Thursday, December 03, 2009

Rumley & Browning (ed.): "THE SOUTHERN MIND UNDER UNION RULE: The Diary of James Rumley, Beaufort, North Carolina, 1862-1865"

[ The Southern Mind Under Union Rule: The Diary of James Rumley, Beaufort, North Carolina, 1862-1865 by Judkin Browning (University Press of Florida, 2009). Cloth, 2 maps, illustrations, footnotes, bibliography, index. 216 Pages. ISBN:9780813034072 $34.95 ]

Published in book form for the first time under the title The Southern Mind Under Union Rule, and edited by historian Judkin Browning, The James Rumley diary provides much in the way of insight into the mindset of a strongly pro-Confederate resident of an occupied town. Given that the town of Beaufort, North Carolina was occupied continuously from March 1862 onward, readers also see a middle class white resident's view of the ongoing social changes wrought by the war in an area with a significant slave population. Suffice it to say he was none too pleased with the succession of Union occupying forces and their commanders, as well as the recruitment of black units, the members of which often clashed with the locals.

The diary itself has something of an interesting backstory. The original manuscript has disappeared (only the text published in newspaper serial form is extant), and the authorship was in doubt for a time, not helped by the fact that Rumley refers to himself in the third person throughout. The serialized copies remain in the Levi Woodbury Pigott Collection at the state archive, among the papers of the individual originally supposed to be the author.

Undoubtedly, Rumley, a Carteret County court clerk, used his diary as an outlet for his frustrations at a disappearing world. Vitriol and sarcasm abound, with much of it reserved for the newfound freedoms and power accorded to blacks by the Union occupation authorities. Rumley also paid close attention to military movements along the coast, making his diary a useful source for 1862-1865 army and navy operations in the Beaufort area and beyond.

Judkin's annotations, explanatory footnotes dealing primarily with persons and events mentioned or described in the diary, are very useful adjuncts to the text. A full bibliography and a good index were also included. The book itself, bound in yellow cloth, is a handsome volume.

The Southern Mind Under Union Rule is recommended on several fronts. As an articulate account of Union occupation it is superb, and it also carefully recounts the breaking down of the old social order maintained between blacks and whites in coastal North Carolina from a Confederate point of view. The diary also provides some insight into local military operations.

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