George William Bagby (American National Biography)

Ritchie Devon Watson, "Bagby, George William," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
From 1857 to 1859 Bagby resided in Washington, where he served as correspondent for a number of southern newspapers. During this period, in 1858, he sent the first of eight "Mozis Addums" letters to the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond. The letters are modeled on the speech of backwoods characters Bagby had known as a youth in southside Virginia and are influenced by the well-established tradition of southwest dialect humor. The letters, addressed to a friend named "Billy Ivvins" in "Curdsville, Va.," recounted the rustic and innocent narrator's many burlesque adventures in Washington, D.C., including a trip to see the president that ends up in the disreputable establishment of a faro dealer. They were an immediate success and were no doubt partly responsible for Bagby's being named editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in 1860.

Bagby gratefully received the call to Richmond, for he had come to feel increasingly alienated by the antislavery fervor of many of Washington's politicians. The secession that Bagby fervently supported in Messenger editorials soon came, but the ensuing war had a disastrous effect on his magazine. After struggling for more than three years to keep the publication alive in the face of dwindling paper and ink supplies and gradually shrinking subscriptions, Bagby resigned his position as editor in January 1864, five months before the Messenger ceased publication.

Bagby's fortunes were so closely tied to the Confederacy that he fled Richmond with Jefferson Davis's entourage one day before the city fell to Union troops.
    How to Cite This Page: "George William Bagby (American National Biography)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,