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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A "Love - Hate" relationship with this book
I loved the book because I thought that it did an excellent job of exposing interesting facts, such as:
- The word "hubris" (excessive pride or arrogance) is the best one word definition of the planter class which ruled the South.

- The southern slaves were an "enemy within" the South. So in effect, the south was fighting a "two front" war...
Published on August 15, 2011 by James Brooks

versus
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Adds to our understanding, but flawed
The Confederacy was formed as a slaveholding, white man's republic. The irony, McCurry argues, is that the people who were not supposed to play an active role in this new nation, namely women and slaves, ended up playing decisive roles in the Civil War South. Women, especially soldiers' wives, secured a place as active and legitimate participants in the political and...
Published 19 months ago by Thomas W. Robinson


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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Adds to our understanding, but flawed, February 9, 2013
The Confederacy was formed as a slaveholding, white man's republic. The irony, McCurry argues, is that the people who were not supposed to play an active role in this new nation, namely women and slaves, ended up playing decisive roles in the Civil War South. Women, especially soldiers' wives, secured a place as active and legitimate participants in the political and social worlds of the South. Slaves not only did not actively support the Confederacy, but undermined it by running away, joining the Union war effort, and/or simply not working on the farms and plantations they lived on anymore. In this way, they became the Jacobins of the South.
The thrust of this book is that the actions of these women and slaves expanded the realm of politics to those who did not have a vote, but could still affect the policies and outcome of the war. McCurry shows, through both a synthesis of previous secondary work as well as primary sources, that the war brought women into close contact with their state and federal governments. Further, she argues, this changed the shape of American politics forever. Women, both North and South, were not active participants the way that they became during the Civil War. McCurry feels that southern women, though, were more assertive in demanding assistance from the Confederate and state governments. The women came to believe that the governments owed it to them to offer support while their husbands were off fighting. McCurry shows that women were often successful in this, through rioting more than writing.
This is a well-written, readable account that does have some good information. That being said, the main issue with the book is less the evidence or conclusions McCurry has reached and more the way it is presented. From the introduction forward, McCurry writes as if what she is presenting is groundbreaking, earth-shattering stuff. In fact, as her endnotes indicate, much of what she writes has been written before, although perhaps not in the same terms or using the same framework she does. However, the ideas McCurry espouses were written, at minimum, over thirty years ago by Emory Thomas in The Confederacy as a Revolutionary Experience. Thomas argued, as McCurry does, that the Confederacy was a white man's revolution that quickly dismantled as the war started and wore on. This is a somewhat petty criticism and has more to do with McCurry's hubris than anything wrong with the book. She should be commended for synthesizing the secondary research since Thomas wrote and thus expanding upon his original work.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A "Love - Hate" relationship with this book, August 15, 2011
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This review is from: Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South (Hardcover)
I loved the book because I thought that it did an excellent job of exposing interesting facts, such as:
- The word "hubris" (excessive pride or arrogance) is the best one word definition of the planter class which ruled the South.

- The southern slaves were an "enemy within" the South. So in effect, the south was fighting a "two front" war.

- The slaves had "no country" until the North offered them freedom.

- The planter class in the South started the secession movement and war and then refused to support it by allowing their slaves to be impressed for labor.

- The incredible convoluted Southern thinking that slaves were:
- An asset when fighting a war when the history of recent wars by similar slave holding countries showed the opposite.
- That slaves were content and would support a war and society that imprisoned them and their astounding surprise when slaves did not choose to support their "jail keepers".

I hated the writing style of the author. I found that she often repeated herself and kept saying the same thing over and over, only in different ways. I felt that I had to dig out the information noted above rather than it being presented in an easy to digest format.

