By Judith N. McArthur
In 1861, James B. Griffin left Edgefield, South Carolina and rode off to Virginia to soak up 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 searching puppy. He was once thirty-five years previous, a prosperous planter, and the landlord of sixty-one slaves whilst he joined Wade Hampton's elite Legion as an incredible of cavalry. He left at the back of seven teenagers, 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 repute and glory appeared unlimited. Griffin, even though, played no bold acts, nor did he encourage nice loyalty in his males. as an alternative, he unknowingly supplied a special and important portrait of the accomplice officials who shaped the middle of Southern political, army, and enterprise management. In A Gentleman and an Officer, Judith N. McArthur and Orville Vernon Burton have accrued 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 battle provider, detailing dwelling stipulations and army maneuvers, the jockeying for place between officials, and the various methods officials and enlisted males interacted through the Civil conflict. in contrast to the recollections 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 mild at the lifetime of a center officer--a existence became the other way up by way of severe army hassle and complex extra 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 pursuits in quite a few army activities reminiscent of the Hampton Legion's function within the Peninsula crusade (details that might definitely were censored in additional contemporary wars). the following he relates the march from Manassas to Fredricksburg, the siege of Yorktown and the retreat to Richmond, and the struggling 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 such a lot amazing of instances, he illuminates the main traditional of day by day matters. One may possibly anticipate finding a accomplice officer meditating on slavery, emancipation, or Lincoln. in its place, we're faced via uncomplicated humanity and easy matters, from the elements to gossip. enormous ancient occasions intruded on Griffin's lifestyles and despatched him off to struggle, yet his heartfelt issues have been approximately his kin, his group, and his personal own delight. eventually, Griffin's letters current the Civil battle because the refinery, the ordeal by way of hearth, that validated and verified--or modified--Southern upperclass values. With a desirable mixture of army and social historical past, A Gentleman and an Officer strikes from the start of the Civil conflict at fortress Sumter in the course of the finish of the warfare and Reconstruction, vividly illustrating how the problems of the Civil struggle have been instantaneously devastatingly nationwide and revealingly neighborhood.