The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995 Page: 143
prone to insubordination, intrigue, dissembling, and self-promotion, whose mis-
takes dwarfed his glories. Pillow debunkers will especially relish the authors' de-
scriptions of how his machinations triggered President Polk's January 1848
removal of Gen. Winfield Scott from command of the American army in Mexico;
his tactical blunders at Cerro Gordo, Fort Donelson, and Belmont; and his
botched 1864 raid on LaFayette, Georgia.
This biography not only clarifies Pillow's military record, but also informs
scholarship on the Old South's plantation economy and slave-master relations;
antebellum Tennessee and U.S. politics; southern violence; secessionism; and
the persistence of planters in the post-Civil War period. Pillow, through mar-
riage, a successful law practice, crops and stock production on multiple planta-
tions, and state and federal contracts and patronage favors, became fabulously
wealthy, one of the largest slaveholders in both Tennessee and Arkansas.
"Clifton," his seven-hundred-acre plantation with a columned and lavishly fur-
nished mansion near Columbia, Tennessee, awed visitors. A Democrat with pres-
idential aspirations, Pillow had a longstanding rivalry with Andrew Johnson,
chaired the Tennessee delegation at both sessions of the Nashville Convention
of 1850, helped engineer the presidential nominations of Polk and Franklin
Pierce, and attended the Knoxville Commercial Convention of 1857. His in-
volvement in turnpike construction and river transportation and his interest in
experimental farming, scientific stock breeding, and plantation machinery make
a case for an entrepreneurial, progressive interpretation of the planter class.
Hughes and Stonesifer's treatment of Pillow's post-Civil War career is less satis-
factory than their rendering of his antebellum years. They explain his efforts to
recover properties confiscated by Union authorities in meticulous detail, but fail
to provide adequate historical context for Pillow's political activities during Re-
construction. Brief explanations of such things as Union Leagues, Liberal Re-
publicanism, and the "Compromise of 1877" would have enhanced their final
chapter. A vague allusion to Horace Greeley as a Democrat in 1867 hints at the
shaky nature of their Reconstruction history.
Will publication of this book finally put to rest one of the most persistent
myths about the Mexican War-that Pillow obtained his generalship because he
had been Polk's law partner? Polk was indebted to Pillow, a close friend and
brigadier general in the Tennessee militia, for helping his 1839 gubernatorial
campaign, engineering his presidential nomination, and serving as his brother's
defense attorney after the younger Polk shot to death a Columbia attorney. But
Polk and Pillow never shared a law office. I have seen the myth repeated as re-
cently as a 1992 study on the Mexican War, and have a hunch that it will contin-
ue to plague us for a long time.
Purdue Unzversity ROBERT E. MAY
Nelson A. Miles and the Twzlzght of the Frontzer Army. By Robert Wooster. (Lin-
coln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993. Pp. xv+381. List of illustrations, list of
maps, acknowledgments, twilight, epilogue, notes, bibliographical essay, index.
ISBN 0-80324-759-1. $35.00.)
Here’s what’s next.
Show all pages in this issue.
This issue can be searched. Note: Results may vary based on the legibility of text within the document.
Citing and Sharing
Basic information for referencing this web page. We also provide extended guidance on usage rights, references, copying or embedding.
Reference the current page of this Periodical.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995, periodical, 1995; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101216/m1/171/ocr/: accessed August 29, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.