The bulk of this book is an assembly of three hand-written volumes of existing diaries kept by Mrs. Cornelia Henry during the period in question, adorned and expanded by the addition of a number of family letters, documents relevant to her family, newspaper clippings, scenic prints, a selection of family pictures, with maps and various photographs and sketches of the area referred to, resulting in a volume much more interesting and charming than would have sounded from a plain and unadorned description. Mrs. Henry was the mother of a large family- eight living children out of twelve – an excellent record for the mid 19th century and before, when babies and children routinely died of diseases and accidents commonly and successfully treated as a routine afterthought in this 21st century. Her husband was a busy and relatively prosperous man, deeply involved in local politics and commerce; he owned and ran a farm and a mill, as well as a boarding-house in Sulphur Springs, near Asheville, North Carolina. This volume is a revealing pin-hole snapshot of that particular place, during that particular time. Mrs. Henry was not writing for anyone else than herself, and her close kin; her interests are intensely local and personal: fleeting observations about the great matters of the day are wedged in between notes of purely domestic concerns, as in this entry, from the spring of 1861, “ A pretty day. Atheline & I tacked a comfort and began another. Mr. Henry (her husband) went to Asheville being court week there… he was anxious to hear from Charleston as there is considerable excitements going on now in politics on account of a Black Republican being elected president. South Carolina has already seceded & the other cotton states will follow. I had two letters from home, from Dora and Matt…” If nothing else, this substantial collection makes quite clear what a lot of work went into maintaining a large household at mid 19th century. Even for a woman with plenty of domestic help at hand, the amount of sewing required to keep everyone in adequate clothing and bedding, seems to have been a labor of Herculean proportions.

This is not one of those books to be read primarily for enjoyment of the prose style, or for the keenly observant eye of the diarist as regards the doings of prominent people in a more than usually interesting time. “Fear in North Carolina” is tightly focused on a very small segment of a small community on the fringe of events in the immense national cataclysm that was the Civil War. As such and although quite fascinating a peep into domestic life at mid-19th century, its value is oriented more as a reference and source document for a reader with very specific interests. That being noted, the editors, Karen L. Clinard and Richard Russell have assembled the Henry diaries and letters into a very charming, readable and accessible form. Fear in North Carolina is available from the publisher and from Amazon.com

Sgt. Mom is a free-lance writer and member of the Independent Authors Guild who lives in San Antonio and blogs at The Daily Brief. Her current book “To Truckee’s Trail” is available here. Her next work, the Adelsverein Trilogy will be available in December, 2008. More about her books is at her website www.celiahayes.com.

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