A Consuming Fire: The Fall of the Confederacy in the Mind of the White Christian South (Mercer University Lamar Memorial Lectures)

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A Consuming Fire: The Fall of the Confederacy in the Mind of the White Christian South (Mercer University Lamar Memorial Lectures) [Paperback]

Eugene D. Genovese
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

A lucid investigation of the ideology of pro-slavery Southerners. In this book, derived from a series of lectures delivered at Mercer University, noted historian Genovese (The Southern Front: History and Politics in the Cultural War, 1995, etc,) examines the ways in which many Southerners convinced themselves that God was on their sidewhile, of course, many Northerners held that the Lord of Hosts was with them. Clerics and church officials of many denominations had been strongly pro-Union until Lincoln's election, Genovese maintains, but most of them stood by secessionist politicians when war broke out. All ``readily acknowledged that the South was fighting to uphold slavery,'' he writes, and only when the war ended did they allow that slavery may have in fact been morally wrong. Until that time, some of the more inventive clerics sought legitimacy for slavery by appealing to biblical authority, arguing that Abraham and other key figures in the Old Testament had owned slaves without drawing down God's wrath. That God had indeed visited his anger upon the slaveholders, these clerics insisted, was simply a test of their faith as they stood firm in ``working out a great thought of Godnamely the higher Development of Humanity in its capacity for Constitutional Liberty.'' Not all Southerners, Genovese notes, shared these notions. Quoting from letters written by front-line soldiers, he shows that many of them in fact believed that their people had become corrupt thanks to slavery, and that the war itself was ``entirely at variance with the commands given for our guidance.'' After the Confederacy fell, Genovese writes, the ardent clerics turned their attention to other matters, seeing the time ``as a new era in which the white race would take up the burden of civilizing the colored races of the world.'' Genovese's careful scholarship yields another book of importance to students of the Civil War era. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A remarkable and important contribution to southern history during its most critical period . . . Written with intellectual rigor and impressive scholarship . . . [This] book belongs on the required reading list of all seriously interested in southern history."--C. Vann Woodward, Civil War Book Review

"Always a superb essayist, [Genovese] develops a crisp and powerful argument about the religious strand in the pro-slavery argument, before, during, and after the war."--Times Literary Supplement

"Thoroughly researched and cogently argued . . . Gives historians of the pro- and antislavery causes much to think about."--American Historical Review

"Genovese makes a convincing, well-documented case that, although southern ministers supported the war for a slaveholding republic, they did not do so uncritically and repeatedly warned southerners that they had to conform to God's word on the treatment of their slaves if the Confederacy were to benefit from God's support and achieve victory."--Gaines M. Foster, Civil War History

"It should be viewed as a challenge to us all to try to understand the Old South in all its contradictory complexity, and especially to try to comprehend those southerners earnestly argued that slavery was a God-given trust."--Southern Cultures

"Tests the rhetoric of slave-holding as stewardship against a fearful reality many argued to reform. Both challenging and complementary to works by Drew Gilpin Faust, Mitchell Snay, and Jack P. Maddex, this book is characteristic Genovese—informative, insightful, and provocative."--Library Journal

"Genovese has again essayed important questions that scholars need to address in more depth as they probe the many effects of the Civil War upon the South."--Journal of Southern History

“What seems most laudatory about Genovese is his attempt to try to see the white antebellum South in all its complexity and richness and to reaffirm the importance of religion in the region during the nineteenth century."--H-CivWar

About the Author

Eugene D. Genovese is the author of several books, including Roll, Jordan, Roll, for which he won the Bancroft Prize, The Southern Tradition, and The Southern Front. He lives in Atlanta.
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