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James B. Avirett (James Battle), 1837?-1912
The Old Plantation: How We Lived in Great House and Cabin Before the War
New York; Chicago: F. Tennyson Neely Co., c1901.


Born on a plantation in Onslow County, North Carolina ca. 1837, James Battle Avirett grew up in the antebellum South and became an ardent defender of its traditions. After attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill between 1850 and 1852, he became an Episcopal priest. During the Civil War he served the Confederacy as a chaplain to General Turner Ashby, the Chief of Cavalry under General Stonewall Jackson. He published four works: The Memoirs of General Turner Ashby and His Companeers (1867), Watchman, What of the Night? or The Causes Affecting Church Growth (1897), a pamphlet, Who Was the Rebel? (1897), and The Old South, or How We Lived in Great House and Cabin Before the War (1901). He married Mary Louise Dunbar Williams, and together they had two sons. Avirett died in Cumberland, Maryland in 1912.

In The Old South, Avirett describes the daily activities on a plantation, including cataloging the crops and the labor required in tending them and slave life and their relationships to their owners. He contrasts his positive experiences with those depicted in popular works such as Uncle Tom's Cabin. Avirett places the antebellum South within the tradition of French and English aristocracy in order to justify the living conditions of typical slaves in the South.

Work Consulted: Powell, William S., ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Vol. 1, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1979.

Harris Henderson

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