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Bitterly Divided: The South's Inner Civil War

Bitterly Divided: The South's Inner Civil War

3.6 3
by David Williams

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 A fascinating look at a hidden side of the South’s history


 A fascinating look at a hidden side of the South’s history

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This fast-paced book will be a revelation even to professional historians. Pulling together the latest scholarship with his own research, Williams (A People's History of the Civil War), a professor of history at Valdosta State University, puts an end to any lingering claim that the Confederacy was united in favor of secession during the Civil War. His astonishing story details the deep, often murderous divisions in Southern society. Southerners took up arms against each other, engaged in massacres, guerrilla warfare, vigilante justice and lynchings, and deserted in droves from the Confederate army (300,000 men joined the Union forces). Unionist politicians never stopped battling secessionism. Some counties and regions even seceded from the secessionists. Poor whites resented the large slave owners, who had engineered the war but were exempt from the draft. Not surprisingly, slaves fought slaveholders for their freedom and aided the Union cause. So did women and Indians. Williams's long overdue work makes indelibly clear that Southerners themselves played a major role in doing in the secessionist South. With this book, the history of the Civil War will never be the same again. Illus. (Sept.)

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Kirkus Reviews
There was not one civil war between 1861 and 1865 but many-so many that if the South were to rise again, it would do so on only one leg. "Secession," writes Williams (History/Valdosta State Univ.; A People's History of the Civil War, 2005, etc.), "divided families all across the slave states. It pitted fathers against sons, siblings against each other, and even wives against husbands." It divided communities as well. Whole counties in Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and Virginia refused to leave the Union and seceded from the secession; homegrown unionist militias fought guerrilla wars against the Confederacy throughout the South; and as much as a quarter of the Union Army were Southern boys. Small wonder that one Atlanta newspaper opined early in the war, "If we are defeated, it will be by the people at home." As the war went on, the tide of sentiment turned against rebellion, as civilians starved and farmers had their crops and livestock requisitioned out from under them. By Williams's Marxist-tinged account, the Confederacy brought this upon itself, for it was a stringently class-conscious society organized for the economic and political benefit of the rich and visibly against the poor. The poor suffered disproportionately, but they did not rise up en masse, even though plenty of those poor folk worked quietly against the government. And not just the poor, as Williams observes. African-Americans resisted the Confederacy, too. Similarly, many Native Americans within the bounds of the South packed up and moved rather than take up arms against the Union; the band led by Opothleyahola, a Creek chief, petitioned Lincoln to protect them and, upon receiving no reply, relocated toKansas, attacked by pro-Southern Indians as they traveled. These acts of struggle within the Civil War are too little documented within standard textbooks, and Williams does a good job with this book, though some historians may question his close focus on class analysis. Of interest to students of the Civil War, and certain to provoke discussion in the professional journals.

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New Press, The
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Meet the Author

David Williams is the author of A People’s History of the Civil War, Plain Folk in a Rich Man’s War, Johnny Reb’s War, and Rich Man’s War. A native of Miller County, Georgia, he holds a PhD in history from Auburn University. He is a professor of history at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia, where for the past twenty years he has taught courses in Georgia history, the Old South, and the Civil War era.

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Bitterly Divided: The South's Inner Civil War (Large Print 16pt) 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An eyge opening read on how the south itself was divided over secession.
C_S_Glass More than 1 year ago
I say that I'm done with this one, but I didn't actually get through it. The book is not horrible, nor is it poorly written, but everything else I have seems more interesting. I made it through about 185 pages, though, and can comment a bit. The title advertises itself as if there is discussion about conflicting opinions in the South, but the onlly thing discussed is Unionist sentiment. Now that's fine, but it's not what I thought I would get. I hoped for a good compare-contrast book, dissecting actual inner conflicts between Rebels and Unionists, but what I got was a decent study of anti-Confederate sects. Oh well.