Press Release: Baylor University Digitizes the Guthrie Civil War Letters Collection

Love and War: Digitized Letters Preserve the Tale of a Texas Girl, Her Confederate Sweetheart and their Secret Engagement

‘This is the raw stuff of history,’ curator says of writings in The Texas Collection at Baylor University

WACO, Texas (Feb. 10, 2017) — Feb. 14 was coming up quickly, and the two young lovers’ emotions were heating up the hundreds of miles between them.

The 16-year-old girl wrote to her adored fiancé that “my heart is ever with you, my prayers daily offered up for you.”

The young Confederate soldier rhapsodized about his “darling angel” and his desire to “plant a lover’s kiss on thy ruby lips and with words of burning love rekindle the fire of devotion . . . ”

They were secretly engaged, and they sent their love, not with a tap of a finger on a cellphone, but by pressing quill pen to paper in letters that today — more than 150 years after the Civil War that kept them apart — are creased, torn and  rusty in places.

They wrote at least 32 letters to one another between 1861 and 1864, often waiting a month or two to receive them because of slow and unreliable wartime mail. While some bear February 1863 dates, not one mentions Valentine’s Day — unusual compared with modern times, says Eric Ames, digital collections curator for Baylor University Libraries.

Feb. 14 as a romantic holiday was still relatively new in the United States. Or “it may just be that then, it wasn’t a matter of, ‘This is a special day to tell you how much I love you,’” Ames said. “If you were thinking, ‘I could die any day,’ then you took any day, every chance you got, to say, ‘I love you.’”

Ames scanned, transcribed and uploaded the letters of Virginia Eliza “Jennie” Adkins — the daughter of a Marshall, Texas, judge — and Maj. John Nathan Coleman, commissary officer of the Third Texas Cavalry, which saw action at such key battles as the one at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and the Atlanta campaign. The digitized letters are housed in The Texas Collection at Baylor.

(Read this story on our website at Civil War letters.)

While Coleman was responsible for procurement of food and other supplies, he saw “a fair amount of combat,” Ames said. But he spared his wife-to-be the violent details — “TMI,” by today’s social media standards — in his letters.

“Even in the darkest days of our confederacy I tried to cheer you up,” he wrote.

Just as social media today carries the risk of misinterpretation, so did the couple’s written correspondence. As they waited for the next letter, both had ample time to read between the lines for implications, both good and bad.

Coleman, who was 26 when the war began, was “a pretty typical jealous boyfriend” — troubled to learn about the concerts and balls that Adkins occasionally attended with some officers stationed in Marshall, Ames said.

Adkins assured him, “You cannot conceive how much you are loved, and how often you are thought of.”

Sometimes the soldier’s life was monotonous, sometimes filled with dread and sorrow — and nearly always uncomfortable, despite the socks and comforter that Adkins sent him.

“I . . . can sleep in a mud hole as comfortable as a feather bed,” he wrote. Occasionally, there was respite — such as meeting kind people in Tennessee and enjoying maple syrup and molasses there.

“It is a new thing to us to see the trees dripping” sap, Coleman wrote.

On a somber note, Adkins wrote that one Christmas, while attending parties, “I often thought I could hear you calling me by my name . . . I left one night from a party before I had been there an hour. All at once a feeling came over me I could not account for . . . Don’t think I was the least superstitious, but after referring to your letters, I find that about that time you were in a battle . . . ”

As the war continued, paper became scarce and expensive. At times, the youthful pair’s intense back-and-forthing was “a little schizophrenic, and he (Coleman) gets melodramatic as he realizes there is no way the South will win,” Ames said. “He just wants to get back.”

Sometimes, a jest was mistaken for a jab, and apologies ensued. And then there is the puzzle of Coleman’s hair.

“My health is better than in two years . . . even my baldness is passing away and a beautiful black hair is once more covering my head,” Coleman wrote. “My whiskers have also returned much blacker and have grown four inches long.”

Responded Adkins: “I am very happy to know you are enjoying good health, and that your hair is growing out thick and black. After all I will not have a gray baldheaded husband. But I don’t like very long whiskers.”

Ames said the discussion “struck me as joking. But that’s always the challenge with these kinds of letters. They never had any reason to think anyone else would ever read these letters.”

