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Race, War, and Remembrance in the Appalachian South

Race, War, and Remembrance in the Appalachian South

John C. Inscoe
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 412
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jct8v
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  • Book Info
    Race, War, and Remembrance in the Appalachian South
    Book Description:

    Among the most pervasive of stereotypes imposed upon southern highlanders is that they were white, opposed slavery, and supported the Union before and during the Civil War, but the historical record suggests far different realities. John C. Inscoe has spent much of his scholarly career exploring the social, economic and political significance of slavery and slaveholding in the mountain South and the complex nature of the region's wartime loyalties, and the brutal guerrilla warfare and home front traumas that stemmed from those divisions. The essays here embrace both facts and fictions related to those issues, often conveyed through intimate vignettes that focus on individuals, families, and communities, keeping the human dimension at the forefront of his insights and analysis. Drawing on the memories, memoirs, and other testimony of slaves and free blacks, slaveholders and abolitionists, guerrilla warriors, invading armies, and the highland civilians they encountered, Inscoe considers this multiplicity of perspectives and what is revealed about highlanders' dual and overlapping identities as both a part of, and distinct from, the South as a whole. He devotes attention to how the truths derived from these contemporary voices were exploited, distorted, reshaped, reinforced, or ignored by later generations of novelists, journalists, filmmakers, dramatists, and even historians with differing agendas over the course of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His cast of characters includes John Henry, Frederick Law Olmsted and John Brown, Andrew Johnson and Zebulon Vance, and those who later interpreted their stories -- John Fox and John Ehle, Thomas Wolfe and Charles Frazier, Emma Bell Miles and Harry Caudill, Carter Woodson and W. J. Cash, Horace Kephart and John C. Campbell, even William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor. Their work and that of many others have contributed much to either our understanding -- or misunderstanding -- of nineteenth century Appalachia and its place in the American imagination.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-2961-7
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Late in the fall of 1861, James W. Taylor, a Minnesota journalist, published an extraordinary series of articles in theSt. Paul Daily Pressin which he contemplated the Civil War, then well under way, and the demographic and geographic factors that would affect the course of that conflict and the North’s chances of victory. More specifically, as the title of a pamphlet comprising these pieces indicates, Taylor’s focus wasAlleghania: The Strength of the Union and the Weakness of Slavery in the Mountain Districts of the South. His contention was that “within the immense district to which the designation...

  5. Race

    • 1 Race and Racism in Nineteenth-Century Appalachia: Myths, Realities, and Ambiguities
      (pp. 13-45)

      David Whisnant, one of the premier chroniclers of Appalachia, once noted that whenever he read books that generalized about “the South,” he amused himself by checking their generalizations against what he knows of the mountain South. Rarely, he said, was the congruence very great. Nowhere, in fact, has the incongruence between the highland and lowland South been more apparent than on matters of race. In one of the most celebrated regional generalizations, U. B. Phillips in 1928 argued that racism—or, more specifically, the quest for white supremacy—was the central theme of southern history. While that claim has been...

    • 2 Between Bondage and Freedom: Confronting the Variables of Appalachian Slavery and Slaveholding
      (pp. 46-64)

      The historical scholarship on race relations in Southern Appalachia has expanded dramatically over the past couple of decades, and yet we still lack a comprehensive treatment of the subject. What has emerged instead, particularly in regard to the antebellum era, is a vast mosaic of stories that tell us a great many different things about slavery and slaveholders throughout the region. That case can be made by simply recounting some of those stories—in some cases, mere snippets of stories—of slaves and other African Americans at various times and locales in colonial and antebellum Appalachia.

      In the early 1750s,...

    • 3 Olmsted in Appalachia: A Connecticut Yankee Encounters Slavery in the Southern Highlands, 1854
      (pp. 65-79)

      Outside observers have provided among the richest primary sources for scholars of the antebellum South. Despite the stereotypical assumptions, florid prose, and regional and moral biases that characterize the majority of such travel accounts, their detailed descriptions of the people and places encountered have often been of great value to later chroniclers of slavery and the Old South.

      Probably the most valuable of such accounts are three volumes of commentary on slavery and southern society written by Frederick Law Olmsted. These accounts are based on his fourteen months of travel throughout the South from 1852 to 1854.¹ Although it was...

