A Gentleman and an Officer: A Military and Social History of James B. Griffin's Civil Warby Orville Vernon Burton
In 1861, James B. Griffin left Edgefield, South Carolina and rode off to Virginia to take up duty with the Confederate Army in a style that befitted a Southern gentleman: on a fine-blooded horse, with two slaves to wait on him, two trunks, and his favorite hunting dog. He was thirty-five years old, a wealthy planter, and the owner of sixty-one slaves when he joined Wade Hampton's elite Legion as a major of cavalry. He left behind seven children, the eldest only twelve, and a wife who was eight and a half months pregnant. As a field officer in a prestigious unit, the opportunities for fame and glory seemed limitless.
In A Gentleman and an Officer, Judith N. McArthur and Orville Vernon Burton have collected eighty of Griffin's letters to his wife Leila written at the Virginia front, and during later postings on the South Carolina coast. Extraordinary in their breadth and volume, the letters encompass Griffin's entire Civil War service. Unlike the reminiscences and biographies of high-ranking, well-known Confederate officers or studies and edited collections of letters of members of the rank and file, this collection sheds light on the life of a middle officer -- a life turned upside down by extreme military hardship and complicated further by the continuing need for reassurance about personal valor and status common to men of the southern gentry.
With a fascinating combination of military and social history, A Gentleman and an Officer moves from the beginning of the Civil War at Fort Sumter through the end of the war and Reconstruction, vividly illustrating how the issues of the Civil War were at once devastatingly national and revealingly local.
Meet the Author
Judith N. McArthur is Lecturer in History at the University of Houston-Victoria and co-editor of Citizens at Last: The Woman Suffrage Movement in Texas. Orville Vernon Burton is Professor of History and Sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the author or editor of a number of books, including In My Father's House Are Many Mansions: Family and Community in Edgefield, South Carolina.
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