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

i86civil war history concentration of enemy fire, he continued walking calmly among the troops even as Confederate bullets tore through his uniform. The letters are interesting also for what the reader learns of Abbott's social and political views. He acknowledged customs of social deference, judged other officers at least partly by their ability to act as gentlemen, and looked down upon people he viewed as coming from the lower classes. Abbott, after once noticing a resemblance between a poor man's child and his own younger brother, Grafton, noted that he must have been mistaken and wrote, "Indeed, it would be strange if a man of [that] social condition could have a child that looked like Grafton" (84). Abbott's prejudices extended also to immigrants, blacks, and Republicans. He derided foreign-born troops as "a beastly set of Dutch boors, Macaronis, and Frogratecs" (237), wrote of one fellow officer's "heavy air of German stupidity" (92), and said of another that "[i]f it were not for his Irish characteristics, he would be an uncommonly good officer" (172). Abbott proclaimed himself a copperhead, believed the war's purpose was to preserve the Union, criticized abolitionists and Republican politicians, and said the Emancipation Proclamation was "received with universal disgust" (161) in his regiment. Abbott often praised General George B. McClellan, whom he called "the greatest general the country ever produced" (140), although this opinion was not purely political. Abbott and his correspondents come to life through the letters, which are accompanied by an introduction, epilogue, background notes, map, and thirty-three photographic reproductions. Scott skillfully edits the collection and ties together the 139 letters into a unified account while preserving the integrity ofthe original documents and making only those changes needed for clarification. Overall, the work offers something of interest to a variety of readers. Francis C. Steckel University of Alabama Wartime Washington: The Civil War Letters ofElizabeth Blair Lee. Edited by Virginia Jean Laas. (Urbana-Champaign and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1991. Pp. xii, 552. $39-95) There is no doubt that memoirs, letters, and diaries of Civil War participants and observers continue to hold readers' attention. Few, however, are written by women, and fewer still have found editors and publishers to present them to the public. This makes the letters of Elizabeth Blair Lee an exceptional jewel in the treasury of published Civil War documents. Elizabeth Blair, born in 1818, was the daughter of Kentucky statesman Francis Preston Blair, whose political career took him to Washington, D.C, where he joined Andrew Jackson's Kitchen Cabinet. In 1836 the family purchased Blair House, which faces the White House and became in 1942 the official presidential guest house. In 1843 Elizabeth married a distant cousin of Robert E. BOOK REVIEWS1 87 Lee, Samuel Phillips Lee, who advanced to the position of rear admiral in the United States Navy. Her elder brother, Montgomery Blair, served as Lincoln's postmaster general; her younger brother, Frank, was elected congressman from Missouri. Her circle of family, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances included many of the insiders of the Lincoln administration. But she remained, at the same time, a loyal friend to Varina Davis, wife of the Confederacy's president. Thus her letters provide an unusual perspective beyond the intimate, even gossipy, view ofthose who served in high places. She came from a Southern slave-owning family, with relatives and friends on the Southern side. Her letters reveal better than any woman's published account the anguish of a nation and of families torn asunder. A loyal Union supporter, she pitied those whom she saw as deluded by the secessionist movement. Phillips Lee's naval duties during the war kept him away from home most of the time, and in the course of their separation Elizabeth wrote some nine hundred letters, 368 of which, dated from December 5, i860, to April 25, 1865, have been included in this volume. The letters report both the stirring news of great battles and the innocent prattle of their only child, Blair, who celebrated his fifth birthday in August 1862. For political historians the letters offer valuable insights. In one example Elizabeth Lee attended the January 1861 session...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 186-188
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.