Miss Ravenel's Conversion from Secession to Loyalty

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De Forest, John W. Miss Ravenel's Conversion from Secession to Loyalty. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1867. In print: New York: Penguin, 2000 (edited by Gary Scharnhorst).

One of the earliest full-length novels by a Union veteran, Miss Ravenel's Conversion mixes romance and combat in equal measures. At the heart of the novel is a complicated and serious love triangle. Title character Lillie Ravenel is courted by two men: Colburne, a young lawyer without many clients, and Carter, a regular army officer from the South who chooses to fight for the Union. Lillie is the daughter of Dr. Ravenel, a Louisiana physician who has had to emigrate to the North because of his anti-slavery opinions. Colburne accepts a captaincy in Carter's regiment, which is ordered to Louisiana and spends most of the war there; the Ravenels go to New Orleans in the wake of the occupying Union army. There, the fortunes of love and war play themselves out.

Celebrated for its graphic combat sequences, Miss Ravenel's Conversion remains one of the lesser-known classics of 19th-century American literature. It stays in print on the strength of its appeal to historians and Civil War buffs, but probably deserves a wider audience among literary scholars as well.


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