Skip Navigation

New Books Available

By John Lilly

With the 150th anniversary of West Virginia’s march toward statehood at hand – the Sesquicentennial – there is an increased interest in books about the Civil War. Several such volumes have come into our office recently, each with a unique perspective on this formative conflict and its aftermath.

John Brown’s 1859 raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry is often viewed as the opening volley in the War Between the States. The Old Man: John Brown at Harper’s Ferry, by Truman Nelson, is an in-depth account of Brown’s insurrection, his philosophy, and his fate. The author uses a colorful narrative style to present a sympathetic portrayal of this often maligned and misunderstood abolitionist. Originally published in 1973, this new 304-page paperbound edition from Haymarket Books commemorates the 150th anniversary of Brown’s failed but provocative attempt to foment an armed slave rebellion. The Old Man sells for $17 from www.haymarketbooks.org; phone (773)583-7884.

An estimated 60,000 books have been written about Abraham Lincoln, but this recent release from Rail Splitter Press claims to offer new information. Rare Personal Accounts of Abraham Lincoln, by John E. Boos, gathers a wide-ranging collection of first-person narratives regarding the 16th president and his personal life, public demeanor, and private moments. Between 1917 and 1940, author John E. Boos collected a vast quantity of eyewitness accounts, asking veterans, spectators, and former government officials “Did you know Lincoln?” Their responses lay unpublished for more than 60 years until memorabilia collectors William R. Feeheley and Bill Snack assembled and edited them into book form in 2005. The results are contained in this eclectic 357-page paperbound edition, offering an array of views, opinions, and observations. Rare Personal Accounts of Abraham Lincoln is available for $19.95, plus shipping, from Amazon.com; e-mail wfeeheley@railsplitter.com.

Intimate Strategies of the Civil War: Military Commanders and their Wives presents a unique wartime perspective indeed. By analyzing the marital relationships of six Confederate and six Union military leaders, this 289-page paperbound volume casts a new light on the personalities behind the uniforms and the personal stories beyond the battlefield. Edited by Carol K. Bleser and Lesley J. Gordon, Intimate Strategies of the Civil War is a collection of essays written specifically for this book by a diverse group of scholars and historians, each revealing the complex private lives of a key military figure and his spouse.  Taken together, these essays paint a portrait of wartime America and the effects the hostilities had on domestic life in a divided nation. Intimate Strategies was published in 2001 by Oxford University Press. It sells for $25, plus shipping, from www.oup.com; phone 1-800-451-7556.

The Civil War and Northwestern Virginia, by David L. McKain, provides a more traditional chronology of the war. Subtitled The Military, Political, and Economic Events Surrounding the Creation of West Virginia and the Role of Parkersburg, West Virginia, in Those Events, this book lives up to its name. Author David L. McKain is a historian in the Parkersburg area, and much of this book reflects the importance of Parkersburg and the oil and gas fields to the war effort and the statehood movement. Meticulously detailed, this large-format, 203-page hardbound edition includes an extensive account of the conflict along the Ohio River Valley, as well as wider-ranging Civil War events and an assessment of the war’s aftermath. A total of 25 appendices, nearly 150 maps and illustrations, and a statehood timeline make this a valuable publication, especially for those with a strong interest in the particulars of this difficult topic. The Civil War and Northwestern Virginia was published in 2005 by the author and is available for $38, including shipping, from David McKain, 1225 Ann Street, Parkersburg, WV 26101.

At the other end of the editorial spectrum, Civil War: The New River Valley (1861-1865), by David Bard, provides three one-day driving tours to present-day sites connected to the “War of the Rebellion.” Organized into three one-day excursions, the book includes colorful maps and brief descriptions of battlefields and other important wartime locations from Chilhowie, Virginia, to Marlinton, Cross Lanes, and Charleston. The large-format 144-page paperbound volume includes attractive graphics and easy-to-read narrative about the various stops, briefly summarizing the activities that took place there and why they are significant. Driving instructions are clear and concise and include modern landmarks and navigation tips. The book was published by the author in 2004. It sells for $19.95, plus tax and shipping, from West Virginia Book Company; online at www.wvbookco.com or phone 1-888-982-7472.

The painful job of rebuilding after the war was especially challenging in the mountains, according to a new book titled, Reconstructing Appalachia: The Civil War’s Aftermath, published in 2010 by the University Press of Kentucky. Editor Andrew L. Slap, an associate professor of history at East Tennessee State University, has collected 13 essays – 12 plus one of his own – examining a wide array of topics related to the tough, often halting, healing process in our region. Two essays are devoted specifically to West Virginia: “’Neither War nor Peace’: West Virginia’s Reconstruction Experience,” by Randall S. Gooden and “A House Redivided,” by Ken Fones-Wolf. This 379-page hardbound edition includes an introduction by Gordon B. Kinney, illustrations, footnotes, and an index. It sells for $40, plus shipping, and is available online at www.kentuckypress.com; phone 1- 800-537-5487.

West Virginia Politics and Government is an introduction to the state’s political system and history written by members of the Department of Political Science and Division of Public Administration at West Virginia University. Published in 2008 by the University of Nebraska Press as part of its Politics and Government of the American States series, this book could well function as a text for a college course. It also will be useful as a reference for anyone seeking to unravel the nuance of political power and influence in a complicated terrain. The 331-page paperbound volume lists authors Richard A. Brisbin, Jr.; Robert J. Dilger; Allan S. Hammock; and L. Christopher Plein. The book includes 12 tables, an extensive bibliography, footnotes, and index. West Virginia Politics and Government sells for $29.95, plus shipping, at www.nebraskapress.unl.edu; phone (402)472-3581.

