By Judith N. McArthur
In 1861, James B. Griffin left Edgefield, South Carolina and rode off to Virginia to take in accountability with the accomplice military in a method that befitted a Southern gentleman: on a fine-blooded horse, with slaves to attend on him, trunks, and his favourite searching puppy. He used to be thirty-five years outdated, a prosperous planter, and the landlord of sixty-one slaves whilst he joined Wade Hampton's elite Legion as a tremendous of cavalry. He left at the back of seven teenagers, the eldest simply twelve, and a spouse who used to be 8 and a part months pregnant. As a box officer in a prestigious unit, the possibilities for reputation and glory appeared unlimited. Griffin, in spite of the fact that, played no bold acts, nor did he motivate nice loyalty in his males. in its place, he unknowingly supplied a distinct and useful portrait of the accomplice officials who shaped the center of Southern political, army, and company management. In A Gentleman and an Officer, Judith N. McArthur and Orville Vernon Burton have gathered 80 of Griffin's letters written on the Virginia entrance, and through later postings at the South Carolina coast, to his spouse Leila Burt Griffin. outstanding of their breadth and quantity, the letters surround Griffin's complete Civil warfare provider, detailing residing stipulations and army maneuvers, the jockeying for place between officials, and different methods officials and enlisted males interacted throughout the Civil warfare. in contrast to the memories and biographies of high-ranking, recognized accomplice officials or reviews and edited collections of letters of individuals of the rank and dossier, this assortment sheds gentle at the lifetime of a center officer--a existence became the wrong way up by means of severe army hassle and complex additional by way of the ongoing want for reassurance approximately own valor and standing universal to males of the southern gentry. In those letters, Griffin describes mystery troop activities in quite a few army activities akin to the Hampton Legion's position within the Peninsula crusade (details that will definitely were censored in additional fresh wars). the following he relates the march from Manassas to Fredricksburg, the siege of Yorktown and the retreat to Richmond, and the battling at Eltham's touchdown and 7 Pines, the place Griffin commanded the legion after Hampton used to be wounded. all through, as Griffin recounts those such a lot amazing of occasions, he illuminates the main usual of day by day matters. One may anticipate finding a accomplice officer meditating on slavery, emancipation, or Lincoln. as a substitute, we're faced by means of uncomplicated humanity and easy matters, from the elements to gossip. enormous ancient occasions intruded on Griffin's existence and despatched him off to struggle, yet his heartfelt issues have been approximately his kin, his group, and his personal own satisfaction. finally, Griffin's letters current the Civil conflict because the refinery, the ordeal through fireplace, that validated and verified--or modified--Southern upperclass values. With a desirable mix of army and social historical past, A Gentleman and an Officer strikes from the start of the Civil conflict at citadel Sumter throughout the finish of the struggle and Reconstruction, vividly illustrating how the problems of the Civil battle have been straight away devastatingly nationwide and revealingly neighborhood.
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Additional resources for A Gentleman and an Officer: A Social and Military History of James B. Griffin's Civil War
The majority of the residents, like most South Carolinians, made a living in agriculture, constrained by the shared problems of declining soil productivity, fluctuating crop and slave markets, and competition from the newer cotton lands of Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas. Birth and death rates, and the ratio of males to females, resembled demographic patterns for the state as a whole. 31 In size, Edgefield was surpassed only by Charleston's large coastal district. Edgefield's population of 40,000 was the fourth largest in South Carolina.
In 1840, just two years before his marriage to Mary Ann, Aquilla Miles had 10 slaves, while his prospective father-in-law held 47. 26 By 1860, even though his crops did not increase, he had 10 slaves and twice as much land, now worth $6500, almost as much as his father-in-law. Griffin's letters indicate that the two families were close despite great disparities in economic status. Griffin may have assisted his wife's cousin and brother-in-law in ways that a kinsman had a right to expect: the loan of slaves or money, signature on a note.
Martin Witherspoon Gary, reared a Methodist and schooled at the Methodist Cokesbury Academy, joined and became a vestryman in Trinity Church. Matthew Calbraith Butler also joined and served as a vestryman, along with his father-in-law, Francis Pickens. Thomas G. Bacon, Griffin's commanding colonel on the coast of South Carolina, also belonged to Trinity Church. 54 The Edgefield elite was not a unified community, but one composed of economic, denominational, and old- and new-rich factions. 64. Wade Hampton, though not an Edgefield resident, was also Episcopalian.