H-NET Book Review Published by H-CivWar@h-net.mus.edu (January 2007)
H-NET BOOK REVIEW Published by H-CivWar@h-net.mus.edu (January 2007)
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Peter Wallenstein and Bertram Wyatt-Brown, eds. Virginia’s Civil War. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2005. xiii + 303 pp. Notes, appendices, contributors, index. $35.00 (cloth), ISBN: 0-8139-2315-8
Reviewed for H-CivWar by Michael B. Chesson, University of Massachusetts–Boston
Race, Religion, Gender, and Marse Robert Deconstructed
This handsome volume has twenty short essays based on papers from a 2002 conference hosted by the University of Richmond, with some sessions at the Virginia Historical Society and the Tredegar iron works, now the acclaimed American Civil War Center; plus an introduction and afterword. It is aimed at specialists, not the general reader, as is this review. According to the distinguished co-editors, Peter Wallenstein of Virginia Tech, and Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Richard J. Milbauer Emeritus Professor of History at Florida, there were one hundred twenty-six participants (of whom this reviewer was one, serving as a commentator), in twenty-nine panels and three plenary sessions. The editors’ criteria for selections is not given. Whether they picked the best is uncertain, but those included are uneven in quality, typical of most such collections. I have chosen to comment on each, devoting more space to pieces that I found noteworthy, which has resulted in a lengthy review. The pieces are tightly edited, with an average length under thirteen pages, including notes conveniently placed after each. A few are so brief that they offer more questions than answers, while others try to cover subjects much too broad. The topical rationale for selection is clear. The editors feel that battles and generals continue to get more attention from the authors of monographs and the public than the wartime state’s social and cultural experience, so their choices explore “some areas seldom treated” (p. xii): women, African-Americans, and religious leaders. True at the time of the Civil War centennial, it is hardly the case for blacks and women now, as evidenced by the scores of secondary works cited by the contributors, and a number of important works have appeared recently on religious aspects of the conflict.
Virginia’s Civil War is an example of the gulf noted by Gary W. Gallagher between military and social historians. Professors dominate the latter group, and non-academics the former. Guess who has the most readers? Scanning a few essays shows why neither the general public, nor most Civil War buffs, will read this volume. Potential buyers should check the table of contents and index on Amazon first. Buyers expecting military history, perhaps misled by the title (a bit of Woodwardian irony?) will likely be disappointed, and that is unfortunate. A number of the authors have significant insights. The Civil War series edited by Jack Davis and Bud Robertson, covering Virginia year by year, might be better for many, though judging by the first volume, it also has its problems. The essays are grouped in three sections, the first, oddly enough, on Robert E. Lee (four papers originally presented at a plenary session), but Lee is the focus of a fifth on Confederate nationalism, and a sixth on postwar Lexington’s race relations. The second section, the war, has ten essays. The third has six postwar pieces. If one includes appendix four, an alleged incident discussed by several authors, then 78 pages address the Marble Man, 27% of the entire book. So much space devoted to one person is curious, particularly for a volume that promises a focus on new topics. This review considers as a group the four Lee papers from the Tredegar session, plus the two others. Four deal with religion; five cover slavery and race; four discuss women; and one analyzes a Virginian’s claim to have been a wartime Unionist. Of the twenty-one contributors, at least two are now emeritus; five are full professors (including two in English at Richmond in a polite nod to a once closely related discipline); three associate professors, four assistant professors, including one in a visiting position; four doctoral candidates (one on a postdoc); and three not identified. Surprisingly, only six of the twenty-two are women, including two full professors. Of those whose careers would have been most helped by inclusion, eleven were untenured when it went to press. Four still lack tenure-track jobs, the long gestation period of this volume perhaps resulting in a bump too little, too late.
The editors begin with the dedication of Lincoln’s statue in Richmond, at a scenic spot above the James River where he may never have been. The equestrian statues on Monument Avenue of Lee, Jackson, and Stuart get the usual modish criticism, but curiously not those of the standing Jefferson Davis, or the seated oceanographer and admiral, Matthew Fontaine Maury. “Mounted on military steeds ... with expressions brave and determined, [they] appear ready to do battle with the hated foe” (pp. 2-3), but Lee is facing south, riding home. The most notable aspect of Stonewall’s statue is the ridiculous size of Little Sorrel, who was hardly as impressive on his best day. Only Stuart strikes a pose, but even he looks much the same as generals in many Northern cities, or those on monuments in the capitals of old Europe. There is no mention of Arthur Ashe, whose statue was put west of Maury’s against his wishes and those of his widow to satisfy the city’s politically correct. So there are now two statues of black men in the Holy City, one an athlete, the other a dancer (Bill “Bojangles” Robinson). Neo-Confederate protesters at the dedication of the Lincoln statue are properly skewered, but not the vandals who burned the Lee banner along the city’s Canal Walk in January 2000. It was eventually replaced, but then taken down as demanded by city councillor Sa’ad El-Amin, who threatened violence. The editors note that two of the dominant themes in parts two and three are religion and gender, which they find “striking” (p. 2). Gender studies across a number of disciplines has become a huge industry, spreading even into this blood-encrusted field, especially among practitioners of the so-called new Civil War history, which at times looks suspiciously like the old “new social history” micro-waved in a plastic tray. Religion has long been a theme for students of the Lost Cause, the Union, the martyred Lincoln, and more recently the broader conflict. The editors claim that there was not one Civil War in Virginia, but many. Each individual’s experience was unique; but that is a truism characteristic of most large historical events. The challenge for historians other than biographers is to consider many individuals’ experiences and what they mean collectively.
Grappling with Marse Robert, Michael Fellman complains that Lee embarked surreptitiously into politics during Reconstruction, unlike the public roles played by Grant, O. O. Howard, and Pete Longstreet. Wyatt-Brown opines that Lee “like other white Virginians of his generation ... entertained deep racial antipathies” (p. 3). Among which nineteenth century whites was this not the case? It was true even of William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips. Thank goodness we are now beyond that, with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts after seventeen years following Virginia’s lead and electing a black governor. Emory Thomas in his nuanced “The Malleable Man: Robert E. Lee in the American Mind,” notes black councilman John Mitchell’s lonely dissent over the erection of the general’s statue in 1890, but there was other criticism, including from the Boston Transcript, which blasted the Massachusetts textile mill that supplied the battle flags for the dedication ceremony. Thomas mentions the protests of the Lee tapestry along the Canal Walk, but is too much the gentleman to discuss its subsequent fate. Imagine the outrage if the banner of a notable black or woman had been vandalized or removed by city officials. Nor does Thomas recall that before its demise, ex-Governor Douglas Wilder, now the city’s mayor, saluted the Lee banner respectfully. Allen Tate tried but failed to write a biography and became disgusted with Lee, comparing him to a syphilitic bride, which says more about the fugitive poet than the general. Has Tate, a drunken homophobe, found a psycho-biographer? Gertrude Stein, the preincarnation of Alan Nolan, said Lee was weak; he knew the Confederacy could not win but lacked the courage to say so. The same was true of some of the greatest military leaders in history (see Wyatt-Brown below), including the admiral who planned the attack on Pearl Harbor. And what qualifications did Gertie have to make this precious salon judgment? The South could have won, though surely the odds were long.
