The Diary of Edmund Ruffin
A Dream Shattered, June 1863-June-1865
In this last of the three-volume printed edition of The Diary of Edmund Ruffin, the celebrated Virginia agricultural reformer and apostle of secession chronicles the increasingly melancholy events of the last two years of the Civil War and of his own life.
Apart from one brief sojourn in Charleston, Edmund Ruffin spent the last two years of the war in Virginia. Failing health and the course of the war prevented the devout Confederate from traveling to important battle sites and recording events there firsthand as he had done in the earlier years of the war. Unable to move about, Ruffin nonetheless continued to follow the war closely and to keep a daily commentary on contemporary events. This commentary provides a remarkably dispassionate and astute analysis of the declining military fortunes of the Confederacy as well as an illuminating portrait of deteriorating conditions on the home front.
Yet this final volume of Ruffin’s diary is more than a record of “first impressions of public events,” as Ruffin claimed. Ruffin comments on religion, race, class, and politics. The topics he discusses range from the controversy over the enrollment of black troops and transition to free labor at war’s end to an extended discourse on de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America.
As the final curtain fell on the Confederacy, the embittered southern nationalist, overwhelmed by physical maladies and familiar misfortunes, resolved to take his own life. Only two months after Lee’s surrender to Grant, and less than fifty miles from Appomattox, Ruffin fired the last shot in his own private war against the Yankees –a bullet through his head. Rich in detail as well as in Ruffin’s personal beliefs, this carefully edited diary stands as one of the most valuable documents of the Civil War era.
William Kauffman Scarborough, professor emeritus of history at the University of Southern Mississippi, is the author of The Overseer and Masters of the Big House and editor of the three-volume Diary of Edmund Ruffin.
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