Topsy-Turvy: How the Civil War Turned the World Upside Down for Southern Children

Overview

"Oh! Such cannonading on all sides, such shrieks and groans, such commotion of all kinds!" wrote the teenaged Sue Chancellor, a Virginia planter's daughter, in May 1863. "We thought that we were frightened before, but this was far beyond everything. . . . Oh, the horror of that day!" Sue's reactions to the Civil War around her was only one of myriad responses to the conflict from children—boys or girls, black or white, slave or free, rich or poor. They experienced the war differently from adults, and their experiences were by no means uniform. In ...
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Overview

"Oh! Such cannonading on all sides, such shrieks and groans, such commotion of all kinds!" wrote the teenaged Sue Chancellor, a Virginia planter's daughter, in May 1863. "We thought that we were frightened before, but this was far beyond everything. . . . Oh, the horror of that day!" Sue's reactions to the Civil War around her was only one of myriad responses to the conflict from children—boys or girls, black or white, slave or free, rich or poor. They experienced the war differently from adults, and their experiences were by no means uniform. In Topsy-Turvy, Anya Jabour brings into sharp relief the way in which gender, race, slavery, and status shaped the lives of children in the American South before, during, and after the Civil War. She argues persuasively that the identities children developed in the antebellum era shaped their responses to the upheavals of the war years and their lives after the war's conclusion. Even as Topsy-Turvy presents the Civil War as a major turning point in Southern children's lives, it also illuminates the interplay between continuity and change in the history of the American South. Because the war was fought largely on Southern soil, parts of the region became a "permanent landscape of war," and children in the Confederacy thus experienced the struggle in an especially profound and personal way. Deeply researched, abundantly illustrated, and engagingly written, the book is a major contribution to Southern history. With 28 black-and-white illustrations.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
University of Montana professor Jabour explores the American Civil War through its effects on children, both black and white, from the time before the war to Reconstruction. Jabour's extensive use of journals, diaries, and records of interviews with adults who lived through the war as children enlivens her text considerably. The recollection of a former slave girl's comment to a passing white boy-"Bottom rail on top now!"-is but one example of the power of Jabour's anecdotes. Given the efficacy of these recollections, it's unfortunate that Jabour chose not to expand more on the people she includes. Instead, her writing suffers from an overtly academic style with a tendency toward obvious statements such as, "...children's attitudes toward the national conflict were shaped by their families and their identities." While the unique topic is intriguing, and the use of primary sources admirable, the ultimate result is nonetheless disappointing. 28 b&w illustrations.
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Civil War Book Review
At the end of Topsy-Turvy the reader might contemplate whether this is a study of the Civil War told through the lens of children, or a study of childhood told through the lens of the events of war? That this question cannot be easily answered reveals the ultimate strength of the book, telling a complex tale of both individual lives and social values disrupted and re-shaped both by the events of war and by growing-up.
The Lone Star Book Review
A great read.
Journal of American History
Jabour's beautifully conceived and eminently readable book on children of the Civil War adds a critical layer to our understanding about nationalism and the Southern home front. Her comprehensive analysis of the war's youngest political actors sheds particular light on their later role as creators of a New South.
The Journal Of Southern History
Topsy-Turvy does have much to recommend it to a general readership. It is blessedly free of jargon, making for a simple social history narrative....The author is diligent and inclusive, and she should be lauded especially for bringing the children of poor whites and free blacks into the story of the Civil War....Jacbour's work is readable, interesting, and useful for shattering a number of common stereotypes.
The Journal of Southern History
Topsy-Turvy does have much to recommend it to a general readership. It is blessedly free of jargon, making for a simple social history narrative....The author is diligent and inclusive, and she should be lauded especially for bringing the children of poor whites and free blacks into the story of the Civil War....Jacbour's work is readable, interesting, and useful for shattering a number of common stereotypes.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566636322
  • Publisher: Dee, Ivan R. Publisher
  • Publication date: 9/16/2010
  • Series: American Childhoods Series
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Anya Jabour is professor of history and co-director of women's and gender studies at the University of Montana, Missoula. She has also written Marriage in the Early Republic, Major Problems in the History of American Families and Children, and Scarlett's Sisters: Young Women in the Old South. She lives in Missoula, MT.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Confederate Childhoods
Chapter 1: Family and Identity: Growing Up in a Slave Society
Chapter 2: Taking Sides: Children's Perspectives on Slavery, Secession, and Civil War
Chapter 3: Play and Work: Continuity and Change in the Confederate South
Chapter 4: Refugees and Runaways: Dislocation and Opportunity in a War Zone
Chapter 5: Defeat and Freedom: The Reconstruction of Southern Childhood
Chapter 6: Memory and Meaning: Remembering Slavery and the Civil War
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2011

    Great History

    I am a child of the South with a family history rooted in plantation slave owners. This history is excellent in its scope and detail. As I read it I realized that these dynamics explained quite a lot about the attitudes and relationships that still existed in my rural community in central Georgia in the 1950's.
    There was a good bit of repetition of information in the book that made it tedious at times. There was also a lot of fine detail and unsparing and unflinching descriptions of the lives of the slaves that made me cringe.
    I have been a student of the Civil War from childhood and this is a fine history to add to my understanding of the way the war personally affected ordinary people of the day and continued to affect the region for generations after.

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