Thomas’s reaction to Michael Shaara’s portrayal in The Killer Angels is negative, like that of most white Southern males, yet the novelist captured a part of Lee that some have missed. Yet Thomas’s quotation from M. A. Harper’s For the Love of Robert E. Lee is especially apt. Despite the cavils of modern intellectuals, even northerners who saw him realized he was special. A Union woman fervently wished that he was fighting on her side. Another Yank civilian commented on Lee’s big neck. One of his officers explained that it took a big neck to hold that head. A Johnny remarked to comrades as Lee rode by, there are ten thousand men sitting on that horse. T. Harry Williams conceded such plaudits, but said even Lee’s fans admit that he never demonstrated his abilities on a bigger scale than a theater. Given his civilian superiors how could he? What Union general other than Grant, and possibly Sherman who worked with him the last year of the war, did so? Thomas L. Connelly thought Lee suffered from an unsatisfactory marriage, but a lack of marital bliss was common even then. His long absences from his family were typical of officers in the old army, not unusual, but Lee’s chronic homesickness for his native state is characteristic of such Virginians. Thomas’s own criticism of Lee includes the frustrating experience of the Kanawha Valley campaign, but who could have done better in West Virginia given the lack of authority that Lee endured? After McClellan’s successor Rosecrans took command, he immediately halted his offensive when told that Lee had arrived in the theater. Fellman notes that Old Rosy was deputized to seek Lee’s political assistance in the Democratic presidential campaign of 1868. Nor was Lee successful in his coastal postings, but his opponent there was the U. S. Navy, a more formidable foe than most of the generals he faced.
In “Robert E. Lee: Myth and Man” Fellman indulges in his own mythology. He starts with Lee’s apocryphal last words, a fiction demolished years ago. The old warrior spoke last to his wife, who was scolding him for being late for dinner. As an historical myth this one is relatively harmless, and even inspiring, as myths often are. It hardly compares with the hagiography surrounding Lincoln, the Kennedys, or Martin Luther King. Fellman’s second key episode, with two versions of the supposed incident in an appendix, is that Lee joined a black man at the communion rail in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond soon after the war’s end. That is equally problematic. Not cited is Nelson Lankford’s superior and more critical analysis of this dubious event. If Lee did it, no one living knows why. Perhaps he was filled with Christian love and forgiveness. Perhaps he fantasized about lynching him. Or could it be that he was setting an example for others that Sunday, and drew on his own legendary self-discipline to do so? None of the scholars speculating on this mystery have bothered to explore the author of this story, an ex-Confederate named Thomas L. Broun, a prominent attorney in western Virginia before and after the war. Douglas Southall Freeman tied him to Lee’s purchase of his beloved Traveler, but did not mention the church event. There are several articles by Broun or about him in The Confederate Veteran, and Confederate Military History. Curiously, neither he nor his brother, Captain Joseph M. Broun, is listed in Janet B. Hewett’s Roster of Confederate Soldiers. It is likely that Broun was a Lost Cause mythologizer and Lee deifier. The story’s appearance in 1905 is suspicious. Somewhere in the bowels of the Virginia Historical Society or another archive is a letter or diary entry by a member of St. Paul’s who saw the event, if it ever happened. Perhaps parish lists from that period survive, and could be used for a search of manuscript collections. Presumably the Lee family papers have been ransacked, but what about those of the Rev. Charles Minnegerode, or prominent parishioners? If the incident was invented, why? And what does its acceptance by Virginia and Southern whites generally mean? Why are there such stories about Lee even before the war, before he took command, and not just after, when he had become a demigod, the stuff of legend? Why do some still repeat them to their children, even in New England? It would be better to tell our offspring, not to mention our students, that virtue can be found in the white male portion of humanity, even among rednecks, along with racism, aggression, and evil. The late Elizabeth Fox-Genovese came to a similar position; better late than never. White academics who mostly live in de facto segregated if not gated communities should remember that Lee spent much of his life in close proximity to blacks, and not just at the communion rail.
But Fellman agrees with Connolly that a distinction must be made between who and what Lee was; and the ways white Southerners, especially politicians and Lost Cause propagandists, used him. “Lee was a reserved man and would have detested this adulatory oratory” (p. 23), but some academics hold Lee responsible for the actions of others even after his death in 1870. Lee predicted the future course of Reconstruction and the ultimate fate of blacks. In private correspondence he bitterly criticized the Republican administration and the party’s policies, but did not express those views publicly. His fear was of “‘one vast Government, sure to become aggressive abroad and despotic at home ... The greatest danger is ... of a great consolidated central power....’” (p. 22). How do Lee’s views compare with those of Mark Twain, the Muckrakers, I. F. Stone, or current libertarians? How do they differ from today’s headlines, blogs, and op-eds? Would Lee stay the course or cut and run in Iraq? An academic conference on this vital question should be convened. Fellman says that Lee, like some industrialists, wanted the blacks to leave, even if by forced deportation, but that a plan was never adopted. It is a moot point. Many freedmen saw the same bleak future that Lee did, and left the rural postwar South, although Richmond and Atlanta were the only large cities where the percentage of the population that was black actually decreased from 1870 to 1900. Some of his soldiers accepted the theory of evolution if applied to themselves, but denied that Lee was descended from a monkey. So what does he signify? Because he resists deconstruction, Fellman finds Lee frustrating. He said little in public, and stayed above the political fray. Politicians exploited him more after his death. But if Lee was such a racist, why did they wait? It is certainly true that even the best of Lee’s generation were paternalistic, conservative, and racist. Were the leaders of succeeding generations better men, including Ben Tillman, Tom Watson, James K. Vardaman, Theodore G. Bilbo, and Thomas S. Martin? Asked and answered, as the lawyers would say.
Wyatt-Brown’s “Robert E. Lee and the Concept of Honor” is by far the longest piece, and the most heavily documented, typical of his illuminating work. He cites the usual pundits, including Nolan and William G. Piston. Recent biographies “have all chipped away at the notion of Lee as pure hero” and are “healthy efforts to humanize him” yet “the mythic Lee should not entirely disappear. Beneath the level of idolatry lay the reality of greatness itself” (p. 28). For “grace is alien to our culture. What leading figure in the headlines today can claim an abundance of grace?” Wyatt-Brown calls it “the sacred side of honor” (p. 29). He differs from Thomas, whose biography he praises, but thinks the psychoanalysis of his subject’s relationship with his father overdone. “The son honored the father. He was not restoring but upholding a family tradition of valor and duty: worthy father, worthy son. Yet, much credit must be given to Ann Hill Carter Lee, who reared her children for the most part without the aid of her wayward husband” (p. 32). Wyatt-Brown contrasts the orphan Lee with such alleged victims of chronic depression and alcoholism as Lincoln, Grant, and Sherman, not to mention Bragg, Hood, Hooker, Ewell, Toombs, Jackson, and Winston Churchill, himself something more than a social drinker.
“Lee achieved a balance of temper that his father and most of Robert Lee’s contemporaries could not match” (p. 33). As to secession, and the taking of sides, Lee “had no choice” in the matter (p. 34). A soldier who had embraced the profession of arms, he had to fight but could not against his own family. Self-exile would have been a cowardly evasion of the decision. Several German generals on the eve of World War I doubted the policies of their own political leaders, but did their duty, though it is not clear why these particular officers and the Great War are given as the sole such examples. Wyatt-Brown indicts Lee for not condemning “the massacre of black prisoners” (p. 35) at the Crater, but says nothing about the 278 Rebels blown to glory when the Union mine exploded. Among others responsible for the fate of the black soldiers and the debacle were Grant, Meade, Burnside, and two alcoholic cowards wearing shoulder straps. His analysis of the dispute between Grant and Lee at Cold Harbor over treatment of the Union wounded between the lines, thrust into prominence by William S. McFeeley’s twisted life of Grant, is more balanced. Under the rules observed by both sides, and both generals, Grant had to follow a certain etiquette for Lee to reciprocate, and that Grant failed to do, until almost all his wounded had died. Yet Lee is blamed for the consequences of Grant’s waffling by his carping critics. Wyatt-Brown thinks Lee “possessed a gravitas that we have not seen in high places since the death of George C. Marshall, his worthy descendant ... Ironically, Lee helped to solve the great issue of American freedom versus American slavery” (p. 41) by prolonging the war with his inspired generalship, thus destroying the peculiar institution, the Old South, and the culture that had produced him in its final flowering. But even Lee could not end racism, anymore than could Lincoln. For that neither should be blamed. Yet that is the verdict of Lee’s critics, and some of Lincoln’s, who suffer from the present-mindedness that infects many modern historians. Political correctness will pass away with the boomers; its cousin among scholars, presentism, is a more insidious infection.
