Here are my last notes on my 2014 reading.
The Lost State of Franklin, Kevin T. Barksdale. University Press of Kentucky, 2009.
I liked this, but it was clearly a doctoral dissertation and if you're not from Western North Carolina or Tennessee, you might struggle. There were a few moments I had no clue what exactly was going on. Nonetheless, this was an interesting piece on how what is now Eastern Tennessee attempted to become the state of Franklin in the 1780s. It was an act of secession against North Carolina--the counties that worked for statehood were in lands ceded to the Continental Congress (then under the Articles of Confederation), then reclaimed by North Carolina. John Sevier, the first and only governor of Franklin, was ultimately arrested for treason. He went on, however, to be Tennessee's first governor.
The Last Battle of the Civil War: United States v. Lee, 1861-1883, Anthony Gaughan. Louisiana State University Press, 2011.
This book got a bit redundant at times, but it was very enjoyable. The history of Arlington and Robert E. Lee remain strong instances (when I did my Washington Semester in 2004, I worked for the National Park Service at Arlington). This looks first at the Union occupation of Arlington in 1861, followed by the government's seizure of the property in 1864, and the protracted court battles in the 1870s and 1880s, until Congress finally paid Lee's eldest son for the land and house. There was no question that the government's refusal of the Lee family's payment (through Mary Custis Lee's cousin) was illegal, and there were legal problems with the tax itself. The government tried to argue that Lee had no power to sue. Had Lee lost the case, the country would still be reeling from the effect on due process.
Destiny of the Republic, Candice Millard. Knopf, 2012.
I loved this. I knew very little about James Garfield, but he was a brilliant man, potentially a great president after distinguishing himself over seventeen years in the House of Representatives. He was shot by a disturbed, unsuccessful office seeker in July 1881, only months into his presidency. It wasn't the bullet that killed him however, it was the care of a doctor who wanted to make a name for himself for saving the life of the president.
I read a few others over the year, but none jump out, really. Except for one last fiction work:
The Known World, Edward P. Jones. Harper Collins, 2003.
This is an incredible, fictional account of a black slave owner in a fictional county in Virginia. His widow took the property after his unexpected death and problems emerge along race lines in this community. The book moves around into how the black slave owner purchased his own freedom, how he established his farm and married, as well as how things unravel once he dies and his widow manages the property.
I have quite a list for this year. I'm currently at the beginning of Robert Caro's seriers on Lyndon B. Johnson. I'm 100 pages or so into the first book. We'll see if I make it through the four volumes that are out so far! Happy reading to all of you in 2015!