Tag Archives: civil war

A Boy Named Sue …

Marcellus_Jerome_Clarke

Marcellus Jerome Clarke as a Confederate soldier. Photo via Wikipedia.

Marcellus Jerome Clarke was a quiet teenager when he enlisted in the Confederate Army. But following his capture by Union forces and his subsequent escape, he rode with the famous John Hunt Morgan for a time before leaving the army, forming a guerrilla gang and ultimately becoming one of the Civil War’s most enigmatic figures: a criminal named Sue Mundy.

On March 15, 1865, three weeks before the end of the Civil War, twenty-year-old Clarke was hanged as a Confederate guerrilla in Louisville, Kentucky, as a crowd of thousands looked on. In the official charges against him, Clarke’s description included the alias “Sue Mundy.” By the time of his execution, Mundy had earned a reputation as the region’s most dangerous outlaw.

In the historical novel Sue Mundy: A Novel of the Civil War, author Richard Taylor chronicles in fiction the true story of Clarke and the legend of Mundy. In honor of what would have been the 172nd birthday of Marcellus Jerome Clarke, here’s an Q & A with the author about this fascinating figure:


What drew you to Jerome Clarke? Do you recall the catalyst for your interest in this historical figure? 

Taylor: What drew me initially to Sue Mundy was a photo that appeared in the late 70’s in a pictorial history of Louisville, Views of Louisville, published by the Courier Journal. It contained the photo of Sue Mundy seated with his legs crossed. I decided then to learn everything about him I could, starting with journal articles in the Register of the KY historical Society and Filson Club Quarterlies, then moving on to memoirs and books, then military records and courts martial in the National Archives. I also talked with experts on the subject who gave me perspective and additional help.

What about the photograph so compelled you?

Taylor: I was curious to get behind the image and learn the reality of his violent life. It opened up a number of questions and a number of possibilities to me. In some ways, the novel, just as the introductory description of Jerome Clarke seated, is a deconstruction of the photograph. The clarity of the image belies the complexity of shadow and substance that it embodies. By itself, the photograph is inadequate to explain who this person is, what produced him, what is going on in his head. The answer to these and similar questions, I guess, is what the novel is about. My favorite professor, Guy Davenport, defined art as the replacement of indifference with attention. It was hard for me to be indifferent about that image of Sue Mundy, just as about the same time, I was arrested by the photographs of sharecroppers in James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, whose faces I painted over a period of months as oil portraits, maybe as some kind of exorcism but also partially as commemoration. Jerome Clarke, at first a boy with good prospects, deserves, in the same way, some sort of explanation about how, given his upbringing and the times, he could go so wrong. My partial response is that all of us are potentially Sue Mundys, creatures of infinite possibility who are circumscribed by the collision of our potential with the realities of our circumstances. The novel is an exploration of these questions, a replacement of indifference with attention.

Talk a bit more about the research process. How did you begin? What sources were most useful to you?  

Taylor: First, I went to standard histories of the Civil War in Kentucky and followed every reference to Sue Mundy.  This meant county histories, standard histories of the war, biographies of participants (such as John Hunt Morgan), even diaries and memoirs. In addition to seeking out facts, I wanted to get a flavor of the war, gathering facts about weapons, horses, uniforms, etc. One of the most interesting experiences was accompanying a group of Civil War buffs along the route that William Quantrill followed in Kentucky. We stopped at the site of skirmishes and killings. One was the remains of a farmhouse in a cornfield that belonged to man named Prior Pruitt. Our expert, named Harold Edwards, pulled out an account of Quantrill’s coming to the house early in l865. He’d knocked on Pruitt’s door, the very door of the dilapidated building we were standing in front of. When Pruitt refused to open it, Quantrill shot through it, killing Pruitt (whose grave we visited a mile or so away). In the door was a single bullet hole. That bullet hole brought home the war to me in a way no book ever could.

The most useful sources were the straightforward journal articles. But the details that give it, I hope, some verisimilitude came from all the accounts I read, some of them pretty remote from Sue Mundy’s life. I read everything I could find that in any way contributed to the historical context and to the language I felt would make the narrative authentic. I drew from maybe 40 or 50 sources, making up what I had to or wanted to in an effort to make it all come together.

sueWhy did you choose to tackle this material as a novel rather than a straightforward history? What liberties did this genre allow you? What limitations?