If the writing style had been better, I would have rated this book with five star.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to Reckon With, December 6, 2013
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Confederate Reckoning provides a refreshing new take on the well-established historiography of the Confederate South. McCurry shows how the dream of a white man’s republic that propelled the South into secession was undermined by those typically deemed powerless. Although white men expected to use white women and slaves as instruments of war, they proved instead to be parties with which the “powerful” had to reckon.
McCurry argues that though they have been largely left out of the conversation, women and slaves were influential in the political landscape of the Confederate South. She provides convincing evidence for this argument through a variety of primary sources including letters, political documents and first-person narratives. Unfortunately, her tendency to draw from historical and theoretical literature rooted in different time periods distracts the reader from her argument.
Lack of organization is also an issue in this book, which attempts to merge two stories—that of white women and slaves—into a single historical narrative. McCurry begins with the women’s story and then with no real warning moves on to that of the slaves, leaving the reader confused when approaching the epilogue as to which party she is referring. Her writing style is also problematic. It reads a bit like stream of consciousness, and is often repetitive and sometimes shallow. Many of her points lack development, even though they are reiterated on numerous occasions.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Learn another perspective upon this most American of historical events: the American Civil War, Slaves and Poor white women., February 6, 2013
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This is one of the most original books on the Amer. Civil War that I've ever read and I've read a good many of them. McCurry asks not only why did the Confederacy lose the war, but maybe more importantly: why did they decide to risk war by leaving the Union, in the first place. Then she goes on to answer the question as to the loss of the war by focusing on two groups that have not been focused upon, to my knowledge, by any other historian: namely, average-to-poor white women (so-called "solders' wives") and African-American slaves, both men and women. McCurry points out that these two groups were not even considered when the "leaders" of the Confederacy started the "Revolution." However, along with the issues usually considered by other historians -- e.g., comparative population sizes, military strategy, tactics and weapons as well as battles -- those who were left out of the equation came to play a very decisive role in the prosecution and outcome of the war. The activities of the solders' wives and the slaves, made it impossible to prosecute the war efficiently; i.e., on less than two-fronts, all the time!

In addition to the above I found this book most valuable because it answered two questions for me; one, I didn't even know I had and another that has always puzzled me. I'd always assumed, unconsciously, that the states of the Confederacy decided to leave the Union through legitimate, democratic means and that the vast majority of Southerners (except those in what is now West Virginia) supported that move. In Confederate Reckoning, I learned that in several of the states, the Planters used the same tactics used by the Klan in the post-Civil War period to coerce the exit upon those white Southerners who didn't agree with the move. Second, I'd always wondered why the average Southern white male, most of whom didn't own slaves, was willing to fight for those slave owners who did. McCurry explains this by describing the dynamic of getting all Southern white men to buy-into the notion that they were fighting to protect Southern white womanhood -- their mothers, sisters, wives and sweethearts. As before the war, so after the war. One thing that Souther white men and women were not taught widely in the South, either before or after the Civil War; i.e., to think critically and for themselves, 600,000 people died as a consequence of this lack of education.

The only reason I didn't give McCurry 5 stars is because she repeats the same information far too often. That, however, is my only significant criticism. (It would not have hurt to have had more, but shorter chapters, instead of such long ones.)
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoyed the premise of this book, June 6, 2013
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This review is from: Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South (Hardcover)
It seems to me that, it was a book just waiting to be written. The author covers topics very rarely considered in any detail in other books on the Civil War. She helps cut through some of the romantic mysticism and points out reasons why, as we all suspected, that most of the South (especially the poor) were very much victims of the Confederacy. She also explains in greater detail the way of thinking of the Planter class of the Old South, which still exists today--you can even hear it in the speech of the elites of the Deep South today.

The problem I had with this book, is that the author repeats herself. Some here have said that they don't understand why people are saying that. Let me paraphrase just a couple examples of what I mean. She says , in one paragraph, that "soldiers wives started to become a political constituency for the first time" and explains how. A paragraph later, she ends the paragraph with "becoming a political entity was something new for poor white soldiers' wives". On the next page it says "for poor soldiers' wives, the Civil War was a huge burden, and they came into their own politically". In three pages she might say, "the term soldiers' wives' began to take on political meaning for the first time". Now, that is not repeating yourself with the same words, exactly. But it is repeating concepts that are not that hard to grasp. The book could have been much shorter and, IMHO, much better. I am not sure why the author feels the need to repeat certain points over and over.

