Well into the final months of the Civil War, countless Confederate soldiers earnestly believed that victory lay just around the corner. How could this be? Jason Phillips reveals the deeply ingrained attitudes that shaped the reality of these diehards not only during the war but in the subsequent era, when the myth of the Lost Cause was born.
Much is known about what Confederate soldiers fought for; far less is understood about why they fought on despite long odds and terrible costs. Drawing on soldiers’ letters and diary entries from 1863 to 1865, Diehard Rebels explains how religious dogma and perceptions of Union barbarity and ineptitude affirmed in many soldiers a view of an indomitable South. Within the soldiers’ closely circumscribed world, other elements reinforced convictions that the South was holding its own against great but surmountable odds. Close comradeship and disorienting combat conditions were factors, says Phillips, as well as conclusions drawn from images and experiences contradicting the larger reality, such as battlefields littered with enemy corpses and parade-ground spectacles of Confederate military splendor.
Troops also tended to perceive the course of the war in far-off theaters, the North, and overseas in positive ways. In addition, diehards were both consumers and conduits of rumors, misinformation, and propaganda that allowed them to envision a war that was rosier than the truth but still believable. Instead of crippling diehards after defeat, old notions of southern superiority helped them uphold southern honor. The central elements of Confederate invincibility fueled white southern defiance after surrender and evolved into the Lost Cause.
|Publisher:||University of Georgia Press|
|Edition description:||New Edition|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
Table of Contents
Introduction: Southern Invincibility and Confederate Defeat 1
1 The Smile of Providence: Confederate Religion and Invincibility 9
2 The Mask of Cain: Enemy Images in Rebel Minds 40
3 Without a Murmur: Confederate Endurance and the Immediate War 76
4 Gray Grapevines: Rumors and the Distant War 116
5 The Face of Surrender: Diehard Rebels in 1865 147
Conclusion: The Aftermath of Invincibility 178
Selected Bibliography 231
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A mythos of invincibility was the source of the diehard experience of a significant proportion of Confederate military forces refusing to give up even though they suffered serious reversals and did not have the resources to ever overcome these. Decisive defeat at Gettysburg and Sherman's march through the South culminating in the capture of Atlanta were two such reversals coming after a couple of years of warfare during which the South had never managed to gain the upper hand despite some successes in early parts of the War. 'Elements that supported Confederate notions of invincibility--religion, stereotypes, combat, rumors, camaraderie, and more--formed the fabric of the diehard experience.' Phillips--assistant professor of history at Mississippi State U.--treats these different facets of this mythos of invincibility with cultural study of the Southern states, reading of historical circumstances, military analysis, and also letters, battle reports, and newspaper stories both feeding into the myth and subtly questioning it. Demonization of Northern troops played with a belief in the superiority of the Southern soldier. Rumors trumped facts, as when reports circulated that New Orleans had been retaken. Slanted or incomplete newspaper articles were seized upon as gospel. Confederate soldiers deified their generals and many generals and field officers developed strategies for prolonging combat as long as possible when a rational, objective assessment of circumstances would lead to the conclusion that defeat was inevitable. Phillips' book is engaging and illuminating for bringing together diverse material in support of his topic and in so doing, bringing out new perspectives on always interesting subjects such as cultural differences between North and South and the course of the Civil War.