In “A Man of Constant Sorrow” Charles Joyner recognizes that Lee and Virginia “sustained each other, and it is difficult to explain or even understand one without the other. No one loved it more, and yet no Virginian contributed more to its physical destruction” (pp. 47-48). To paraphrase Shelby Foote speaking of Lee at Gettysburg, total military defeat and occupation was the price white Virginians paid for the presence among them of such a man. Like Thomas, Joyner faults Lee for his refusal to look beyond Virginia, and says it was because he knew he did best on friendly ground. He failed to win anywhere else. Joyner recalls C. Vann Woodward asking if the trio of Lee, Jackson, and Stuart was so great why did we lose? Yet Sharpsburg could well have turned out differently if not for the Lost Order; and Gettysburg if either Jackson or Stuart had been there. Wyatt-Brown and Joyner could not profit from Kent Masterson Brown’s Retreat from Gettysburg, which argues that despite defeat on the third day, and the overall failure of the campaign, the resources so assiduously gathered in Pennsylvania and Maryland enabled Lee’s army to fight for another eighteen months.
Joyner ends with Joshua L. Chamberlain’s elegy on the Appomattox surrender ceremony, shown to be a myth by William Marvel, whose work he cites though putting his conclusion in a note, helping to perpetuate the legend. Joyner says that those of us with a Rebel ancestor still alive that day “may owe our very existence” to Lee’s decision to surrender. Yet he asks as a veteran himself of the U. S. Army circa 1958, how Lee could have broken his oath, “when so many other Southerners did not?” Here again is present-mindedness. Military law and custom have changed in the century since Lee resigned his commission and Joyner joined up. Besides Winfield Scott (a non-West Pointer), George Thomas, and John Gibbon, among the notable of a loyal minority, most officers in the old army of Southern birth went with their states, as did many Northerners like John Pemberton who had married Southern women. The more interesting question is why some like Thomas did not do so. And why was the ratio different in the Navy? A comparative study of current officers who try to resign their commissions to avoid being sent to Iraq might be useful. Perhaps these characters, having gotten a free medical, legal, or seminary education at taxpayer expense discover genuine religious or philosophical scruples; perhaps not. How do their decisions compare with Lee’s? At least Joyner served in uniform, unlike the chicken hawks in recent administrations and the congress, or the legion of critics of all things military in academia. For Joyner like Fellman “the enigma of ... Lee endures. And that may be the most disquieting complexity of all” (p. 53). While true for some, for others, Lee is like the Trinity or a shaggy dog story from the Bible. They cannot be proved; you either believe them or you do not. Lee was not gracious enough to lie down on the therapist’s couch and discuss his neuroses, and it may now be too late. The AHA president reports that only four of 14,000 historians renewing their membership listed psychohistory as one of their three fields, an even smaller number than those specifying diplomatic or economic history.Ian Binnington’s “Promoting the Confederate Nation: the Southern Illustrated News and the Civil War,” one of the shortest and weakest essays, is potentially significant. Grouped with the wartime pieces, it is related to those on Lee, because of the important question raised but left unresolved. This popular periodical, mined by a few recent scholars for the insights it provides on the Southern nation as viewed from a Richmond perspective, offered cover engravings of prominent generals and detailed commentary on each. Binnington says that the editors knew their future depended on Lee and his army from their first issue, just after Second Manassas. Lee was “the general for the ages” with “his doughty and tenacious lieutenant” (p. 115). Yet somehow Jackson and other more romantic or colorful generals got far more ink. Why was Lee so neglected, and why did his profile appear tardily among those in the News? Why was his picture based on an antebellum image? Despite his question, Binnington also cites “Lee’s transformation in the popular imagination during 1862 ( pp. 120, 122 n. 16).
John M. McClure’s The Freedmen’s Bureau School in Lexington versus ‘General Lee’s Boys’ focuses on the president of Washington College, today’s Washington and Lee. McClure is predictably critical of Lee’s role in the town’s troubled race relations, not unlike that to be found in countless other southern (and some northern) communities, but admits that Lee expelled a student for pistol-whipping a freedman. Even Lee might not be bold enough to do so today, unless the culprit was a Duke lacrosse player. Wealthy parents would sue a college administrator foolish enough to discipline their little darling. Much of the criticism of Lee’s racism is present-minded, if not simple-minded, and begs the question. Of course he was racist, but so were most white Americans in the nineteenth century. We hardly live in a racial utopia today, even in Boston. Lee probably had strange views about women. He sounds almost antebellum. A better question is why his racism was not more open and virulent.
The four essays on white Virginians and their religious views are the freshest and most original in the book, and discuss secession, combat motivation, and postwar views. In “Reluctant Protestant Confederates: The Religious Roots of Conditional Unionism,” Charles F. Irons analyzes Virginia Protestants, who rejected secession on moral grounds unlike their cotton South brethren until Lincoln’s call for troops, when they embraced it as justified resistance to a tyrant. By white Protestants he means either laity, or their ministers, but sometimes both. Nor is it clear whether Irons includes Episcopalians among his “lay and ordained evangelicals” (p. 72); or Presbyterians, and the small number of Lutherans. He may accept Donald Matthews’s category of evangelical Episcopalians, as Kent Dollar has more recently. Baptists and Methodists certainly belong, but in a larger work perhaps a denominational comparison could be made, as well as of Catholics like Virginia Bishop John McGill, a fervent Confederate, and prominent rabbis like the staunch Richmonder Maximilian J. Michelbacher. Irons finds that many authorities group Protestants in the upper and lower South together, but allow only deep South ministers to speak for the whole, though Jackson’s Virginia chaplain and staff officer R. L. Dabney is occasionally given a polite mention. Yet Presbyterians trailed Baptists and Methodists in total numbers by a huge margin. Still, class lines and leaders should not be ignored, and many were Episcopalian (Lee, Stuart, Davis) or Presbyterian (Jackson, D. H. Hill, and Forrest). Though completely committed to chattel slavery, Virginia Protestants were reluctant Confederates, recognizable from works by Daniel Crofts and William W. Freehling. Active in the 1830s and 1840s in breaking the Baptist and Methodist denominations along sectional lines, they then worked just as hard to save the Union, like Stephen A. Douglas in the political sphere, until Lincoln’s call for volunteers. Unlike such historians as Wyatt-Brown, they saw slavery and secession as “distinct moral issues” (p. 74). They reaffirmed slavery repeatedly, especially after Nat Turner’s revolt in 1831. If devout Protestants, particularly their ministers, were so overwhelmingly committed to slavery, how could a layman like Lee be expected to differ? The same was true of most of the south’s professionals, journalists, teachers, politicians, planters, and rising small farmers. The Episcopalian William C. Rives insisted that slavery had the absolute protection of the Constitution and the Supreme Court, though he apparently did not realize, unlike Calhoun, that the Constitution’s meaning changes with the high court’s members.
