with them to the New World and discovered that only a permanent large settlement would make Jamestown successful. The Jamestown Project is a must-read book for any colonial Virginia scholar as well as for any person interested in an in-depth study of Jamestown’s origins.
— reviewed by Maria Kimberly, project editor
Christopher E. Hendricks. The Backcountry Towns of Colonial Virginia. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2006. xxii + 186 pp. ISBN- 13: 978-1-57233-543-1. $36.00 (hardcover).
By his own admission, Christopher E. Hendricks, a professor of history at Armstrong State University in Savannah, has long had an interest in town planning, beginning with staring at framed town views that hung in his father’s office at Wake Forest University. His master’s thesis explored the development of the Moravian towns of Salem, North Carolina, and Gracehill, Northern Ireland. The present volume is based on his 1991 dissertation on backcountry towns in Virginia and North Carolina. Hendricks asserts that successful towns in Virginia’s backcountry resulted from “careful planning and thoughtful design, not chance,” to attract settlers and make use of natural resources. Unlike earlier studies that focused on economic models to gauge success, Hendricks’s book offers a means to understand the personal element that determined if a town succeeded or failed. Hendricks suggests that, despite critics who decried the lack of urban centers in Virginia, generally attributing that dearth to the ready accessibility of river transportation, in fact Virginia was well populated with towns. The problem, he writes, is one of hierarchy, with cities being the top tier and villages occupying the bottom rank, as defined by population and economic activity. In Backcountry Towns of Colonial Virginia, Hendricks seeks to provide a regional town survey of twenty- five towns to analyze and interpret what he perceives as a significant urban movement and to identify what factors these towns had in common.
Hendricks defines the backcountry as land west of the fall line and then subdivides the region into the Piedmont, Southside, Great Valley, and Mountains. After the experiments with legislated towns had failed by 1700, town development became more of an individual, entrepreneurial endeavor, although the Virginia General Assembly remained active in setting up the government and controlling land ownership. Geography shaped settlement patterns and town development. The county court was the most common location for a town in colonial Virginia, with justices choosing a site and organizing construction of a courthouse and a jail. Trade also was a determining factor in town development.
In subsequent chapters, Hendricks studies in detail the development of twenty-five urban centers in the four backcountry subregions. In his concluding chapter, he notes that by 1800, towns were firmly established in the Virginia backcountry, with the exception of Southside Virginia. The most successful towns were those established in the Valley and Piedmont. The Valley and Piedmont towns were located along major transportation thoroughfares (the Great Wagon Road and the rivers) and, with a steady supply of immigrants and market and trade connections, encouraged settlement nearby. The Mountain towns studied by Hendricks were related to the springs and developed as the outgrowth of a service industry, albeit one that was seasonal.
The value of Hendricks’s book rests on recognizing that the development of urban centers in Virginia resulted from a variety of factors, including individual entrepreneurship, trade, geography, government administration, and market development. By expanding the definition of an urban center to include the variety of towns that were established in colonial Virginia, we see that in fact Virginia was a populated by a dense, interrelated network of towns that encouraged settlement into the frontier.
— reviewed by Barbara C. Batson, exhibitions coordinator
Ronald L. Hatzenbuehler. “I Tremble for My Country”: Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia Gentry. Foreword by Stanley Harrold and Randall M. Miller. Southern Dissent Series. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2006. xii + 206 pp. ISBN 0- 8130-3007-2. $55.00 (hardcover).The man who wrote
… that “all men are
created equal” remained
a Virginia gentleman
slave owner all his life.
Students of Thomas Jefferson have sought the foundations of his intellectual life in the European Enlightenment, in his youthful studies at the College of William and Mary, or in the writings of English or Scottish intellectuals; they have likened him to the French philosophers, declared him unique, or proposed that he was quintessentially American. Ronald L. Hatzenbuehler, on the other hand, looks deeply into Jefferson’s life in his native Virginia to discern the beliefs, practices, and formative ideas and experiences that also shaped Jefferson’s ideas.
