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

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

This biography is exhaustively researched. What makes it an exceptional de-
light rather than simply a solidly researched book is its scope and writing. Adams
is simply a wonderful writer. His felicitous phrasing is found on every page. His
judgments are fair, balanced, and altogether nuanced. This reviewer could rec-
ommend the volume on its literary qualities alone, but, fortunately, because of the
enormous scholarship, he does not have to. It is a privilege to review a book that
so plainly and seemingly so effortlessly combines solid research, perfect balance,
and excellent writing.
Southwest Texas State University James W. Pohl
Gideon Lincecum's Sword: Civil War Letters from the Texas Home Front. Edited by Jerry
Bryan Lincecum, Edward Hake Phillips, and Peggy A. Redshaw. (Denton:
University of North Texas Press, 2001. Pp. x+378. Acknowledgments, intro-
duction, appendix, selected references, index. ISBN 1-57441-125-X. $39.95,
cloth.)
Reading Gideon Lincecum's Sword is likely to provoke outrage or delight, pos-
sibly both. The self-taught doctor of "botanical medicine" moved to Washington
County, Texas, from Mississippi in 1848 with his family of ten. His massive collec-
tion of letters chronicle the Texas home front during the Civil War, but even
more so, provide an absolutely uninhibited view inside the mind of a slave-hold-
ing, fully committed supporter of the Confederate cause.
Lincecum viewed blacks as inferior beings, but he reserved his venom for '"Yan-
kees." Even readers who are appalled by Lincecum's extreme views may find
themselves admiring the old man's fierce spirit. Seventy-one years old as the war
was flaming out in 1864, he remained no less fierce in his devotion to the South-
ern cause:
Let the whole South die in preference to submission ... I do hope that the entire people,
both male and female, feel as I do upon this subject. That they have, like me, all made be-
fore their gods, solemn vows, that so long as life lasts, they will never be at peace with the ac-
cursed yankee people; that they will teach their own and all other children with whom they
may come into contact, to bear eternal enmity to and also to hate and kill Yankees through-
out the period of their existence (pp. 264-265).
In a time when many fret over "political correctness," Lincecum's passionate
prose often seems invigorating.
If Lincecum had simply been a seething misanthrope, his letters would not be
so interesting. But the letters reveal a man bursting with ideas and wide-ranging
opinions, a man who, through his wide correspondence, clearly enjoyed other
people. A dedicated student of nature, he maintained a regular correspondence
with many scientists, including Charles Darwin. Darwin thought enough of Lince-
cum's observation on Texas flora and fauna that he published two of them, but
Darwin wrote to a colleague: "The whole letters are so odd that they are almost
worth your reading-such spelling-such grammar!" Still, that a person with on-

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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 April 24, 2014.