HISTORIANS OF THE CIVIL WAR AND RECONSTRUCTION HAVE OFTEN examined the roles of women and African Americans during those troubled years; nevertheless, postbellum southern gender, race, and class relations and cultural worldviews require further study. (1) According to many accounts, class conflict among white southerners during the Civil War was inflamed by the resentments of nonslaveholders compelled to sacrifice their own lives and property in a war to preserve slavery. (2) Some historians have addressed how such animosity played out in state politics, but few have pursued the cultural aspects of social discord roiled by the Civil War. (3) Despite being overlooked by many scholars, the manner in which white southerners addressed social differences during Reconstruction shaped the culture, politics, and society of the postbellum South.
As defeated white southerners grappled with a changed world, many among the educated classes made sense of it by writing from personal experience. Best known among such accounts have been memoirs and autobiographically influenced fiction. (4) Yet one pervasive part of postwar southern cultural life has remained largely unexamined--the humor published in newspapers and magazines. Because this humor relied on common knowledge of current events as well as shared cultural understandings, it provides a window on Reconstruction as presented and understood by white southerners. Charles Henry Smith's character, Bill Arp, a fictional soldier from Georgia, was probably the most famous southerner in the humorous literature of the period. Bill Arp's comic sallies against Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis during the Civil War are widely known, but Smith also permitted Arp to comment at length about the vagaries of Reconstruction. (5) And Arp's commentary on Reconstruction is not unique.
In 1867 and 1868 Mary Bayard Clarke, an upper-class white woman from North Carolina, wrote a series of humorous sketches that depict gender, race, and social relations in the defeated South. (6) Surveying all of Clarke's humorous writings, as this essay does, shows that they changed over the course of Reconstruction. Her dismay over Radical Reconstruction led her to alter the emphasis in her writing, from highlighting women's patriotism and wartime contributions to decrying the enfranchisement of African American men. Her humorous stories and sketches indicate that members of the southern upper classes expressed admiration for common people and, at the same time, encouraged their racism. Moreover, in her columns Clarke sought to dampen northerners' sympathy for freedpeople at a time of fluid political and social relations in the postwar South. This literature demonstrates how postbellum white society addressed southern class and race relations transformed by the Civil War.
Vernacular humor was a common literary genre in nineteenth-century America. To be sure, much of this humorous writing seemed thoroughly masculine in both authorship and subject. Such pieces ranged from the ribald, rather scatological almanacs in the 1840s that portrayed mythic adventures of the late Davy Crockett to the critique of the U.S.-Mexican War by Hosea Biglow. (7) Contemporary Americans understood that stories written in dialect (mimicking the patterns of speech among the lower classes) were humorous in intent--whether the groups involved were ethnic minorities like African Americans and Irish immigrants or common folks hailing from the Southwest or New England. During the Civil War, southern readers followed Bill Arp's adventures, while northerners read about Petroleum V. Nasby, created by David Ross Locke, or Artemus Ward, the character of Charles Farrar Browne. While all these wartime humorists had been newspapermen, Browne and Locke came from less privileged backgrounds than Bill Arp's creator. (8)
Women as well as men sometimes depicted plain-folk characters in their satirical writings. While northern women humorists like Marietta Holley have drawn notice for such characters, this has not been true for southern women writing in the same genre. (9) Yet, the case of Mary Bayard Clarke shows a southern woman turning to humor. Clarke's comic writing illuminates the reactions of elite southern women to issues related to women's rights, class relations, Reconstruction, and the Lost Cause and, in doing so, also probes the minds of southern intellectual women.
In discussing women, class, and politics, Clarke wrote both fiction and nonfiction and resorted to plain-folk humor in both genres. Her 1867 and 1868 columns reveal her dark political and literary insights. The vernacular genre of humor clearly interested her, but she used it to vastly different ends in the two sets of comic writings she published during Reconstruction. Her nonfiction writing sympathetically portrays Abby House, an ordinary woman from North Carolina, and Clarke's fictional letters use the common-folk persona of Betsey Bittersweet to criticize African American aspirations.
Born Mary Bayard Devereux, Clarke boasted a pedigree that included both intellectual and political leaders, including Jonathan Edwards, the Congregationalist theologian, and Thomas Pollock, a colonial governor of North Carolina. Her father, Thomas P. Devereux, had been a respected lawyer in Raleigh before a large inheritance from a maternal uncle allowed him to retire to his Roanoke River plantations. Mary and her sisters received exemplary educations from tutors comparable to their brother's education at Yale University. Their mother, Catherine Anne Johnson Devereux, from a prominent Connecticut family, died when Mary was only nine years old; both she and her siblings were estranged from their stepmother, the daughter of a wealthy New York merchant. Compared with most people of her time, Mary had an extraordinarily cosmopolitan existence, with friends and relatives in both the North and the South. (10)
In 1848 she married William J. Clarke, a young lawyer, businessman, and Mexican War veteran, who was also a native of North Carolina. Mary's father, an active Whig, disapproved of Clarke, perhaps because he was from a less prosperous family or perhaps because Clarke preferred the Democratic Party. After living in Cuba, where William sought a post as consul, the Clarkes moved to San Antonio, Texas, where he practiced law and was president of the San Antonio and Mexican Gulf Railroad. Early in the Civil War, Mary and William returned to North Carolina, where William was commissioned colonel in a North Carolina regiment. He served in combat until being seriously wounded in 1864, and in the last year of the war he was taken prisoner. (11)
Even before the Civil War, Mary, like some other well-educated southern women, had begun to earn money by writing poems and articles. In 1855 the Southern Literary Messenger published her depictions of the Clarkes' sojourn in Cuba; she also published poems and other writings under the pseudonyms Tenella and Stuart Leigh. During the Civil War, her output increased, and her husband's military service inspired poems extolling the bravery and describing the feats of the Confederate armies. At the very end of the war, she presented a woman's view of the entrance of General William T. Sherman's troops into Raleigh, showing not only her own reactions but also those of her friends and family. This piece was published in a northern journal, the Old Guard, which had southern sympathies. Although best remembered for her poetry, Mary Clarke wrote a great many essays and stories from the 1850s until 1885. (12)
Despite her patrician background, Mary Bayard Clarke adopted a plain-folk persona for two series of humorous writings that she published anonymously from the spring of 1867 until the spring of 1868. Her nonfiction sketches of Abby House, a poor woman from North Carolina, indicate a genuine interest in her subject. Yet Clarke's concern for a realistic, sympathetic portrayal was ultimately overwhelmed by her wish to make postwar white conservatism appeal to a wide audience. The differences over time in her column, "Betsey Bittersweet"-which was published in a variety of newspapers and magazines over the span of a year--suggest an interplay between place of publication and her tone and message and hint at the ways in which publishers provided Clarke with access to different groups of readers. The contrast between the Betsey Bittersweet columns and her two nonfiction sketches of the plain-folk character whom she and many others called "Aunt Abby"--both sketches published in mid-1867 in The Land We Love--is instructive about presentations of gender, class, and race and their uses in humorous writing.
Abby House was an actual woman who lived in Franklin County, North Carolina, and aided Confederate soldiers, even while clashing with Confederate officials. (13) Mary Bayard Clarke used the character of Aunt Abby to comic effect but also presented her as a rough-hewn heroine. Clarke's Aunt Abby sketches capture House's peculiar word choice and pronunciation and emphasize her foibles. (14) Delineating a woman of strength and even heroism, Clarke in the end somewhat undermined the portrait, probably because of her own background, deference to authority, and political views.
