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The Diary of Edmund Ruffin

vol. I

Toward Independence, October 1856-April 1861

foreword by Avery O. Craven

Library of Southern Civilization | Jules and Frances Landry Award

664 pages / 6.12 x 9.25 inches / no illustrations

Southern History

  Hardcover / 9780807109489 / May 1972

Edmund Ruffin was one of the most significant figures in the Old South. A gentleman planter, writer, and political commentator, he made his greatest contribution as an agricultural reformer, but it was as a militant defender of slavery and champion of the southern cause that he gained his greatest fame

.In his voluminous diary, Ruffin has left an invaluable primary account of the crucial years from 1856 to 1865. This volume, the first of a projected two-volume edition, covers the period from Ruffin’s retirement from his Virginia plantation to the aftermath of the bombardment of Fort Sumter in April of 1861.

Through the eyes of this outspoken secessionist, the reader views the chain of events which drove the nation steadily and inexorably toward disunion and civil war. An intelligent and astute commentator, Ruffin was personally acquainted with most of the prominent southern political leaders of the day, and his restless nature impelled him to be present at the most important events of the period.

Ruffin attended several secession conventions, and as a member of the Palmetto Guard he was accorded the honor of firing the first shot on Fort Sumter. The diary contains vivid eyewitness accounts of the hanging of John Brown on December 2, 1859, and the activities and changing moods in Charleston during the hectic months of March and April of 1861. Ruffins’ detailed description of the two-day bombardment of Sumter is unexcelled.

The Diary of Edmund Ruffin is of supreme importance as a chronicle of political attitudes, moods, and motives in the South during the most critical period in its history. The journal also contains a wealth of information on travel conditions in the Old South, the reading habits and social customs of the planter aristocracy, and various aspects of the plantation-slave system. 

Avery O. Craven was one of our most distinguished historians of the South and taught for many years at the University of Chicago. He was the author of many books, including The Growth of Southern Nationalism, 1848-1861 (Volume VI of A History of the South), and Edmund Ruffin, Southerner.

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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