Another concept "done to death" was how the Planter class had not considered that a full 1/3 of their population would not only not be soldiers, but also would , in all likelihood, be opposed to them. Now, this would seem obvious to us now, so it is important that she point it out. But once is enough. I hope I am explaining the "repetition problem" a little better here....the topic and concepts were great. Repeating concepts over and over made for, in some places, a very long read.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Women and slave power in the C.S.A., August 6, 2014
By 
Van Eggers (Plano, TX United States) - See all my reviews
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Fascinating, well documented description of the influential roles played by women and slaves in the Confederated States of America. The author demonstrates that the principal focus of the C.S.A. was first and foremost on the preservation of its 'peculiar institution', i.e., slavery, and the how this, along with the increasing politization of women, undermined its viabilty in many ways. The author's style is a bit turgid and academic at times, but well worth the effort to gain a better understanding of the Civil War from the South's perspective.
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23 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Altering our national mythology about the Civil War, July 27, 2010
This review is from: Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South (Hardcover)
"Confederate Reckoning" is one the most outstanding histories of this nation ever written. Drawing on massive public and private documents, Stephanie McCurry has discovered truths about the Confederacy that should stand this nation on its ear. The Civil War was indeed about slavery - and only that. It was waged by a class of men who conscripted small tenant farmers then used them as cannon fodder while protecting their own plantations and economics from the disasters that war produced. The Confederate government allowed merchants to gouge soldiers' wives who, with the support of planters' wives, fought back. As "Regulators" women staged food raids on warehouses, and confronted the corrupt, venal Confederate MALE government. The Confederacy existed for only white MEN, and their utter disregard for their lower class allies is hereby exposed. The mythology about the "loyal" slaves is also dispelled, and Dr. McCurry has given us such powerful insight into the self interest of the plantation owning ruling class that every self respecting Southerner who once flew the stars and bars but was not of that class ought to haul that tattered ensign down and stomp on it with both feet. Ordinary men and women meant nothing in this equation. They fought, starved, suffered, and died for the preservation of those who continued to exploit them after Reconstruction. This book destroys the dewey eyed nostalgia for the South and squarely confronts the greed and destruction a handful of rich people visited on a nation - and on their own people.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book, August 5, 2013
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A good discussion of some the politics of the Confederacy, both leading up to the war, and through its course.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Analysis, but Repetitive, March 25, 2013
By 
Robert K. Griffith (Morgantown, West Virginia United States) - See all my reviews
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I learned quite a bit from this book, but found the author's writing painfully repetitive in places. I have shelves of books on the battles and armies during the American Civil War, but knew little of the internal politics of the South during secession and during the war. The chapter on the seccesion crisis and the intimidation/suppression of pro-union whites in many states was an eye opener for me. The chapters on the role of women in the South and their emergence as a political force was interesting, but it seemed like every page contained a statement about how transformative it was for non-planter white women to become political actors. The author repeats that point over and over and over ad nauseum. A similar repetition occurs in making the point that the slaves played a very major role in freeing themselves and did not passively wait for Lincoln's armies to do it for them. A good editor could have significantly improved this book by eliminating the repetition. However I still gave it a four because I did learn a lot despite the writing style.
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30 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating look on the true face of the Confederate States of America, June 6, 2010
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This review is from: Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South (Hardcover)
Good history teaches readers about the past, excellent history offers perspective on the present. By this standard, Stephanie McCurry's "Confederate Reckoning" surely achieves excellence. Against the library produced over 150+ years since the "Lost Cause" attempting to rewrite Confederate realities, McCurry offers a carefully researched and well grounded frontal assault, examining secession's causes and actualities. She quickly disposes of the claims that the war was really about anything other than slavery, demonstrating that fanciful patinas such as "states rights" are merely meant linguistic obfuscation that brutal reality. Through numerous sources, she shows that the "property" that made up their "peculiar institution" was first and foremost in the minds of the men who tore the Union asunder.

Yet McCurry goes further, examining the profoundly anti-democratic nature of the Confederate enterprise, going all the way back to the planter elites manipulation and fraud in passing succession in several states. The contradictions inherent in the South's efforts from the beginning often astound: as the South argued for "essential liberty" it was the first to conscript its citizens and imposed onerous in-kind taxes. At the same time, the slaver class insisted that their "property" was sacrosanct, and must remain beyond the government's reach.

To argue for the Confederacy's anti-democratic nature, McCurry points both to the status of African Americans and women as both considered devoid of political authority. While her claim is accurate, this seems an odd conflation: in its treatment of women the South was similar to much of the rest of the west as well as the North, while in its candid assertions of the positive attributes of slavocracy, the South was in modern history unique. Nonetheless, the South's troubles with politically assertive women, including several riots led by women, illuminates a fascinating lost bit of history. Nor were these the only cases of the deep segregation in the Confederacy along various lines. For example, McCurry doesn't consider the South's refusal to bury Jewish war dead in military cemeteries.

As modern citizens decry government actions and hearken back to an ideal that never was, so to the South asserted a wish to return to a fictional revolutionary era utopia. This desire allowed them to not only ignore the long odds against their success, just as Tea Partiers fail to consider their program's (such as it is) absurd contradictions. While on occasion she allows her overwrought prose to get the best of her, McCurry shines a light on the South's brutal reality and thus encourages us to cast a cold analytical eye on our own.
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Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South
Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South by Stephanie McCurry (Hardcover - April 30, 2010)
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