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In the presence of mine enemies : war in the heart of America, 1859-1863
Ayers, Edward L.
Adult Nonfiction E468 .A98 2003

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Two counties, one in Virginia and one in Pennsylvania, are united by the vast Shenandoah Valley, but divided by the Mason-Dixon line. As late as 1859, these border counties, and by extension their respective states, saw themselves not on opposite sides of a divided nation but as the historic and contemporary heart of a country where such forces as a shared history and a common language made civil war inconceivable. The inhabitants of both counties initially prided themselves on resisting provocation by fire-eaters in the far North and the deep South. Ironically, they eventually committed themselves fully, sacrificing blood and wealth unstintingly to a conflict few of them welcomed. That process, however, was by no means straightforward, as Ayers (The Promise of the New South) brilliantly shows. If Confederate supporters in Augusta County, Va., ultimately accepted slavery as the touchstone of their social order, they also insisted they were fighting for the right to be left alone, free of a Northern influence perceived as increasingly alien. Their counterparts in Pennsylvania's Franklin County went to war not to destroy slavery but to prevent the South from destroying the Union by leaving it. Emancipation grew from the contingencies of war-and not the least of these was the increasing determination of black Americans to take charge of their own destinies, thereby challenging at its roots the social contract established by the revolution of 1776. Ayers tells his complex story with a master's touch, shifting smoothly between North and South, and between the lesser worlds of his two counties and the wider events of the war that changed them both utterly. He pauses with Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania in 1863, just before the Battle of Gettysburg-a decision both intellectually and aesthetically satisfying. This volume lays the groundwork; we are left to anticipate the climax and the denouement to be presented in its successor. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Ayers (Hugh P. Kelly Professor of History, Univ. of Virgina; The Promise of the New South) covers the early Civil War histories of two border counties in the Great Valley spanning Pennsylvania and Virginia: Franklin (Chambersburg) and Augusta (Staunton), respectively. This first volume of his case study, sponsored by the University of Virginia's Valley of the Shadow Project, treats the lives of ordinary citizens who had initially opposed the concept of disunion and then, swept along by national events, embraced both secession and its armed resistance with fanatical zeal. From First Manassas to Chancellorsville, the author delves into what the war's dire consequences meant to these communities: loss of life, impressment of slaves and commodities, economic dislocation, human privation, political infighting, and intolerance, as reflective of a suffering nation. Ayers insightfully observes that Franklin residents waged war to maintain connection with a slaveocracy they despised, while Augusta's population risked all in order to secure "property rights" that had never been challenged in any concrete way. He concludes that the secret of the Civil War was that so many Americans wanted it to come to demonstrate that they held God's favor. This original and gracefully written work, based on exhaustive primary research, should be required reading for Civil War enthusiasts and scholars alike. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/03.]-John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Lib., Athens (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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