In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

280CIVIL WAR HISTORY Milledgeville: Georgia's Antebellum Capital. By James C. Bonner. (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1978. Pp. xii, 307. $14.50.) The city of Milledgeville is fortunate in many ways today. Ithas retained much of its nineteenth-century charm unlike Adanta, its successor as capital of Georgia in 1868; it has a vibrant sense of its own heritage that saw the first printing of this book sell out in six months' time; and it has the distinguished historian James C. Bonner, whose knowledge of the city's past is unparalleled. When these three factors are placed in proper juxtaposition die result is a readable, successful, and meaningful book. Bonner's Milledgeville has many obvious strong points, not theleast of which is a clear presentation of the frontier push to and west ofGeorgia's Oconee River—a movement that climaxed, in some respects, with the creation of Baldwin county and the drawing up of Milledgeville's first town plat in 1804. The unusual arrangement of the town lots and die emphasis on public squares (four were designed originally, each of twenty acres) is carefully analyzed. The role of religious and secular groups on the Georgia frontier is assessed, and the influence as well as the physical presence of the Indians is noted in more detail than is generally seen in books of this sort. However, the heart of the book lies properly with a full consideration of Milledgeville's ante-bellum period, and most particularly with an able description of the upper classes. Their homes, manners, and social customs are given proper attention and the institution of slavery in the town is dissected. Municipal and private records are used to advantage to demonstrate that the South's peculiar institution—in Milledgeville at least—was not so cruel and heardess as it has often been made out to be. The Civil War period finds Bonner at his adroit best, but owing to the fact that Milledgeville was on the periphery of military matters, there is litde in the way of the clash of arms. Instead, Bonner contents himself with an exacting examination of the war effort of the entire community. To the present reviewer, however, the book's most useful section deals widi the machinations of a melange of carpetbaggers, scalawags, and Republicans to have the state's capital moved to Atlanta. Bonner denounces the alliance for all he (or it) is worth; he is clearly distressed that the maneuverings of the Adanta políticos were successful. But considering what has happened to the quality of life in the latter town it might be that Bonner—and Milledgeville—should count losing the capital a blessing in disguise. As a result of Milledgeville's economic slowdown and the virtual standstill of population growth since Adanta became Georgia's capital city in 1868, the older city has retained its physical and intellectual identity while Adanta (which had only a fragment of either to begin with) has lost both. The book is not free of weaknesses. Bonner knows the community so well that he occasionally loses the forest amidst the trees; the life of the middling-sort in the town is touched but lightly; the failure to reference BOOK REVIEWS281 Daniel Pratt as well as other master builders and carpenters leaves a curious gap; and if the reader were unaware that Flannery O'Connor was a Milledgeville native, descendant of the Clines, and resident of the town until her death in 1964, he would never know otherwise from this book. O'Connor, the most distinguished alumna of Milledgeville's Georgia State College for Women (now Georgia College) is not mentioned. Finally, where over 230 pages are spent on Milledgeville's first century and a half, not even thirty are devoted to its last onehundred-plus years. Reflective, one supposes, of the old Georgia adage that all the big potatoes are in the ground, but still a strange handling of a community's recent history. The overall effect, though, is of a distinguished historian writing at the peak of his powers. Bonner is discreet, sly, humorous, and eloquent by turn, but he is always perceptive. Milledgeville is, en toto, an excellent piece of...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 280-281
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.