Showdown in Virginia will make accessible to a much broader audience than before perhaps the most important body of primary source material about the breakup of the Upper South in 1861. These were the final months of what would later be called the antebellum era, and it is in looking at the proceedings from that perspective—of being on the eve of a great national calamity without knowing what shape it would take—that gives them immense poignancy. By examining the words of the Convention, the modern reader can glimpse the uncertainty, anxiety, and hope that Virginians felt in the spring of 1861.(Nelson D. Lankford author of Cry Havoc! The Crooked Road to Civil War, 1861 and editor of the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography)
In early 1861 Virginia rejected secession and tried to promote peaceful reunion, but the state reversed itself in mid-April. Showdown in Virginia, expertly edited by Bill Freehling and Craig Simpson, provides a ringside seat as the Old Dominion wrestled with its tragic dilemma and finally sided with the Southern Confederacy. At long last, historians and their students will have easy access to this indispensable source.(Daniel W. Crofts, The College of New Jersey author of Reluctant Confederates: Upper South Unionists in the Secession Crisis)
[A] great read. Historians William W. Freehling and Craig M. Simpson researched the four volumes of official convention records from the 1861 meeting as well as newspaper stories to create a 200-page account of the two-month battle between the unionists and secessionists. There is magnificent oratory, fiery debates, intrigue, a near duel and the abrupt walkout by delegates from the northwestern counties.(WashingtonPost.com)
William W. Freehling is a Senior Fellow with the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and author of Prelude to the Civil War, The Road to Disunion, and The South vs. The South. Craig M. Simpson is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Western Ontario and author of A Good Southerner: The Life of Henry A. Wise of Virginia. Freehling and Simpson coedited Secession Debated: Georgia’s Showdown in 1860.