Irons’s research supports the argument that because of the Old Dominion, and perhaps other upper South states, the Confederacy would be a divided nation, self-doubting and torn, as Freehling has suggested. How wrenching it must have been for these Virginians when the South lost. Not only had God not been on their side; they had made a terrible mistake in seceding. Southern Methodists struck Francis Asbury’s rule about slavery as an evil from their Discipline, but in the same resolution affirmed their recognition of the Constitution and the federal government; obedience to both was a “religious duty” (p. 76). Quoting the irascible Richmond Unionist John Minor Botts, Irons agrees that slavery was the main cause of the war, but insists that there was also an important religious factor in Virginia’s secession decision. The Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians shifted discussions about slavery to the political arena, feeling that it was not a suitable subject in a religious forum. The Episcopalians were not important in Virginia’s spiritual life until the late 1820s, but anti-slavery debates never threatened their congregations, though the denomination had the largest proportion of slaveowners. Deep South Christians went much further in their defense of the peculiar institution, and even denied the right of a government, much less a church, to interfere. While Virginia Protestants thought civic debate on slavery possible, since it could not hurt them, even conversation alarmed those farther south. Irons challenges the view that most Virginia Unionists, concentrated in the Valley, were at best conditional in their loyalty. Drawing on the work of Matthews and Christine Heyrman, he asks if Southern Christians “compromised their ethical standards” (p. 80) to attract more and richer members. While they may well have done so, how many modern Americans who claim to be Christian also support war against one foe or another? How many give their all to the poor, and follow Jesus? Those who like to think of themselves as devout have proven rather flexible in reconciling their religious beliefs and actions. The larger stake in slavery held by those in the deep South may have led them to read the Bible differently, and reach different conclusions about the justice of secession and its timing. Lincoln’s election was not the last straw for Virginia Protestants, unlike those in South Carolina and Georgia. His call for troops after the fall of Sumter did it for Virginians like an Amelia County Presbyterian, the Rev. Richard McIlwaine, until then a staunch Unionist. He helped raise a regiment, and joined it as a lieutenant in the tradition of Henry Muhlenberg. Virginia clergy and their flocks believed that God approved of slavery, but did not necessarily connect that sanction with supporting Southern independence. But the more they saw obedience to the Constitution as a religious duty, the more ready they were to condemn Lincoln when he adopted a policy of coercion not sanctioned by the document. He as much as they was obligated to obey it.
Wayne Hsieh’s “Christian Love and Martial Violence” discusses the danger and opportunity war presented Baptists, 42% of Virginia’s church members. Hsieh chides those who “too often ... take an unwisely skeptical approach to ... matters of the spirit that animated so many people in earlier times” (p. 87). The same could be said for academics who scorn notions of honor, courage, and patriotism. Hsieh finds pious Baptists in the pews, not just the pulpits; though women (none of them ordained) dominated the membership lists. Ministers were loyal to the Confederacy, but their papers reflected what they saw in their congregations. The clergy tried to reconcile Christian love with war (hardly uncommon), but came to see in the Army of Northern Virginia’s revivals more hope than danger for Christ’s mission. Even after Lincoln’s election, many Baptist clergy rejected secession. Robert Ryland told his son that he opposed it, but did not see how it could be avoided. His fellow Richmonder Jeremiah Jeter agreed. They and others invoked the jeremiad and called for fast days, as would President Jefferson Davis. In March 1861 the Religious Herald printed Edmund Burke’s calculation that war had taken thirty-five billion lives throughout history, yet Unionist Baptist ministers believed that a civil war might still serve God’s plan, somewhat like Lincoln’s thinking in his Second Inaugural.
Hsieh’s thesis is that “Evangelicalism and Confederate nationalism were intertwined in a complex braid of meaning and causality.” Given the prevailing view, “that braid must be reexamined” (p. 90). Hsieh disagrees with Charles Royster’s The Destructive War, a dual biography of two of the greatest killers, the atheist Sherman, and Jackson, a latter-day Cromwellian zealot, which skewed his findings. But Hsieh’s Virginia may not be representative of the Confederacy. He finds that the “Baptist sources ... contain little evidence giving positive support to [a] picture of a bloodthirsty civilian population ... from the very start, the clergy fretted publicly about the evil results of military violence ... later on they resigned themselves” to war’s impact, but still hoped it would lead to the saving of souls. “Never did they exult in the military slaughter as some sort of self-justifying sacrament” (p. 91). Their hope lay in the widespread army revivals from the fall of 1862 into the Petersburg and Richmond siege lines of 1864-65. Perhaps they could convert the survivors among these young men who, unlike the women, had been so hard to save before the war. J. William Jones, a key figure in Lost Cause activities, found combat-hardened veterans tearful over Jesus in the spring of 1863. Here Hsieh differs not only with Royster, but the authors of notable works on wartime religion, such as Harry Stout. “These clergymen were calling not for destructive and patriotic warfare but for a cautious recognition that the ends of God and man might not be congruent” (pp. 91-92), as Lincoln would in 1865. Baptist leaders worried about “demoralization” in the army, meaning not lower morale but “an increase of vice” (p. 92). Rev. Ryland told his son to pity the Yankees even while killing them, and in 1861 the Religious Herald warned soldiers that if they lost pity for the enemy it would be worse than losing all they owned. Such sentiments continued well into the war, with examples from April and May of 1863, but what was the impact on graybacks, and how does it affect the argument over religion as a positive or negative factor in the war effort? Hsieh challenges Richard Beringer’s thesis that defeats hurt Southern morale, arguing that it “underplays the potential restorative effects of religion” (p. 97). Often the most dramatic surges of religious devotion followed the biggest battles, especially lost ones. “The Confederacy’s collapse had more to do with martial defeat on the battlefield than with a collapse of morale partly grounded in Confederate premillennialism” (p. 97). Baptist leaders “never wavered” in their support of the Confederacy, and “deeply mourned its demise ... [though] some had predicted the grievous outcome” (p. 98). “None was bold enough in the postwar years to proclaim that God’s judgment, with the strength of Yankee arms, had punished their fellow Virginians, destroyed their old ways of living, and freed their slaves” (p. 98). The clergy drew on the just war tradition in their effort to reconcile Christian love and violence. There were exceptions like the blood-thirsty F. McCarthy, a graduate of Richmond College and a minister who joined the army, but Hsieh seems unaware of his abortive career as a scalawag in the postwar city.
Jason Phillips in “Religious Belief and Troop Motivation” examines what individual soldiers said about the war and their reasons for continuing to fight, comparing their witness against what academics have written. Like Steve Woodworth, he admires the “religious fidelity” (p. 102) of men in both armies, but cites the many scholars who think that Southern guilt over slavery, when combined with the fear of God’s wrath (if slavery and secession were wrong), “created a subconscious expectation of defeat” (pp. 101-102). Quoting from Why the South Lost the Civil War, “”God’s will became a psychological bridge to the acceptance of defeat’” (p. 102) or as Larry Logue put it, casualties and the frequency of defeats grew, shifting the religious and psychological inclinations of whites toward defeat. Today it is hard for many to understand how men like the soldiers Phillips focuses on could still find hope and signs of God’s favor in the final months of the war. “Historical hindsight and current paradigms of psychology and religion encourage us to view late Confederate optimism as delusional” (p. 103). Many Rebels continued to hope for final victory because faith in God gave them what no other source could. That may come as a surprise to academics, but not to Americans who attend church regularly. Phillips has a particularly good discussion of the idea that if God is on our side, who can beat us? He distinguishes between those who meant by “if” because (assuming that God was on their side); and those who took the phrase more literally, consistent with evangelicalism. If God is on our side we cannot be beaten; but we are not assuming that He is on our side. One is reminded again of Lincoln. He told a group of ministers that he was less concerned about God being on the side of the Union, than the Union being on the side of God, and voiced this feeling more eloquently in his Second Inaugural.
