A Year in the South: Four Lives in 1865

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9780312294939: A Year in the South: Four Lives in 1865

A Year in the South is about four ordinary people in an extraordinary time. They lived in the South during 1865 -- a year that saw war, disunion, and slavery give way to peace, reconstruction, and emancipation. One was a slave determined to gain freedom, one a widow battling poverty and despair, one a man of God and planter’s son grappling with spiritual and worldly troubles, and one a former Confederate soldier seeking a new life. Between January and December 1865 they witnessed, from very different vantage points, the death of the Old South and the birth of the New South. Civil War historian Stephen V. Ash reconstructs their daily lives, their fears and hopes, and their frustrations and triumphs in vivid detail, telling a dramatic story of real people in a time of great upheaval and offering a fresh perspective on a pivotal moment in history.

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Review:

Stephen V. Ash's remarkable A Year in the South is a multifaceted biography of four "ordinary people in an extraordinary time." The year is 1865. The four are a 32-year-old mulatto slave in Alabama; a 42-year-old Virginian who has lost both her husband and her home; an 18-year-old East Tennessee farm boy (a Confederate forced to pledge allegiance to the United States); and a 31-year-old Mississippi minister. After a succinct prologue, which follows the four up to 1865, Ash, with quiet elegance, limns his characters lives chronologically through the year, each character appearing sequentially in four chapters linked to the seasons. A brief epilogue traces the postwar lives of the four. Interestingly, all lived to see the beginning of the 20th century. It is difficult to overstate the achievement of this book: by focusing on the quotidian struggles of these unsung refugees--for that is what, in many ways, they were--in their new and forever-changed land, and by his wise refusal to succumb to either regional ruefulness or political pedantry, Ash has painted vivid, telling portraits. By way of his skillful, evenhanded narrative, the unknown blossoms into the memorable. --H. O'Billovich

About the Author:

Stephen V. Ash is Associate Professor of History at the University of Tennessee. He is the author of several books on the Civil War, including When the Yankees Came: Conflict and Chaos in the Occupied South, 1861-1865.

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Ash, Stephen V.
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