From the Publisher
"Through a combination of excellent writing and selection of the participants' words, Sword has provided us with a perception of the Southerner of the 1860s" Charleston Post & Courier
"Sword's new book about the morale of civilian and military Confederates is a thorough and entertaining study." Tampa Tribune-Times
"A compelling and nuanced accounting of the South's flawed confidence in its cause." Kirkus Reviews
"Dramatic and moving...a frequently fascinating glimpse at the genesis and durability of such Southern myths as Confederate 'valor' and the 'lost cause.'" Booklist
If Confederate defeat was inevitable, why did white Southerners go to war in 1861? Part of the reason, according to Sword, is because they thought themselves superior to their Yankee counterparts. The author of several battle and campaign studies, Sword explores how this miscalculation shaped the morale of Confederate soldiers and civilians and how this perception was eroded until by the end there was nothing left to do but accept defeat. Portraits of Confederate soldiers and civilians reinforce Sword's argument that they failed not because they lacked the will to win but because they underestimated their opponent. Whether the notion of Southern invincibility was limited to supporters of the Confederacy (there were a sizable number of white unionists) is not explored. Ironically, claims of Southern cultural and ideological superiority resurfaced after Appomattox as a way to cope with the pain of failure--giving rise to the distorted view of the past known as the Lost Cause Myth. For public and academic libraries.--Brooks D. Simpson, Arizona State Univ., Tempe Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
A representative study of "the mainstream thinking of white southerners" during the Civil War ponders the psychological roots and eventual consequences of the Confederacy's flawed belief in its own invincibility. "This is a book more concerned with `why' than with analyzing a culture," writes Sword (Mountains Touched by Fire: Chattanooga Besieged, 1995, etc.). "Why the southern soldiers fought so long and well. Why they thought they could win. Why the enormous effort, even in the face of imminent defeat. Why, long after total defeat, much of the pride and passion aroused by the war still remained deeply rooted in the South." Relying on letters, journals, and contemporary memoirs of soldiers and their families, Sword traces the evolution of Southern self-image, from early confidence in their superior bravery and physical hardiness to the eventual rise of the romantic "Lost Cause" myth, which cast the Confederacy's defeat as moral right overwhelmed by industrial might. Though he ultimately judges the South's reliance on personal prowess "absurd" in a war that saw the emergence of modern military technology like the repeating rifle, Sword gives Southern pride its due, expertly tracing shifts in public attitudes from gung-ho mobilization to weary surrender, analyzing key turning points like Shiloh and Gettysburg. That analysis is hamstrung at times by a rather formal style and academic diction. Thankfully, the author liberally salts the text with quotations from primary sources. Most effective are extended portrayals of representative characters: Sarah Morgan, a young New Orleans woman who suffered under Northern occupation; Sandie Pendelton, a Stonewall Jackson aide killed justweeks before the birth of his son; and ambitious Harry Burgwyn, at 20, the war's youngest colonel, also killed in battle. Focusing on the personal, Sword effectively dramatizes the arc of Southern mental resolve on the front lines and the home front. Despite starting slowly, Sword's study gathers momentum enough to fashion a compelling and nuanced accounting of the South's flawed confidence in its cause. (16 pages b&w photos)