Clarke's two articles, entitled "Aunt Abby, the Irrepressible," present anecdotes about Abby's experiences during the Civil War. Unmarried and over sixty years old, Aunt Abby spurred her eight nephews to military service in the Confederacy. As she recalled it: "[B]oys says I, all 'er you go a'long to the field whar you belongs, and if eny on you gits sick or is wounded, you may depend on yer old aunt Abby to nuss and 'tend to you." Indeed, Abby vowed to them: "[I]f one on you gits down, and I cant git to you no other way, I'll foot it to your bed-sides; and if arry a one on you dies, or is killed, I promise, before the Lord to bring you home and bury you with your kin." (15)
In this rendition, military service appears to be a natural duty, and Aunt Abby is virtually an arm of the state: she aided her nephews so they could fulfill their obligations. The story progresses into tragedy as five of the eight nephews died in the war. Aunt Abby arranged for their burial at home, "and she never failed in it to one of them." (16) Much of the rest of the article details her aid to her nephews and her close, but uneasy, relationship with Confederate leaders. When, during the first year of the war, her nephew Duncan became ill in Petersburg, Virginia, she went there and nursed him to convalescence. Upon returning home, she received word that his health was failing. After running much of the three miles to the depot to catch the train that took her back to Petersburg, she arrived at his bedside to find him "speechless and insensible." Aunt Abby was determined to give him what people in the nineteenth century considered a good death: "But by a rubbing and doctoring of him, I fotch him round to know me afore he died, and then I brung him home to Franklin [County] to his mother." (17)
This experience chastened Aunt Abby and drove her to greater exertions and to confrontations with state and Confederate officials. "I could'nt rest 'er nights arter we had buried him for thinking he would'nt 'er died if I had 'er staid thar to 'tend to him; and I said I never would leave another one on 'em in a hospital agin." Although her neighbors argued that all sick soldiers had been ordered to remain in military hospitals, Aunt Abby pronounced it a "burning shame they don't take better kere on 'em in the horse-pitals; and I've a great mind to go and tell 'em so." Here Abby House drew on her gendered knowledge, characterizing the policy of hospitalizing ill soldiers as wrongheaded because hospital care was inferior to women's care: "Well, if they haint got sense enough to know that a ole 'oman knows a sight more about nussing of a man that's down with the measles or the plurissy than these here young Doctors does whose a thinking a sight more about siling of them new uniforms, and a drinking liquor than they is about curing of them." Thus, Aunt Abby declared that the next of her nephews who "gits down" would convalesce at home, "if I has to go inter President Davis' bed-chamber to git the papers signed to do it." (18)
Thus, when another nephew fell ill, Aunt Abby traveled to Richmond to argue her case with President Jefferson Davis himself. When a young aide allowed her to wait outside the president's office but refused to admit her to see Davis, Aunt Abby's reaction was determined: "Says I to myself, young man if you thinks to git rid o' me by that dodge, you don't know Abby House; but I sot down and waited awhile, till I seed the door of the President's room open and two gentlemen come out on it, and then, afore they had time to shut it, I slips right in, and told him what I wanted." (19)
In Clarke's version, Aunt Abby convinced both President Davis and General Robert E. Lee on two different occasions to allow her to take her nephews home in order to nurse them back to health. Both leaders politely informed her that Confederate military policy, like that of the Union, forbade medical leave at home. In both cases, Aunt Abby pledged her own honor and even her own possible military service as insurance that her nephews would return. On the first occasion, she persuaded Jefferson Davis to sign a furlough for her ill nephew; on the second, she told Lee that her Marcellus, yet another of her nephews, must go home. To Lee she vowed, "[I]f he, or arre man that I carries home, wants to set in the chimbly corner and hide behind me arter I say he is well enough to be of use to you, I'll jest shoulder his muskit and take his place myself, and I'll warrant you I'll be of more service in the ranks than any sick, sneaking coward would be." And she averred that Marcellus will be "more afeard of his old aunt Abby than of all the yankees tother side the river." (20)
Aunt Abby's efforts reached beyond her own nephews, making her an honorary mother, or at least aunt, of other Confederate soldiers. She recalled that she had received letters from Governor Zebulon B. Vance of North Carolina, which she showed to Lee on several occasions. One time when she accosted Lee and Davis, they inquired, "What's it now? Furloughs or money?" Aunt Abby replied that she wanted both and that she was taking seven wives to see their husbands "because you wont let their husbands go to see them." (21)
Clarke made Aunt Abby House's resolution and her no-nonsense approach central to the story. Indeed, nothing appeared to contradict Aunt Abby's confidence that she was the best cure for a sick or wounded soldier. She quite simply was a plain-folk angel of the battlefield whose abilities were grounded in a lifetime of self-sufficiency. Clarke claimed that Aunt Abby "was never known to yield what she conceived to be a right, without a struggle." Given that character, she had "consequently been involved during the greater part of her life in lawsuits"; this proclivity, according to Clarke, had "doubtless confirmed her natural fearlessness of speech." Here was an ordinary white woman whose views reflect the egalitarian culture of common people in antebellum North Carolina. (22)
The existence of significant antiwar activity among the common folk in Civil War North Carolina and large-scale desertion among North Carolina troops means that Clarke's account should be seen as deliberately sanitized. (23) No hint of war weariness, much less a deep critique of the Confederacy, appears; it was the lawful government that Abby's nephews served and protected. Though Aunt Abby wanted them to recuperate at home, neither she nor they ever questioned their participation in the war, as many ordinary North Carolinians did. Nevertheless, some criticism of the Confederacy's activities, if not its legitimacy, crept into the account. Aunt Abby contemptuously denigrated Confederate hospitals. When she first asked Jefferson Davis for custody of a sick nephew, the president assured her that he was doing his best. She retorted, "Well, if you's a doing of your best I should like to see some on it, says I, for I be switched if all I've seed o' your horspitals aint your level worst." Davis then declared that she must be "that old woman that's been abusing of me so," repeating some of her criticisms. Aunt Abby answered, "[T]hem's my very words; and moreover, them's my sentiments." Although Davis was stiff-necked and sensitive to criticism, in this account he granted her request. (24)
In a similar incident, when Aunt Abby was delayed in receiving paperwork that would allow her to take a nephew back to North Carolina, she criticized the secretary of war for misleading her about when the documents would be ready. Planting herself in a chair in his office, Aunt Abby vowed to remain until she was given the papers, declaring, "President Davis never did have a Secretary of War that was worth shucks in summer time, 'thout'en it was Mister Randolp [George W. Randolph], and he would'nt stay 'long o' him 'cause he want a going to be no man's under strapper [underling] like the rest o' you is content to be." When she recounted this retort to Davis, she included criticism of him as well: "I can tell you what, President Davis, you never will have a Secertery of War or of anything else that's worth a straw as long as you keep er interfering with 'em so, you's too proud to let ar'er other man have a finger in your pie." Her advice to Davis: "[I]f you'd be satisfied with being President and not want to be all the Secerteries too, you'd find you had more'n enuff for one man to 'tend to." In Clarke's account, Davis laughed uncontrollably, as he told Aunt Abby to attend to furloughs and he would take care of the secretaries. (25)
Clarke portrayed Aunt Abby as determined to speak her mind, regardless of authority. She was straightforward and direct, a woman with skill as a nurse and atypical in her knowledge of how law and bureaucracies worked. Her willingness to be candid and to stand her ground contrasts with notions of female propriety then in currency. (26)
Yet Clarke went even further in her depiction of Aunt Abby's fearlessness. When her nephew Edward Sutton was missing after the battle of Fredericksburg, Abby House spent twelve days on the battlefield searching for his body. At times Clarke also presented examples of almost superhuman strength and bravery. These heroic elements are particularly striking in the first part of the second article about Aunt Abby. "[A]s fearless under fire as she was in the use of her tongue," House coolly walked among the trenches during the siege of Petersburg and, at one point, led two horses to safety after a surprise attack. The war's end saw her striding through "ten mile" of Yankees. She forced herself to remain silent, for, as she said to herself, "Now, Abby House says, [sic] I there ain't a grain o' use in telling of you to keep a civil tongue in your head if you's got to talk to Yankees; I knows it ain't your natur, so I tells you insted to keep a dumb one thar." (27) Adding to the mythic nature of the depiction, Aunt Abby saw President Davis at Greensboro during his last retreat after Appomattox: "I cooked the last mouthful o' vittils he eat in North Car'lina, and he shuck hands with me when he started, and said, 'good bye, Aunt Abby, you are true grit, and stick to your friends to the last, but's no more than I thought you'd do.'" (28)
Aunt Abby showed bravery by confronting Yankees as well as the Confederate high command. When she lost a work animal to Sherman's troops, Aunt Abby went to the provost marshal, then occupying the governor's office, to seek its return. Although the official offered her a chair, she declined it, saying, 'Tin not gwine to set down in this here office till them [southern officials] as oughter be here, is back whar they belongs." Despite the official's politeness, Aunt Abby told him she wanted her "crap [sic] critter that was stole Thursday's a week ago by your thievish soldiers." As the puzzled functionary struggled to understand what a crop critter might be and ventured the guess of a cow, Aunt Abby set him straight: "Lord sakes, who but a Yankee ever heard tell o' tending of a crap with a cow; It's a mule, man that I'm arter, not a cow." (29)
This story highlights honesty, straightforwardness, withering candor, and an insistence on regaining lost property. Although the Union official offered to give her two mules in place of the stolen one, she retorted, "Ah! easy comes and easy goes; but you need'nt think to make up for stealing from one by giving to another, I'll have nothing from ye but my own crap critter." When her mule could not be found, the official tried to pick out the best one for her. Aunt Abby rejected it for one of the worst, saying she would not "be beholden to no hatched-faced Yankee among ye for nothing." She continued, "Some 'on ye tuck my crap critter, and if ye can't give hit back to me, I'll take one as nigh hit's vally as I can git, and that's this here one" While she did not claim that she herself would plow with the "crap critter," her knowledge of the distinctive characteristics of her mule indicate a close relationship with the soil. (30)
In this two-part series published in mid-1867, Mary Bayard Clarke celebrated Aunt Abby as a fearless and extraordinary woman who went to heroic lengths for Confederate soldiers, especially her nephews. In resorting to this distinctive voice, Clarke also crossed gender and class lines. After all, Aunt Abby could confront soldiers and officials of all stripes, run three miles, and walk ten among Yankees. She was willing to insult not only the Confederate president but also occupying Union officials. In her superhuman--or at least superfemale--courage and unladylike strength, Aunt Abby was a female relative of the Davy Crocketts and Paul Bunyans of the world. Though she resembled an amazon, Aunt Abby was an actual person whose focus, according to Clarke, remained on family and neighbors.
At the same time, some elements of political conservatism in Aunt Abby no doubt pleased Clarke and could be put to political use. In part, Aunt Abby was a fantasy of the Confederate regime--the ordinary person who was willing to sacrifice her young nephews to the war and who, while criticizing Davis, believed that he "never had an ongentlemanly thought, or did an ongentlemanly act in his life." (31) Here is an image of the organic society that proslavery southern apologists frequently postulated, though, ironically, Clarke's articles only hint at the existence of slavery. Aunt Abby's admiring remarks about Davis's courtliness showed respect for aristocracy. Thus, she seemed to recognize and respect natural hierarchy at the same time as she represented simpler and more primal virtues. Clarke intended to present an amusing account that bolstered conservative views, and she also revealed her appreciation of Abby House's forcefulness and courage. Indeed, Clarke allowed Aunt Abby, as a woman of the people, to be unladylike in her strength and candor and lauded rather than decried these characteristics.
Clarke's vision shows a keen focus when one contrasts her portrait of Abby House with other popular views of the South's common people. Northern travelers and soldiers alike tended to picture poorer whites, including some of the yeomen, as an unhealthy, lethargic group. Journalist John Richard Dennett and postwar traveler Sidney Andrews decried the habit of snuff-taking by ordinary white women in North Carolina. Andrews described native North Carolinians, men, women, and children, as stunted, unhealthy, and cadaverously pale, and in characterizing the average man, wrote, "There is insipidity in his face, indecision in his step, and inefficiency in his whole bearing." Clarke wrote little about Aunt Abby's features, mentioning only that she was tall and had "shrewd black eyes." Although the author acknowledged Aunt Abby's illiteracy, she emphasized Abby's vigor, force of will, enterprising nature, and fearlessness. (32)
Interestingly, Clarke also presented another view of Abby House-this one unflattering--by a conservative North Carolina politician. In the final portion of the second article of the series, Governor Vance remembered Abby as a woman who had often importuned him for favors for the troops. He furnished an anecdote about "Aunt Aggy" that contrasted with Clarke's depiction. (33) Vance recounted that Aunt Abby had told him that her nephew Marcellus, because of his cough, should not return to service. She asked the governor to certify to General Lee that Marcellus was not "fitten for to go back." Even though Vance tried to avoid writing, claiming he was no doctor, Aunt Abby insisted, arguing that "they'll believe anything you tell 'em." The governor then wrote to Lee reporting that Abby House believed her nephew had a "most distressing 'coff.'" Vance opined that "Marcellus, like his great namesake, has his thoughts 'bent on peace.' I fear that the air here is too far South for his lungs, and earnestly recommend that more salubrious atmosphere of the Rappahannock." There, Vance continued, Marcellus should be administered "a compound of sulphur, saltpetre and charcoal, to be copiously administered by inhalation." Of course, Vance's high-flown language barely masked his opinion that Marcellus was dodging duty and should be ordered to the battlefield. According to Vance, he had read his letter "in a loud and pompous tone" to Aunt Abby, who was delighted with it. To ensure his stratagem went undetected, Vance had cautioned her that people might laugh at the letter because they disliked him. (34)
In Vance's version, which Clarke tacked verbatim to her account, Aunt Abby was easily misled by bombast. Rather than the shrewd patriot depicted by Clarke, Aunt Abby appeared a gullible old woman, fooled first by her malingering nephew, then by the resourceful Vance. Whereas, earlier in these accounts and their anecdotes, the reader had been laughing with Aunt Abby, Vance was merely laughing at her.