    • 4 Mountain Masters as Confederate Opportunists: The Slave Trade in Western North Carolina, 1861–1865
      (pp. 80-100)

      On October 7, 1861, Colonel George Bower, the largest slaveholder in Ashe County, North Carolina, drowned. He was swept downstream when his two-horse carriage overturned as he attempted to ford the swollen Yadkin River at the start of a trip to Raleigh from his mountain home in the state’s northwesternmost county. Two days later, Calvin Cowles, his friend and fellow slaveholder from nearby Wilkesboro, reported the tragedy in a letter to W. W. Holden in Raleigh. Cowles stated that Bower had been accompanied by a slave, who had urged him not to attempt the crossing given the force of the...

  6. War

    • 5 The Secession Crisis and Regional Self-Image: The Contrasting Cases of Western North Carolina and East Tennessee
      (pp. 103-123)

      No two adjacent regions of the upper South, and certainly none so much alike, reacted so differently to the secession crisis of 1860 and 1861 as did western North Carolina and East Tennessee. Despite similarities in topography, agricultural output, racial demography, and socioeconomic makeup, highlanders on either side of the border between the two states demonstrated sharp contrasts in their collective views regarding their commitment to the Union and to the South. No other part of what would become a Confederate state—except the northwestern counties of Virginia—resisted secession longer or with more vehemence than did the eastern third...

    • 6 Highland Households Divided: Familial Deceptions, Diversions, and Divisions in Southern Appalachia’s Inner Civil War
      (pp. 124-143)
      Gordon B. McKinney

      Late in 1863 Madison Drake, a Union captain from Wisconsin, escaped from a Confederate prison in Salisbury, North Carolina, and made his way with a group of fellow fugitives into the state’s mountains toward the safety of Union-occupied East Tennessee. In a published account of that journey, he described an encounter he and his party had in Caldwell County, on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge. As they approached a small mountain homestead seeking food and directions, Captain Drake and his companions encountered a “vixen” of a woman who immediately recognized them as Yankee fugitives and gave them an...

    • 7 Coping in Confederate Appalachia: Portrait of a Mountain Woman and Her Community at War
      (pp. 144-174)

      Late in the summer of 1863, an anonymous “Voice from Cherokee County” wrote a letter to theNorth Carolina Standardin Raleigh, bemoaning the oppressive impact of Confederate policy on the state’s mountain region. He paid tribute to those highlanders he maintained were most victimized by the hardships—its women, that “class of beings entitled to the deepest sympathy of the Confederate government … the wives, children, mothers, sisters, and widows” left behind by those fighting for the southern cause. This voice from the state’s westernmost county went on to extol “the thousand instances of women’s patriotism, in resigning without...

    • 8 “Moving through Deserter Country”: Fugitive Accounts of Southern Appalachia’s Inner Civil War
      (pp. 175-203)

      Outside observers have been vital to both our understanding and our misunderstanding of Appalachian society. Particularly valuable as source material on the southern highlands in the nineteenth century, their works range from the amply descriptive antebellum travel accounts of Caroline Gilman, James Buckingham, and Frederick Law Olmsted, through the local-color fiction and nonfiction of the post–Civil War popular press, to the more socially conscious tracts of missionaries, social workers, and journalists in the latter part of the century. While all these works have been and remain essential to scholars seeking to understand preindustrial mountain life, all too often they...

    • 9 “Talking Heroines”: Elite Mountain Women as Chroniclers of Stoneman’s Raid, April 1865
      (pp. 204-224)

      By the fall of 1865, Cornelia Phillips Spencer was already at work on a book that would be published the following year entitledThe Last Ninety Days of the War in North Carolina. The Chapel Hill widow took on this task at the suggestion of David Lowery Swain, former governor of the state and longtime president of the University of North Carolina. She originally conceived of—and contracted for—her narrative as a series of articles inThe Watchman, a new journal established by a UNC professor at war’s end to promote sectional reconciliation. The “unexpected favor” with which readers...

  7. Remembrance

    • 10 The Racial “Innocence” of Appalachia: William Faulkner and the Mountain South
      (pp. 227-241)

      Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, is a long way from Southern Appalachia, and William Faulkner has never been noted as a chronicler of the mountain experience. But in at least two instances he did write of southern mountaineers, and in both he emphasized their isolation from the rest of the South, and in particular, from its black populace. In an early and little-known short story, “Mountain Victory,” and in what is arguably his finest novel—Absalom,Absalom!—Faulkner related the initial encounters of nineteenth-century highlanders with African Americans. In “Mountain Victory” it is a black man who intrudes upon an Appalachian family’s...

