How Grand a Flame: A Chronicle of a Plantation Family, 1813-1947

How Grand a Flame: A Chronicle of a Plantation Family, 1813-1947
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February 1st 1992 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

"Wake me at four o'clock. We're going to see some action." When the guns opened on Fort Sumter across the harbor in April of 1861, two young men, one white and one black, were watching together from the cupola of the big house on the Lawton plantation, which stretched for a full mile along the Ashley River near Charleston, South Carolina. The white man, Wallace Lawton, would shortly be plunged into a protracted, increasingly desperate struggle to retain his inherited domain during war, devastation, and defeat, and to restore it to a semblance of its pre-war prosperity. The black man, Peter Brown, as slave and freedman, would continue a complex and sometimes stormy relationship with Wallace and with the land. How Grand A Flame is the story of three generations of a proud, strong-willed aristocratic family, from the early nineteenth century until the plantation passed from their hands in the 1940s. Winborn Lawton II consolidated the James Island lands during the time when cotton was king. His son Wallace took control just as war came. He moved his operations temporarily to land near the Savannah River, where he won the hand of sixteen-year-old cousin Cecilia Lawton. He brought her back to James Island, where they began the long struggle to restore the land to prosperity. Drawing upon vivid diaries kept by Cecilia Lawton, records and old documents, court-martial proceedings, and personal memories, author Clyde Bresee has traced the story of a southern family in a memorable historical epoch.