Not only does Vance's account of Abby House undermine Clarke's strong character, but it also clearly expresses doubts about the patriotism of plain folk. Despite Vance's famous ability to draw support from the common people, in this story he showed contempt for them and a skepticism absent from Clarke's account. Perhaps the disparities between these two accounts help explain why Clarke wrote no more stories about Aunt Abby House, even though Daniel Harvey Hill, her editor, suggested that these two pieces had been some of her most popular writing. Hill promised to publish accounts of Aunt Abby any time they became available; he himself actually mentioned her in his magazine at least two other times in 1867, alluding to additional tales about her that had been sent to him by readers. (35) These stories ran the gamut from a confrontation with President Andrew Johnson to an encounter with an Irish hack driver in Richmond. Hill himself dealt with the problems that Vance's note had raised by including an additional anecdote. When Aunt Abby heard Clarke's sketch read aloud, she realized "the true meaning, or something approaching it," of Vance's note. She then averred "ef ever I set eyes on Zeb Vance agin, I reckon I'll gin him a piece of my mind for his impidence in perfumifying words so as to sound one way and mean another. He's a smart man, the Lord knows, but I'll let him know he'd better not try to play none 'er his tricks on me agin." Where Clarke ignored class differences in her version of the outspoken Aunt Abby, Hill confronted the deceptive aspect of Vance's anecdote and let her have the last word. Here, as in his regular column celebrating the common soldier, Hill appeared more democratic than Clarke. (36)
In early spring 1867, while she was writing about Aunt Abby, Mary Bayard Clarke also began a fictional series written entirely in dialect starring Betsey Bittersweet, another plain-folk woman. In the first columns, Betsey was a younger counterpart of the irrepressible Aunt Abby, with the humor emphasized and shrewdness replacing heroism. Over the course of the Bittersweet series, which includes at least eight letters and one poem written and published between May 1867 and March 1868, Clarke's humor and purpose changed. As she consistently used the character of Betsey Bittersweet as a critic of African American aspirations and abilities, her commentary over time became harsher and more virulently racist. What began as a criticism of Reconstruction through the prism of gender and domestic concerns evolved into a screed against African American citizenship and autonomy; nevertheless, Clarke, while unloading her frustrations and prejudices into the articles, continued to explore issues of class and gender. (37)
The Betsey Bittersweet pieces, published anonymously, were written in a broad plain-folk idiom, and Clarke generally concentrated more on the jokes than the persona. Clarke first presented Betsey as a middle-aged woman who, with hilarious malapropisms, presented simple wisdom about the political situation of the day. Clarke may have conceived her columns as a feminine parallel to the Bill Arp writings, which had continued through the war into Reconstruction. It seems likely that she chose the name Bittersweet because of its oxymoronic elements, which suggest sweet and sour as well as pain and pleasure; she may also have known bittersweet to be a poisonous plant in the nightshade family. In the first Betsey Bittersweet letters, Clarke considered former Confederates' relationship to the federal government. Social and domestic institutions dominated two columns and a poem, all published in May 1867, as Betsey first focused on the actions of her high-spirited daughter Betsey Jane and then compared Reconstruction to a new laundry technology. The first column, which was published on May 4, 1867, in the form of a letter written by Betsey Bittersweet dated March 18, 1867, considered the question of obedience to the United States government. Like Bill Arp, who detailed his problems in becoming "harmonised" with the government, Betsey Bittersweet dealt with patriotism. (38) She explicitly contrasted herself to her high-strung daughter Betsey Jane, who remained a full-throated Confederate nationalist. The letter, dated two weeks after the passage of the First Reconstruction Act, describes Betsey Jane as "decidedly demoralized" because northern newspapers (including by name the one publishing the letter) had suggested that southerners had fights. Betsey wrote that, without such influences, her daughter "would settle down, and reckoncile herself to what can't be helped, and go 'long burying her longing fur liberty in the graves of our dead soldiers." Describing herself as "subjugated," Mother Betsey tried to tamp down this spirit of resistance with a biblical reference. Yet she misread the admonition to give food and drink to one's enemy because returning good for evil would mortify him and thus figuratively "heap coals of fire" upon him. Instead, the Bittersweet women imagined using actual coals: Betsey Jane imagined "a flinging of coals all round ginerally, and if one of 'em fell inter a powder magazine and blowed up everything, it wouldn't be her fault." Here Clarke introduced one of her favorite gender motifs: the explosiveness of southern women's love of country. (39)
Humorously contrasting the patriotism of younger women with her own "subjugation," Betsey noted that young women's activism increased when social events were involved, and she disparaged her daughter's wish to sing in a benefit concert. "'Lord sakes, Betsey,' says I, 'you can't sing no more 'en a cow.'" Betsey Jane agreed, but she added, "if I can't sing, I kin work like a horse for them." What Betsey Jane lacked in ladylike accomplishments--for example, a pleasant singing voice--she made up for in enthusiastic devotion to the recently defeated South, which led her to threaten a Yankee woman who had disparaged General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. "Betsey Jane said afterwards, that ef she had er said another word, she'd er tore her limb from limb and flung her under the stage," wrote Betsey Bittersweet. (40)
Willing to assail northern women, Betsey Jane and her young friends also insulted the occupation force. Mother Betsey ironically declared that the Union army officers "didn't have sense enough to know that nothing pleases a woman better than persecution of her." Her description of Betsey Jane and other young women in Raleigh crossing the street rather than walking under a United States flag emphasized the ridiculous figure they cut in their determination to demonstrate their politics: "You'd er thought it was Christmas, and they'd all bin a drinking egg-nogg, from the zig-zag way they went first to one side and then to 'tother. I thought they'd all on 'em er staid at home as could do so, but 'stead o' that, it seemed like they was every one on 'em bound to go up or down street a dozen times that day." (41)
Betsey Bittersweet emphasized the flirtatious, somewhat frivolous nature of the young ladies' behavior. When one soldier called them "sweet little rebels" and "a pack of fools," the only sensible officer among them, according to Betsey, told his fellows that they were bigger fools for getting "mad with school-gals and wimmen for not walking under the flag." Yet Betsey also asserted her own Confederate partisanship in her relations with the Union soldiers. Intervening to help her daughter secure space from the occupying authorities for a proposed fair, Betsey spoke with an officer who offered a room and also proposed to decorate it with United States flags. Looking at the dirty floors, Betsey rebuffed him: "Well, I dun know; seems lik ther wont be no need for a foot mat, but I thank yet all the same fur the offer o' one." When the red-faced officer explained that he meant to place the flags over dirty spots on the wall, Betsey exclaimed, "Lord bless your soul, Majer, stretch the stars and stripes as you will, you can't make 'em hide the black and dirty spots that you's a trying to kiver with 'em." (42) Here was a barbed shot that conflated dishonesty with support for African American rights.
In sum, this first letter conveyed the message--whether through Betsey's insults or young Betsey Jane's tableau--that southern women felt greater loyalty to the lost Confederate nation than to the revived Union. The only difference between Betsey and her daughter was that Betsey Jane "knocks 'em down flat, and leaves 'em to git up or not as they choose, while I pats and smoothes them over, and jest when they begin to think what a kind nice ole roman I is, they finds out its blister plaster intment that I've been a rubbing into 'em." (43)
Putting gender front and center in this letter, Clarke used critiques that she repeated in other Betsey Bittersweet articles. Betsey hopelessly misunderstood the religious injunction about the treatment of one's enemies and instead used it to justify tormenting them--by heaping "coals of fire." As in many other dialect stories, these characters lacked the manners and training of the elite--Betsey Jane could neither play an instrument nor sing but could engage in fisticuffs. Much of this column's message concerns the North, and in this justification of southern defiance, the northern occupation seems unmannerly, harsh, and deeply dishonest. Betsey believed, for example, that General Sherman hailed from the "Barbarous States." (44) Despite Clarke's inclusion of a racist barb and insults to Union leaders, central to the first letter are young women, soldiers, patriotic beliefs, and social interactions.
