Original, unpublished documents and correspondence from gifted Sandhills women provide unique and fascinating perspectives of the beginning, middle, and end of the Civil War period in North Carolina. An initially uplifting, idealistic support of the Union as a great experiment in democracy and self-rule ultimately fades into prayers for return of the surviving men as well as hopes for peace, followed by ultimate acceptance of the bitter realities of war on a land and a people crushed in the aftermath. Poignant descriptions of the impact of Sherman’s “scorched earth policy” on a once proud and surprisingly literary Sandhills community remind us once again that war is hell, even when it is brother against—sister.
Mary Wayne Watson received her Ph.D. from the University of Virginia and her MA from UNC-Chapel Hill. She decided to create the John Charles McNeill seminar at the urging of her childhood neighbor in Wagram (Scotland County), who pressed her to present a reading to a small group of John Charles McNeill devotees. The reading was so well received that it seemed fitting for her, as McNeill’s great niece, to continue to spread the word, to carry the torch. After all, her parents and their generation who had kept McNeill’s work alive were now dead. Creating this presentation motivated Dr. Watson to look further into the landscape and traditions that were common to both McNeill and historian Gerald W. Johnson. Watson has taught English at all levels of public education, including middle and high school in NC and Virginia; James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, and now at Nash Community College in Rocky Mount. She teaches English composition, research writing, American and British literature, and film.