Published: Jun 20 2022
Size: 6 x 9
Pages: 304
Illustrations: 9 b&w halftones
PAPERBACK: 978-1-64336-305-9
HARDCOVER: 978-1-64336-304-2
EBOOK: 978-1-64336-306-6

Southern History
Civil War
Reconstruction Era
South Carolina History & Culture
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The Man Who Started the Civil War

James Chesnut, Honor, and Emotion in the American South

Anna Koivusalo





A study of the socially transformational role of honor and emotion through the lens of one man's life

In the predawn hours of April 12, 1861, James Chesnut Jr. piloted a small skiff across the Charleston Harbor and delivered the fateful order to open fire on Fort Sumter—the first shots of the Civil War. In The Man Who Started the Civil War, Anna Koivusalo offers the first comprehensive biography of Chesnut and through him a history of emotion and honor in elite white southern culture. Rather than static ideas, Koivusalo reveals the dynamic, and at times fragile, nature of these concepts as they were tested and transformed from the era of slavery through Reconstruction.

Best remembered as the husband of Mary Boykin Chesnut, author of A Diary from Dixie, James Chesnut served in the South Carolina legislature and as a US senator before becoming a leading figure in the South's secession from the Union. Koivusalo recounts how honor and emotion shaped Chesnut's life events and the decisions that culminated in his ordering of the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter. Challenging the traditional view of honor as a code, Koivusalo sheds light on honor's vital but fickle role as a source for summoning, channeling, and expressing appropriate emotions in the nineteenth-century South.

Anna Koivusalo is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki.

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