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276civil war history This volume is also valuable because the author served in the regiment of John R. Baylor in New Mexico and with the brigade of James P. Major in Louisiana—units for which there are few accounts. The sketches probably are the only ones available for some of the battles, camps, and marches of that period. Alwyn Barr Texas Tech University Frank Lawrence Owsley, Historian of the Old South: A Memoir. With Letters and Writings of Frank Owsley. By Harriet Chappell Owsley. (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1991. Pp. xviii, 223. $24.95 cloth; $14.95 paper.) At times, the message matters more than the messenger. Who Frank Lawrence Owsley was, for example, is of less moment to historians than what he wrote and its impact on our understanding of the Old South. As the chronicler of Confederate diplomacy in France and England, still more as a pioneer in uncovering the reality of white yeomanry in the slave states, where hitherto planter, poor white, and black alone were thought to dwell, Owsley gave himself a lasting reputation; scholars today still follow the paths he blazed. They need no biography to know what a debt we owe to him, and to his wife and unrecognized ally in research, Harriet Chappell Owsley. Certainly they do not need this one by Mrs. Owsley herself. This is a life without much life to it, a perfectly unremarkable memoir of a rather unremarkable man, free from salacious scandal or wild passion. Horrific qualities do not make an admirable figure out of any subject, but they make a better biography. So does a sense of broader context, here almost wholly lacking. One thing follows another, the significant with the trivial, the mention of work as it progressed next to the pointless anecdote. The result is a study which, while it has slightly more than nothing to say, has not got that much more that it would repay readers hoping to see deeper into the soul of Frank Owsley. If he went through an intellectual Odyssey or personal torment, if he owed his original ideas to upbringing or the professors with whom he trained, or transformed his thinking in response to events in the outside world or colleagues' suggestions, the facts do not appear here. If he ever came to doubt anything in his own work—or if any part of his scholarship has come under merited attack—it goes unsaid. There might have been no World War II, no transformation of scholarship on slavery and the Civil War, no civil rights revolution in the South, for all the attention they receive here. One unnamed black student does appear, at Columbia, but only so that he may arrive one day, "with a smile on his face and his eyes sparkling" to recount having had a real Southern breakfast after so long book reviews277 in the North. Just one fact from this book evokes serious reflection: the contributions of Mrs. Owsley to her husband's collection and completion of material and the sacrifice of her own separate scholarly career that this entailed. Such partnerships, one might surmise, may be far more common in the profession than receive proper credit, outside of a fulsome— if inadequate—note at the end of the acknowledgments. Those for whom closer knowledge of Owsley's trips to Europe, rather dull letters, and quiet career will find this book worth their time. The far greater number of scholars who admire his works will appreciate him enough without it. Mark Wahlgren Summers University of Kentucky Bingham of the Hills: Politician and Diplomat Extraordinary. By Erving E. Beauregard. (New York: Peter Lang, 1989. Pp. vii, 327.) Professor Erving Beauregard has written a detailed biography of one of Ohio's most significant political figures of the nineteenth century. In fact, Steven A. Bingham exercised national leadership in three major episodes in American history: the trial of the Lincoln assassins, the development of the Fourteenth Amendment, and a manager of the House Committee on the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. Living a long and productive life (1815-1900), Bingham's most essential calling was as member of the House of Representatives from 1854-73. Initially a Whig...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 276-277
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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