Even in January 1865 some Rebels saw light at the end of the tunnel. Despite mounting losses they would eventually triumph. God would prevail no matter how many battles the Yankees won. They did not recognize the xenon headlamps of the American leviathan. Instead of asking the now somewhat tired question of what they fought for, Phillips, like Tracy Powers, asks why did so many Rebels fight on? One reason was hope. The hardcore, especially in Lee’s army, stayed in the ranks long after victory could reasonably be looked for. Americans who mourn for those lost on 9/11 in the World Trade Center or Flight 93 (but not at the Pentagon), and who may even have watched Black Hawk Down or the latest Clint Eastwood WW II films with some sympathy, find it impossible to tear up over ragged secesh ready to die in the last ditch. They were fighting for slavery, after all, and nothing else. Phillips cites James W. Silver’s classic work on Confederate morale, returning again to Lee. Men with him were willing to die, and many more would have, had he not surrendered at Appomattox Court House, as Joyner notes. Lee knew that, which is why he surrendered, as his staff officer Lt. Col. Charles Marshall said for him in the farewell order that he drafted. Like courage, different soldiers spent their share of hope and faith at different times and rates in battle, and before and after each fight. Phillips asks, “was this unconquerable mentality a product of wartime self-delusion or a perspective grounded in nineteenth-century Southern beliefs and experiences? The complete answer is both” (p. 110). Yet most historians stress the “psychological deception” of this mindset, what Reid Mitchell called “‘insane Confederate optimism,’” or Beringer termed “‘unrealistic bravado’” (p. 110). Tell it to the Marines, or other legendary soldiers from ancient Greece to modern Afghanistan. Never give up or surrender. Fight on. Conquer or die. Unlike Jacob, Phillips understands part of the mystery that he wrestles with, concluding that “as historians, we must pause and ask ourselves, is the undefeated mentality ‘insane’ and ‘unrealistic’ from the Rebels’ point of view–or from ours? ... There is little doubt that the soldiers’ worldview ill prepared them for defeat, but their vantage point was not irrational or contradictory within their own time and place” (p. 111). And that is why far too many scholars fail in their judgements, opting to evaluate these superb fighting men from a modern vantage point. The defeated survivors had to confront “a direct challenge not only to their patriotism but to their Christianity as well. A closer examination of Rebel religion will better illuminate how white Southerners saw the war, handled defeat, envisioned the future, and memorialized the past” (p. 111). Compared with Americans unable to reconcile their views about how and why we lost in Vietnam and now Iraq, my ancestors seem to have done rather well in coming to terms with their own crushing defeat.
A postwar piece which has at least as much connection to the previous three essays as it does to Reconstruction is Monte Hampton’s “Navigating Modernity: The Bible, The New South, and R. L. Dabney.” He begins with a tedious discussion of the contested definition of modernity, which will leave most non-academics shaking their heads. If the experts cannot agree on what it is, or was, how can they talk about it, much less understand how a man like Dabney dealt with it? The “hermeneutical challenge faced by nearly all the theological descendants of ... Calvin ... [is] how to apply a revelation believed to be eternally and universally true to particular historical situations that differ from those in which it was first communicated” (p. 218). Supreme Court justices and constitutional scholars face a similar problem. For Southern Presbyterians, one such difficulty was the great evolution controversy of the 1880s. Hampton cites Daniel (not David, pp. 219, 227 n. 6) J. Singal, who found that Southern intellectuals “did not embrace modernity until the period between World War I and World War II” (p. 219). Readers of I’ll Take My Stand (1930) might disagree. Like the lonely Japanese soldiers on Pacific islands post-1945, there are still some unreconstructed degenerates in the woodpile who have not accepted all the wonderful things modernity has to offer. A staunch defender of southern conservatism at Union seminary, 1853-1883, Dabney then took a philosophy professorship at the University of Texas. A specialist in lost causes, he fought racial amalgamation, Yankee commercialism, radical democracy, women’s rights, public schools, philosophical empiricism, higher criticism of the Bible, the New South, and modern science. Hampton disagrees with Eugene Genovese that the Civil War destroyed Southern orthodoxy, finding that “Southern Presbyterian theologians like Dabney ... went to their graves in the years around the turn of the century as both orthodox theologians and unreconstructed Southerners” (p. 221). Such men have been barely treated if mentioned at all by scholars like C. Vann Woodward and Charles Reagan Wilson. Unsurprisingly, Dabney was strongly committed to white supremacy, but did not really try to support it with scripture, though ideologues of the pro-slavery school had done so extensively. Many of the differences Dabney had with other postwar Southern Protestants, like Atticus Haygood, a Methodist bishop and president of Emory College, centered on what it meant to be faithful to scripture, a novel question indeed. In the 1870s Dabney debated William H. Ruffner, the new superintendent of the Virginia public school system, arguing as had the Puritans that it was the job of parents, not the state, to educate the young. It was Dabney’s fate “to render [the Bible] a captive of his own particular culture. In [his] hands, the Bible often became South-bound” (p. 226), hardly the first time that has happened. Jackson’s aide died in 1898 and was buried on the Hampden-Sydney campus adjacent to the Presbyterian seminary. Dabney’s widow put a conventional resume on his tombstone, and a line from First Thessalonians. She declined their son’s epitaph: “He was what he was. Let the Heathen rage” (p. 217).
Four essays on African-Americans and slavery appear in the wartime section. A fifth is awkwardly placed there as well. Daniel Kilbride, a student of Wyatt-Brown’s, considers “Slavery, Nation, and Ideology: Virginians on the Grand Tour in the 1850s,” and asks why did young members of its planter class in Europe “fail to reflect on slavery or Southern self-consciousness?” (p. 61). Though he does not examine other southern tourists in this brief essay, Kilbride, author of a fine study of Southerners in antebellum Philadelphia, has a tentative answer. He thinks “that historians have overestimated the ideological significance of slavery in white Southern culture” (p. 61). If true, it is a remarkable finding, with many implications. Being abroad led these Virginians to think of national progress and made them more patriotic Americans, which in turn “raises questions about planter-class distinctiveness in the era of sectional conflict. ” Kilbride sees the “dilemma of how to interpret silences–and whether silences, or which silences, ought to be interpreted at all” (p. 61). There were some differences in what was said about slavery, and Europe, in published travel accounts, and in private letters. “Virginians in Europe were not exactly silent about slavery ... but it is just as clear that, despite plenty of opportunities, they did not engage in the contrasts between free and slave labor that proslavery literature invited them to make” (p. 68). Nor did they ask about their favorite slaves at home, or encounter as much European criticism of slavery as they had expected. There was little in the experience of these innocents abroad that would have taught them how different slavery had made them. Kilbride suggests that the conflict between free and slave labor may have existed mostly in the minds of proslavery theorists, and presumably their abolitionist foes. “Less ideologically inclined Southerners seem to have believed in the merits of both systems” (p. 68) and American superiority generally over Europe. The contrast between the comments of these tourists and those of other visitors, like Henry H. Garnet and William Wells Brown, is striking. The author concludes that Virginians on the grand tour “identified not with a narrow sectional culture rooted in a proslavery political economy, but a modern, progressive nation based on political and economic freedom” (p. 69). A simpler answer may be that they were not particularly introspective, and certainly not self-conscious or defensive about slavery. In Europe they traveled in circles unlikely to expose them to criticism of the peculiar institution. They had grown up with slavery and accepted it. They had no guilt or shame about their region’s labor system. It was part of their world, and their mentality. They spent little time thinking about it.
