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In the Presence of Mine Enemies: The Civil War in the Heart of America, 1859-1864

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating Details  ·  261 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
Our standard Civil War histories tell a reassuring story of the triumph, in an inevitable conflict, of the dynamic, free-labor North over the traditional, slave-based South, vindicating the freedom principles built into the nation's foundations.

But at the time, on the borderlands of Pennsylvania and Virginia, no one expected war, and no one knew how it would turn out. The
Paperback, 496 pages
Published September 17th 2004 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2003)
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Dec 10, 2009 Eromsted rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the Presence of Mine Enemies is the first of a projected two volume history of the impact of the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley. This volume begins with John Brown’s raid on Harpers ferry and ends with the first battle of Gettysburg. The central materials on which Ayers bases his account are drawn out of the extensive collection of primary source documents from Augusta County, Virginia and Franklin County, Pennsylvania. These materials are available in full online at the University of Vir ...more
Sep 17, 2008 Billy rated it really liked it
Shelves: 19th-century-u-s
In the Presence of Mine Enemies examines the collected archives of two counties in the Great Valley of the United States. Ayres shows that in both Franklin County, Pennsylvania and Virginia’s Augusta County, the Civil War never was a clear-cut issue of right vs. wrong, slave vs. free, state vs. nation. Ayers’ argues that contingency is present throughout the events leading up to the Civil War, an insight that contests the often accepted view that southern succession was inevitable. He shows how ...more
Feb 26, 2008 Terri rated it really liked it
The author was one of my professors at UVA. This book is absolutely wonderful and details the Civil war from both the South's and North's perspective. The book reads more like a story than a history lesson (even though I thoroughly enjoy both!)
Jul 04, 2012 Melanie rated it liked it
In Edward Ayers book, In the Presence of Mine Enemies, he closely examines two different towns; Chambersburg, PA and Staunton, VA. The first half of his book follows the build up to the election of 1860 through the response to Fort Sumter and Presidents Lincoln’s call for troops. This book was interesting because it was able to examine the awkward position the border states were put into while the other books I have read have only made passing references to their predicament. It was interesting ...more
Ted Hunt
Apr 16, 2013 Ted Hunt rated it really liked it
Does one get the essence of a tapestry by looking at it from across the room or by examining it up close? This engrossing examination of the Civil War era (1859-1863) takes the second approach. It looks at the events of those years by examining mountains of primary source material from two American counties a hundred mile.s apart: Augusta country of Virginia and Franklin county of Pennsylvania. It looks at the events of secession and the early years of the Civil War through the eyes of the peopl ...more
Mike Rogers
Jan 16, 2012 Mike Rogers rated it liked it
In his book "In the Presence of Mine Enemies", Edward Ayers takes two typical counties during the Civil War, one from the South and one from the North, and compares and contrasts them. In the early 90's, Ayers started the "Valley of the Shadow" project. After choosing two counties linked by the Shenandoah Valley, Franklin to the north of the Mason-Dixon line and Augusta to the south, Ayers obtained relevant documents from both counties during the Civil War period, transcribed them with the help ...more
Dec 11, 2012 John rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this. One of the things that I always wanted to know about the Civil War was how exactly secession happened in places like Virginia and North Carolina...the northern parts of the south. Because these states didn't secede right away. The deep south seceded and then Virginia argued about it for a while, and that arguing period interested me. And that, really, is the point of this book. Ayers structures the book around a county in Virginia and a county in Pennsylvania, only a coupl ...more
Oct 23, 2009 Maria rated it really liked it
If you like your history stuffed full of original sources, crammed with quotations and high on methodical historic research have I got a book for you. While digitizing manuscript materials for the University of Virginia, Edward Ayer, compiled this book which looks deeply at the two counties of Augusta, Virginia and Franklin, Pennsylvania which share the Shenandoah Valley, but are divided by the Mason-Dixon line.

Through journals, letters and newspapers, Ayer traced the emergence of the pride, hat
Sep 09, 2011 James rated it really liked it
An unusual approach to the history of the Civil War. Ayers looks in detail at two counties in the "Great valley" of the United States, Augusta County VA (biggest town: Staunton) and Franklin County PA (biggest town: Chambersburg) from 1859 to the eve of Gettysburg in the summer of 1863. The method is to quote liberally and at length from primary sources, principally letters and newspapers, with very little context. It would be baffling to someone without a good background in the history of the w ...more
Aug 14, 2012 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
In the Presence of Mine Enemies by Edward L. Ayers tells the story of the Civil War not as we usually hear it, from generals and presidents. Instead, he follows the experiences of Franklin county in Pennsylvania and Augusta county in Virginia. It makes the war more personal, as he shows how North and South begin to hate each other, and the dead as not statistics but as obituaries in their local newspaper. My only complaint is that the book ends in 1863, before the battle of Gettysburg. It makes ...more
Nov 14, 2012 Jordan rated it really liked it
Very interesting read. Great insight into the mindset of the nation by focusing on two border counties in both Virginia and Pennsylvania. Packed with information, this book does a wonderful job of showing how close and how far the North and the South came on a plethora of topics and issues. I highly recommend this book.

Only reason it didn't get 5 stars is that I had to read it in 4 days in order to write a paper on time. So as much as I love it, I still have some angst towards it because of the
Ayers constructs a tremendous history of two towns, one in Pennsylvania, one in Virginia, along the Shenandoah Valley, during the U.S. Civil War. This monograph evolved out of The Valley of the Shadow Project at the University of Virginia, where Ayers held leadership positions. What makes this history impressive is that Ayers interweaves his own commentary with eloquent prose that draws the reader into the live of mid-nineteenth century American landscape.
Bev Murphy
Jul 11, 2008 Bev Murphy rated it liked it
This book offers a slightly different viewpoint of the Civil War. I felt it was more from the southern perspective, unlike most that I've read with a northern sympathy. It compared how the war affected 2 counties, one from the north and one from the south between the years 1859 and 1863. It was more detailed in war technicalities than what I had thought it would be. I would've like more stories about the people and how it affected them personally. Over all I enjoyed the book.
Dec 29, 2010 Don rated it it was amazing
The Civil War emerges and begins in this great read. Ayers uses a focus on Franklin County, PA and Augusta County, VA, to portray the evolution of political positions as the election of 1860 approached, Lincoln's presidency began, and the war began.
Lobke Minter
Mar 19, 2012 Lobke Minter rated it really liked it
An insightful personal look at the American Civil War - even though this is definitely not a light read, it does shed some light onto some of the more poignant and complex aspects of the war.
Jan 13, 2008 Jeff rated it really liked it
Shelves: civil-war, appalachia
Fascinating compare/contrast between two areas I've hiked through - Franklin County in Southern PA and Augusta Co. in Central VA. It makes me want to read more "homefront" books.
Aug 02, 2009 George rated it it was amazing
Fascinating look at how the coming of the Civil War affected the lives of the citizens of two neighboring counties - one in southern PA, the other in northern VA
Aug 08, 2013 Tim rated it liked it
The book showed promise, but it became just another history of the Battle of Gettysburg.
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