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2007Book Reviews101 William Lowndes Yancey: The Coming of the Civil War. By Eric H. Walther. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006. Pp. 496. Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 0807830275. $39.95, cloth.) Eric Walther's WiUiam Lowndes Yancey: The Coming of the Civil War is the first book-length scholarly study of the personal and political life ofone of the antebellum South's most influential political figures. Yancey was a prominent Southern lawyer,journalist, orator, and sometime politician who promoted Southern secession in the years before the Civil War and played an active role in the Confederate government during the conflict. A full analysis of the activities of the man, one of the most vocal of the fire-eaters who advocated Southern separation from the Union, is long overdue. Using exhaustive resources that include Yancey's personal papers and those ofother prominent Southerners with whom he interacted; state, federal, and Confederate documents; and numerous contemporary newspapers, magazines, books, and pamphlets, Walther fills the void. In this biography, Walther successfully weaves together chapters on Yancey's personal life with others on his responses to antebellum sectional tensions and political events in order to expose Yancey's development both as a man and as a secessionist. A prominent thread of the biography is an analysis of how Yancey's personal life—from his troubled childhood, to his search for a father figure mentor, to his relationships with friends, family, and colleagues throughout his adulthood—shaped his political ideals and actions. Walther discusses the neglect and violence inYancey's childhood, connecting them to his desire for the political limelight and his fiery temperament later in life. He describes the influence that various political mentors had on Yancey's ideology, with a focus on how he shifted from Unionist views under the tutelage of Unionist mentors to his advocacy of Southern secession as men with more radical leanings wielded influence over him. Walther also does an admirablejob ofdescribingYancey's political maturation. AsYancey moved beyond the shadow ofother men during the 1 850s and himselfbecame a mentor ofothers, he also learned how to temper his reactions to his opponents in the name ofpolitical expediency. This growth was particularly important during his political service to the Confederacy, first as a diplomat in Great Britain and then as a member of the Confederate Congress, as he and other fire-eaters served in the more moderate government headed byJefferson Davis. Though the analysis ofhow the personal affects the political is a central theme ofthe biography, the contribution ofWalther's biography goes far beyond the realm of psychohistory. In his account of Yancey's personal and political interactions, the author sheds light on the culture of the antebellum South. Yancey's position on slavery, his conception ofhonor, his familial relationships, and his criticisms of Northern society are a reflection of the society he lived in, and Walther contextualizes Yancey's ideology well. He also exhaustively describes the political world within which Yancey operated. As the title of the book indicates, Walther's book is about more than Yancey. It is also about the coming of the Civil War, and Walther particularly excels in his treatment ofthe subject. Readers will finish the book with a thorough education on antebellum-era politics, made all the more interesting by the focus on how one man engaged in that arena. Walther thus has made a 102Southwestern Historical QuarterlyJuly historical contribution not only in writing the definitive biography ofa prominent Southern leader but also in his detailed discussion of the political and cultural universe within which that leader lived. Texas State UniversityAngela F. Murphy Dhtant Bugles, Distant Drums: The Union Response to the Confederate Invasion ofNew Mexico. By Flint Whitlock. (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2006. Pp. 314. Foreword, maps, illustrations, acknowledgments, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 087081835. $29.95, cloth.) The oudines ofthe Confederate attempt to occupy New Mexico are familiar to most students of the American Civil War. In autumn 1861 a Confederate brigade of three Texas regiments commanded by Brig. Gen. Henry Hopkins Sibley left San Antonio, rode across West Texas, and in early 1862 moved up the Rio Grande into New Mexico Territory. During the next four months several...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9560
Print ISSN
0038-478X
Pages
pp. 101-102
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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