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BOOK REVIEWS Stephen S. Renfroe, Alabama's Outlaw Sheriff. By William Warren Rogers and Ruth Pruitt. (Tallahassee, Florida: Sentry Press, 1972. Pp. 148. $7.50.) Stephen S. Renfroe is something of a legend among Alabamians, but very little about him has previously appeared in print. In this slim volume Professors Rogers and Pruitt have sought to separate fact from fiction and fill the wide gaps in his life story. While Renfroe served courageously during the Civil War, he nevertheless deserted the Confederate Army for unknown reasons at the beginning of 1864. This seems to have been no onus, for he returned to Sumter County, Alabama , and during the post war period he married several times, joined the Ku Klux Klan, helped to drive out carpetbaggers and scalawags, and to end Republican rule. Grateful Sumter County citizens elected him sheriff. But he then mysteriously became an outlaw, murdered a number of people, was captured a number of times, made several miraculous escapes, but was finally apprehended and hanged by a mob in July 1886. It is a curious and intriguing story, and Professors Rogers and Pruitt have unraveled and documented it reasonably well. Still much, by the authors' admission, is unclear and unknown, and it probably will always be that way. Relevant materials are scarce and scattered, and, of course, Renfroe deliberately obscured most of his past. Despite these obvious difficulties, Rogers and Pruitt believe that Renfroe's story should be studied and published because aside from the legends that surround him, he surely lived an uncommon life which was inseparable from the highly unsettled years of the pre-war, war, and Reconstruction era. Moreover, they have shown that the enigmatic Renfroe influenced the course of politics in Alabama's Black Belt. The resulting account is, however, necessarily uneven, speculative, and leaves many questions unanswered, the most important of which is why Renfroe turned to crime after his election as sheriff. The narrative , especially in chapters five through eight, submerges Renfroe to the point that it is difficult for the reader to connect events in the outlaw sheriff's career. Much of the material therefore does not bear directly on Renfroe, but instead offers some interesting insights and details about the social, political, and economic life in Alabama's Black Belt during Reconstruction. 80 The book has an attractive jacket, readable print, a serviceable bibliography and an index. Footnotes are conveniently placed at the bottom of pages. But writing quality is uneven, attributable perhaps to the joint authorship. However, the concluding chapters, unlike several preceding them, are quite smooth and the narrative becomes dramatic and even exciting at times. Professors Rogers and Pruitt are to be commended for undertaking the difficult task of separating fact from fiction. They have succeeded in this object to a significant degree. Despite the facts about Renfroe's life that have been developed, he still emerges as a legendary figure about whom Alabamians will continue to ponder. Charles P. Cullop East Carolina University A Naval History of the Civil War. By Howard P. Nash, Jr. (South Brunswick and New York: A. S. Barnes and Co., 1972. Pp. 325. $9.95.) Howard P. Nash, Jr., has attempted the impossible: to write a concise single volume history of Civil War naval operations. As such, this book suffers defects common to histories of this type dealing with the Civil War. Because of the space factor, the author is compelled to telescope major events and campaigns and to gloss over elements which may be vital to an understanding of why the belligerents acted as they did. In addition, the author is forced to rely on secondary sources to a degree unacceptable to historians favoring the monographic approach to a complex subject. When an author does this he perpetuates errors of fact and interpretation. This is unfortunate because Mr. Nash has a good literary style and a keen insight into his subject. Despite these shortcomings many Civil War buffs will find Mr. Nash's book interesting and useful. Chapter one finds the author at his best. The reader is introduced to Secretaries Gideon Welles and Stephen Mallory, and the problems they had to master are tersely analyzed. Although the North enjoyed...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 80-81
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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