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author of Cry Havoc! The Crooked Road to Civil War, 1861 and editor of the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography -
Showdown in Virginia will make accessible to a much broader audience than before perhaps the most important body of primary source material about the breakup of the Upper South in 1861. These were the final months of what would later be called the antebellum era, and it is in looking at the proceedings from that perspective—of being on the eve of a great national calamity without knowing what shape it would take—that gives them immense poignancy. By examining the words of the Convention, the modern reader can glimpse the uncertainty, anxiety, and hope that Virginians felt in the spring of 1861.