The second Betsey Bittersweet letter, accompanied by a poem, "A Union Ditty," was published in the conservative Raleigh Daily Sentinel. Betsey returned to the theme of the northern treatment of white southerners and also demonstrated women's growing fascination with household technology. As postbellum southern white women began to negotiate with servants who were free rather than enslaved, some among the elite looked to the new technology of stoves, washing machines, and sewing machines. (45) In her discussion of the great Union "washing mashin," Betsey skewered northern policy as she addressed questions of southern loyalty and the reconstitution of the Union. The prose letter pointedly interprets the latter part of the war and the occupation in material terms of money and laborsaving devices. Apparently agreeing with Clarke's former editor D. H. Hill, who had asserted his loyalty to greenbacks, Betsey argued, "I goes furder even than he does, for I aint not only loyal to greenbacks but I am a rigler out and out Unionist." To distinguish herself from Governor William Woods Holden and others who cooperated with Presidential Reconstruction, Betsey declared herself "a Mashin Unionist." Moreover, she used this commitment to new machinery to give an answer to the so-called servant problem. Thus she exhorted her "sisters in afflictshun, who is half worried out'n their lives, and whole worried out'n ther tempers, to turn mashin Unionists at wonst, and send off the free ladies of color they's er paying for not doing of ther washing, and get a UNION WASHING MASHIN, and a UNION CLOTHES WRINGER and a UNION CLOTHES DRYER." (46)
While advocating new technology, Betsey included an assessment of the merits of various machines, which paralleled in degrees of rigor the federal policy toward the South. She advised against the AMERIKIN MANGLE, a kind of heated clothes press, because "seems to me them as is already ironed, to say nothing 'bout being muzzled, don't need mangling." Betsey also admitted that she didn't like "SHERMAN'S WRINGER, nether; it haint got no cogs, and squeezes ruther too hard." In her finale on new inventions, she concluded, "Some folks says as how the WORLD'S DRYER is better'n the UNION DRYER, because it performs revolutions; but that's the very reason I don't 'prove on it." From the viewpoint of a failed nation, Betsey argued, "Revolutions is apt to tare things up ginerally, and, if they don't run smooth, ends in being nothing but rebellions, and all we Southern women know as how, in this here 'great rebelion,' so called, a sight o'clothes has been tore up. And we can't afford the ware and tare of a WORLD' S DRYER, if its gwine ter rebel, insted o' revolutionizing, as it's full like to do ef a freed lady of color has the handling of it." (47)
The remainder of the column combines derisive remarks about a Republican convention with a discussion of the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, presumably referring to its wartime suspension. Betsey linked the two topics by noting that were she to call North Carolina Unionists "a dirty set" that "oughter be run through a washing mashin and a wringer, and then left higher and DRYER," then "the fust thing I know I'll be in jail, with my funeril appinted and ... the undertaker of the mongril--or is it man-grill?--Convention, engaged to see that my corpis is suspended, too." Here she confused and conflated meanings to suggest the Republicans would execute her for criticizing their meeting. (48)
When Clarke returned to her Betsey Bittersweet columns in the fall of 1867, she focused far more intently on political issues, especially those relating to African American rights, Radical Republicans in Congress, and local Republicans in North Carolina. Since her first columns had been published, the Republican-controlled Congress in Washington, D.C., had placed the former Confederate states under military rule and required them to write new constitutions that allowed African American men to vote. (49) The times had changed, and Clarke drastically altered her humor as well. She found a new venue for her Bittersweet letters, in the Southern Home Journal, based in Baltimore. A November piece focused on the financial woes of Mary Todd Lincoln, whom Betsey called the "ex-queen." (50) Portraying Mary Lincoln as a materialistic social climber who had viewed her husband's ascension to the White House as her gateway "to the main chance," Betsey Bittersweet provided a feminine solution to such money problems: Mary Lincoln should write sensational fiction to be published in installments. As Betsey put it: "One week I'd come out with a story called "The four S's, or the Secret Story of the Sable Set--Seward, Sumner, Stanton, and Stevens; and the Next I'd give the sequel to it, and call it 'One Queen of Diamonds versus Four Knaves of Spades.'" The projected titles attacked the honesty of the Republican leaders and--the phrases "sable set" and "spades" suggesting blackness--associated Radical Republicans with African Americans. Depicting Mary Lincoln as an ex-queen with money-grubbing motives portrayed her as crude and unladylike. (51)
While this column resembles some of Bill Arp's vituperative attacks on northern leadership, Clarke put distinctive touches on her Betsey Bittersweet. She used a plain-folk woman's vernacular speech to criticize Mary Todd Lincoln's airs, lack of refinement, and selfish materialism. The suggested solution of Mary Lincoln's financial problems pointed to Radical Republican misdeeds. Gender remained important; after all, Betsey was criticizing the former First Lady and indicating how women of the upper classes might deal with financial reverses. Pointed criticisms of the northern Republican leadership had replaced her earlier insulting references to the Yankee occupation.
In the columns that followed over the next four months, Clarke subordinated commentary on southern white gendered issues to a focus on race. As the election, which included both approval of the constitutional convention and the selection of delegates for it, occurred in November 1867, Clarke's anger over African Americans' voting became the main thrust of the Betsey Bittersweet columns. Rage about black autonomy lies at the heart of the letter published on December 7, 1867. Opening with an apology for her delay in writing because of the unsettled situation of the country--which she ascribed to "the fall in cotton and the niggers clean run crazy"--Betsey Bittersweet focused on the unsuitability of African Americans for the political franchise. First, she relayed a story from her husband about twenty of "his boys" who had registered to vote. When one of them showed him the radical ballot ("redikil ticket") and claimed it would be "good for a mule and forty acres of land when 'lection comes on," Mr. Bittersweet hit on an idea. He told his workers that if they deposited Republican ballots in the ballot box at the election, they would have nothing to show to claim their land and mule. He then gave them conservative ballots to put in the ballot box while they kept the others. Bittersweet closed his argument: "then you know when they come to divide out the critters and the land, ef there's any trouble 'bout it, all you've got to do is jest to put your hands in your pockets and pull out your papers [the Republican ballot] and show 'em." According to Betsey, the black laborers were enthusiastic about the plan, and one of them exclaimed that he had never trusted northern politicians "sence one of 'em told me he wa'nt no better 'en a nigger." (52)
Adding emphasis to the claims about African American gullibility, Clarke included an anecdote of Betsey's experiences with Polly, her cook. Caught up in political fever, Polly declared she was off "to forge all the notes" (a mangled version of voter registration) and asked to borrow a clothes basket to carry "de franchise" home. When Betsey quizzed her about what this franchise could be, Polly explained that a northern gentleman "had give us niggers the 'lective franchise, same as he gave the children of Israel manna in the desert; he sed we was brought out of the land of bondage by Marse Moses-Lincoln, and now we was to taste the good things in store for us." (53)
In this column, it was the cook, Polly, rather than Betsey, who used malapropisms and misunderstood the meaning of abstract concepts. Rather than a comic character who stumbled onto bits of wisdom, Betsey appeared the embittered sage who lamented the problems caused by Polly's lack of understanding: "the fool went a losing of a day's wages to get the blessings in store for her, but she come back at night and sed as how they told her they would'nt be give out till after the 'lection, and she was off agin when that come on, and as I had to do her work, and get dinner, 'ginst she come back to eat it, I haint had no time to write you in answer to your letter till today." (54) Under the guise of humor, Clarke presented the argument of white conservative politicians: uneducated blacks were easily tricked and understood voting only as a process that produced a material benefit. Clarke pushed her critique even further when she pictured one of the deceived field hands doubting northerners who argued in favor of racial equality.
With the approval of a constitutional convention and election for its delegates looming late in 1867, Clarke's humor became thoroughly fixated on the freedpeople and their status. Although Betsey Bittersweet customarily used New Bern, Clarke's home in eastern North Carolina, in her byline, she relied on the pretext of visits to her Cousin Jane in Raleigh to give news from the state's capital. Betsey Bittersweet moved from her original orientation, generically southern and focused on northern depredations. Instead, she lampooned North Carolina politics and criticized white politicians, especially William W. Holden, for involvement with the Republican Party and black politicians. Betsey also reported hearing a speech given by Zeb Vance in Raleigh. She did not indicate that Vance, strongly allied with the white conservatives, had urged North Carolinians to vote against the constitutional convention; instead she praised him as uncowed at the presence of Union troops. (55)
The white supremacist elements of Vance's speech loomed large to Betsey Bittersweet, and her column, like the preceding one, was meant to do race work. In the midst of her paean to Vance, Betsey declared that "he rose to the style" of noted British orator and historian Thomas Babington Macaulay. "He told the niggers they might elect ther candidates and they might set in convention, and they might make their constitutions, but for all that they'd find out that this was a white man's country, and white men was a going to rule it." Vance's speech culminated with the threat that "when it comes to a sure enuf fight you'll find that your ole masters will be too strong for you, for the great Northwest will pour down on you, and jining forces with the white folks here will exterminate you." At that point Union soldiers enthusiastically reacted. "That we will! That we will! Give it to 'em; this is the white man's country, and while gabonetts [bayonets] and bullets is to be got, niggers shan't rule it." (56)
This article, with its threatened violence toward African Americans, ended on an even more ominous note. Betsey expressed her thanks for the "last Yankee invention to keep the negroes from stealing the corn and cotton out'n the fields." This so-called invention was a new blend of fertilizer composed of the bones of the wartime dead, "soldiers and niggers, Federals and Confederates." Cousin Jane claimed to use it on "her roasting ear patch to keep the niggers from stealing her corn." When an African American queried Jane about such fertilizer, she replied that because spirits mainly haunted the location of their bones, the "ghosts is bound to chase everybody that comes a stealing." After "'a mighty rustlin' in that there corn patch," the raids stopped. Although Betsey feared the supply of human bones would be insufficient to meet the demand and they "will take to sending of us critter bones in the place of 'em," she decided this was immaterial: "ef they will only make the niggers think they can hant it will be all the same to your true friend, Betsey Bittersweet." (57)
Here Betsey appeared as the spokesperson of a white supremacist crusade. While emphasizing white unity across class lines in North Carolina, Betsey also tried to rally Union soldiers under a white supremacy banner, suggesting that those from the Midwest opposed African American suffrage as strongly as did southern whites. Given the efforts of nineteenth-century families to retrieve the bodies of their fallen dead in order to re-bury them at home, her speculations about using ground bones as fertilizer may have disgusted many. Yet Betsey was willing to risk offending her readers in order to demonstrate black thievery and advocate white violence to counter it. (58)
Betsey Bittersweet's themes resemble the rhetoric of the Ku Klux Klan, which was then beginning to take shape. Her explanation of the magic of the "fertilizer" depicted African Americans as dishonest and also gullible and easily frightened. Betsey's reference to the "hants," ghosts of the dead, echoed contemporary white views that African Americans could be policed by playing on their superstitions. As Allen W. Trelease's magisterial study of the Reconstruction-era Klan has shown, this emphasis on trickery and supernatural intimidation was common in the early Klan, from its founding in postwar Tennessee in the spring of 1867. (59) Clarke perhaps knew about the conservative paramilitary response to Reconstruction then brewing in North Carolina; if so, her references to the white supremacist aspects of Zeb Vance's speech are significant because of his association with the early Klan. (60)
Three final letters, published in 1868 as the Republican-dominated constitutional convention began, continued Betsey's rants against African Americans and especially against their participation in government. The January 1868 letter targeted Radical Republicans and their "worship" of blacks. Betsey sneered, "I couldn't tell at fust what they [Republicans] meant by always a talking about its being ther duty to elevate the nigger; for, you see, I thought, when he had plenty of good vittles and close [clothes] and a master to take keer of him and see that he done his duty in that state of life to which God had called him--that is, in the corn-field and cotton patch--he was about as high up as he could git without its turning of his head, and making him tumble down lower than ever." (61)
