In my critique of Stephen V. Ash's A Year in the South: 1865 I will discuss his theme and his use of evidence to support his thesis. I will also identify Ash's purpose in writing this book. Additionally I will discuss his writing style.
Ash's ultimate goal in writing this book is to educate the reader on the rapid and drastic changes to living in America immediately after the Civil War, specifically in the Confederate South. He does this by providing the stories of four individuals who lived in different places in the South under very different circumstances the year the Civil War ended. These stories are recreated by using the personal memoirs and diaries written by the people themselves, which creates a very authentic retelling of the lives of these people in 1865. For men and women living in this time period, America was changing all around them politically, not just because of the end of slavery but also because of the after effects of a civil war.
The theme of the book is like that of an observer. The author provides us with a short prologue giving us a quick background of each individuals status in life prior to 1865. Ash divides the story of each person into four parts, the winter, spring, summer and fall of 1865. In each chapter we are given a detailed recounting of that persons activities and the journey they are undergoing. Each person's situation is drastically different from the others, from slave to preacher, from Army wife to former Confederate soldier.
The author's writing style stays consistent throughout the book, despite having to rewrite the words of four very different people from their own perspective. He provides mainly the information taken from their own writings and occasionally fills in the gaps with information from other sources. What I liked about his writing style is how he recreated the environment for the reader. For example when he describes the town that Cornelia McDonald and her children lived in...