Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Confederate Bushwhacker: Mark Twain in the Shadow of the Civil War

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Confederate Bushwhacker: Mark Twain in the Shadow of the Civil War

Article excerpt

Confederate Bushwhacker: Mark Twain in the Shadow of the Civil War. By Jerome Loving. (Hanover, N.H., and London: University Press of New England, 2013. Pp. [xviii], 243. $27.95, ISBN 978-1-61168-465-0.)

Texas A&M University English professor Jerome Loving's microbiography Confederate Bushwhacker: Mark Twain in the Shadow of the Civil War explores the complex and conflicted life and career of the famous nineteenth-century American literary figure by examining the year 1885, which Loving argues was the single most important year in Samuel Langhome Clemens's life. In 1885 Mark Twain's publishing house, Charles L. Webster and Company, released its two most popular and profitable books, what Loving calls Twain's "magnum opus," Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and the Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant (p. xi). Yet, according to Loving, Twain despite his fame became increasingly haunted by his past--a past that he would finally "come to terms with" when he made it public in his essay "The Private History of a Campaign That Failed," which appeared in the December 1885 issue of the Century magazine's Battles and Leaders series (p. 217). Loving believes that Twain was particularly worried about publicizing his past, not because he deserted after serving as what he called a "Bushwhacker" for two weeks in the Missouri State Militia, but because he had fought for the Confederacy and supported the institution of slavery. Loving also argues that the pivotal year of 1885 marked a change in Twain's ideological "concerns from black slavery to wage slavery, as he shifted his sights from Huckleberry Finn to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" (p. xiv).

The book takes a unique approach to Twain's life and begins with promise. Unfortunately, its flaws outweigh its nuance. The book jumps from one subject to another. It also includes interesting anecdotes, but they are often so tangential that they distract from the narrative and leave the reader uncertain how they advance Loving's thesis. …

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