To be sure, Betsey Bittersweet still occasionally discussed gender rather than race. A letter dated January 1, 1868 (published in February), suggested that Christmas should be reconstructed: "It was hard enough for us mistisses, in old times when we could manage to make the niggers take turns about going off, and only expected 'em to git us something to eat and tote in wood; but now when every one of 'em thinks to take theirselves off for a whole week, and the mistis has to cook, to say nothing of gitting up before day to make egg-nogg ... I say Christmas is a boar that goes round like a raging lion a using of us woman folks up." The same letter addressed at greater length what Betsey saw as the absurdity of African Americans serving on juries. "The niggers down this way is a gitten pretty sick I can tell you of setting on juries and being tried by ther own colour," she claimed. She reeled off anecdotes about black jurors who dozed off during the proceedings and a black jury that brought in nothing but verdicts of guilty, despite the judge's charge in one case that another African American, rather than the defendant, had been shown guilty of the hog stealing in question. When Mr. Bittersweet questioned a juror about such behavior, the African American told him that the jurors knew nothing about the evidence: "Ef the judge wanted men 'quitted he could do it himself; but when he hove the case over to the jury, they was guine to do their duty, which was to condemn 'em." Such anecdotes reinforced claims by southern whites that African Americans knew and cared nothing about Anglo-American conventions of trial, evidence, and presumption of innocence. (62)
The final Betsey Bittersweet letter, published in March 1868, again focused on the constitutional convention and included the usual general and specific criticisms of African American legislators and their white allies. Betsey characterized them as interested only in the daily expense allowance and as completely ignorant of the usages and terms of parliamentary procedure. Arguing that the "fights lays between the Conservatives and the niggers," she declared that "the white Radicals in this convention aint got sense enough even to be the puppets" of white Republican William W. Holden. As she had done in her column a month earlier, she suggested that she had attended the convention in disguise, dressed as a northern teacher for the freedpeople's schools. This column once again demonstrates Mary Bayard Clarke's knowledge of local politics, but it also suggests that Betsey Bittersweet, though fueled by fury, was otherwise running out of steam. In an ambiguous closing, even though she promised her readers that they could "depend on hearing the truth about the convention," she signed off, "And so no more from your Special reporter, Betsey Bittersweet." This, in fact, appears to have been Betsey's swan song. (63)
On the surface, Clarke seems to have lacked the motivation to write such vitriolic conservative humor. Not only did she have many prewar connections to the North, but she also created a great deal of brouhaha in her own family in the immediate postwar period because of her friendships with Union army officers. Frances Miller, her older sister, threatened to break relations if Mary continued to entertain Union soldiers. Furthermore, Mary Clarke seems not to have had the troubled relationships with enslaved people that might have fueled the racist rants of Betsey Bittersweet; Frances Miller had also criticized her sister severely for the degree of autonomy that Mary allowed a free black woman whom she employed as late as 1861. Finally, Clarke herself, while not an advocate for woman suffrage, did not envision barring women from the public sphere. She wrote for publication even before she needed the money, and her adoption of the pen name Tenella stemmed largely from her father's distaste about her name appearing in print. (64)
Perhaps Clarke put an end to Betsey Bittersweet because of events in her own life. Ironically, within a couple of months of the last Bittersweet column, Clarke's husband joined the Republican Party and became a political appointee and activist. With his health and nerves shattered by Confederate service, severe wounds, and several months in a Union prison, William Clarke struggled to stay afloat financially and emotionally in the postwar period. In the spring of 1868 he became increasingly uneasy with the Conservative Party that Mary celebrated. To him the Republicans offered both opportunity and a more congenial group of politicians. (65)
After 1868, Mary Clarke appears not to have returned to writing humor or overtly political commentary, although she continued to publish a great deal in an effort to keep her family financially solvent. She helped her husband edit a Republican newspaper and after 1868 published essays, book reviews, and poems. Was she in fact living out conservative gender ideals as an obedient wife and thus obscuring or even changing her political views? These questions can never be definitively answered, but Mary Clarke apparently supported her husband and his political decisions. At the same time, it must be noted that her husband supported her independence of action, especially against the criticisms of the extended Devereux family. Whether it was a question of her friendships with Union officers in 1865 or her candidacy for the post of state librarian, which her friend Justice Edwin G. Reade, a Republican member of the North Carolina Supreme Court, advocated in 1869, William Clarke was a tolerant husband who permitted his wife a wide sphere of action. (66)
The Aunt Abby stories and Betsey Bittersweet columns present plain folks, and especially plain-folk women, in different ways. Adopting the role of narrator in her pieces on Abby House, Clarke let Aunt Abby carry the vernacular humor. Told in a straightforward style, the Aunt Abby stories were no more sentimental than magazine pieces in general. That Abby House doubted the honesty of northern soldiers suggests that plain folks were far from willing to reconcile themselves to Yankee rule. Although Aunt Abby could be seen as a Confederate patriot, Clarke's depiction highlighted her outspokenness, bravery, and willingness to confront southern leaders. The respect that Clarke accorded Aunt Abby as a heroine evoked unity among whites. D. H. Hill's enthusiasm for the stories and their reprinting in the Raleigh Daily Sentinel suggest that these stories were popular with elite whites and possibly some of their poorer neighbors as well. (67)
The Betsey Bittersweet columns approach plain whites from a very different perspective. While similarly growing out of Mary Clarke's sojourns in the North Carolina countryside, these columns do not demonstrate the same respect for common whites. Betsey, especially early on, proceeded from malapropism to malapropism as she tore apart Yankee honesty and manners. In part, Clarke seems, like other female humorists, to have wanted Betsey to start out a good-hearted but uneducated observer of society who highlighted women's patriotism and concerns. Betsey frequently confused her figures of speech but was depicted, like Aunt Abby, as shrewd. In the later Bittersweet letters, Betsey became a conduit to suggest that common whites held viciously racist views. In late 1867 and 1868, the character of Betsey became a mouthpiece for those who derided African Americans and played cruel tricks on them. And unlike minstrelsy, which borrowed elements of African American culture, the black characters in the Bittersweet letters are cardboard figures meant to illustrate the illiteracy and dishonesty of African Americans, mere foils to show Betsey's perceptions of the shortcomings of that race. (68)
The social and political foci of the Bittersweet letters undermine Clarke's portrayal of Betsey in terms of class. Despite her plain-folk speech, Betsey referred to herself as an Episcopalian, and the column on Mary Todd Lincoln highlights questions of class in its discussion of the proper behavior of a lady. And the issue of African American suffrage caused Betsey's plain-folk persona to disintegrate almost completely. In the story about hoodwinked African American voters, her husband was obviously a planter and she, a lady disgruntled with her cook. Betsey's proposal to reconstruct Christmas was similarly the lament of a privileged woman accustomed to the labor of the enslaved. These were concerns of the landed elite, not those of the ordinary farmers the Bittersweets supposedly represented.
Relying on only the last six Betsey Bittersweet pieces, Anne Rubin, in an essay published in 2006, has suggested that Betsey Bittersweet represents "political ventriloquism." Given Bittersweet's "masculine characteristics," her letters, according to Rubin, use a woman to do the dirty work of pushing women back to their antebellum status, curtailing any claims to political expression. (69) Here, Rubin depends on Betsey's arguments against woman suffrage in the later pieces, made when Betsey visited the constitutional convention. Betsey justified this reportage, saying that she visited her cousin Jane in Raleigh whenever there was "anything a stirring at the Capital," and continuing "for though I think as a general rule politics and petticoats is too p's as oughten to be in the same pod, since they've turned our men into wimen--or tried to do it by disfranchising of 'em--we wimen, who always was counted politically with the niggers you know, is got demoralized and has gone into politics ... 'jest to embarrass things.'" (70)
The next article includes Betsey's musings that she "never did understand what the Northern wimen kept up such a fuss about female suffrage and wimen's rights for. The Yankees must be a sight meaner than I take 'em to be, ef a woman can't git her rights from 'em without depriving a man of his." Betsey advocated a plain-folk version of belledom as power, in which women achieved personal and political influence by manipulating men: "We've all of us a right to our own way, when we kin git it without a row in the family; and a smart woman kin always do that, if she goes the right way to work." (71)
Yet these arguments take on a different salience when compared with the three early pieces in which Clarke trumpeted the importance of women's political engagement. Indeed, in her first letter in the spring of 1867, Betsey Bittersweet based her case for women's patriotism on the similarities between men and women: "Woman's natur is jest human natur, Mister Editers, arter all. Men conceals their feelings, which is the same as women's; the only difference is, women they jest up and let all on it out, while the men keep ther's bottled up, and sicks the women on to admiring of ther spunk." (72)
In contrast, the letters of fall 1867 push racial issues to the forefront and soft-pedal women's political leanings. Rubin has suggested that, because Clarke herself used a feminine persona to write political satire, she may have felt it necessary to differentiate Betsey Bittersweet from northern advocates of women's rights. It seems more likely, given the shift in the columns, that Clarke used a sharpened conservatism as part of the attack on African American liberties. Clarke herself did not show much interest in the vote for women (even though her first cousin Lillie Devereux Blake was a noted suffragist), but she did believe in an enlarged sphere of education and work for women. (73) In 1867 she appears to have been enraged by the possibility that uneducated black men could receive rights that educated white women could not possess--a possibility that also dismayed Elizabeth Cady Stanton. (74) One of the Bittersweet letters featured a telling confrontation between Betsey and Polly, her cook. After Betsey remonstrated with Polly "that 'You cant vote, 'cause you are a woman, and you might as well stay and git dinner,' Polly retorted, 'I'm as black as eny body.... and I knows my fights and am a gwine to the court-house after 'em.'" Thus, in Polly's view and perhaps in Clarke's as well, race trumped gender: Polly claimed she was entitled to the franchise because she was black. A series that began with Clarke showing the female side of patriotism deteriorated into a call for white unity against black assertiveness, including the civic assertiveness of black women. (75)
Why, in the Betsey Bittersweet letters, did Mary Bayard Clarke deviate so far from the plain-folk persona of the Aunt Abby columns? Here the reputation of the publisher of the Bittersweet letters suggests some possible answers. The Aunt Abby stories had been published in D. H. Hill's The Land We Love, which though relatively short-lived, had a circulation of around twelve thousand and probably reached a significant portion of middle- and upper-class North Carolinians. Mary Clarke had much greater difficulty placing the columns of her acid-tongued Betsey Bittersweet. After the first Bittersweet letter appeared in the New York Day-book Caucasian, a northern Democratic publication that strongly opposed African American political fights, Clarke offered the "Union Washing Machine" letter and a poem to Hill, who flatly rejected them, calling the pieces "[t]oo rebellious my friend." When Clarke revived the column in November 1867, she published the remaining six letters in the Southern Home Journal, a somewhat marginal publication. In 1868 John R. Thompson, the former editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, characterized the Southern Home Journal as part of a "beggarly, disreputable lot" and advised Clarke to have "nothing more to do" with it. (76)
The first three Bittersweet pieces (published in the New York Daybook Caucasian and Raleigh Daily Sentinel) clearly aimed for readership North and South, as Betsey Bittersweet at times indicated that Yankee thievery and money-grubbing were Republican, rather than northern, characteristics. Even though the later columns concentrated on North Carolina politics, their publication in the Southern Home Journal, published in Baltimore, suggests a relatively limited circulation in North Carolina. Clarke's purpose seems double: she meant to convince northerners, as well as her fellow southerners, that African Americans were unworthy citizens. Her inclusion of northern soldiers in her anecdote about Zeb Vance's white supremacy speech indicates that these remarks were intended to resonate with a northern audience--albeit a conservative Democratic one--and gain support for the white offensive against black political rights.
