American Collections blog

23 April 2010

Little Red Book

Charlottesville, VA, can boast one of the lowest ratios of restaurants per head in the USA; the same must surely be true of the number of bookstores.  Despite Virgin Atlantic lowering the baggage weight limit, several titles made their way back across the Atlantic after a recent trip.  The haul included this slim volume, Josephine Cleary Wimsatt, Recollections (1926), which I picked up at Blue Whale Books and have added to the collections:

RedbookOCLC lists twelve copies, none of which are in the UK (or even Europe).  It is a memoir of Wimsatt's 'career as a war wanderer' during the Civil War (25), written up during her time in China (it was printed by North China Star Press, Tientsin).  As a young girl of five, she 'thoroughly enjoyed' the adventures caused by her flight from Washington, D.C. (her family were Confederate sympathisers - they had a pet Mexican monkey that they named 'Abe'), but concluded that 'as I look back at those far off times I think that the War of the Rebellion, like all other wars, was unnecessary, selfish, and cruel' (11).  The volume captures some of the Southern views of the 'Yankees', and offers historians all sorts of glimpses of the past: details of the nursing of the wounded,  a vignette of a breakfast with General Lee, an account of the diphtheria outbreak in Charlottesville, and stories of entertainments ('Starvation Parties') near the University of Virginia 'which was not in operation during the war, as all the students who were old enough to carry arms had become soldiers.' 

Wimsatt also took part in a play, representing one of the Southern States (she was Maryland),but 'as I reached the Goddess [of Liberty], Abe Lincoln, acted by Bob Maupin, one of the large boys, stepped forward and threw a chain over my shoulders, to indicate I was captured by the Union.  I buried my face in my hands and burst into tears, a bit of acting that was not in the program, but which was highly applauded by the audience'. (24)  She concludes her memoir: 'Although I am an old woman now, I am still at heart, I think, a Little Rebel.'



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