Topsy-Turvy: How the Civil War Turned the World Upside Down for Southern Children (American Childhoods Series)

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9781566636322: Topsy-Turvy: How the Civil War Turned the World Upside Down for Southern Children (American Childhoods Series)
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"Oh! Such cannonading on all sides, such shrieks and groans, such commotion of all kinds!" wrote the teenaged Sue Chancellor, a Virginia planter's daughter, in May 1863. "We thought that we were frightened before, but this was far beyond everything. . . . Oh, the horror of that day!"

Sue's reactions to the Civil War around her was only one of myriad responses to the conflict from children—boys or girls, black or white, slave or free, rich or poor. They experienced the war differently from adults, and their experiences were by no means uniform. In Topsy-Turvy, Anya Jabour brings into sharp relief the way in which gender, race, slavery, and status shaped the lives of children in the American South before, during, and after the Civil War. She argues persuasively that the identities children developed in the antebellum era shaped their responses to the upheavals of the war years and their lives after the war's conclusion.

Even as Topsy-Turvy presents the Civil War as a major turning point in Southern children's lives, it also illuminates the interplay between continuity and change in the history of the American South. Because the war was fought largely on Southern soil, parts of the region became a "permanent landscape of war," and children in the Confederacy thus experienced the struggle in an especially profound and personal way. Deeply researched, abundantly illustrated, and engagingly written, the book is a major contribution to Southern history. With twenty-eight black-and-white illustrations.

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About the Author:

Anya Jabour is professor of history and co-director of women's and gender studies at the University of Montana, Missoula. She has also written Marriage in the Early Republic, Major Problems in the History of American Families and Children, and Scarlett's Sisters: Young Women in the Old South. She lives in Missoula, MT.

Review:

University of Montana professor Jabour explores the American Civil War through its effects on children, both black and white, from the time before the war to Reconstruction. Jabour's extensive use of journals, diaries, and records of interviews with adults who lived through the war as children enlivens her text considerably. The recollection of a former slave girl's comment to a passing white boy―'Bottom rail on top now!'―is but one example of the power of Jabour's anecdotes. . . . The unique topic is intriguing, and the use of primary sources admirable. (Publishers Weekly)

At the end of Topsy-Turvy the reader might contemplate whether this is a study of the Civil War told through the lens of children, or a study of childhood told through the lens of the events of war? That this question cannot be easily answered reveals the ultimate strength of the book, telling a complex tale of both individual lives and social values disrupted and re-shaped both by the events of war and by growing-up. (Civil War Book Review)

A great read.
(The Lone Star Book Review)

Jabour's beautifully conceived and eminently readable book on children of the Civil War adds a critical layer to our understanding about nationalism and the Southern home front. Her comprehensive analysis of the war's youngest political actors sheds particular light on their later role as creators of a New South. (Journal of American History)

Topsy-Turvy does have much to recommend it to a general readership. It is blessedly free of jargon, making for a simple social history narrative....The author is diligent and inclusive, and she should be lauded especially for bringing the children of poor whites and free blacks into the story of the Civil War....Jacbour's work is readable, interesting, and useful for shattering a number of common stereotypes. (Journal of Southern History)

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