Clarke's class masquerade also had a deliberate, more insidious aspect. Betsey Bittersweet's portrayal as one of the common people lodged her racist views among ordinary whites, not wealthy planters, a point that becomes clearest when these columns are contrasted to Clarke's other political writings. While she was publishing these viciously racist portrayals of the North Carolina constitutional convention in the speech of the plain folks, she, using the initial C. as a signature, also wrote a genteel account of the convention for New Bern's Journal of Commerce that praises white conservatives. There, the conservatives were "representing the respectable portion of the people of North Carolina" in a convention that contained "the leading men of the State, irrespective of all former political differences...." Unlike the Bittersweet columns, which simply denounce African American equality, C. high-mindedly saw the conflict as that between the rule of law and "negro supremacy." Indeed she asserted that Zeb Vance in his speech before the conservative convention "convinced his black as well as white hearers, that he spoke but the truth, when he said that he had nothing but the kindest feelings towards the negro; and that while he would unflinchingly stand up and do battle for the supremacy of the white race, he would ever be found the champion of the black, should they be threatened with oppressions, or denied their civil rights before the law." When publishing in the Journal of Commerce, Clarke adopted a paternalistic guise and included Vance under its aegis; in the role of Betsey Bittersweet, she felt free to use racist epithets, denigrate blacks, and threaten violence. Moreover, the dispassionate paternalism shown by C. in the description of North Carolina politics contrasts sharply with the frustrated, vindictive tone of Betsey Bittersweet's writing, suggesting differing levels of emotional control among various classes of whites. (77) The Jekyll/Hyde quality of these contemporaneous columns demonstrates that conservative white writers went to great lengths to match their message to their audience.
Contrasted with an older view of Reconstruction as a "reign of terror" waged against periodicals published by native white southerners, a recent interpretation of southern periodicals emphasizes the firm control exercised by conservative publishers over dissemination of the news and over southern views of freedpeople. These were crucial in shaping northern attitudes toward Reconstruction. (78) Mark Wahlgren Summers has portrayed the influence that local conservative southerners exerted on northern correspondents, who then wrote biased accounts about the evils of Reconstruction; and Richard H. Abbott's study of southern Republican newspapers indicates the difficulties that those publications faced. (79) Clarke's columns show how humor could be part of the conservative counterattack. And perhaps it helped convince the real Aunt Abby, who, despite Zeb Vance's patronizing air, remained a vociferous supporter. In fact, in 1876 Abby House was allowed to cast a vote for him at the Democratic convention that nominated him for governor. (80)
Humorous writings were an important part of the white response to black assertiveness after 1867. Historians like William A. Blair have pointed out how the politicized nature of commemorative activities in the postwar South allowed conservative politics to be carried on in cultural dress. Indeed, there was a panoply of social and cultural activities by which white southerners sought to express and mold feelings of group solidarity and unquestioned white supremacy. (81) While Clarke may have considered the racism of Betsey Bittersweet common among ordinary white southerners, the Bittersweet columns did much to further those prejudices and to locate them in the public mind among the poorer whites. Thus, her writings seem to place antipathy against blacks outside the plantation ideal, about which elite white southerners would soon begin to reminisce.
Mary Bayard Clarke brought a female vantage point to humor in the post-Civil War South, but her Bittersweet letters share common features with the writings of white southern male humorists in their approach to plain folks, African Americans, and the Confederacy. Clarke's early representations of Betsey and young Betsey Jane as still devoted to the lost Confederate nation run along lines similar to those used by Innes Randolph, who wrote the poem "The Lay of the Last Rebel," commonly known as "Oh, I'm a Good Old Rebel." Using vernacular speech, Randolph, himself an elite Virginian, created a common soldier who declared a strong postwar Confederate allegiance: "I hates their striped banner--I fitt it all I could." The poem closes with a pledge not to be reconstructed. (82)
Yet the humor most similar to Clarke's in approach and material is that of Charles Henry Smith, an upper-class Georgian, in his plain-folk creation, Bill Arp. Bill Arp's letters viciously satirize African Americans both during the war and in postemancipation Georgia. Smith, himself a member of the Ku Klux Klan, used his fictional character to launch a bitter assault against Reconstruction. In a particularly dark piece, Bill Arp declared at one point, "These niggers will have to go back to the plantashuns and wurk. I ain't a goin to support nary one of em, and when you heer anybody say so, you tell em it's a lie, so called. I golly, I ain't got nuthin to support myself on. We fout ourselves out of evrything, xceptin childern and land, and I spose the land are to be turned over to the niggers for graveyards." (83) Clarke and Smith created characters who believed the North to be tainted by hypocrisy, self-interest, and dishonesty and held to a Confederate patriotism that survived defeat. Arp and Bittersweet resorted to a barrage of anecdotes intended to illustrate African American inferiority and barbarity, anecdotes that became more vicious from 1867 to 1868 during the white conservative response to black suffrage.
Clarke and others in the white elite hit on a successful strategy in which they appeared high-minded in some guises, yet in others they appealed to northern racial prejudice. Alice Fahs has argued that even northern humorists--who, like David Ross Locke as Petroleum V. Nasby, exposed northern racism and small-mindedness--resorted to the same vocabulary as did Smith and the southern humorists. Certainly, the campaign for the Fifteenth Amendment the following year exposed the extent and depth of contemporary northern racism. (84)
In the Aunt Abby stories, Clarke celebrated the strong-mindedness and achievements of an actual woman of the people. Ultimately, though, Clarke, like Charles Henry Smith and Innes Randolph, sought unity across class lines not by persuasion but by class masquerade. All three writers created plain-folk characters who, regardless of the independence they might otherwise show, acknowledged their betters in the white community and respected them. The writers infused their poor white characters with racial prejudice, making them appear to be the voices decrying African American rights and aspirations. This was a masquerade meant to convince northerners, and poor whites as well, of the inevitability of southern caste distinctions and, by extension, of the unnatural character of coalitions between ordinary whites and their African American neighbors. It also was part of the battle of words that some white southerners mounted against Reconstruction, as shown by the vocabulary they employed against northerners and even their own neighbors. (85) Mary Bayard Clarke came to feel the sting of those epithets when her husband joined the Republican Party; one wonders whether she came to regret Betsey Bittersweet's part in fomenting such prejudices.
(1) For histories that examine women and African Americans in the Civil War and Reconstruction, see the overview by Scott Reynolds Nelson and Carol Sheriff, A People at War." Civilians and Soldiers in America's Civil War, 1854-1877 (New York, 2007), especially chaps. 13 and 14; and also Laura F. Edwards, Gendered Strife and Confusion: The Political Culture of Reconstruction (Urbana, 1997). I would like to thank Jack R. Censer, J. William Harris, Terrell Armistead Crow, Jeffrey J. Crow, Gaines Foster, Michele Gillespie, Katie Hemphill, Cynthia Kierner, Robert Tracy McKenzie, Rosemarie Zagarri, and the Journal of Southern History's anonymous referees for their helpful criticisms, suggestions, and assistance on various versions of this article.
(2) For example, consult Mark A. Weitz, More Damning than Slaughter." Desertion in the Confederate Army (Lincoln, Neb, 2005); and David Williams, Teresa Crisp Williams, and David Carlson, Plain Folk in a Rich Man's War: Class and Dissent in Confederate Georgia (Gainesville, 2002). On North Carolina troops, consult Richard Bardolph, "Inconstant Rebels: Desertion of North Carolina Troops in the Civil War," North Carolina Historical Review, 41 (April 1964), 163-89.
(3) For social and political studies of classes and class relations in North Carolina, see Paul D. Escott, Many Excellent People: Power and Privilege in North Carolina, 1850-1900 (Chapel Hill, 1985); and Edwards, Gendered Strife and Confusion. On Alabama, see Michael W. Fitzgerald, "Radical Republicanism and the White Yeomanry during Alabama Reconstruction, 1865-1868," Journal of Southern History, 54 (November 1988), 565-96.