How did the two meet? What sparked the flame? And most of all, why did they keep their engagement secret?

Some letters imply that Adkins’ father would have disapproved, perhaps questioning Coleman’s social standing or financial status. But “that’s just a guess,” Ames said.

Coleman, a merchant who owned a business before the war, had “a spotless military record” by war’s end, Ames said.

“There’s more to this story,” he said. “There are some letters we know are missing that were mentioned in others.

“I wish we had a little more to fill the gaps. But the letters do paint a pretty clear story of how they felt about each other and the deprivations of war. This is the raw stuff of history.”

Ames’ research revealed that Coleman survived — as did the couple’s love. They were married in August 1865, when Coleman returned to Marshall after receiving a parole from the Union Army, and they had six children. Coleman lost both legs in an industrial accident, and, in 1880, died at age 45. His wife never remarried, receiving a Confederate widower’s pension from the state of Texas for the final 18 years of her life. She died in 1932 at age 87.

*The letters were loaned to Baylor by the late Dr. Douglas Guthrie, a Mexia podiatrist and Civil War buff. He learned from a patient — Jennie Adkins’ great-granddaughter — that she and some relatives had dozens of letters written by a Confederate officer and his fiancée, and she offered to give her share to him. Guthrie attended a lecture by John Wilson, director of The Texas Collection, and after speaking with Wilson, agreed to loan the letters to Baylor. The digitized letters are in an online database in The Texas Collection in Carroll Library, 1429 S. Fifth St. on the Waco campus and may be viewed by appointment by calling (254) 710-1268.

 

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Press Release: Navy Releases New Research into Civil War Sub Hunley

I am a bit late on this but I felt it important enough to post. Be sure to check the one link in order to download a FREE copy of the report. It is also available in print and a link for that is included as well.
Navy Releases New Research into Civil War Sub Hunley
From Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division
WASHINGTON – Just ahead of the 153rd anniversary of the loss of civil war submarine H.L. Hunley, the Naval History and Heritage Command Underwater Archaeology Branch released online an archaeological report on the recovery of the boat Feb. 15.

H. L. Hunley Recovery Operations, A Collaborative Project of: Naval History and Heritage Command, South Carolina Hunley Commission and Friends of the Hunley, by Robert S. Neyland, Ph.D., principal investigator and Heather Brown (2016 ISBN: 9780945274902) is a comprehensive report that covers the recovery of Hunley, from the planning stages through execution.

The report also provides detailed descriptions of objects excavated from the seabed and provides in-depth analysis of the submersible’s hull condition at the time of recovery.  Further reports documenting the excavation of the interior, including crew remains, personal effects and hull components will be forthcoming.
The book can be downloaded for free from NHHC’s website here: https://www.history.navy.mil/research/underwater-archaeology/sites-and-projects/ship-wrecksites/hl-hunley/recovery-report.html . If you prefer a print copy you may order one by clicking here .
Additionally, NHHC released a web-article detailing the collaborative efforts of archaeologists at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center at Clemson University; ship engineers at Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division; underwater explosive specialists at Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head EOD Technology Division; and a research team from the Marine Structures Design Laboratory at the University of Michigan. Using advanced digital modeling and simulation techniques, the team studied the effects of the explosion on Hunley and its crews, and the hull’s seagoing characteristics, to help understand the mystery of what caused Hunley to sink immediately after it carried out an attack on USS Housatonic off Charleston harbor on Feb. 17, 1864.
Find out more from the article, available on the NHHC website here:
On Feb. 17, 1864, after months of practice runs and weather delays, the Confederate submarine Hunley, under cover of darkness, silently approached USS Housatonic, a 16-gun, 1,240-ton sloop-of-war, on blockade duty four miles off the entrance to Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. Carrying a torpedo packed with explosive black powder bolted to a 16-foot spar, Hunley rammed Housatonic below the water line, detonating the torpedo, tearing a hole in the Union ship’s hull and sending her to the bottom along with five of her crew. Hunley was not seen again for more than a century.
The wreck of the boat was discovered 131 years later by a team of scientists sponsored by best-selling author Clive Cussler, after a 14-year search. Research on the site continued until the summer of 2000 when a large team of professionals from the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archaeology Branch, the National Park Service, the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology excavated the site, measuring and documenting the hull prior to preparing it for removal. Once the on-site investigation was complete, customized slings were slipped underneath the sub one by one and attached to a truss designed by Oceaneering, International, Inc. The truss was then hoisted from the murky waters by crane from the jack-up barge Karlissa-B. On August 8 at 8:37 a.m., the sub broke the surface for the first time in more than 136 years.  Hunley was installed at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center, now part of the Clemson University Restoration Institute, in a specially designed tank of fresh water. Conservation efforts continue today, with support from Clemson University and the Friends of the Hunley.
NHHC, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history, and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, nine museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.
To learn more about the Confederate submersible H. L. Hunley, visit the NHHC website here:
For more news from Naval History and Heritage Command, visit http://www.history.navy.mil