Taylor: I considered writing a biography of Sue Mundy, but there were too many gaps in the material and too little analysis of his moral trajectory—the development of character that makes for good fiction. Writing a novel let me lie a little to tell the truth, as they say—at least the truth as I see it. This is another way of saying that not always having to verify what I said made the process more enjoyable. Writing fiction allowed me to apply Jerome’s experience to my own understanding of things. One of the things that moved me to take up the novel again was the loss of one of my own sons—imagining what his aspirations were and what it meant to die young.

So part of the challenge was remaining faithful to Jerome Clark’s point of view without sacrificing the larger perspective on the Civil War that his story offers.

Taylor: Though I tampered with facts, I tried very hard to adhere to what I believed was the reality of his experience. In order to convey that reality, I had to make him perhaps more aware, more sensitive than he actually was. I could not think of him, maybe any criminal, simply as a brute. Humans are intricately complex and changeable, an idea that lies at the heart of the fictional enterprise.

In what ways is Sue Mundy a tale not just of Jerome Clark, but of the Civil War in general?

Taylor: Jerome’s life is a microcosm of the larger war in Kentucky, the war in general.  There is the same loss of innocence as Kentucky switched its allegiances from north to south as a result of the draconian policies of the Union commandants who, in effect, ruled the state during the last two years of the war. In part, Jerome’s life is a movement from innocence to experience, idealism to disillusionment as he suffers the loss of his cousin Patterson and witnesses the devastating effects of war.

You mentioned before that you wanted Sue Mundy to address, in part, war’s dehumanization of individuals. Is this a story that has some relevance in today’s social and political climate?

Taylor: There is moral deterioration here just as there is in the sectarian violence in Iraq or Lebanon. The difference is that one relates to ethnicity, one almost purely to politics. Amazingly, people from opposing sides in the Civil War sat often in the same churches before and after the war. Guerrilla war means little war, the unofficial war that we are now witnessing in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, in Iraq.  Sadly, the fact that the similarities are so cogent makes a sorry comment about our lack of moral growth as a species. The names and allegiances change but not the tendency toward violence as a futile means to resolve differences.  Every war, as has been said, represents the failure of reason. That we should begin a new millennium with a preemptive war half a world away is a sad commentary on our present and our future.

The Civil War Origins of Memorial Day

Three years after the Civil War ended, the head of an organization of Union veterans—the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR)—established “Decoration Day” as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead. It is believed that the last Monday in May was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

However, springtime tributes to the Civil War dead already had been held in various places as early as 1866. On April 25 of that year, a group of women in Columbus, Mississippi visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in the battle of Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy. Disturbed by the sight of these bare graves, the women placed flowers on them as well.

MacEnany.inddIn 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, New York the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff.

150 years later, in honor of the Civil War origins of Memorial Day, we present an illuminating conversation with Brian McEnany, author of For Brotherhood and Duty: The Civil War History of the West Point Class of 1862:

Why did you feel particularly drawn to the West Point Class of 1862?
I was initially drawn to this class because it graduated 100 years before my own. While researching old musty cadet records and books at the archives at West Point for a reunion project, I became interested in Civil War politics and the cadet life of this class. I found stories and records of an extraordinary group of young men. Not finding much written about West Point classes after the start of the Civil War, I decided to write a book to fill that gap in history.

What was the most surprising thing you uncovered about this unique group of soldiers?
That is a hard question to answer. Regular army promotions were very slow during the war. There were questions raised in my mind about why this class did not have more transfers into volunteers to increase their chances for promotion. Secondly, the reputation of the Military Academy suffered greatly because of the large number of resignations of southern cadets—not a lot of people know that.

Can you talk a bit about why so many cadets from this class felt they had to resign from West Point before graduation?
Lincoln’s election followed by multiple changes in the superintendent and the commandant, resignations of officer instructors, as well as cadets led half this class to resign by the end of the summer of 1861. Their reasons were rooted in very strong state allegiances, colored mostly by friends, family, and politicians who appointed them as well as other cadets from the same state. It left little room for independent thought on the matter. Their letters were particularly poignant. One cadet from another class wrote to his mother that he resigned because he couldn’t sign his name to the oath of allegiance to the Union—he felt no one from the South could.

How did resignation like that affect the remaining cadets?
While they continued to focus on academics in preparation for graduation, their class motto, “Joined in a Common Cause,” shows they were strongly committed to the restoration of the Union.

