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Race, War, and Remembrance in the Appalachian South

John Inscoe

Publication Year: 2008

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.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Front cover

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pp. vi


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xv

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pp. 1-10

Late in the fall of 1861, James W. Taylor, a Minnesota journalist, published an extraordinary series of articles in the St. Paul Daily Press in 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...

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1. Race and Racism in Nineteenth-Century Appalachia: Myths, Realities, and Ambiguities

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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...

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2. Between Bondage and Freedom: Confronting the Variables of Appalachian Slavery and Slaveholding

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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...

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3. Olmsted in Appalachia: A Connecticut Yankee Encounters Slavery in the Southern Highlands, 1854

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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...

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4. Mountain Masters as Confederate Opportunists:The Slave Trade in Western North Carolina, 1861–1865

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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...

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5. The Secession Crisis and Regional Self-Image: The Contrasting Cases of Western North Carolina and East Tennessee

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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...

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6. Highland Households Divided:Familial Deceptions, Diversions, and Divisions in Southern Appalachia’s Inner Civil War

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pp. 124-143

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...

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7. Coping in Confederate Appalachia: Portrait of a Mountain Woman and Her Community at War

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pp. 144-174

Late in the summer of 1863, an anonymous “Voice from Cherokee County” wrote a letter to the North Carolina Standard in 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...

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8. "Moving through Deserter Country": Fugitive Accounts of Southern Appalachia’s Inner Civil War

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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...

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9. "Talking Heroines": Elite Mountain Women as Chroniclers of Stoneman’s Raid, April 1865

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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 entitled The 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...

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10. The Racial "Innocence" of Appalachia: William Faulkner and the Mountain South

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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...

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11. A Fugitive Slave in Frontier Appalachia: The Journey of August King on Film

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pp. 242-255

In Jerry Williamson’s book Hillbillyland, the most comprehensive study so far of Hollywood’s depiction of the mountain South, there is no mention of black people. In Thomas Cripps’s Slow 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...

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12. "A Northern Wedge Thrust into the Heart of the Confederacy": Explaining Civil War Loyalties in the Age of Appalachian Discovery, 1900–1921

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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...

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13. Unionists in the Attic: The Shelton Laurel Massacre Dramatized

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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...

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14. Appalachian Odysseus: Love, War, and Best-sellerdom in the Blue Ridge

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pp. 303-321

Late in the summer of 1997, Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain hit the top of the New York Times best 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’s North and South has a Civil War novel ever made its way into that top spot...

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15. Guerrilla War and Remembrance: Reconstructing a Father’s Murder and a Community’s Civil War

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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...

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16. Race and Remembrance in West Virginia: John Henry for a Postmodernist Age

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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 Days was the much-anticipated second novel by Colin Whitehead, who made a considerable literary splash with his debut effort...

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17. In Defense of Appalachia on Film: Hollywood, History, and the Highland South

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pp. 364-381

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...


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pp. 381-384


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pp. 385-395

E-ISBN-13: 9780813129617
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813124995

Page Count: 412
Publication Year: 2008