    • 11 A Fugitive Slave in Frontier Appalachia: The Journey of August King on Film
      (pp. 242-255)

      In Jerry Williamson’s bookHillbillyland, the most comprehensive study so far of Hollywood’s depiction of the mountain South, there is no mention of black people. In Thomas Cripps’sSlow Fade to Black, the most thorough treatment of African Americans on film, there is no mention of Appalachia. Neither exclusion is at all surprising, nor is there any reason to expect such coverage in either case. The two subjects—race relations and Southern Appalachia—did not intersect to any significant degree in popular culture, in literature, or on film,¹ until 1996, with the release of a remarkable movie that focuses on...

    • 12 “A Northern Wedge Thrust into the Heart of the Confederacy”: Explaining Civil War Loyalties in the Age of Appalachian Discovery, 1900–1921
      (pp. 256-281)

      The first comprehensive codification of Southern Appalachian life and culture came in the early twentieth century. Most regional commentaries throughout the nineteenth century had been travel narratives, firsthand descriptions of scenic vistas and flora and fauna along with observations of the often quaint customs and folk life of southern highlanders, or local-color writing, which conveyed much of the same in fictional form.¹ But by the turn of the century, these impressionistic, localized, and often anecdotal accounts began to give way to more serious and systematic ethnographic assessments of mountain people by missionaries, social workers, and academics. The work of Horace...

    • 13 Unionists in the Attic: The Shelton Laurel Massacre Dramatized
      (pp. 282-302)

      Rarely, if ever, have southern Unionists been incorporated into the public memory or commemoration of the Civil War. For all of the many ways in which Tony Horwitz found interest in the war alive and thriving throughout the southern states, the quirkiest and most offbeat of which he described so colorfully inConfederates in the Attic, not once does the term “Unionist” appear in his text. Nor would one ever know of internal dissent or divided loyalties from watching Ken Burns’s epic documentary treatment of the war.¹ While scholars over the past decade have made southern Unionism an increasingly significant...

    • 14 Appalachian Odysseus: Love, War, and Best-sellerdom in the Blue Ridge
      (pp. 303-321)

      Late in the summer of 1997, Charles Frazier’sCold Mountainhit the top of theNew York Timesbest seller list in fiction, a remarkable achievement for any first-time novelist, but particularly so for a book set in Civil War Appalachia. Not since John Jakes’sNorth and Southhas a Civil War novel ever made its way into that top spot; the only other novel set in the southern highlands to have appeared on the list wasDeliverance, more than a quarter of a century earlier.¹Cold Mountainenjoyed widespread praise and much media attention upon its publication.²

      What is...

    • 15 Guerrilla War and Remembrance: Reconstructing a Father’s Murder and a Community’s Civil War
      (pp. 322-349)

      On June 17, 1864, Isaac Wilson, a forty-two-year-old farmer and Confederate lieutenant from the North Fork community of Ashe County, North Carolina, decided to spend the last morning of his furlough plowing his cornfield. Soon after leaving his wife and eight children to undertake that task, he was shot from a distance and killed by a group of Unionists who also happened to be his neighbors. While by no means the first such incident to take place in this tension-filled area only a few miles from the Tennessee border, Wilson’s murder reverberated in especially potent ways, and it intensified the...

    • 16 Race and Remembrance in West Virginia: John Henry for a Postmodernist Age
      (pp. 350-363)

      Surprisingly, one of the acclaimed novels of 2001 seems to have received very little, if any, attention from Appalachian literary critics or historians. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize,John Henry Dayswas the much-anticipated second novel by Colin Whitehead, who made a considerable literary splash with his debut effort,The Intuitionist, in 1998.¹ As its title suggests,John Henry Daysis firmly set in West Virginia, which alone should make those of us in Appalachian Studies sit up and take notice. But even more important for those of us seeking to understand the region, its image, and its hold...

    • 17 In Defense of Appalachia on Film: Hollywood, History, and the Highland South
      (pp. 364-380)

      One of the courses that I most enjoy teaching is a freshman seminar called “Appalachia on Film.” As an academic exile from the region (though I occasionally take comfort that Athens, Georgia, is only one county away from official Appalachia, according to the Appalachian Regional Commission’s skewed reasoning), I rarely get the chance to teach Appalachian history at the undergraduate level. I thus jumped at the chance to develop this course when freshman seminars were added as a curricular option at the University of Georgia a few years ago. Many faculty members take this opportunity to bring to the classroom...

  8. Credits
    (pp. 381-384)
  9. Index
    (pp. 385-396)