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Author examines Spartanburg's place in Civil War, Confederacy

By Mary Therese Jackson
For the Spartanburg (SC) Herald-Journal
Published: Sunday, November 10, 2013

Almost 150 years after the last shots of the Civil War were fired and the Confederacy collapsed, Spartanburg is finally getting a book addressing how the war impacted its citizens of the time.

“Living a Big War in a Small Place: Spartanburg, South Carolina during the Confederacy” by Philip Racine will be released Tuesday at 7 p.m. at The Showroom, 149 S. Daniel Morgan Ave. Racine will speak and sign copies of his book. The event is free and open to the public.

“Since this is the first narrative of the war in Spartanburg, it provides structure to study and learn from,” Racine said. The book, illustrated with maps and historic photographs, addresses “how the war created divisiveness over new problems and amplified divisions, personal animosities and many other issues that had lain dormant for many years.”

Racine, who taught history at Wofford for 40 years and chaired the department from 1990 to 2008, dedicated his book to his students.

“While teaching a course on the Civil War I learned that it was difficult to get an idea of what the cumulative effects of all the disputes and issues in the Confederacy had on its rural population,” Racine said. “Spartanburg had a rich resource of primary sources that could help answer the question.”

The book, published by USC Press, explores the immense social and economic toll the war had on the community, even without any battles occurring in the area.

“As war wore on and created an atmosphere of divisiveness, it magnified a sense of hopelessness, and ultimately a fear of the future,” Racine said. “Both the white and slave populations were faced with a changing reality somewhat terrifying to the one and cautiously hopeful to the other.”

While this is the first book directly addressing the war in Spartanburg, there are many personal narratives that Racine took advantage of to understand more fully how life was in Spartanburg at the time. There are stories of slaves, home guards and Lowcountry families who took refuge in Spartanburg.

Racine's book tells about the three days in April 1865 when federal troops stopped in Spartanburg as they chased Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The cavalry came right down Church Street.

“This book depends greatly on personal stories,” Racine said. “These stories, based on primary sources, show ever more clearly the personal sacrifices, the impact of deprivations, and the anger and frustrations brought on by the war. Historians normally deal with populations in the aggregate, but these personal perspectives show how the aggregate actions are the result of the attitudes of thousands or millions of individuals who live in rural areas and their small villages.”

This is not the first time Racine has explored personal narratives to learn more about the Upstate region. During his time at Wofford, Racine delved into local history, publishing “Piedmont Farmer,” a local farmer's account of his life before, during, and after the Civil War, and “Seeing Spartanburg,” a pictorial history of Spartanburg.

“Local history provides the exceptions, the alternative thinking, the uncommon actions that ultimately make the history of the Confederacy so complex,” Racine said. “Local history can give answers to why individuals living their own lives can be so diverse in their feelings and thinking about issues.”

The book sells for $21.95 and is available locally at the Hub City Bookshop.

(Reprinted with permission)