Ervin L. Jordan, Jr., focuses on two of “Queen Victoria’s Refugees,” fugitive slaves from Virginia, whom he feels may have had an adverse effect on Confederate diplomacy in Great Britain. They became minor celebrities in England, and their accounts of slavery may have helped promote British acceptance of the Emancipation Proclamation, a statement hard to test. Among which groups? Surely not aging abolitionists or liberals generally; or much of the working class, however sympathetic they were to Lincoln and the Union cause. Upper class conservatives were unlikely converts. Jordan quotes the curious claim by Henry Louis Gates that African-Americans were the only enslaved people in world history to produce a literature on their experience. Perhaps that is what he tells his Harvard students. The victims of slavery in Egypt and Babylon left a modest legacy of their own, echoes of which appear in black song and story. Polybius, one of the major historians of the ancient world, along with many other enslaved Greeks, left a literature concerning their fate. Even if this remarkable assertion were true, what might it suggest about the nature of Southern servitude, compared to slavery in Latin American sugar fields, or under modern Islam? And what of the controversy over the authorship of such narratives, touched on by Jordan ? He lauds the genre that he says began with Olaudah Equiano (Gustavus Vassa), the authenticity of whose account has recently been challenged.[19 ] Jordan thinks that his two ex-slaves produced 1863 London memoirs that possibly “contributed to the moral authority of the Emancipation Proclamation” and “helped deter Great Britain from a formal alliance” ( p. 152) with the South. He does not cite Frank Lawrence Owsley’s _King Cotton Diplomacy_, who found that the “position that the freedom of the slave was not the issue was until the end of the war that of the Times, the Economist, the Herald, the Post, and practically all the important papers of the country as well as that of the reviews such as Blackwood’s and the Edinburgh Review.” Jordan gives no contrary evidence from British cabinet minutes, debates in the House of Commons, or papers of the prime minister, while admitting that these two obscure memoirs hardly begin to compare with the impact of Uncle Tom’s Cabin , or Fanny Kemble’s record of a Georgia plantation published the same year. Even world famous authors like Harriet Beecher Stowe were dismissed as factors in British foreign policy by the Times. Despite a diligent search, Jordan could find only one English review of either narrative, but feels that Dinah Browne and Francis Fedric’s are important “in that they were among the last of a distinguished legacy of African-American voices giving powerful testimony against slavery” (p. 153). That does not stand against John W. Blassingame’s 'Slave Testimony' with accounts as late as Ambrose Headen’s, written and published in 1878 in the American Missionary. The WPA interviews of the 1930s, later published, must rank as the last of those bearing witness against slavery.
The rest of the essay has little that is new. Yes, there were huge abolitionist rallies in Great Britain, mostly funded by Union cash (p. 156). The first runaway slaves in England were lionized, notably Frederick Douglass, but later arrivals found the chances for celebrity status sadly diminished. Fedric claimed that slave children ate from troughs like pigs, a story suspiciously like that in the first version of Douglass’s autobiography, which he later admitted to be false, like many of the more dramatic incidents in his abolitionist tract. It would be interesting to know the name of his Fauquier County owner, who supposedly had a hundred slaves before 1830. He should not be hard to find if he existed. Many ex-slaves claimed owners from the planter class; few admitted to being held by small farmers. Jordan comes close to writing feel-good history, the past as he would like it to have been, but is too good a scholar not to concede that “the overall contemporary impact of these ... narratives may well have been limited” yet they could possibly still have played “some role in shaping public opinion” (p. 160). He credits Donaldson Jordan and Edwin J. Pratt with rediscovering these works, which he claims were ignored by the authors of standard studies. Such omissions may be further evidence of their lack of impact. Jordan and Pratt merely listed them in their extensive bibliography for Europe and The American Civil War(1931) in a section of works favoring the North.
David G. Smith’s “Race and Retaliation: The Capture of African-Americans during the Gettysburg Campaign,” has been partly superseded by Brown’s major work, which has far more detail about its impact on blacks in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Smith calls the campaign a series of “slave raids” (p. 138), which some military historians will find over the top. The total number of blacks seized in Pennsylvania, and in Virginia and Maryland, both still slave states in 1863, may have been over 1,000. The Emancipation Proclamation took effect on the first of the year but did not apply to loyal Maryland, or the Union occupied counties of Virginia such as Berkeley, and it had no force in Confederate ones. Maryland did not abolish slavery until 1 November 1864. Blacks were seized at Winchester and Harpers Ferry in 1862, both towns in a seceded state. Smith hints at some official policy for the recapture of fugitive slaves on the part of the Confederacy or army high command, citing Lee’s circular distributed to the army. Slavery was still legal and protected by law and Lincoln’s administration in Maryland, Kentucky, and other border states. There is no doubt that some free blacks were taken by the army, but distinguishing many of them from slaves, fugitive and otherwise, is difficult now.
English professor Lucinda H. MacKethan’s “Reading Marlboro Jones: A Georgia Slave in Civil War Virginia,” examines a mysterious ambrotype in the Museum of the Confederacy with a two sentence inscription on the back, which credits Jones with being a “faithful slave” who protected white women in his owner’s family while their men were away. The redundant second sentence adds “He wears the Confederate uniform” (p. 168). MacKethan seems to find a contradiction here, but Jones could have done both things, protected the ladies at home, and also seen active service. She tries to contribute to the recent clamor about whether blacks served voluntarily in combat as Rebel soldiers. MacKethan analyzes four sources: the seven inch ambrotype; court and census records for Liberty County, 1851-1871; Jones’s appearance in three different memoirs from the planter class of Sherman’s march; and as the hero of an 1898 novel by a native of the county. Hewett’s Roster of Confederate Soldiers has no Marlboro Jones. None of the M. Jones listed served with officer Randal F. Jones’s cavalry units, which suggests that Marlboro, his body servant, lacks a service record. MacKethan faults the editors of the Journal of Confederate History who used the image as a cover for their special 1995 issue “devoted to proving the significant presence of loyal slaves within the Confederate army” (p. 166). She thinks “any sighting or citing of Marlboro that we make now is both smoke and mirror, for his record of himself as a man is nowhere, as well as everywhere, we look” (p. 174), but she cannot resist having it both ways. Her caption for the picture of Marlboro Jones reads too much into the photo, placing him “in a Confederate uniform at a Virginia battle site” (p. 167), and asserting that he “was there, probably wearing the Confederate uniform” at “the greatest cavalry battle ... Trevilian Station” (p. 168). The reproduced image looks like it was taken in a photographer’s studio. He is hardly a ragged Rebel circa 1864. Jones wears an immaculate gray uniform, with little sign of the wear and tear of the field. He holds his cap in his lap, with two canteens strapped across his chest. The camp background looks painted. His left arm rests on a colorful ottoman, standard issue for Southern cavalry in the war’s last year. Tony Horwitz’s pals might say that Marlboro Jones was a farb. MacKethan should have consulted William A. Frassanito, sending him a photocopy and a SASE.
Suzanne W. Jones’s “Interracial Love, Virginians’ Lies, and Donald McCaig’s Jacob’s Ladder” discusses interracial unions, and how they have been treated by novelists of both races, and by historians and other scholars, from Reconstruction to the present, with special attention to the theme of the tragic mulatta. Parts of her essay have already appeared in Race Mixing: Southern Fiction since the Sixties (2004).