Hatzenbuehler examines Jefferson as the lifelong planter and the youthful Virginia statesman who wrote A Summary View of the Rights of British America, the Declaration of Independence, and Notes on the State of Virginia. He investigates Jefferson’s evolving attitudes toward personal investment in Virginia politics as he took part in forming the nation’s first political parties. He also explores the ways in which Virginia influences may have caused Jefferson to act as president in ways that appeared to contradict his previous political principles, such as purchasing Louisiana from France and quietly urging his political allies to approve the purchase without thinking too hard about the constitutional issues that the purchase raised. After Jefferson retired he created a university for young Virginia gentlemen.
Hatzenbuehler finds that in many respects Jefferson was more thoroughly Virginian than American in his perspectives and objectives and that viewing the major themes and events of his life in that light provides a fresh perspective on Jefferson’s intellectual creativity and on the limitations of his intellectual outlook.
As Jefferson used the word, his country was Virginia, and it was Virginia that meant most to him. However much he might have contributed to the creation of the United States, he remained in many essential ways a member of the white Virginia gentry class into which he had been born and into which he also married. As a member of that class of elite Virginians, Jefferson inherited and held onto ideas about family and society, about race and class, about economics and politics and history that shaped his views of himself, his family, and the rest of the world. The man who wrote on behalf of the United States that “all men are created equal” remained a Virginia gentleman slave owner all his life and by middle age had abandoned whatever antislavery ideals he had held as a young man. Thomas Jefferson remained a Virginian, perhaps as much or more a Virginian as an American.
— reviewed by Brent Tarter, editor, Dictionary of Virginia Biography
Francis D. Cogliano. Thomas Jefferson: Reputation and Legacy. Jeffersonian America Series. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2006. xii + 276 pp. ISBN-13: 978-0-8139- 2619-3. $45.00 (hardcover).
America’s most celebrated (and deprecated) polymath had an important yet seldom recognized interest in applied historical knowledge. So argues the author of this account of Thomas Jefferson’s failed effort to control his historical legacy. Jefferson took the study of history seriously, seeing it as a means of inculcating certain moral truths about society (but only if interpreted accurately). Personalizing such beliefs, Jefferson sought to ensure that future Americans would continue to view him as a primary author of American liberty and disregard the Federalist interpretations that had bedeviled him throughout his political career.
Francis D. Cogliano shows how Jefferson’s careful cultivation of his historical image, through the preservation of his papers, his wellknown epitaph, and the design and improvements of his plantation seat Monticello, served twin purposes of arguing for the superiority of his republican ideals and placing him at the center of their formation. Neither the papers nor Jefferson’s estate provided the kind of historical boost he expected, in large part because of his indebtedness. Papers were scattered to different repositories, making it difficult to publish the collection he had envisioned, a vision in any event not shared by his nineteenth-century editors. Monticello passed into other hands and was degraded over the years. The twentieth century saw the revival of both as historical artifacts. Founded in 1944, the Thomas Jefferson Papers project is now slated for completion in 2026 (thus making the publication of the man’s papers a process almost as long as his life). Monticello was transformed from a self-conscious shrine to an active interpretation of Jefferson’s private life. In both cases, newly available information clouded what Jefferson might have intended as more benign legacies. Although more successful in using his epitaph to shape his self-image as a champion of human liberty, Jefferson has emerged as such a lightning rod for discussions of race, sex, and American foreign policy (subjects of subsequent chapters) that his faults often outweigh his accomplishments.… as with anyone else,
Jefferson was too complex
a person to fit neatly
into that dichotomy.
Although perhaps best suited for specialists, Cogliano’s work offers all interested readers a succinct tour through the ideological battles that have defined Jefferson past and present. Ironically, Jefferson’s success in forging a historical record of himself more complete than that of any other founder has provided endless ammunition to his critics. But perhaps he could take solace in being the most studied of all the founders, a historiographical achievement, if not a historic one.