Do you think the confusion and desolation of war may have led to their stories being overlooked?
I’ve found that most books and articles about the Civil War at West Point only focus on members of the May and June classes of 1861. Books about the other classes (1862–65) have not been written. My book is the first one published about another class that graduated during the war.

Can you talk a bit about the service records of the various cadets throughout the war?
The hardest task was to track the actual units they were assigned to—something that is not carried in their personnel records. I researched microfilm files of old newspaper articles and unit muster reports and found cadet, mid-career, and obituary pictures before I could write a biography for each member of the class. Promotions were very slow. Only the engineers and ordnance officers made captain during the war. The rest remained first lieutenants with the exception of four that went into volunteer service. One rose to Major General (Ranald Mackenzie), one was awarded the Medal of Honor (George Gillespie) many years later, one ex-member (Henry Farley) fired the first shot at Fort Sumter, and one classmate (William Bartlett) at the end of the war took the surrender of the last Confederate units in the eastern theater.

Who do you think was the standout from the class and why?
Ranald Mackenzie for sure. He graduated first in the class and rose to the rank of Major General US Volunteers during the war. He was in the right place at the right time; picked to lead an infantry regiment, he made a name for himself. Even Grant called him “a most promising officer.” Stern disciplinarian, an able tactical leader, brave to the point of recklessness; he was wounded six times during the war. He became a brigade commander, then commander of a cavalry division in the Army of the James. That division became part of Sheridan’s command during the Shenandoah Campaign and Lee’s Retreat. Mackenzie became more renowned after the Civil War. This was the Mackenzie that chased the Apaches into Mexico, and a 1950s TV show called Mackenzie’s Raiders even touted his exploits. He likely would have outshone Custer in history if he had lived long enough, but he died early. Others in the class were equally brave; 24 of the 28 were brevetted for gallantry, and one was awarded the Medal of Honor.

From these accounts, were you able to tell if any of these classmates felt remorse for attacking their fellow cadets during the war? Or was their dedication to their cause more important?
There were several incidents where classmates faced classmates on the battlefield. Sometimes, they were unaware of the other’s presence. At other times, they knew. Virginian James Dearing, an artillery man who commanded the guns in Pickett’s division, fired at Tully McCrea and John Egan at Gettysburg. At the end of the war, Mackenzie found Dearing lying, mortally wounded, in a hospital in Lynchburg just after Lee surrendered and made sure he was well taken care of. Morris Schaff ran into others after the war and wrote that there was no animosity shown. The bottom line is that I do not think they carried any bad feelings with them—the brotherhood endured.

What is the biggest thing you hope people take away from For Brotherhood and Duty?
For Brotherhood and Duty is all about memories, personal relationships and experiences.  What I hope is that people will remember those stories so that the next time they visit a battlefield they recall a real person and his story about that particular campaign or battle.

Discovering the “Reel” Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was nominated for president on this day in 1860, the first step toward a legacy that continues to shadow those who have worked in the Oval Office since. 156 years later, Abraham Lincoln: the man, is remembered more often as Abraham Lincoln: the myth. With few photographs and even fewer audio recordings, it is difficult for the modern American to grasp our 16th president beyond the iconic speeches and cultural conceptions that loom large in our collective memory.

Even more influential are the countless speeches, poems, statues, songs, books, portraits, plays, and movies that have attempted to represent him. Filmmakers in particular have failed to agree on how to best represent Lincoln on the screen. In the modern era, movies have played the largest role in shaping public memory of America’s 16th president.

Lincoln before Lincoln Brian J. SneeIn the new book, Lincoln before Lincoln: Early Cinematic Adaptations of the Life of America’s Greatest President, author Brian Snee examines six influential screen representations—The Birth of a Nation (1915), Abraham Lincoln (1930), Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940), Sandburg’s Lincoln (1974-1976), and Gore Vidal’s Lincoln (1988)—to reveal how our national perception and memory of Lincoln is adapted and commemorated. The way we depict Lincoln can teach us a lot about the man, and about ourselves. Lincoln’s life, politics, and his untimely death are not simply a part of history, but are also a part of America’s story and how Americans define themselves.

Covering more than a century of film from the silent era up to Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (2012)—a film which, he argues, marks a seismic shift in the way Hollywood presents the Great Emancipator on screen—Snee shows how Hollywood has adapted the image of our greatest president on the screen, thus shaping and changing his image in the minds of all Americans.