(4) For studies of the outpouring of writing from the Civil War era, see, in particular, Edmund Wilson, Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War (New York, 1962); Daniel Aaron, The Unwritten War: American Writers and the Civil War (New York, 1973); and Alice Fahs, The Imagined Civil War." Popular Literature of the North and South, 1861-1865 (Chapel Hill, 2001). Sarah E. Gardner, Blood and Irony: Southern White Women's Narratives of the Civil War, 1861-1937 (Chapel Hill, 2004), examines both fictional and memoir writings inspired by the Civil War.
(5) Charles Henry Smith, the author of the Bill Arp writings, claimed to have modeled the character on an actual man of the people by that name. Charles Henry Smith [pseud. Bill Arp], Bill Arp, So Called: A Side Show of the Southern Side of the War (New York, 1866), 6. On Smith and his character, Bill Arp, see David B. Parker, Alias Bill Arp: Charles Henry Smith and the South's "Goodly Heritage" (Athens, Ga., 1991); Fahs, Imagined Civil War, 195-224; and James C. Austin, Bill Arp (New York, 1969).
(6) Clarke's sketches echoed themes prominent in the writings of elite southern men but also deviated from them in subtle but important ways. The only article on the comic writings of Mary Bayard Clarke has focused on gender relations and the position of southern women after the war. See Anne Sarah Rubin, "Politics and Petticoats in the Same Pod: Florence Fay, Betsey Bittersweet, and the Reconstruction of Southern Womanhood, 1865-1868," in Catherine Clinton and Nina Silber, eds., Battle Scars: Gender and Sexuality in the American Civil War (New York, 2006), 168-88.
(7) Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, "Davy Crockett as Trickster: Pornography, Liminality, and Symbolic Inversion in Victorian America," in Smith-Rosenberg, Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America (New York, 1985), 90-108, explores gender and violence in the almanacs devoted to Crockett's adventures. On James Russell Lowell and The Biglow Papers, see C. David Heymann, American Aristocracy: The Lives and Times of James Russell, Am)', and Robert Lowell (New York, 1980), 85-90, 119-28.
(8) James C. Austin, Petroleum V. Nasby (David Ross Locke) (New York, 1965), 19-27, 44-98; James C. Austin, Artemus Ward (New York, 1964), 19-22, 70-93. Abraham Lincoln was a fan of the Artemus Ward columns. David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York, 1995), 374-75.
(9) Linda A. Morris, Women Vernacular Humorists in Nineteenth-Century America: Ann Stephens, Francis [sic] Whitcher, and Marietta Holley (New York, 1988). Both Stephens and Whitcher wrote in the prewar period. Nancy A. Walker, A Very Serious Thing: Women's Humor and American Culture (Minneapolis, 1988), surveys the changing face of women's humor from nineteenth-century origins, noting how humor and the ideals of meek womanhood were fundamentally at odds. Much of the large body of literature on female American humorists focuses on the twentieth century. See, for example, Regina Barreca, They Used to Call Me Snow White ... But I Drifted: Women's Strategic Use of Humor (New York, 1991).
(10) Biographies of Clarke and her husband, as well as of their son Francis and her father, Thomas P. Devereux, can be found in William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography (6 vols.: Chapel Hill, 1979-1996), I, 380-82, and II, 60-61. Terrell Armistead Crow and Mary Moulton Barden, eds., Live Your Own Life: The Family Papers of Mary Bayard Clarke, 1854-1886 (Columbia, S.C., 2003), xxv-xxvi, xxx-liii, also presents biographical information about the Clarke and Devereux families.
(11) Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 381-82; Crow and Barden, eds., Live Your Own Life, xxxii-xxxviii.
(12) Crow and Barden, eds., Live Your Own Life, xxx-liii, 2n4, 67, 90, 133-36. This is an invaluable study of Clarke. Crow and Barden present unpublished Clarke family letters and many of Mary Clarke's published writings, including "General Sherman in Raleigh," ibid., 206-13. Numerous southern women participated in the literary world, either by writing poetry and fiction or by helping edit magazines or journals. See, in particular, Elizabeth Moss, Domestic Novelists in the Old South: Defenders of Southern Culture (Baton Rouge, 1992); Elizabeth R. Varon, We Mean to Be Counted: White Women and Politics in Antebellum Virginia (Chapel Hill, 1998), 103-24; and Jonathan Daniel Wells, The Origins of the Southern Middle Class, 1800-1861 (Chapel Hill, 2004), 111-32.
(13) Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, III, 210, presents a biographical account of Abby House.
(14) Fictional sketches using dialect in order to amuse the reader can be contrasted with essays that present the real voices of white plain folk. See especially Edward E. Baptist, "Accidental Ethnography in an Antebellum Southern Newspaper: Snell's Homecoming Festival," Journal of American History, 84 (March 1998), 1355-83; and Charles C. Bolton and Scott R Culclasure, eds., The Confessions of Edward Isham: A Poor White Life of the Old South (Athens, Ga., 1998).
(15) Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, III, 210; "Aunt Abby, the Irrepressible: A Sketch from Life," The Land We Love, 3 (May 1867), 63-70 (quotations on 65), and (June 1867), 124-29. Information about The Land We Love can be found in Ray M. Atchison, "'The Land We Love: A Southern Post-Bellum Magazine of Agriculture, Literature, and Military History," North Carolina Historical Review. 37 (October 1960), 506-15; Kathleen Diffley, Where My Heart Is Turning Ever: Civil War Stories and Constitutional Reform, 1861-1876 (Athens, Ga., 1992), xxxvi-xxxvii; and Sam G. Riley, Magazines of the American South (Westport, Conn., 1986), 97-101.
(16) "Aunt Abby, the Irrepressible," 65.
(17) Ibid., 66. The good death involved a conscious acceptance of one's fate while surrounded by family members, in contrast to an agonizing death alone. See John R. Neff, Honoring the Civil War Dead: Commemoration and the Problem of Reconciliation (Lawrence, Kans., 2005), 22-23.
(18) "Aunt Abby, the Irrepressible," 66.
(20) Ibid., 67.
(21) Ibid., 68-69 (quotations on 69).
(22) Ibid., 64-66 (quotations on 64). For a discussion of North Carolina's egalitarian culture, see Bill Cecil-Fronsman, Common Whites: Class and Culture in Antebellum North Carolina (Lexington, Ky., 1992), chap. 2.
(23) On Unionism and antiwar activity, see Escott, Many Excellent People, 32-84; and Wayne K. Durrill, War of Another Kind: A Southern Community in the Great Rebellion (New York, 1990). Phillip Shaw Paludan, Victims: A True Story of the Civil War (Knoxville, 1981), examines the massacre of Unionists in Madison County, North Carolina, while Victoria E. Bynum, Unruly Women: The Politics of Social and Sexual Control in the Old South (Chapel Hill, 1992), 114-50, details resistance to the war in the Carolina Piedmont. On growing class conflict and class resentments in the North Carolina Piedmont, see Bess Beatty, Alamance: The Holt Family and Industrialization in a North Carolina County. 1837-1900 (Baton Rouge, 1999), 72-105. On the Unionist organization known as the Order of Heroes of America, see William T. Auman and David D. Scarboro, "The Heroes of America in Civil War North Carolina," North Carolina Historical Review, 58 (October 1981), 327-63; and also William T. Auman, "Neighbor Against Neighbor: The Inner Civil War in the Randolph County Area of Confederate North Carolina," ibid., 61 (January 1984), 59-92. For the extent of and reasons for desertion among Carolina troops, see Bardolph, "Inconstant Rebels," 169-83.
(24) "Aunt Abby, the Irrepressible," 67. On Davis, consult Paul D. Escott, After Secession: Jefferson Davis and the Failure of Southern Nationalism (Baton Rouge, 1978); and William J. Cooper Jr., Jefferson Davis, American (New York, 2000).
(25) "Aunt Abby, the Irrepressible," 69.
(26) Clarke's portrayal of Aunt Abby relates to the figure of the ideal farmwoman, who enjoyed a good bit of latitude in acceptable female behavior. See D. Harland Hagler, "The Ideal Woman in the Antebellum South: Lady or Farmwife?" Journal of Southern History, 46 (August 1980), 405-18, for an exploration of how agricultural magazines touted the ideal of the practical and knowledgeable farmwife.
(27) "Aunt Abby, the Irrepressible," 124-25.
(28) Ibid., 125.
(29) Ibid., 126.
(30) Ibid., 126-27.
(31) Ibid., 127.
(32) John Richard Dennett, The South as It Is: 1865-1866, edited by Henry M. Christman (New York, 1965), 121; Sidney Andrews, The South Since the War, edited by Heather Cox Richardson (Baton Rouge, 2004), 86-87; "Aunt Abby, the Irrepressible," 63. One can argue that modern stereotypes of common southern whites as a peculiarly backward people had been present in the eighteenth century and were being propagated during the antebellum period. See Anthony Harkins, Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon (New York, 2004), esp. chap. 1, for the argument that these stereotypes came to be applied to mountain folks during the late nineteenth century.
(33) Crow and Barden, eds., Live Your Own Life, 239-40.
(34) Ibid.; "Aunt Abby, the Irrepressible," 128 (quotations).
(35) Crow and Barden, eds., Live Your Own Life, 241-43.
(36) For the later anecdotes about Aunt Abby, see "The Haversack," in The Land We Love, 3 (August 1867), 339-40, and 4 (December 1867), 164-66 (quotations on 165-66).
(37) Rubin, "Politics and Petticoats in the Same Pod." Rubin's essay discusses the six "Betsey Bittersweet" columns published in the Southern Home Journal. Because the first three Bittersweet pieces--two in the form of letters and the third a poem by Bittersweet--were published earlier in 1867 in other periodicals, Rubin was unaware of these earlier Bittersweet pieces by Clarke.
(38) On Bill Arp, see the column from September 1865 reprinted in Charles Henry Smith [pseud. Bill Arp], Bill Arp's Peace Papers (New York, 1873), 109.
(39) "Betsey Bittersweet on 'Reconstruction,'" New York Day-book Caucasian, May 4, 1867, p. 2. I would like to thank David Smith and Jackie Willoughby of the New York Public Library for their important assistance in helping me locate the microfilm of this periodical. The biblical admonition comes from Proverbs 25:21-22.
(40) "Betsey Bittersweet on 'Reconstruction.'"
