Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Upcountry South Carolina Goes to War: Letters of the Anderson, Brockman, and Moore Families, 1853-1865

by Tom Moore Craig

From the publisher:
This title features Civil War letters to and from Spartanburg, South Carolina, rich with details on the battlefront and home front. Upcountry South Carolina Goes to War chronicles through correspondence the lives and concerns of prominent families in piedmont South Carolina during the late-antebellum and Civil War eras.

The 124 letters presented here were written by members of the Anderson, Brockman, and Moore families of Spartanburg County, neighboring planter-class families united by their shared Scots-Irish ancestry and their membership at Nazareth Presbyterian Church. Edited by Tom Moore Craig, a descendant of the volume's subjects, and augmented with an introduction by Southern historian Melissa Walker and Craig, these letters offer valuable firsthand accounts of evolving attitudes toward the war as conveyed between battlefronts and the home front.

The majority of the letters were written by or to John Crawford Anderson, Andrew Charles Moore, and Thomas John Moore - contemporaries drawn together by their common dedication to the Confederate cause. The earliest letters in this collection were written by these young men and their relatives from boarding schools, South Carolina College, the Citadel, Limestone College, and the University of Virginia Law School.

Andrew Charles Moore's letters describing his travels to Washington, D.C., and New York in the spring of 1860 give insight into the prevailing politics of the nation on the cusp of division. The wartime correspondence begins in 1861 as the men of service age from each family join the Confederate ranks and write from military camps in Virginia and the Carolinas. Letters describe combat in the battles of Five Forks, First and Second Manassas, the Wilderness, Secessionville, Spotsylvania, Petersburg, and Seven Pines. Though the surviving combatants remain staunch patriots to the Southern cause until the bitter end, their letters show the waning of initial enthusiasm in the face of the realities of combat, loss of lives, and supply shortages. The letters from the home front offer a more pragmatic assessment of the period and its hardships. Embedded in this dialogue are valuable elements of social and economic history, including references to popular music and literature, accounts of fundraising efforts to sustain the war, and laments on the fluctuating prices and availability of staple crops and commodities. Included as well are two letters by family slaves who accompanied their masters to war, rare finds as it was illegal in South Carolina to teach slaves to read and write.

The collection ends with John Crawford Anderson's letter home from Appomattox, Thomas John Moore's poignant story of his return from a prison camp on Johnson's Island on Lake Erie, and a letter from cousin John Cunningham outlining his plan to implement a sharecropping system on his plantation. Emblematic of the fates of many Southern families, the experiences of these representative South Carolinians are dramatically illustrated in their letters from the eve of the Civil War through its conclusion.

Tom Moore Craig is a retired history teacher and school administrator, a former legislator, and an active community volunteer in his native Spartanburg County. He is the great-grandson of letter writers Mary Elizabeth Anderson Moore and Thomas John Moore, whose marriage united the Anderson and Moore families represented in this volume. Melissa Walker is the George Dean Johnson Jr. Professor of History at Converse College in Spartanburg. Her previous books include Country Women Cope with Hard Times: A Collection of Oral Histories and All We Knew Was to Farm: Rural Women in the Upcountry South, 1919-1941, winner of the Willie Lee Rose Prize of the Southern Association for Women Historians.