Book Review–Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg

Cover--Pickett's Charge
Cover–Pickett’s Charge

Hessler, James, Wayne Motts, and Steven Stanley. Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg: A Guide to the Most Famous Attack in American History. El Dorado Hills, CA, Savas Beatie. 2015.

Details: 310 pages, index, bibliography, end notes, color and b/w photos, maps. ISBN 9781611212006, $37.95.

A reader may ask themselves several questions before making a decision to purchase yet another book on Gettysburg in general and another book on Pickett’s Charge specifically. Heck, there are several excellent Day 3 books available including books such as Pickett’s Charge–The Last Attack at Gettysburg (Civil War America)by Earl Hess, Gettysburg, Day Three by Jeffry Wert, and others. Once you take a look at this beauty you won’t be asking yourself any questions. All you will say is Ted Savas has done it again. You will have to have purchase it.

Part travel guide and part history this is a book that despite its heft can be used to tour the battlefield The book has the field is divided into four tours for ease of use. Tours include Confederate Battle Line, Pettigrew-Trimble Charge, Pickett’s Charge, and Union Battle Line. Tour stops include full GPS coordinates making it easy to pick and choose should a reader wish to only visit certain locations. Driving directions from stop to stop are included as well. Also included in the book is a full order of battle. The research is thorough, the bibliography is massive and there are nearly twenty pages of end notes. While the end notes take a bit of getting used to due to the numerous, yet informative, sidebars they are complete and a must review for those looking for further information. The book is full of maps and photos, both historic and modern.

Authors Hessler and Motts are both Licensed Battlefield Guides, a group who prides itself on strenuous standards and accurate story telling. The maps are beautifully crafted by cartographer Steven Stanley, who is known for his excellent work for the Civil War Trust.

This is a book that is highly recommended for any level of student of the battle of Gettysburg. The text is accessible and easy to read. The photos and maps are beautiful to look at. The book itself is sturdy and built to withstand use on the field or look great on a bookshelf. Don’t miss this title. It should be in every Civil War library.

Book Review–Lincoln in Indiana

Dirck, Brian R. Lincoln in Indiana. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. 2017. 132 pages, notes, bibliography, index, b/w photos. ISBN 9780809335657, $24.95.

The newest title in the Concise Lincoln Library series is Lincoln in Indiana written by Anderson University history professor Brian R. Dirck. Dr. Dirck has written several other books on Lincoln and received the Barondess Award from the Civil War Roundtable of New York for his book Lincoln the Lawyer. Here in a few short pages, Dirck confirms his spot as a strong Lincoln scholar.

Slim in pages this book packs a pop when it comes to the understudied period of 1816-1830 when Lincoln was molded by his years in Indiana. As Dr. Dirck points out there is little material to work with on these years. Lincoln himself left a sparse 800 written words about this time. For other sources questions have to be asked. Are these memories correct, what biases and agendas might the person have had, and finally does martyrdom play a role in the views people put forth.

It is in the seeming wilds of Indiana that the anti-slavery Thomas Lincoln took his family in order to escape the peculiar institution, which he felt he could not compete against. Free whites could not compete with farmers who owned African slaves. It was here that Lincoln learned about hard physical labor; grubbing and   log-rolling were not what the young Lincoln ultimately wanted out of life however. He also learned of loss with the death of his mother, Nancy, due to milk sickness.

While Thomas did not fail as a farmer it can not be said that he was successful either. The farm teetered and Thomas used his marginal skills as a carpenter to bring in extra for the family.