— reviewed by William Bland Whitley, assistant editor, Dictionary of Virginia Biography
Peter S. Onuf. The Mind of Thomas Jefferson. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2007. x + 281 pp. ISBN-13: 978-0-8139-2578-3; $49.50 (hardcover). ISBN-13: 978- 0-8139-2611-7; $19.50 (softcover).
Peter S. Onuf is one of the preeminent Jefferson scholars of the day; his works on Thomas Jefferson are well constructed and thought-provoking. In The Mind of Thomas Jefferson he offers thirteen nuanced essays on the author of the Declaration of Independence, third president of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia.
Onuf divides his collection into four sections examining Jefferson and historians, Jefferson’s world, education and religion, and race and slavery. The first section chronicles how the Sage of Monticello is often perceived as a symbol of the United States’ success or failure in living up to the various notions of Jeffersonian republicanism and the platitudes of the Declaration. Onuf demonstrates how historians have tried to use Jefferson to stand in the dock for various ideological positions, rather than trying to understand Jefferson as a historical figure.
The second section examines Jefferson’s political world. Onuf contends that Jefferson’s famous statement, “We are all federalists, we are all republicans,” was not an appeal to defeated, but loyal, oppositions, but rather was Jefferson’s contention that he was a federalist in the original 1787 sense of the word, a supporter of a limited, federated government and an opponent of the consolidated government that had emerged under his Federalist opponents in the 1790s. Onuf also examines how Jefferson’s purchase of Louisiana defines Jefferson’s presidency and reveals how it created fissures in the Union.
In section three, Onuf demonstrates how Jefferson considered himself a “true Christian” as a believer in Jesus’s role as a great teacher, rather than the supernatural Son of God who emerged over 1,800 years of religious distortion and misinterpretation. Onuf reveals how Jefferson believed an educated public was necessary for the survival of the republic. He also reexamines Jefferson’s role as founder of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
Last, Onuf tackles Jefferson and race. Like many other historians, Onuf contends that Jefferson did father children by his slave Sally Hemings. He addresses Jefferson’s views on slaves and Jefferson’s racial views in the context of the times. Onuf notes that the only slaves Jefferson freed were his own children, and he adds that these children could merge into white society, but only by denying their heritage as Jeffersons.
For too long, Jefferson has been seen in stark black and white on many of the subjects Onuf’s essays cover. But, as with anyone else, Jefferson was too complex a person to fit neatly into that dichotomy. Onuf adds the necessary shades of gray to strengthen our understanding of this Founding Father.
— reviewed by Trenton E. Hizer, senior finding aids archivist
A. Wilson Greene. Civil War Petersburg: Confederate City in the Crucible of War. A Nation Divided: New Studies in Civil War History Series. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2006. xi + 363 pp. ISBN-13: 978-0-8139-2570-7. $34.95 (hardcover).
Founded as Fort Henry, a frontier trading outpost planted on the banks of the Appomattox River in the mid-1640s, Petersburg in the decade before the Civil War was a thriving commercial and industrial center with a direct outlet to the sea via a railway to the James River plus connections by rail to northern and southern markets as well as to Norfolk and to Lynchburg. Benefiting also from a network of good roads and boasting a tobacco manufacturing capacity second was the northernmost American city capable of producing cotton as a cash crop. Flour mills factored into an economy that supported a battalion of commission merchants, energetic middlemen who serviced the agricultural needs of consumers and provided supplies and equipment for farmers and planters. Of all Virginia’s municipalities, only Richmond’s population exceeded that of the Cockade City. In the midst of this prosperity some two hundred retailers catered to the wants and whims of city residents, and four banks basked in the expectations of an unfettered future. Unspoiled by mammon, Petersburg’s genteel white society was admired for its social graces and welcoming hospitality. Behind this veneer of refinement the labor of a burgeoning slave class kept the engine of commerce humming. Free blacks, who constituted a quarter of Petersburg’s free persons, the highest of any southern city, tended their businesses and trades, partaking in at least a small measure of the city’s overall wealth.Behind this veneer of
refinement the labor
of a burgeoning slave
class kept the engine of
The worsening sectional crisis darkened the city’s otherwise bright prospects. White Petersburgers, like most other white Virginians, rejected calls for secession by southern nationalists, but as peace efforts collapsed and events in South Carolina and Washington, D.C., lurched toward armed conflict, support for unionists and moderates eroded. On April 17, 1861, Virginia joined the Confederacy. While Petersburg’s volunteers and militia groups gathered arms and boarded trains, and home guards marched in the streets, private citizens, some celebrating, others grim with misgivings, prepared for war. The common council, mindful of internal as well as external threats, created a Committee of Safety for the purpose of guarding against persons disloyal to Virginia and the newborn Confederacy.