(45) "The Union Washing Machine," Raleigh Daily Sentinel, May 4, 1867, p. 2. This letter carried no date, but it referred to the one written for the New York Day-book Caucasian and assumed that the piece had already appeared--although both letters were published on the same day. For a discussion of the importance of technology to elite white southern women, see Jane Turner Censer, The Reconstruction of White Southern Womanhood, 1865-1895 (Baton Rouge, 2003), chap. 2.
(46) "Union Washing Machine," 2.
(49) Consult the classic study of this period, Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 (New York, 1988), chaps. 6 and 7.
(50) "Letter from Betsey Bittersweet," Southern Home Journal, November 30, 1867, p. 8. This piece focused on the controversy over Mary Todd Lincoln's selling her used clothing--an event reported in newspapers in October 1867--suggesting that Clarke did not write any Bittersweet letters during the summer of 1867. See Jean H. Baker, Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography (New York, 1987), 271-80; and Jason Emerson, The Madness of Mary Lincoln (Carbondale, Ill., 2007), 27-28.
(51) "Letter from Betsey Bittersweet," Southern Home Journal, November
30, 1867, p. 8.
(52) Ibid., December 7, 1867, p. 8. J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton dates the election on November 19 and 20, 1867. While the election chose delegates for the convention, a majority of registered voters was required to approve the convention for it to occur. J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, Reconstruction in North Carolina (1914; Gloucester, Mass., 1964), 251-52.
(53) "Letter from Betsey Bittersweet," Southern Home Journal, December 7, 1867, p. 8.
(55) Ibid., December 21, 1867, p. 8. Vance's biographer notes that Holden's paper refused to print this speech because of its "treason, profanity, and blackguardism." Gordon B. McKinney, Zeb Vance: North Carolina's Civil War Governor and Gilded Age Political Leader (Chapel Hill, 2004), 274. On Holden's career during the Civil War and Reconstruction, consult William C. Harris, William Woods Holden: Firebrand of North Carolina Politics (Baton Rouge, 1987), 107-319.
(56) "Letter from Betsey Bittersweet," Southern Home Journal, December 21, 1867, p. 8.
(57) Ibid. Possibly Clarke's focus on ground bones was inspired by the newspaper reports in the summer of 1866 that crews removing the bodies of Union soldiers were selling Confederate remains as manure. See Caroline E. Janney, Burying the Dead but Not the Past: Ladies' Memorial Associations and the Lost Cause (Chapel Hill, 2008), 46.
(58) See Neff, Honoring the Civil War Dead.
(59) Allen W. Trelease, White Terror: The Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy and Southern Reconstruction (New York, 1971), 11, 14-15, 54-58; Scott Reynolds Nelson, Iron Confederacies: Southern Railways, Klan Violence, and Reconstruction (Chapel Hill, 1999), 95-114. For an examination of the complicated class relations in the Alabama Klan, see Michael W. Fitzgerald, "The Ku Klux Klan: Property Crime and the Plantation System in Reconstruction Alabama," Agricultural History, 71 (Spring 1997), 186-206.
(60) Trelease, White Terror, 20, 189-207. While one is tempted to suggest Clarke's brother-in-law Josiah Turner as a source for her knowledge about the nascent Klan, no evidence has thus far corroborated that. Turner, later the editor of the Raleigh Daily Sentinel, turned that newspaper into a rabidly conservative publication. Although his formal membership in the Klan has not been established, his sympathy for it was so great that at one time he was known as the "King of the Ku Klux." However, the Clarkes' relationship with Turner seems to have been strained, and Turner's enthusiasm for the Klan is usually dated later than these articles, around 1869 and 1870.
(61) "Letter from Betsey Bittersweet," Southern Home Journal, January 4, 1868, p. 8.
(62) Ibid., February 1, 1868, p. 8.
(63) Ibid., March 21, 1868, p. 5. A thorough search of the New York Day-book Caucasian for 1867 and the Southern Home Journal, Raleigh Daily Sentinel, and The Land We Love for all of 1867 and 1868 revealed no additional Bittersweet letters.
(64) Crow and Barden, eds., Live Your Own Life, xxx-xxxi, xl-xli, 81-83, 182-84, 215-18.
(65) Ibid., xlvii-li; Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 382. For the odyssey of another native white North Carolina Republican, see Jeffrey J. Crow, "Thomas Settle Jr., Reconstruction, and the Memory of the Civil War," Journal of Southern History, 62 (November 1996), 689-726.
(66) Crow and Barden, eds., Live Your Own Life, 268-69, 282-83.
(67) The first article on Aunt Abby, which had originally appeared in May 1867, was reprinted on May 24, 1867, on page 1 of the Raleigh Daily Sentinel.
(68) Compare Betsey Bittersweet's anecdotes to minstrel sketches as described in Eric Lott, Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (New York, 1993).
(69) Rubin, "Politics and Petticoats in the Same Pod," 171-74 (first quotation on 171; second quotation on 173).
(70) "Letter from Betsey Bittersweet," Southern Home Journal, December 21, 1867, p. 8.
(71) Ibid., January 4, 1868, p. 8.
(72) "Betsey Bittersweet on 'Reconstruction,'" New York Day-book Caucasian, May 4, 1867, p. 2.
(73) By the 1880s Clarke publicly advocated equal pay and a greater public role for women. See "Mary Bayard Clarke Book Review" , in Crow and Barden, eds., Live Your Own Life, 412-16; and Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 172-73.
(74) On Stanton, consult Ellen Carol DuBois, Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women's Movement in America, 1848-1869 (Ithaca, 1978), 173-79.
(75) "Letter from Betsey Bittersweet," Southern Home Journal, December 7, 1867, p. 1. Clarke was calling for white unity at a time when white Conservatives were strongly advocating white male republicanism, according to Karin L. Zipf, "'The WHITES shall rule the land or die': Gender, Race, and Class in North Carolina Reconstruction Politics," Journal of Southern History, 65 (August 1999), 499-534.
(76) Crow and Barden, eds., Live Your Own Life, 243-44 (first and second quotations), 259 (third and fourth quotations). At the same time that Hill was rejecting the Bittersweet pieces, he declared that the Aunt Abby articles were "splendid" and that he "would like to have a bushel of the same sort." Ibid., 244.
(77) Ibid., 255-56 (first, second, and third quotations on 255; fourth quotation on 256). Compare this in tone with an 1866 article that Clarke signed "A Lady of North Carolina," ibid., 222-28. On discerning the role of emotion in Reconstruction texts, consult Edward John Harcourt, "The Whipping of Richard Moore: Reading Emotion in Reconstruction America," Journal of Social History, 36 (Winter 2002), 261-82.
(78) Frank Luther Mott, American Journalism: A History of Newspapers in the United States through 250 Years, 1690-1940 (New York, 1941), 368-72 (quotation on 368). See Heather Cox Richardson, The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post-Civil War North, 1865-1901 (Cambridge, Mass., 2001), 42-69, on views of African Americans in the press. A recent history that sees manipulation of the press by both southern Republicans and southern conservatives is Ted Curtis Smythe, The Gilded Age Press, 1865-1900 (Westport, Conn., 2003), 1-44. Consult also the sketch of the Mobile Daily Register in Carl R. Osthaus, Partisans of the Southern Press: Editorial Spokesmen of the Nineteenth Century (Lexington, Ky., 1994), 118-48. Modern historians of Reconstruction tend to stress the overwhelming numerical and financial power of the conservative white press.
(79) Mark Wahlgren Summers, The Press Gang: Newspapers and Politics, 1865-1878 (Chapel Hill, 1994), chaps. 12 and 13; Richard H. Abbott, For Free Press and Equal Rights: Republican Newspapers in the Reconstruction South, edited by John W. Quist (Athens, Ga., 2004).
(80) Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, III, 210. For Vance's postwar popularity among the common people, see Steven E. Nash, "The Immortal Vance: The Political Commemoration of North Carolina's War Governor," in Paul D. Escott, ed., North Carolinians in the Era of the Civil War and Reconstruction (Chapel Hill, 2008), 269-94.
(81) William A. Blair, Cities of the Dead: Contesting the Memory of the Civil War in the South, 1865-1914 (Chapel Hill, 2004), chap. 2, examines commemorative activities as alternative political forms. Janney, Burying the Dead, 92-132, argues that southern elite women found "Lost Cause" activities an important public activity that gave them a new relationship to the state. On commemoration, see also Gaines M. Foster, Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of the New South, 1865 to 1913 (New York, 1987); Thomas L. Connelly and Barbara L. Bellows, God and General Longstreet: The Lost Cause and the Southern Mind (Baton Rouge, 1982); LeeAnn Whites, The Civil War as a Crisis in Gender: Augusta, Georgia, 1860-1890 (Athens, Ga., 1995); Kathleen Ann Clark, Defining Moments: African American Commemoration and Political Culture in the South, 1863-1913 (Chapel Hill, 2005); and the essays in W. Fitzhugh Brundage, ed., Where These Memories Grow: History, Memory, and Southern Identity (Chapel Hill, 2000). David W. Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (Cambridge, Mass., 2001), rather briefly covers southern whites.
(82) Curtis Carroll Davis, "Elegant Old Rebel," Virginia Cavalcade, 8 (Summer 1958), 42-47.
(83) Smith, Bill Arp's Peace Papers, 114. On Smith's activities during Reconstruction, see Parker, Alias Bill Arp, 29-30, 51-76. I have omitted from this discussion George Washington Harris, another southern vernacular humorist writing in the postwar period, because his stories about Sut Lovingood depended on a potent mixture of sexuality and scatological humor absent from Clarke's work. See James E. Caron and M. Thomas Inge, eds., Sut Lovingood's Nat'ral Born Yarnspinner: Essays on George Washington Harris (Tuscaloosa, 1996); and Milton Rickels, George Washington Harris (New York, 1965).
(84) See Richardson, Death of Reconstruction, 79-82; DuBois, Feminism and Suffrage; and Fahs, Imagined Civil War.
(85) See Ted Tunnell, "Creating 'the Propaganda of History': Southern Editors and the Origins of Carpetbagger and Scalawag," Journal of Southern History, 72 (November 2006), 789-822.
Ms. CENSER is a professor of history at George Mason University.…