As young Abraham grew up the bonds between father and son grew strained despite a good relationship with his stepmother Sarah. Thomas needed the young, strong Abraham to help provide labor. While education was important it was not a priority for the elder Lincoln. Abraham had an overriding interest in accomplishing more than his father. His lack of a formal education haunted Abraham in many ways as an adult.

By 1829 Abraham wanted out of Indiana. He was  tired of his labors supporting his father. Intellectually he was moving on as well. He became interested in politics and was often found at the local courthouse when court was in session. Despite his yearnings Abraham followed his family to Illinois where Thomas failed miserably. Within a year Thomas has returned in Indiana.

By this time Abraham was gone. The gulf between father and son had developed such that the younger Lincoln did not visit his dying father nor did he attend Thomas’s funeral in 1851.

Dr. Dirck has written a book that is easily readable and digestible. The length of books in this series make it easy to consume them in a couple of brief sittings. The research looks to be of high quality and the notes and bibliography are extensive for those looking to follow-up on source material.

Highly recommended for not just an introductory level work but even for those with a deeper knowledge of Lincoln. This developmental period in Lincoln’s life is important and this volume helps explain why.

Library Additions–February 2017 (1)

Dirck, Brian R. Lincoln in Indiana. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. 2017. Index, notes, bibliography, b/w photos. 132 pages, 92 pages text. ISBN 9780809335657, $24.95.

Abraham Lincoln, born in Kentucky in 1809, moved with his parents, Thomas and Nancy Lincoln, and his older sister, Sarah, to the Pigeon Creek area of southern Indiana in 1816. There Lincoln spent more than a quarter of his life. It was in Indiana that he developed a complicated and often troubled relationship with his father, exhibited his now-famous penchant for self-education, and formed a restless ambition to rise above his origins. Although some questions about these years are unanswerable due to a scarcity of reliable sources, Brian R. Dirck’s fascinating account of Lincoln’s boyhood sets what is known about the relationships, values, and environment that fundamentally shaped Lincoln’s character within the context of frontier and farm life in early nineteenth-century midwestern America.

Lincoln in Indiana tells the story of Lincoln’s life in Indiana, from his family’s arrival to their departure. Dirck explains the Lincoln family’s ancestry and how they and their relatives came to settle near Pigeon Creek. He shows how frontier families like the Lincolns created complex farms out of wooded areas, fashioned rough livelihoods, and developed tight-knit communities in the unforgiving Indiana wilderness. With evocative prose, he describes the youthful Lincoln’s relationship with members of his immediate and extended family. Dirck illuminates Thomas Lincoln by setting him into his era, revealing the concept of frontier manhood, and showing the increasingly strained relationship between father and son. He illustrates how pioneer women faced difficulties as he explores Nancy Lincoln’s work and her death from milk sickness; how Lincoln’s stepmother, Sarah Bush, fit into the family; and how Lincoln’s sister died in childbirth. Dirck examines Abraham’s education and reading habits, showing how a farming community could see him as lazy for preferring book learning over farmwork. While explaining how he was both similar to and different from his peers, Dirck includes stories of Lincoln’s occasional rash behavior toward those who offended him. As Lincoln grew up, his ambitions led him away from the family farm, and Dirck tells how Lincoln chafed at his father’s restrictions, why the Lincolns decided to leave Indiana in 1830, and how Lincoln eventually broke away from his family.

In a triumph of research, Dirck cuts through the myths about Lincoln’s early life, and along the way he explores the social, cultural, and economic issues of early nineteenth-century Indiana. The result is a realistic portrait of the youthful Lincoln set against the backdrop of American frontier culture.

Thank you to Southern Illinois University Press for sending a complimentary review copy.

Book Review–18 and Life on Skid Row

Bach, Sebastian. 18 and Life on Skid Row. New York: Dey Street Books. 2016. 431 pages, color and b/w photos. ISBN 9780062265395, $27.99.

While a new generation of fans may know Sebastian Bach from his Broadway roles in Jekyll and Hyde and Rocky Horror Picture Show or perhaps his work as Gil on Gilmore Girls, Sebastian Bach owes his fame to his time as front man for the band Skid Row.

In his new memoir 18 and Life on Skid Row Bach details his life from his early days, where he was influenced by his parents divorce to his hard rocking (and heavily drug and alcohol filled) days with Skid Row to his solo career to his reluctance to appear on Broadway, to the tragedy of losing his home to Hurricane Sandy.

