The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

poor transportation and diseases prevented settlement, although the region had
fertile, alluvial soil. As the region presented "the most promising" yet "most chal-
lenging agricultural frontier" in the South, some attempts were made during the
antebellum period to encourage settlement (p. 1). While the Swamplands Acts
of 1849 and 1850 and levee building helped to accelerate settlement, it was not
until the 188os and the boom in railroad construction that the bottomlands
became habitable.
Improved transportation proved to be the key to the settlement of the
deltas. Railroad construction opened the way for both timbering and farming,
encouraging both landowners and laborers to move into the area. As settle-
ment continued, plantations tended to dominate the bottomlands, most were
owned by absentee landlords and worked by black sharecroppers who came to
the region in search of opportunity. Although the area increased in popula-
tion, problems such as flood and malaria continued. Yet, thousands of settlers
came to the bottomlands in 188o, attracted by the rich soil, lavish timber, and
available land.
During the early twentieth century, settlement of the bottomlands continued
to increase. Increased levee building, swamp clearing, and the land drainage
movement brought in more land speculators, farmers, and timber interests; yet,
the problem of malaria continued, as did floods. And boll weevils came in waves,
sometimes destroying cotton crops. One major change during the early twenti-
eth century was the diversification of crops, as rice, soybeans, cowpeas, and alfal-
fa added to the region's staples, as did the increase in livestock production. This
diversification was also spurred by the agricultural recession of the 192os. Yet,
despite the region's ability to overcome the economic downturn, the majority of
laborers, mainly sharecroppers and tenant farmers, continued to live in poverty.
Thus, by 1930, the Southern bottomlands proved to be "a region of 'rich land'
but 'poor people"' ( p. 81).
Otto continues his story into the Great Depression, focusing on the devastat-
ing drought of 1930 and the New Deal attempts to address the farmer's and
sharecropper's plight. Like the flood of 1927, the 1930 drought demonstrated
that the region's settlers overcame great obstacles to continue living on the allu-
vial land of the Mississippi bottomlands.
Otto's work is a valuable contribution to both environmental and Southern
history. He has offered a study based on a variety of both primary and secondary
sources from a number of academic disciplines. Although the book includes a
number of valuable tables, the inclusion of maps would have greatly benefited
the work. Yet, the book is a fine study on the settlement of one of the most chal-
lenging regions in the South.
Oklahoma State University STEFANIE DECKER
The Antietam Campaign. Edited by Gary W. Gallagher. (Chapel Hill: University of
North Carolina Press, 1999. Pp. ix+335. Introduction, bibliographic essay, con-
tributors, index. ISBN 8078-2481-X. $32.50, cloth.)

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101222/. Accessed July 12, 2014.