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Edge of the Sword the Ordeal of Carpetbagger Marshall H. Twitchell in the Civil War and Reconstruction

by Ted Tunnell

  • ISBN: 9780807126592
  • ISBN10: 0807126594

Edge of the Sword the Ordeal of Carpetbagger Marshall H. Twitchell in the Civil War and Reconstruction

by Ted Tunnell

  • List Price: $36.95
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Louisiana State Univ Pr
  • Publish date: 05/01/2001
  • ISBN: 9780807126592
  • ISBN10: 0807126594
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Description: In this superb biography, Ted Tunnell explores the stranger-than-fiction life of Marshall Harvey Twitchell, one of the best-known carpetbaggers in the post-Civil War South. Native New Englander, Union soldier, Louisiana planter and politician, and later American consul in Canada, Twitchell was a colorful, successful man whose experiences illuminate the tumultuous events of the mid-nineteenth century. His story demolishes the dated stereotype of carpetbaggers as unprincipled scoundrels and serves as an excellent overview of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Stamped by the Puritan ethic as a boy in Vermont, Twitchell entered the elite Vermont Brigade in 1861 and fought in most of the important battles of the Virginia theater, including the Peninsula campaign, Gettysburg, and the Battle of the Wilderness, where he suffered a terrible head wound. He recovered and in 1864 became a captain in the United States Colored Troops, serving in that post until after Appomattox.

In the fall of 1865, Twitchell began his controversial postwar career as a Freedmen's Bureau agent in northwest Louisiana. He married a local planter's daughter, convinced his extended family to move from Vermont to his new home at Starlight Plantation on the upper Red River, and built a "Yankee colony" in the heartland of the Democratic South. In the mid-1870s, when north Louisiana became a battleground between Republicans and Southern Redeemers, the well-respected Twitchell and his family became prime targets of the notorious White League.

Tunnell's account of Twitchell's life and death struggle with the White League has more gut-wrenching suspense than most novels. The League murdered Twitchell's brother and threebrothers-in-law, and his sisters fell victim to disease and stress. Twitchell himself lost both arms to an assassin's bullets and his land and property were expropriated. Indeed, of the nine members of the Twitchell clan who settled in Louisiana, only Twitchell and his mother survived. Yet this indomitable man endured to become the American consul in Canada where he lived peacefully until his death in 1905.

In this first full-length study of Twitchell, Tunnell centers his sensational and engaging story in a broad social, cultural, economic, and political context and strikingly bridges the two climactic events of the late nineteenth century. His analysis of Twitchell's complex interaction with northwest Louisiana's business elite -- especially its pioneering Jewish merchants -- is cutting-edge scholarship. Edifying and entertaining for scholars, students, and general readers alike, Edge of the Sword is biography at its best.

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