Several themes popped out to me in reading this tale of life in the fast lane. First is that of excess. If Bach is to be believed it is amazing that he and his friends are still alive. The level of drug and alcohol abuse is a sad testament to the lifestyle of fame they were leading. Was there nobody who could rein them in? This is a story that has been told over and over; naïve young musicians who find fame, and they believe, fortune that they feel will be flowing forever. As with the majority of young musicians that pipeline of record label advances dries up and for Skid Row it slammed them hard when after a successful tour they ended up in the hole and owing the label money. Of course if you believe record labels are honest I have plenty of oceanfront property to sell you at bargain prices.

A second theme is that of loss, disappointment, and abandonment. Bach has suffered greatly in his life there is no doubt. The divorce of his parents was a terrible blow as was the death of his influential father at a young age from cancer. On multiple occasions Bach speaks of his hero worship for other musicians and yet at several times he was let down by these men despite Bach already having achieved a level of fame. Bach specifically calls out some of them including Ace Frehley of Kiss and his former band mates from Skid Row. Don’t mess with a musician and his song writing royalties. While Bach has certainly persevered and has had success post Skid Row, his firing from the band in December 1996 and ultimately being dropped by both his management and record label left a large gap in his life. For somebody who had spent their entire life wanting to rock the change in music fashion was a hard pill to swallow (OK, that’s a bad pun when you consider all the drug use recounted in the book).

Despite these triumphs and setbacks it appears that Bach is happy with his life. He says he is happily married to his second wife. He has kids with his first wife that he loves. He has a successful career as a musician, actor, and now author. And while there is no real mention of being clean and sober (thank God, I didn’t want to read a book about 12 step programs and the like) we can hope that the days of partying excess are behind him. Life really is much better sober.

If you grew up in the generation of bands such as Skid Row, Poison, Motley Crue at their best, Cinderella, and other hair metal bands (a term Bach despises by the way)  pick this one up. You will actually get to read about somebody with good things to say about Axl Rose!

 

Book Review–Civil War Graves of Northern Virginia

Mills, Charles A. Civil War Graves of Northern Virginia (Images of America). Charleston: Arcadia Publishing.  2017. 128 pages, ISBN 9781467124225, $21.99.

The grounds of Virginia practically ran red with the blood of the Civil War. With bloody battles such as The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Manassas I and II, Chancellorsville, and dozens more, thousands of men lost their lives in the Old Dominion. Even more were injured, many to a level they never returned to a normal life.

In his introduction author Charles A. Mills estimates there are more than 1,000 cemeteries in northern Virginia. Using this as a baseline it is easy to see that a book of only 128 pages can only scratch the surface.  Once mammoth cemeteries such as Arlington National Cemetery are taken into account that lessens even further the inclusion of smaller and lesser known cemeteries.

Mills relies on two sources for images in the book; his own images and those from the Library of Congress collection. Unfortunately this leads to some images being relatively already well known and then the problem with inconsistent quality of author taken photos. An example is shown on page 70; two images of stones from Falls Church both of which could have been taken at a different time of day and had better results. Library of Congress images often contain standard photos of generals and other war era scenes.

I also noted a few issues throughout the text that could have been remedied. On page 18 Mills uses the number 600,000 in regards to Civil War combatant and non-combatant deaths. Recent scholarship has placed that number to be around 750,000, a number that has been gaining much more acceptance. On page 111 a photo of Abner Doubleday recounts the story of his being the inventor of baseball. A short line then attempts to throw doubt on that story; “an honor that some contest.” A review of one of the leading baseball statistical websites disproves the baseball story and it would have been better left out.

These qualms aside I did enjoy this book and made fast work of it. There are some fascinating stories included and while there were more non-cemetery photos than I would have preferred in many instances it was important to the story to show background history. I particularly enjoyed seeing church cemeteries such as Pohick Church, the parish church of George Washington. Anybody with an interest in cemeteries can not help but be moved by Arlington National Cemetery and Mills does a fine job representing both historical and modern images of perhaps the greatest cemetery in the United States.