The fate of Petersburg and its inhabitants, black and white, during the ensuing four years is examined in exhaustive detail by A. Wilson Greene, whose skillful writing vividly depicts the wide range of wartime experiences on the home front and the resulting disillusionment as the realities of warfare set in: the shock and grief when the first Union prisoners and the dead and wounded Confederates appeared in the city after the First Battle of Manassas; the anger and privation resulting from the dreadful mixture of inflation and shortages made worse by greedy speculators; the rise of crime, particularly in the black community in the absence of white masters, resulting in harsher measures by officials and greater tension between the races; and the rising anxiety and fear of military invasion. Transformed by the influx of rough strangers and rowdy soldiers, the city by the autumn of 1862 already resembled a garrison town and was under martial law.
In 1863 the completion of a line of Confederate forts, batteries, and infantry works around Petersburg was a priority. The area’s growing strategic importance as a key transportation hub and as a backdoor approach to the ultimate objective — Richmond — made the city an inevitable target for massive Union operations. In June 1864 the Union launched two assaults and thus initiated a dogged ten-month-long effort to capture Petersburg and then seize the Confederate capital. Protracted trench warfare, frequent bombardment, and a series of Union operations and raids in the area strained daily life to the breaking point. The ring around Petersburg gradually tightened, cutting off supplies. Amidst the cannonades, the common council struggled to function effectively. Dead horses and mules littered the streets; households ran out of coal. The beleaguered city’s seven military hospitals shifted patients to private homes for protection against the shelling. Suspended above all was the gloomy prospect of impending defeat. On April 2, 1865, the Army of Northern Virginia barely escaped destruction, and the next day victorious Union regiments, enthusiastically welcomed by African-Americans, hoisted their battle flags above the court and custom houses. Occupied until the following August, the charming antebellum city had suffered greatly, many of its fine and common dwellings battered, numerous commercial buildings standing in ruins, its residents emotionally spent.
Certainly the Petersburg campaign has received its share of analysis, but Greene’s book, one of more than a dozen titles in the Nation Divided: New Studies in Civil War History series, is a long-awaited study of a long-neglected subject: the Petersburg home front. Sensitively written and thoroughly researched, it is an absorbing study of the chaotic intersection of military and civilian life in a city that played a pivotal role in the last year of the life of the Confederacy. Civil War Petersburg will engage and inform Civil War enthusiasts as well as other students of Virginia history.
— reviewed by Donald W. Gunter, editor, Dictionary of Virginia Biography
Begun in 2001, Wesley E. Pippenger’s series Index to Virginia Estates, 1800–1865, tackles the mammoth task of indexing all items recorded in city or county will books during the first sixty-five years of the nineteenth century. Genealogists and students of local history alike find the series invaluable. Volume 8 (Richmond: Virginia Genealogical Society, 2007. xxx + 702 pp. ISBN 1-888192-37- 2. $50.00) covers the counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Greensville, Henrico, James City, Prince George, Surry, and Sussex and the cities of Petersburg, Richmond, and Williamsburg. Organized alphabetically, each one-line entry includes the personal name, city or county, type of account (will, inventory, sale, trust account, license, guardian or executor’s bond, power of attorney), year, and source citation.
— bookend notes prepared by Sara B. Bearss________________________________