Susanna Michele Lee’s “Contested Unionism: William Pattie and the Southern Claims Commission” focuses on the question of loyalty, and its often shifting definition in the Old Dominion between 1860 and the 1870s. Pattie, a Warrenton merchant, said he had opposed secession. As Union surgeon Frank Dyer found, every white Virginian he met said the same thing. Pattie claimed that he supported Republican candidates in postwar Virginia, but his political rivals challenged his veracity. Lee does not identify them; were they Conservatives, or Democrats, or both? While investigators for the Commission, established in 1871, “denounced the impudence of rebels posing as Unionists to cheat the Federal government” (p. 202), the Republicans running that same government were eager to have the support of scalawags, who had once been such rebels. Some estimate they numbered up to one-third of the white population at the peak of their brief reign, sharing power with carpetbaggers and freedmen. Lee knows that being an out Unionist was difficult if not impossible in Virginia, if you wanted to stay alive, or in your home. The Commission examined memories of claimed unionism as far back as twenty years, but in Pattie’s case, the poll books of Fauquier County show that he had voted for secession. John S. Mosby, now a good Republican (and scalawag in the eyes of most of his Rebel comrades), and some of the Grey Ghost’s allies contested Pattie’s claim of loyalty. Mosby recalled confiscating crops from various men, but testified that he had never persecuted Pattie, and never heard of his being a wartime Unionist. When he took the Ironclad Oath it caused consternation in the community. Pattie was chairman of the county’s Republican committee, a position from which Mosby failed to oust him. Pattie was also a non-slaveowner, unlike many of his neighbors. Some whites recalled his reputation as an abolitionist, and black testimony on this point was even stronger. Yet the Commission ruled against him. Lee cites Virgil C. Jones’s Ranger Mosby (1944) but not more recent biographies that might have information.
Lisa Tendrich Frank’s “War Comes Home: Confederate Women and Union Soldiers,” uses familiar figures like Lucy Breckinridge (“‘what horrible things men are,’” p. 123) whose name she misspells throughout her essay. Elite women like Judith McGuire and Lucy Rebecca Buck believed that their sex made them invulnerable not only to physical harm, but to property loss. The reality was quite different. Frank does not limit herself to Virginians but draws on the experience of Washington women, most notably Rose O’Neal Greenhow; Eugenia Yates Levy Phillips in both D.C. and New Orleans; the Georgian Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas; and the Tarheel Catherine Edmondston. She should also have used Fellman’s fine work on wartime Missouri, which has far more details about the sexual abuse of white women, often by neighbors on the other side in that divided state. Frank says little about the treatment of the slave women owned by her subjects or their male relatives. She focuses on women in the Shenandoah Valley. Sheridan was effective there, and shortened the war. Had he been unleashed earlier his scorched earth policy might ultimately have saved lives. But Little Phil also united whites in an area that had relatively few slaves, and strong Union sentiment in many counties. After 1865 Valley residents were solid in their commitment to the Conservative and Democratic parties, and to white supremacy. Unfortunately, like the authors of some slave narratives, it is not always clear how much Confederate women engaged in self-censorship. Relatively few accounts are true diaries; most are memoirs, recollections, or autobiographies, some not published until after the turn of the century. How much they concealed is an open question. McGuire’s account has the virtue of appearing in 1867, though Frank uses an 1889 edition. There are frequent gaps between her entries. It is not clear how much editing her manuscript had before its publication. Frank’s final sentences capture much of the significance of her subject, and part of the challenge of understanding these women. She has sympathy for them even though they were of the slave-owning class. If Frank was writing about their Reconstruction attitudes one wonders if she would have as much. This brief essay cannot do justice to a complex subject, even if it had been confined to Virginia.
In “Surviving Defeat: The Trials of ‘Mrs. Ex-President Tyler,’” we meet a notably unsympathetic figure. Theodore C. DeLaney struggles manfully to present Julia Gardiner in a positive light, but it is not clear how much new information he has added to Robert Seager’s biography. Julia was a wealthy young New York socialite who married up when she became the wife of John Tyler in the last months of his singularly troubled presidency. She was twenty-four; he was thirty years older. The most interesting aspect is Julia’s conversion to Catholicism, assisted by no less than the mixed race priest, Father Patrick Francis Healy, S.J., son of a Georgia planter and a slave woman, though Jim O'Toole’s biography is not cited. Like Seager, DeLaney describes her plantation manager’s attempt to use hired Swedish immigrants as laborers at Sherwood Forest, which was first managed by her late husband’s elderly cousin, and afterwards by one of her sons, who adjusted to the new order and made it pay. Who will be the audience for DeLaney’s projected book on Mrs. Tyler? He insists that she was “no ordinary nineteenth-century Southern woman” (p. 241). Certainly not: she was a Yankee transplant, and not even a deep-rooted one, spending little time in Virginia during or after the war. What DeLaney quaintly calls “pluckiness” (p. 241) she had in spades, refusing to pay debts to a long list of creditors and even friends. Until her mother’s death she had cash from the North. Eventually she was able to wheedle the U. S. government into giving her more than she deserved, much of which went to expensive private schools for her unappealing children. Here is a true lost cause for a biographer. Many males would shudder at the prospect of such a union.
Much more promising is Amy Feely Morsman’s summary of her 2004 Virginia dissertation, “Gender Relations in Planter Families: A Postwar Experiment and Its Lost Legacy.” She argues that by the 1880s a new generation had come of age, many of them children of Virginia’s last plantation elite. Drawing like DeLaney on the work of Jane Turner Censer, Morsman shows that her subjects abandoned rural life for the professions and urban jobs . They chose not to follow their parents, who survived the postwar era by mutual partnerships, instead returning to gender roles closer to their grandparents’, despite the urban setting. Morsman studies couples in Washington, Norfolk, Richmond, and Lynchburg. Railroads allowed escape from the country, and access to jobs and cash. They delayed their marriages, sought careers, and as new women took part in the club movement and suffrage crusade. Young adults in the 1890s, they saw and helped create a stronger system of racial oppression. Coming of age at the peak of the Lost Cause, they imbibed a sentimental version of the antebellum era along with romanticized tales of wartime. The group’s size is unclear. What percentage of the state’s white population were they, and how is this postwar ex-planter class defined? They were clearly an elite, but were they displaced? How significant were they, and why? Could such people be found in other states? From this sketch it is impossible to tell how well Morsman will integrate various aspects of white society in the New South, or reconcile contradictory aspects of the New Dominion.
Some are covered by the final essay, and one of the best, Caroline E. Janney’s “To Honor Her Noble Sons: The Ladies’ Memorial Association of Petersburg, 1866-1912.” Blandford Episcopal Church, built in 1735 and abandoned by 1803, was given to the city in 1819. Janney begins with its dedication as a Confederate chapel in 1904, a goal that these women had sought for more than three decades, and the unveiling of three Tiffany windows to the men of Virginia, Missouri, and Louisiana. She tells a familiar story of competition between rival Lost Cause groups, in her case the Ladies’ Monument Association (LMA) and the younger United Daughters of the Confederacy, allied with the United Confederate Veterans. The women had intermittent help from the city and state. Their membership and activity rose and fell, often reflecting economic booms, and the Panics of 1873 and 1893. Notable in 1868 was the LMA officer who would not excuse the “‘luke warmness of Southern men’” (p. 259) to the association’s goals. Many were veterans; some were amputees. All were trying to survive and support their families. Few had a cash surplus for the LMA. Janney summarizes the consensus view of the growth of Lost Cause events. They appeared with the hardcore unreconstructed in the 1860s, bloomed in the 1880s, and reached their peak early in the twentieth century. The national organizations are usually emphasized, and Janney thinks most historians have missed local efforts to keep the faith. Her point is well taken. General studies often slight the local and specific, but local history, however valuable, can lack context. It would be interesting to know how Petersburg, so small in the last third of the nineteenth century that many urban historians would not even rank it as a true city, compared with more successful places like Norfolk and Richmond. Scale should be considered in judging Petersburg’s relative failure or success. A better comparison would be with communities closer in size, perhaps Roanoke, Lynchburg, Fredericksburg, or Alexandria. The last in some ways could be most comparable, with a large city across the Potomac. The Cockade City had a much bigger community, the state capital, just twenty miles to the north. Because Janney is a cultural, social, and intellectual historian, and a very good one, she at times seems to underestimate the importance of political factors. She barely mentions Radical Republicans but pays more attention to local hero Billy Mahone and his Readjusters. Janney cites William D. Henderson’s solid works on postwar Petersburg, but might find useful background in A. Wilson Greene’s recent wartime study.