For those with an interest in cemeteries this is a book that should be added to your collection. If you are interested in Civil War memory this is one you might consider thumbing through though it will probably not end up on your bookshelf. For the average Civil War enthusiast this is a book well worth including in your library despite the reservations mentioned above. The photos are well worth the overall minor quibbles I had regarding text.

Thanks to Arcadia Publishing for providing a complimentary review copy.

Library Additions–December 2016 (1)

Cover-John McDonald and the Whiskey Ring
Cover-John McDonald and the Whiskey Ring

Thank you to the good people at Farleigh Dickinson University Press and Rowman & Littlefield for providing a complimentary copy of John McDonald and the Whiskey Ring: From Thug to Grant’s Inner Circlewritten by Edward S. Cooper.

Cooper is the author of The Brave Men of Company A: The Forty-First Ohio Volunteer Infantry (2015) and Louis Trezevant Wigfall: The Disintegration of the Union and Collapse of the Confederacy (2012).

The most flamboyant, consistently dishonest racketeer was Supervisor of Internal Revenue John McDonald, whose organization defrauded the federal government of millions of dollars. When President Grant was asked why he appointed McDonald supervisor of internal revenue he responded, “I was aware that he was not an educated man, but he was a man that had seen a great deal of the world and of people, and I would not call him ignorant exactly, he was illiterate.” McDonald organized and ran the Whiskey Ring but he always credited Grant with the initiation of the Ring declaring that the president “actually stood god-father at its christening.” The demise of the Ring rivals anything that the real or fictional Elliot Ness and his “Untouchables” ever accomplished during the prohibition era in America.

Details: 195 pages including index, bibliography, and notes. ISBN 9781683930129. $75.

Volusia County Historic Preservation Board

I am proud to announce that I have been appointed to the Volusia County Historic Preservation Board.  I consider this appointment to be quite an honor and I look forward to working with fine group who are already on the Board.

The Historic Preservation Board (HPB) is appointed by the Volusia County Council to issue certificates of designation for eligible historic resources (structures, archaeological sites, and historic districts) and certificates of appropriateness for demolition, alteration, relocation and new construction.

The HPB advises the County Council on all matters related to historic preservation policy, including use, management and maintenance of county-owned historic resources.

Library Additions–November 2016 (1)

Devils Walking: Klan Murders along the Mississippi in the 1960s
Devils Walking: Klan Murders along the Mississippi in the 1960s

Thank you to the good folks at LSU Press for sending a review copy of Devils Walking: Klan Murders along the Mississippi in the 1960s written by Stanley Nelson.

After midnight on December 10, 1964, in Ferriday, Louisiana, African American Frank Morris awoke to the sound of breaking glass. Outside his home and shoe shop, standing behind the shattered window, Klansmen tossed a lit match inside the store, now doused in gasoline, and instantly set the building ablaze. A shotgun pointed to Morris’s head blocked his escape from the flames. Four days later Morris died, though he managed in his last hours to describe his attackers to the FBI. Frank Morris’s death was one of several Klan murders that terrorized residents of northeast Louisiana and Mississippi, as the perpetrators continued to elude prosecution during this brutal era in American history.

In Devils Walking: Klan Murders along the Mississippi in the 1960s, Pulitzer Prize finalist and journalist Stanley Nelson details his investigation—alongside renewed FBI attention—into these cold cases, as he uncovers the names of the Klan’s key members as well as systemized corruption and coordinated deception by those charged with protecting all citizens.

Devils Walking recounts the little-known facts and haunting stories that came to light from Nelson’s hundreds of interviews with both witnesses and suspects. His research points to the development of a particularly virulent local faction of the Klan who used terror and violence to stop integration and end the advancement of civil rights. Secretly led by the savage and cunning factory worker Red Glover, these Klansmen—a handpicked group that included local police officers and sheriff’s deputies—discarded Klan robes for civilian clothes and formed the underground Silver Dollar Group, carrying a silver dollar as a sign of unity. Their eight known victims, mostly African American men, ranged in age from nineteen to sixty-seven and included one Klansman seeking redemption for his past actions.

Following the 2007 FBI reopening of unsolved civil rights–era cases, Nelson’s articles in the Concordia Sentinel prompted the first grand jury hearing for these crimes. By unmasking those responsible for these atrocities and giving a voice to the victims’ families, Devils Walking demonstrates the importance of confronting and addressing the traumatic legacy of racism.