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A Place Called Appomattox

William Marvel

Publication Year: 2008

In A Place Called Appomattox, William Marvel turns his extensive Civil War scholarship toward Appomattox County, Virginia, and the village of Appomattox Court House, which became synonymous with the end of the Civil War when Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant there in 1865.  Marvel presents a formidably researched and elegantly written analysis of the county from 1848 to 1877, using it as a microcosm of Southern attitudes, class issues, and shifting cultural mores that shaped the Civil War and its denouement.

With an eye toward correcting cultural myths and enriching the historical record, Marvel analyzes the rise and fall of the village and county from 1848 to 1877, detailing the domestic economic and social vicissitudes of the village, and setting the stage for the flight of Lee’s Army toward Appomattox and the climactic surrender that still resonates today.

Now available for the first time in paperback, A Place Called Appomattox reveals a new view of the Civil War, tackling some of the thorniest issues often overlooked by the nostalgic exaggerations and historical misconceptions that surround Lee’s surrender.


Published by: Southern Illinois University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-8

Maps & Illustrations

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pp. viii-9

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pp. ix-x

For the majority of Americans, including the preponderance of those who witnessed the historic events there, the name ‘‘Appomattox’’ has signified only the place where our Civil War came to an end. It consisted, so far as most moderns know, of nothing more than a brick home and a courthouse that some manage to confuse with each other, ...

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1. The Tavern

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pp. 1-23

John Raine might have been forgiven a touch of melancholy on the eve of his fiftieth birthday, for in the spring of 1845 the half-century mark served as an even greater reminder of man’s mortality than it would in a more salubrious time. For Raine, however, the eleventh of April that year signified more than the last day of his fifth decade. ...

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2. The Railroad

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pp. 24-48

Colonel McDearmon had taken a sabbatical from politics, leaving his seat in the House of Delegates to Henry Flood. During his sojourn at home, McDearmon funded the construction of a substantial building on an acre of land just south of the village, across the Prince Edward Court House Road. ...

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3. The Crisis

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pp. 49-77

By the autumn of 1856, the plank road had connected Clover Hill with the James River, by way of Oakville. The roadbed lay twenty feet wide, with eight feet of that covered in thick boards on timber runners. That would have been a much more valuable asset a decade previously, when the James River canal offered the easiest ...

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4. The Parting

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pp. 78-103

One of the mail bags that arrived during the Clover Hill muster carried letters of appointment from Governor John Letcher, who tried to achieve political balance in selecting county commissioners for the presidential election.He chose a former Whig, Thomas H. Flood, a unionist Democrat in Flood’s cousin, Henry Bocock, and Crawford Jones, ...

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5. The Crusade

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pp. 104-132

The armies strode mightily over Virginia’s landscape that spring. Fearing that stronger Union forces could easily slip around his Manassas defenses, General Joseph Johnston decided to withdraw to a safer position near Richmond, and early in March Confederate soldiers began filing out of their winter camps. ...


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pp. 133-162

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6. The Siege

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pp. 163-197

Betty Harvey spent the rest of July and August trying to determine what had become of her husband. Four days after he was wounded she wrote him her customary weekly letter, sending it by way of Richmond with no idea where he was, or that he had even been in a battle. ...

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7. The Flight

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pp. 198-220

Having wrung every white citizen from the South who could be attracted, persuaded, cajoled, shamed, or forced into the army, the Confederate Congress finally authorized the unthinkable: the government that had been established in protection of the right to enslave black people turned, in the final extremity, to those very black people for its salvation. ...

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8. The Meeting

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pp. 221-246

Over the past four years more than 700 Appomattox men had taken up arms, either literally or metaphorically. More than a hundred had fled Richmond with their companies on the fiery night of April 2; perhaps a score of those—all that remained of the 700—crossed the county line with the army on April 8. ...

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9. The Parade

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pp. 247-264

Rain fell through the night, drenching tents and any who slept without them. Morning met a lowering sky, and periodic cloudbursts emptied upon the helpless multitude throughout the day.Waking sodden, cold, and hungry, soldiers cast about for fuel to warm themselves and dry what was, for most on the Confederate side, ...

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10. The Trial

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pp. 265-292

Congressman Washburne had ridden only six miles from Appomattox Court House when he encountered Major General Fitzhugh Lee on the Prince Edward Court House Road, returning from his intended escape to share the fate of his uncle’s army. The younger General Lee’s troopers had trailed away by the dozens as he made his way to Lynchburg, ...

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11. The Resurrection

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pp. 293-316

One year after Lee’s surrender another sweet burst of spring provoked remembrance among the women of Appomattox Court House. The troubling uncertainty of national collapse and economic turmoil had ebbed, and they made their way to church or the village store with minds less muddled by plans for mere survival. ...

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Epilogue: The Dedication

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pp. 317-320

Still seeking to exploit the historic significance of the site in 1925, the chamber of commerce in Appomattox appointed the inevitable committee to pursue construction of a shrine at the old courthouse ruins. The businessmen chose a local minister, the publisher of the town newspaper, and their state senator, Sam Ferguson. ...


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pp. 321-368


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pp. 369-384

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Sources & Acknowledgments

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pp. 385-388

Twice now have I begun the acknowledgments of one of my own books by citing the early influence of MacKinlay Kantor. His Andersonville, which I read in high school, offered the epic treatment in fiction of a subject that had not, curiously enough, been similarly documented in history, and some years ago I undertook to correct that omission. ...


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pp. 389-400

Author Bio, Back Cover

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pp. 414-415

E-ISBN-13: 9780809387205
E-ISBN-10: 0809387204
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809328314
Print-ISBN-10: 0809328313

Page Count: 416
Illustrations: 66
Publication Year: 2008