A book nearly 160 years in the making is now illuminating life during the Civil War in Southwest Virginia.
“The Whartons’ War: The Civil War Correspondence of General Gabriel C. Wharton and Anne Radford Wharton, 1861-1865,” just released by the University of North Carolina Press, features the wartime correspondence between Confederate newlyweds Brig. Gen. Gabriel Wharton and Anne Radford Wharton, focusing on the 524 surviving letters between the couple during the war.
The letters “are astounding and reveal that we still have so much to learn about our history,” the publisher notes.
Co-edited by William C. Davis, a former professor of history at Virginia Tech and the author or editor of 50 books on Civil War and Southern history, and the Whartons’ great-great granddaughter Sue Heth Bell, “The Whartons’ War” is one of the fullest known sets of correspondence by a high-level officer and his wife from the time of their courtship to the end of the war, when Gabriel Wharton swore loyalty to the United States and accepted parole before returning to his home in Radford.
Separated by 20 years in age and differing opinions on many subjects, these two well-educated and articulate Virginians frankly discussed their thoughts on generals and politicians, the course of the war, the fate of the Confederacy, life at home and their wavering loyalties, the publisher noted. They also explored the shifting gender roles brought on by the war, changing relations between slaveowners and those who were enslaved, and much more.
The home they eventually built in Radford just above the New River is today the Glencoe Mansion, Museum & Gallery, which is sponsoring the launch of the new book Friday, Aug. 19 at 5 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at 10 Robertson St. The authors will provide insight into the couple’s correspondence and how the book developed during a multi-year process.
A book-signing will follow, and copies will be available to purchase.
Glencoe’s executive director, Scott Gardner, who gets to share the story of the Whartons daily, says “we’re excited to kick off the promotion of this book.”
“Gen. Wharton graduated from the Virginia Military Institute and began his career as an engineer,” Gardner said. “When war broke out in 1861, he enlisted and was deployed to southwest Virginia, where he met an independent-minded, feisty young woman who would change his life forever. In turn, Gen. Wharton forever transformed Southwest Virginia’s development.”
“One of my favorite aspects of history,” Gardner said, “is pulling information out from the shadows. This information helps illustrate how life really was and challenges our conventional views, and the Wharton letters certainly do that.”