A Place Called Appomattox (Paperback)
  • A Place Called Appomattox (Paperback)
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A Place Called Appomattox (Paperback)

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Paperback Published: 30/04/2008
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In ""A Place Called Appomattox"", William Marvel turns his extensive Civil War scholarship toward Appomattox County, Virginia, and the village of Appomattox Court House, which became synonymous with the end of the Civil War when Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant there in 1865. Marvel presents a formidably researched and elegantly written analysis of the county from 1848 to 1877, using it as a microcosm of Southern attitudes, class issues, and shifting cultural mores that shaped the Civil War and its denouement.With an eye toward correcting cultural myths and enriching the historical record, Marvel analyzes the rise and fall of the village and county from 1848 to 1877, detailing the domestic, economic, and social vicissitudes of the village, and setting the stage for the flight of Lee's Army toward Appomattox and the climactic surrender that still resonates today.Now available for the first time in paperback, ""A Place Called Appomattox"" reveals a new view of the Civil War, tackling some of the thorniest issues often overlooked by the nostalgic exaggerations and historical misconceptions that surround Lee's surrender.

Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press
ISBN: 9780809328314
Weight: 581 g
Dimensions: 235 x 156 x 25 mm
Edition: Third Edition


MEDIA REVIEWS
We "know" three things about Appomattox Court House:


o Robert E. Lee surrendered to U.S. Grant there.


o Wilmer McLean relearned a bitter lesson he had already absorbed at Manassas: In real estate, it's location, location, location.


o Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and John Brown Gordon commanded a dramatic surrender ceremony in which the victors saluted the vanquished and started the nation on its path to reconciliation.


Well, two out of three ain't bad.


In "A Place Called Appomattox," William Marvel departs from his social history of the Virginia village to explode a few myths about that ceremony.


The one about Grant's selection of Chamberlain to command the formation is especially egregious. In Marvel's view, Grant didn't even envision such a ceremony. The generals he'd left in charge - John Gibbon and Charles Griffin - came up with it as a way rub the Southerners' noses in defeat.


And Chamberlain wasn't in command at all. His brigade was part of the Fifth Corps division that took the surrender, meaning Joseph Bartlett, the division commander, was actually in charge.


Was there a salute? Not really. In a move designed more to keep order than to greet the surrendering rebels, Chamberlain ordered his brigade to shoulder arms. Had he intended a salute, he would have told his men to "present" arms.


So how did the myth come about? In Marvel's words, "while [Chamberlain] was courageous and coolheaded he also tended to wrap life's little dramas in ribbons of romantic imagery in which he, himself, was somehow entwined." Chamberlain embellished his memory of the event some thirty years after the fact, when comrades who could have disputed his version were long dead. When fellow politician Gordon caught wind of Chamberlain's story, he chose not to refute it, but added a few frills of his own.


In Marvel's book, the story of th


We know three things about Appomattox Court House:


o Robert E. Lee surrendered to U.S. Grant there.


o Wilmer McLean relearned a bitter lesson he had already absorbed at Manassas: In real estate, it s location, location, location.


o Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and John Brown Gordon commanded a dramatic surrender ceremony in which the victors saluted the vanquished and started the nation on its path to reconciliation.


Well, two out of three ain t bad.


In "A Place Called Appomattox," William Marvel departs from his social history of the Virginia village to explode a few myths about that ceremony.


The one about Grant s selection of Chamberlain to command the formation is especially egregious. In Marvel s view, Grant didn t even envision such a ceremony. The generals he d left in charge John Gibbon and Charles Griffin came up with it as a way rub the Southerners noses in defeat.


And Chamberlain wasn t in command at all. His brigade was part of the Fifth Corps division that took the surrender, meaning Joseph Bartlett, the division commander, was actually in charge.


Was there a salute? Not really. In a move designed more to keep order than to greet the surrendering rebels, Chamberlain ordered his brigade to shoulder arms. Had he intended a salute, he would have told his men to "present" arms.


So how did the myth come about? In Marvel s words, while [Chamberlain] was courageous and coolheaded he also tended to wrap life s little dramas in ribbons of romantic imagery in which he, himself, was somehow entwined. Chamberlain embellished his memory of the event some thirty years after the fact, when comrades who could have disputed his version were long dead. When fellow politician Gordon caught wind of Chamberlain s story, he chose not to refute it, but added a few frills of his own.


In Marvel s book, the story of the surrender is the climax to a narrative that begins in 1845, when the Virginia General Assembly decided to carve out a new county. The county seat grew around a run-down tavern through events considerably less dramatic than the 1865 surrender that made the village famous.


In fact, so undramatic is the story of Appomattox and its people that, in less skilled hands, this book would be downright tedious. Marvel s flair for language turns a collection of vital statistics births, deaths, marriages and real estate transactions into a living story of humanity.


In "A Place Called Appomattox," we come to know some ordinary people who lived their lives in an extraordinary time. The war had a profound effect on those lives, even though there was little or no combat in the vicinity until that fateful Palm Sunday weekend in 1865.


Like their contemporaries from every community north and south, many of the village s young men lost their lives in battle, and even more died of disease. But Marvel reminds us of a fact that s frequently overlooked: The era s diseases took almost as heavy a toll on those who stayed at home. (Typhoid fever seemed to be the biggest killer.)


Not every man of the village marched off to the defense of Old Virginia. A great many, especially those with money and influence, did what they could to stay out of harm s way joining the militia, finding an occupation that carried a draft exemption, or just pulling strings.


Newcomer Wilmer McLean, whose parlor was the site of the surrender, wasn t the village s most distinguished citizen. That title would belong to Thomas Bocock, a local politician who became Speaker of the Confederate House of Representatives.


Another resident was an even more storied figure Sam Sweeney, the banjo-playing mascot of J.E.B. Stuart s cavalry. Sweeney s brother, Joel, who also lived in the village, is credited with perfecting the five-string banjo, as well as developing the minstrel show as a vehicle for his new instrument.


Not long after the war ended, Appomattox Court House began to decline. By the turn of the century, it was almost a ghost town. It wasn t the war or Reconstruction but mundane economic factors that led to the village s demise. In fact, whatever life the locality has today is due to the war. With an assist from the National Park Service, it has become a tourist magnet.


"A Place Called Appomattox" is a lively, compelling look at the Civil War s human story. And you ll never think of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain the same way again.


.""
--Jerry Carrier"Lincoln Herald" (06/04/2008)"

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