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 mode that befitted a Southern gentleman: on a fine-blooded horse, with slaves to attend on him, trunks, and his favourite looking puppy. He used to be thirty-five years previous, a filthy rich planter, and the landlord of sixty-one slaves whilst he joined Wade Hampton's elite Legion as an immense of cavalry. He left at the back of seven young children, the eldest basically twelve, and a spouse who was once 8 and a part months pregnant. As a box officer in a prestigious unit, the possibilities for popularity and glory appeared unlimited. Griffin, despite the fact that, played no bold acts, nor did he motivate nice loyalty in his males. as an alternative, he unknowingly supplied a distinct and beneficial portrait of the accomplice officials who shaped the center of Southern political, army, and enterprise management. In A Gentleman and an Officer, Judith N. McArthur and Orville Vernon Burton have accumulated 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. amazing of their breadth and quantity, the letters surround Griffin's whole Civil struggle provider, detailing residing stipulations and armed forces maneuvers, the jockeying for place between officials, and different methods officials and enlisted males interacted throughout the Civil battle. not like the memories and biographies of high-ranking, famous accomplice officials or experiences 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 other way up by means of severe army worry and complex extra by means of the continued want for reassurance approximately own valor and standing universal to males of the southern gentry. In those letters, Griffin describes mystery troop activities in a number of army activities akin to the Hampton Legion's position within the Peninsula crusade (details that may definitely were censored in additional fresh wars). right here he relates the march from Manassas to Fredricksburg, the siege of Yorktown and the retreat to Richmond, and the scuffling with at Eltham's touchdown and 7 Pines, the place Griffin commanded the legion after Hampton was once wounded. all through, as Griffin recounts those so much remarkable of instances, he illuminates the main usual of daily matters. One may perhaps look forward to finding a accomplice officer meditating on slavery, emancipation, or Lincoln. as a substitute, we're faced by means of easy humanity and straightforward issues, from the elements to gossip. huge old occasions intruded on Griffin's existence and despatched him off to battle, yet his heartfelt issues have been approximately his kinfolk, his neighborhood, and his personal own delight. finally, Griffin's letters current the Civil warfare because the refinery, the ordeal through hearth, that established and verified--or modified--Southern upperclass values. With a desirable blend of army and social background, A Gentleman and an Officer strikes from the start of the Civil struggle at fortress Sumter in the course of the finish of the battle and Reconstruction, vividly illustrating how the problems of the Civil struggle have been right away devastatingly nationwide and revealingly neighborhood.
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Extra resources for A Gentleman and an Officer: A Social and Military History of James B. Griffin's Civil War
30 Apart from its reputation, nineteenth-century Edgefield was statisti29. C. , Mary Chesnut's Civil War (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1981), 427-28. , Edgefield County Historical Society, Edgefield, and SCL, and Confederate Military History, extended ed. : Broadfoot Publishing, 1987), 6: 377-78. 30. Mason Locke Weems, The Devil in Petticoats, or God's Revenge Against Husband Killing (Edgefield: Edgefield Advertiser Press, 1978 reprint); also quoted in Richard Maxwell Brown, Strain of Violence: Historical Studies of American Violence and Vigilantism (New York: Oxford Univ.
B. Griffin, "in a speech remarkable for its beauty and spirit. . 's oratory, and, of course, his letters, reveal him as an educated man, but it remains unclear where he received his education. If he followed the common pattern of planters' sons, he would have attended one of the excellent local academies in or near Edgefield and then enrolled at South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina), but he is not listed among its graduates. All the Hampton Legion field officers and all but two of the initial company commanders were college graduates.
Currency was highly inflated in 1863. S. 25 a day for nine days in February and two days in June. In March he hired Smith to Daniel Holland for four days, and immediately afterward for three days to neighbor Benjamin F. Mays. He also sold Mays 243 lbs. of iron, suggesting that the slave, "Smith," was a blacksmith or ironworker. The Griffin slaves also had some leeway to work for themselves. They were permitted to cultivate private garden plots, and in slack periods they had access to his unimproved acres of woodland to sell for their own money whatever they produced or manufactured.