This essay is both a summary of the conventional view of New South women’s group efforts, and a sketch of the creation of a Lost Cause shrine on the Petersburg battlefield. It is not clear that Janney is aware of various gilded age urban trends in the South or elsewhere. Was Petersburg like Vicksburg, a city that never recovered its antebellum prosperity? Janney claims that July 4 was celebrated as early as the 1870s, though by whom is unclear. Did Petersburg go backward over time? The young army officer Earl Warren recalled a visit in 1918. There were no American flags to be seen on Memorial Day, but a forest of Rebel battle flags. The LMA revived after years of decrepitude in 1883, reflecting both an economic upturn and a generational shift in leadership and members, somewhat like the National American Woman Suffrage Association after Carrie Chapman Catt took over in 1900. The 1880s were relatively prosperous in Virginia, especially when compared with the previous and following decades. The challenge for LMA leaders can be found in the president’s annual report, which admitted that some thought immediate needs were more important than Confederate memorials. Mrs. David Callender quoted General Mahone, a former supporter, as saying he thought it best “‘to live for the future and not the dead past’” (p. 262). Lee and Davis said much the same thing before their deaths.
Janney’s most significant finding is that Petersburg’s economy continued to decline, unlike some other cities where Lost Cause sentiment prospered along with local business. The city also endured far more political instability than Richmond and Norfolk. Petersburg, like Vicksburg, became a backwater. One hopes that Janney will construct her own new and original thesis, marshaling her evidence, and deciding what it all means. Do her findings support David Blight’s sweeping indictment of white Southerners, and Civil War veterans generally, for mis-remembering what they fought for? Or can she fashion a more sophisticated interpretation? Janney finds that few wives and daughters of local veterans joined the LMA in the 1890s. Was it because of class and economic reasons, especially after the Panic of 1893 further devastated the already crippled local economy? Who could afford the LMA dues, or had the time to invest in its activities? By 1899 membership was down to fifteen. Throughout the South similar monument associations were local, independent organizations. The UDC was regional, and became national in scope, even boasting a chapter in Helena, Montana, where a Confederate monument still stands. The UDC had its own backhanded praise for groups like the LMA: “‘The memorial women honor the memory of the dead–the Daughters honor the living’” (p. 264). The LMA joined the Confederation of Southern Memorial Associations in 1900, and worked with the UCV, but was unwilling to merge with the UDC and lose its identity. Yet a 1903 article in the Women’s Home Companion credited the UDC with restoring Blandford Church. Janney does not say when the last LMA member died. It seems doubtful that the organization continued much longer, and perhaps it was merged into the local UDC chapter. Her essay is an appropriate and poignant conclusion to Virginia’s Civil War, a volume that reveals more about the current state of the historical profession than its contributors may realize.
This review is long because of the nature of the book, a difficult volume to assess but worth the effort. How many other reviews has it attracted? An online forum is certainly the best place for an extended discussion of such a work, and most old-fashioned historical journals stopped reviewing collections of essays and festschriften years ago, though they find room for reviews of the latest movies with historical themes.
. See Gardiner H. Shattuck, Jr., A Shield and Hiding Place: The Religious Life of the Civil War Armies (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1987); Steven E. Woodworth, While God Is Marching On: The Religious World of Civil War Soldiers (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2001); and Harry S. Stout, Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War (New York: Viking, 2006).
. Gary W. Gallagher, “‘The Progress of Our Arms’”: Whither Civil War Military History?,” 44th Annual Robert Fortenbaugh Memorial Lecture (Gettysburg: Civil War Institute, Gettysburg College, 2005). Though not the first to note this split, his essay is perhaps the most felicitous treatment, wise, witty, and even-handed. It should be read after Maris A. Vinovskis, “Have Social Historians Lost the Civil War? Some Preliminary Demographic Speculations,” Journal of American History 76 (June 1989), pp. 34-58; reprinted as the lead essay inVinovskis, ed., Toward A Social History of the American Civil War (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 1-30.
. William C. Davis and James I. Robertson, eds., Virginia at War, 1861 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2005); a fine study with a biographical approach is John G. Selby, Virginians at War: The Civil War Experiences of Seven Young Confederates (Wilmington, DE: SR Books, 2002).
. I checked the contributors in the _Directory of History Departments, Historical Organizations, and Historians, 32nd Edition, 2006-2007 (Washington: American Historical Association, 2006), including one with a job at an historical society among the tenure-track.
. Robert Holland, “Armstrong Wanted to Teach Ex-Slaves Trades,” 30 Jan. 2000, p. G-4; and Mark Holmberg, “Burning Passion Helped Extinguish El-Amin’s Career,” 28 June 2003, p. A-8, both in Richmond Times-Dispatch.
. Marvin P. Rozear et al, “R. E. Lee’s Stroke,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography (April 1990): 291-308.
. Nelson Lankford, Richmond Burning: The Last Days of the Confederate Capital (New York: Viking, 2002), pp. 243-44, 275 n. 8.
. Douglas Southall Freeman, R. E. Lee (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1934), 1: 644-645.
. Janet B. Hewett, ed., The Roster of Confederate Soldiers, 1861-1865 (Wilmington: Broadfoot, 1996), 2: 407.
. Michael B. Chesson, Richmond After the War, 1865-1890 (Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1981), p. 192.
[11.] William S. McFeely, Grant (New York: W. W. Norton, 1981), pp. 170-173.
. Kent Masterson Brown, Retreat From Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005).
. William Marvel, A Place Called Appomattox (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2000), 259-62.
. Linda K. Kerber, response to letters to the editor, AHA Perspectives (Jan. 2007), p. 38.
. Kent T. Dollar, Soldiers of the Cross: Confederate Soldier-Christians and the Impact of War on Their Faith (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2005), pp. 8-9.
. Daniel W. Crofts, Reluctant Confederates: Upper South Unionists in the Secession Crisis (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989); William W. Freehling, The South vs. The North: How Anti-Confederate Southerners Shaped the Course of the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).
. Tracy Powers, Lee’s Miserables: Life in the Army of Northern Virginia from the Wilderness to Appomattox (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), pp. 301-321.
. Daniel Kilbride, An American Aristocracy: Southern Planters in Antebellum Philadelphia (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2006).
. Jennifer Howard, “Unraveling the Narrative,” Chronicle of Higher Education, (9 Sept. 2005), p. A11, on the research of Vincent Carretta and reactions to it.
. Frank Lawrence Owsley, King Cotton Diplomacy: Foreign Relations of the Confederate States of America (2d ed., rev.; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959), 191.
. See Dickson J. Preston, Young Frederick Douglass: The Maryland Years (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), especially p. 53.
. Hewett, ed., Roster of Confederate Soldiers, 8: 560-561; 9: 4.
. J. Franklin Dyer, The Journal of A Civil War Surgeon, ed. Michael B. Chesson (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003), p. 45.
. Kevin H. Siepel, Rebel: The Life and Times of John Singleton Mosby (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1983).
. Michael Fellman, Inside War: The Guerrilla Conflict in Missouri During the American Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).
. Robert Seager II, And Tyler Too: A Biography of John and Julia Gardiner Tyler (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963).
. James M. O’Toole, Passing for White: Race, Religion, and the Healy Family, 1820-1920 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2002), may offer insights beyond those of Albert S. Foley’s cited 1989 biography.
. A. Wilson Greene, Civil War Petersburg: Confederate City in the Crucible of War (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2006).