Two Months in the Confederate States: An Englishman's Travels Through the South

W. C. Corsan, Author, Benjamin H. Trask, Introduction by
W. C. Corsan, Author, Benjamin H. Trask, Introduction by Louisiana State University Press $26.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8071-2037-8
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
Paperback - 156 pages - 978-0-8071-2335-5
Paperback - 40 pages - 978-1-151-71668-2
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Through his copious, informative notes, Trask, the librarian at the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Va., adds a great deal to this vivid account of an English hardware merchant's travels in the deep South during the Civil War autumn of 1862. Explaining and sometimes refuting the author's commentary, the notational obbligato allows readers to enjoy the narrative enriched by the editor's thorough research and personal perspective. With the North's blockade of Southern ports drastically cutting into his hardware exports, Corsan traveled to New York early in October 1862 and soon set sail for New Orleans to discover the state of his old customers. Traveling north to Richmond, Corsan, tourist and Southern sympathizer, offers a window on the deep South and the optimistic outlook of planters and businessmen at this high point of Confederate success in the war. Corsan offers shrewd insights, as when he notes the personal equality of military officers and privates in their off-duty interchanges, contrasted with the complete subordination in rank order while on duty. Perhaps because he was a stranger, however sympathetic to the southern cause, this Englishman gives a fresh perspective of the South at war, whereas local diarists such as Mary Chesnut took much of the ordinary for granted. Surprisingly, neither Corsan nor Trask correctly interprets the effect of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation upon the English people and their government. Almost at the point of recognizing the Confederacy's right to secede from the Union, England, confronted by the proclamation, decided it could not support an effort to continue slavery. What we do have in this well-written narrative and its notations, is a clear picture of the deep South caught at its apex of optimism and expectation of victory and prosperous future. (Sept.)
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