In the following excerpt from Lincoln before Lincoln, Snee considers two of our most recent cultural monuments to the Great Emancipator:

Great Emancipator: Lincoln before Lincoln

In 2009, an unknown writer named Seth Grahame-Smith published what would become a best-selling cult novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The generic mash-up gave Grahame-Smith, who had earned a degree in film from Emerson College, his first real literary success. The book, which lists Jane Austen as coauthor, was quickly optioned by a major film studio, although today the project remains mired in preproduction.

Grahame-Smith next penned another future cult classic, one that Hollywood would waste no time in bringing to the big screen: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The adaptation was produced by Tim Burton and took the form of an action-horror hybrid that cast Lincoln as a secret assassin who battles vampires, destroying the creatures who feed on the blood of slaves, and with them the need for slavery itself. Although the film performed well in theaters, it was universally panned by critics, who objected not to its historical absurdity but rather to what they saw as a dearth of artistic merit. Whatever the critics thought, audiences loved it. After a half century without a major theatrically released film, Lincoln was back. And he was pissed.

Just four months after Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter appeared in theaters, audiences were offered a far more reverent Lincoln film. Rumors of a Spielberg-directed Lincoln picture had circulated in Hollywood for nearly a decade, ever since Spielberg had optioned the rights to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s 2005 biography, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. The film was scripted by Tony Kushner and starred Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln. The narrative focused on the final months of Lincoln’s life, including and especially the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, the end of the Civil War, and the buildup to Lincoln’s assassination. To say that it was an enormous success, both financially and critically, would be an understatement. The film was nominated for dozens of awards, and it grossed nearly $300 million.

file_569066_lincoln-movie-poster-08222012-110324For the purposes of [Lincoln before Lincoln], what matters more than the many stark and obvious differences between Spielberg’s Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is the one thing they share in common: a focus on Lincoln as the Great Emancipator. Beginning with D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation—an overtly racist film that laments the demise of the Confederacy and celebrates the formation of the Ku Klux Klan—Hollywood routinely minimized or simply ignored Lincoln’s role as the emancipator. Lincoln has enjoyed many incarnations: Savior of the Union, Great Commoner, and the First American, among others. Before 2012, Hollywood had celebrated them all but neglected one: Lincoln as the Great Emancipator.

Like the famous Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Hollywood subtly reinforced the notion that freeing the slaves was not among Lincoln’s most significant achievements. By accident or design, American movies and miniseries routinely left the emancipator on the cutting room floor while giving a starring role to one of Lincoln’s other manifestations. It was a century-long act of historical revision and powerful memory work likely to have shaped how several generations of American’s understood both Lincoln and his relation to race. And although it came to a very visible end in 2012, it leaves us to ask: How did popular movies and miniseries invite Americans to understand themselves and to remember Lincoln before Lincoln?

Five Days of Giveaways: It’s a Festive Free-for-all on Friday

We’re in the holiday spirit here at the University Press of Kentucky, and we wanted to share a little of that cheer with our fans. All week we’ve been giving away a new book in a new way to a lucky someone.

We thought we’d close out our #5DaysOfGiveaways with a bang! Or, at the very least, a party… We’re calling it Festive, Free-f0r-all Friday, and here’s how it works:

We’ll be sharing menus and recipes to help you throw the greatest, most Bluegrass-y, Kentucky Holiday Celebration from some of our favorite Kentucky cookbooks. Join in on our fun on any of our social media accounts, and you’ll be automatically entered to win. One lucky fan/follower/subscriber/etc. will win a prize pack of ALL the books we’ve given away this week! Including The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook, a bourbon cocktail book (your choice), Out of Kentucky Kitchens, and The Blue Grass Cook Book, the prize pack will help you host a holiday fit for a Kentucky Colonel.

But what’s a party without a plan? Here are some great holiday menus (new and old) to get the festivities started!

