Saturday, February 16, 2008

"The Bloody Shirt: Terror After Appomattox"

Stephen Budiansky has written about military and intelligence history, science, and the natural world. His twelve books include include Her Majesty’s Spymaster, Battle of Wits, Air Power, The Nature of Horses, and The Truth About Dogs.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his newly-released book, The Bloody Shirt: Terror After Appomattox, and reported the following:
Page 69 of my new book The Bloody Shirt: Terror After Appomattox is I have to admit representative of the whole only obliquely, less as a matter of substance than of approach and method.

The major theme of the book is how white conservatives in the South in the years following the Civil War effectively reversed the outcome of the war through a concerted campaign of terrorist violence. One of my particular objectives, though, was to rescue from obscurity and the deliberate distortions of history some of the heroes of Reconstruction who fought for the rights of African Americans, often with great personal courage and in the face of not just vile character assassination but genuine physical danger. Throughout the book I tried to rescue from the simplistic stereotypes of "carpetbaggers" and "scalawags" and "ignorant blacks" the real people of rectitude, vision, and courage who fought this ultimately, and tragically, losing battle.

Page 69 is largely devoted to one of many small, quick, impressionistic character sketches of minor characters I wrote to bring these people to life; it's largely a description of Blanche Butler, who would marry Adelbert Ames, the Republican governor of Mississippi -- one of the heroes of my book, a man of great probity, honesty, and courage -- as far from a "carpetbagger" as you could imagine. And Blanche was a remarkable figure; the daughter of a politician (congressman Benjamin Butler) and a Shakespearean actress; funny, outspoken, brave in her own right, as well as a renowned Washington belle. She and Adelbert would exchange an amazing series of letters through some of his worst struggles in Mississippi that form a moving and intimate record of these terrible times.
Learn more about The Bloody Shirt and its author at Stephen Budiansky's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue