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280CIVIL WAR HISTORY The Children of Pride: A True Story of Georgia and the Civil War. Edited by Robert Myers. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1971. Pp. xxv, 1845. $19.95.) Some years ago in reviewing Green Mount, the records left by a Virginia family during the war, the writer had to remind himself that he was not reading Thomas Nelson Page's version of the Old South legend. In like fashion Children of Pride irresistibly evokes Gone with the Wind, and especially Ashley Wilkes's observation that "before the war, life was beautiful. There was a glamor to it, a perfection and a completeness and a symmetry to it like Grecian art. . . . Maybe it wasn't so to everyone , I know that now. But to me, . . . there was a real beauty to living." However cloying Thomas Nelson Page often was, however one-sided a picture Margaret Mitchell drew, Green Mount and Children of Pride are compelling evidence that what they wrote about did exist, that it is not the product of weak-minded romanticizing. One can easily understand why the Fleet family in Virginia and the Jones family in Georgia were willing to fight to save their way of life. Robert Manson Myers has taken the voluminous letters of the Charles Colcock Jones family, their relatives and friends during the years 18541868 and has constructed a remarkable narrative in the mode of an epistolary novel. It was a monumental undertaking skillfully executed. The Jones family owned three plantations in southeastern Georgia, altogether about 3600 acres inhabited by 129 slaves. Despite this seeming affluence, theirs was not a luxurious life. They were often short of hard cash, if not in debt. But it was a bountiful life, lived close to nature, and before the war had a quality of timelessness that was perhaps its most unique and most valuable attribute. Yet it was an intensely human existence, no dream world. As Mr. Myers points out, the most common topics discussed (before 1861) were health, the weather, and religion. Sickness and death were everpresent. But although these people suffered from diseases since eliminated by modern medicine, there were advantages. In the case of incurable ailments, ignorance gave hope up to the very end. Reverend Jones suffered from a mysterious "nervous inaction" that finally hastened his demise. But all through the years he tinkered with this and that remedy, with blisters on the spine and galvanic batteries, and even a little wine, so there was always hope, and he certainly did not act like an invalid. Death, being so familiar, was recognized, accepted, and assimilated as a part of life in a way foreign to our time. This attitude was perhaps even more directly the outgrowth of a deep and pervading faith. The Christian piety in much of this correspondence is unrelenting, to say the least. It was a pious age, of course, but that tendency was no doubt magnified because the senior Jones was a Presbyterian divine whose life's work was being a missionary to the slaves. He was, it seems, a truly saintly man. His wife, Mary, was even more prone to tract-like exhortations especially when writing to her three children. Both parents BOOK REVIEWS281 were distressed because their eldest son, Charles, ]r.x had not accepted Christ. During and after heart-rending ordeals in which Charles had lost both his young wife and his little daughter, the parents, thinking to strike while the iron was hot, repeatedly pointed out the lesson of these afflictions and the error of his way. The words sound cruel to the modern ear, but they were not so meant or so taken, because they sprang from an utterly sincere conviction that this life was above all a preparation for eternity. In that frame of reference, the complete acceptance of the institution of chattel slavery does not seem strange. The blacks were considered to be a childish race, requiring tutelage (the duration of which only God could determine) to civilize them and prepare them to receive Christ and win eternal life. That was mission of Reverend Jones, who naturally believed that slavery was sanctioned by the Bible to serve these rather...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 280-285
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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