Civil War Recipes Christmas Menu: 9780813120829

  • Boiled Turkey with Oyster Sauce Beet Root
  • Roast Goose with Applesauce
  • [Hot] Cole-Slaw
  • Boiled Ham
  • Turnips
  • Winter Squash
  • Savory Chicken Pie
  • Salsify Cakes
  • Mince Pie
  • Plum Pudding
  • Lemon Custard
  • Cranberry Tart

The Kentucky Fresh CookbookThe Kentucky Fresh Cookbook Christmas Dinner Kentucky Style

  • Roasted Tenderloin of Beef
  • Lemon Parmesan Beans
  • White Cheddar Grits
  • Linen-Napkin Dinner Rolls
  • Endive and Pear Salad with Walnuts
  • Kentucky Blackberry Jam Cake

The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook Christmas Breakfast

  • Blood Orange Ambrosia
  • Shaker Pumpkin Muffins with Walnuts and Flax Seed
  • Country Ham and Green Onion Breakfast Casserole

The Kentucky Bourbon Cookbook by Albert SchmidThe Kentucky Bourbon Cookbook All-Bourbon Winter Feast

  • Pork Tenderloin in Spiced Apple Kentucky Bourbon Sauc
  • Kentucky Bourbon Acorn Squash
  • Windsor Mincemeat
  • Kentucky Colonel Bourbon Balls
  • Kentucky Bourbon Bread Pudding with Kentucky Bourbon Sauce

 

It’s Military History Week!

In honor of military history week at the University Press of Kentucky, here are some of our favorite books commemorating America’s  past.

canavan.final.indd

In Lincoln’s Final Hours, author Kathryn Canavan takes a magnifying glass to the last moments of the president’s life and to the impact his assassination had on a country still reeling from a bloody civil war. With vivid, thoroughly researched prose and a reporter’s eye for detail, this fast-paced account not only furnishes a glimpse into John Wilkes Booth’s personal and political motivations but also illuminates the stories of ordinary people whose lives were changed forever by the assassination.


9780813160795

In For Slavery and Union, Patrick A. Lewis uses Benjamin Buckner’s story to illuminate the origins and perspectives of Kentucky’s conservative proslavery Unionists, and explain why this group eventually became a key force in repressing social and political change during the Reconstruction era and beyond. Free from the constraints and restrictions imposed on the former Confederate states, men like Buckner joined with other proslavery forces to work in the interest of the New South’s brand of economic growth and racial control.


9780813165639In Committed to Victory: The Kentucky Home Front During World War II, author Richard Holl offers the first comprehensive examination of the Commonwealth’s civilian sector during this pivotal era in the state’s history. National mobilization efforts rapidly created centers of war production and activity in Louisville, Paducah, and Richmond, producing new economic prosperity in the struggling region. The war effort also spurred significant societal changes, including the emergence of female and minority workforces in the state. In the Bluegrass, this trend found its face in Pulaski County native Rose Will Monroe, who was discovered as she assembled B-24 and B-29 bombers and was cast as Rosie the Riveter in films supporting the war effort.


Th9780813146928e first dedicated study of this key region, Kentucky Confederates provides valuable insights into a misunderstood and understudied part of Civil War history. Author Berry Craig begins by exploring the development of the Purchase from 1818, when Andrew Jackson and Isaac Shelby acquired it from the Chickasaw tribe. Geographically isolated from the rest of the Bluegrass State, the area’s early settlers came from the South, and rail and river trade linked the region to Memphis and western Tennessee rather than to points north and east.


9780813133843On October 8, 1862, Union and Confederate forces clashed near Perryville, Kentucky, in what would be the largest battle ever fought on Kentucky soil. The climax of a campaign that began two months before in northern Mississippi, Perryville came to be recognized as the high water mark of the western Confederacy. Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle is the definitive account of this important conflict. While providing all the parry and thrust one might expect from an excellent battle narrative, the book also reflects the new trends in Civil War history in its concern for ordinary soldiers and civilians caught in the slaughterhouse. The last chapter, unique among Civil War battle narratives, even discusses the battle’s veterans, their families, efforts to preserve the battlefield, and the many ways Americans have remembered and commemorated Perryville.

Stop One: Lincoln’s Boyhood Home

Welcome back to Journey Through the Bluegrass, folks! We are super excited to get started on this virtual road trip. Our first stop begins with a specific moment in the history of our great nation. As many of you history buffs probably know, today is the 153th anniversary of the date the emancipation proclamation was enacted by our great former president, Abraham Lincoln. In honor of this monumental feat towards the equality of mankind, we decided to pay some homage to the man responsible.

