A chronicle of the Civil War era in one of Alabama’s most overlooked and least studied regions
Much of Alabama’s written history concentrates on the Tennessee Valley, the hill counties, and the Black Belt, while the piney woods of south central and southeastern Alabama, commonly known as the wiregrass region today, is one of the most understudied areas in Alabama history. Deep in the Piney Woods: Southeastern Alabama from Statehood to the Civil War, 1800–1865 offers a comprehensive and long overdue account of a historically rich region of the state, challenging many commonly held assumptions about the area’s formation and settlement, economy, politics, race relations, and its role in both the secession of the state and the Civil War.
Historians routinely depict this part of the state as an isolated, economically backward wilderness filled with poor whites who showed little interest in supporting the Confederacy once civil war erupted in 1861. Tommy Craig Brown challenges those traditional interpretations, arguing instead that many white Alabamians in this territory participated in the market economy, supported slavery, favored secession, and supported the Confederate war effort for the bulk of the conflict, sending thousands of soldiers to fight in some of the bloodiest campaigns of the war.
This thorough and expansive account of southeastern Alabama’s role in the Civil War also discusses its advocacy for state secession in January 1861; the effects of Confederate conscription on the home front; the economic devastation wrought on the area; and the participation of local military companies in key campaigns in both the eastern and western theaters, including Shiloh, the Peninsula Campaign, the Overland Campaign, Atlanta, and Franklin-Nashville. Brown argues that the lasting effects of the war on the region’s politics, identity, economy, and culture define it in ways that are still evident today.
List of Illustrations
1. “The Wilderness is All Before You”: Settlement
2. “Of All the Hardy Sons of Toil”: Class and Race in the Piney Woods
3. “Let the Union Stand”: Piney Woods Politics, 1819–1845
4. “Disruption of the Ties Which Bind Us Together”: The Politics of Secession, 1845–1861
5. “From the Lights Before Us I Think War is Close at Hand”: The War Begins
6. “I Have No One to Assist Mee on Earth”: The Piney Woods War, 1862
7. “I Feel Like We Are Almost Ruined”: The War Takes Its Toll, 1863–1865
Tommy Craig Brown is a historian and archivist in Special Collections and Archives at Auburn University.
"Brown has made a significant contribution to the historical literature of the state, the region, and the era. Furthermore, Deep in the Piney Woods serves as the trailblazer and model for more inquiries into the history of southeastern Alabama: —The Alabama Review
“Older views of the Piney Woods held that the region only half-heartedly supported secession and, once the war began, was characterized by a less than enthusiastic participation on the battlefield, as well as the home front. Brown uses a wealth of primary documentation to make the point that this region demonstrated its loyalty to the cause by, among other things, raising and equipping numerous companies, thereby showing as much enthusiasm as other parts of the state.” —Lonnie A. Burnett, author of The Pen Makes a Good Sword: John Forsyth of the “Mobile Register” and Henry Hotze, Confederate Propagandist: Selected Essays on Revolution, Recognition, and Race
"An outstanding contribution to Alabama history, and a long overdue chronicle of a too-often overlooked region, perhaps painting one of the most complete portraits of any region in the state during the war era.” —Mike Bunn, author of Civil War Eufaula
“Filling a historiographical gap by examining the Piney Woods, this much-needed study incorporates new scholarship to examine long-held questions. Brown's work brings scholars closer to understanding class, slavery, race, and the evolution of the plantation economy in the South before the Civil War.” —Journal of Southern History