A number of new titles concerning West Virginia politics in the 20th and 21st century are now available.

West Virginia Politics and Government is an introduction to the state’s political system and history written by members of the Department of Political Science and Division of Public Administration at West Virginia University. Published in 2008 by the University of Nebraska Press as part of its Politics and Government of the American States series, this book could well function as a text for a college course. It also will be useful as a reference for anyone seeking to unravel the nuance of political power and influence in a complicated terrain. The 331-page paperbound volume lists authors Richard A. Brisbin, Jr.; Robert J. Dilger; Allan S. Hammock; and L. Christopher Plein. The book includes 12 tables, an extensive bibliography, footnotes, and index. West Virginia Politics and Government sells for $29.95, plus shipping, at www.nebraskapress.unl.edu; phone (402)472-3581.

Governor William E. Glasscock and Progressive Politics in West Virginia, by Gary Jackson Tucker, is a formal biography of the state’s 13th governor. An ardent progressive and reformer, Glasscock was born during the Civil War, about 13 miles from Morgantown. His tenure as governor, from 1909 until 1913, was a busy and tumultuous time in the state’s history, the author asserts. Glasscock, a liberal Republican, dealt with labor unrest, antitrust, election reform, regulation of public utilities, and workmen’s compensation issues. His strong leadership and populist appeal won him the praise and admiration of average people in the state. This 205-page paperbound edition was published in 2008 by West Virginia University Press. It sells for $28, plus tax and shipping, from www.wvupress.com; phone (304)293-8400.

The High Tide of American Conservatism: Davis, Coolidge, and the 1924 Election, by Garland S. Tucker, III, looks at the presidential race involving West Virginia’s only major-party candidate for the nation’s highest office. John W. Davis was a conservative Democrat from Clarksburg who won his party’s nomination for president in 1924. [See “John W. Davis and the 1924 Presidential Campaign,” by Rod Rogers; Fall 2004.] His race against conservative Republican incumbent Calvin Coolidge was ultimately unsuccessful, but marked a turning point in national politics. Not since the 1924 contest have both parties nominated for president staunchly conservative candidates. The High Tide of American Conservatism is a 336-page hardbound volume, published in 2010 by the Emerald Book Company. It sells for $29.95, plus shipping, and is available online at www.emeraldbookcompany.com; phone (512)891-6100.

Shirley Love, a West Virginia State Senator from 1994 to 2008, is the subject of a recent biography titled, A Man Called Shirley, by Mannix Porterfield. Love’s storybook career began with a hymn solo sung in a Fayette County church. The owner of WOAY radio in Oak Hill was among the congregation and encouraged teenaged Shirley to come by the station for an audition as an announcer. Thus began the long and unlikely career of one of West Virginia’s more colorful politicos. Love’s position as a radio announcer led him into television, where he became the anchor of the raucous weekly show, Saturday Night Wrestlin’. He garnered an appointment as a State Senator in 1994. His popularity as a TV personality helped him win subsequent elections in 1996, 2000, and 2004. This 263-page paperbound book, published by the author in 2009, is available for $20.95, plus tax and shipping, from Mannix Porterfield, P.O. Box 602, Bradley, WV 25818.

A number of new titles concerning West Virginia politics in the 2Railroad history is always a popular subject in West Virginia. Two fine new books are available concerning a pair of important rail lines in the state.0th and 21st century are now available.

A number of new titles concerning West Virginia politicsThe Buffalo Creek & Gauley Railroad (BC&G) has been featured several times in these pages, most recently in our Winter 2008 issue. [See “The Train, the Smoke, the Whistle, and the Bell: Memories of Widen,” by Barbara J. Young Workman.] This Clay County line, a subsidiary of J.G. Bradley’s Elk River Coal & Lumber Company, ran between Dundon and Widen – little more than 18 miles - from 1904 until 1965. Railroad enthusiast R. Brooks Stover has published a detailed history of this legendary railroad, often thought to have been the last bastion of steam locomotion in America. The Elk River Coal & Lumber Company, published in 2010, is a 216-page large-format, hardbound volume. It is richly illustrated with photographs, maps, and tables and includes both historical facts and first-person accounts. The book sells for $32.95, shipping included, from R. Brooks Stover, 2870 Plum Creek Drive, Oakland, MI 48363; phone (248)814-8699. in the 20th and 21st century are now available.

The Kanawha & Michigan Railroad: Bridgeline to the Lakes (1888-1922), by Donald L. Mills, Jr., describes one of the lesser-known companies that operated during the heyday of railroading. The K&M ran coal, timber, and chemicals from Gauley Bridge to Corning, Ohio – a distance of 153 miles. There was limited passenger service, as well. Author Donald L. Mills, Jr., follows the line from northern Ohio to central West Virginia, giving comments and details at every stop. Published in 2010, this 218-page, hardbound, large-format edition includes numerous photographs, maps, and tables, as well as a set of color plates. It sells for $35, plus shipping, and is available from the author at 807 Fifth Street East, Huntington, WV 25701; phone (304)525-4704.

You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.