One of the most well-known facts about Kentucky is that this is where Lincoln grew up. I think we’ve all heard the term “Lincoln’s Boyhood Home” a couple hundred times too many, but how many of you can actually say that you’ve visited it? There are actually two locations that can still be seen today. This first is Lincoln’s first home, a log cabin on a farm in Hardin County, Kentucky, in which the great president was born to Thomas and Nancy Lincoln on February 12, 1809. This home is still a standing structure, although may have looked closer to this image back in its prime:

To visit the birthplace unit, you can travel to this location: 2995 Lincoln Farm Road, Hodgenville, Kentucky 42748.

A couple years later, at the ripe age of two and a half, this 16th president of the United States of America was uprooted from one log cabin to the next which was located on a farm on Knob Creek. While this location is also a memorial that you can physically travel to, we would advise that you wait until the latter part of this year since the site is currently under heavy construction. Should you find that you wish to travel there, the address is 7120 Bardstown Road, Hodgenville, Kentucky 42748.

For directions to either site based upon starting locations of various large cities, please visit this website.

Additionally, if the travel bug has bitten you already, you can explore the Mary Todd Lincoln house, the family home of the Abraham Lincoln’s First Lady, which can be found in Lexington, KY. The property was the Todd family residence from 1832 to 1849. Mary Todd resided here from the ages of 13 to 21, before moving to Springfield, Illinois, to live with a sister in 1839. There she met Abraham Lincoln and they were married in November 1842. To visit this historic home, the address at which it is located is 578 West Main Street, Lexington, KY.

The Mary Todd Lincoln house as it stands today in Lexington, KY.

Have we piqued your interest in Lincoln yet? You may want to spend more time getting this know one of the greatest presidents in history. If this is the case, you should check out our recently published book about this historic president’s last moments. In Lincoln’s Final Hours, author Kathryn Canavan takes a magnifying glass to the last moments of the president’s life and to the impact his assassination had on a country still reeling from a bloody civil war. With vivid, thoroughly researched prose and a reporter’s eye for detail, this fast-paced account not only furnishes a glimpse into John Wilkes Booth’s personal and political motivations but also illuminates the stories of ordinary people whose lives were changed forever by the assassination.

For more information on this title, click here or on the picture below.

The Civil War: What Did the Women Think?

There are a lot of books out there about the Civil War, so it can be hard to know where to start if you want to learn more. If you’re looking for some unique books about the time period, you’ve come to the right place! These three books follow the lives of four women throughout the war by looking at the writings they left behind.

Cover of Diary of a Southern Refugee during the War   Cover of Cecelia and Fanny  Cover of Josie Underwood's Civil War Diary

  • Diary of a Southern Refugee during the War by Judith Brockenbrough McGuire: First published in 1867, McGuire’s diary provides an intimate view of daily life in the South during the war. She wrote about her hardships, past triumphs, and family activities alongside reports of military rumors and life behind the lines of battle. Her actual entries are pretty fascinating, but James I. Robertson provides additional information that helps explain where Judith’s story fits in the wider narrative of the conflict.
  • Cecelia and Fanny: The Remarkable Friendship between an Escaped Slave and Her Former Mistress by Brad Asher: Letters from Fanny Ballard to her escaped former slave, Cecelia, illuminate the friendship these two women maintained throughout the upheaval of the Civil War. Fanny’s family lived in urban Louisville, and her letters provide a rare glimpse into the urban context of slavery and the resulting social atmosphere of the city. It was pretty rare for an escaped slave to become friends with their former owner, and rarer still that letters exist between the two. Another unusual aspect of this book is that it focuses on slavery in an urban context, instead of plantation slavery.
  • Josie Underwood’s Civil War Diary by Josie Underwood: The politically prominent Underwood family of Bowling Green, Kentucky, played a vital role in ensuring Kentucky remained in the Union – despite the facts that they disapproved of Lincoln and owned slaves. Twenty years old at the start of the war, Josie details her opposition to the Confederate occupation of her city and her heartbreak that so many friends and family members were on opposite sides. Josie also wrote about her daily life, arguments with her family, and her personal hopes with the future – she was like any young woman today struggling to find her place in the world.

The Civil War section of your bookseller of choice can be intimidating at first, though more options means more chances to find the story you’re looking for. Hopefully these books help you along in your quest for Civil War knowledge!

If you’ve read these three, which one was your favorite? Or, if you haven’t, do you keep a journal for history? Let us know in a comment below!