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More Damning than Slaughter: Desertion in the Confederate Army

5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0803247970
ISBN-10: 0803247974
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Editorial Reviews


“Mark A. Weitz’s study . . . aims to fill in one of the last remaining gaps in Civil War historiography.”—Publishers Weekly
(Publishers Weekly )

“An impressive piece of scholarship. . . An excellent, thought-provoking study of an overlooked aspect of the Civil War.”—Civil War Book Review
(Civil War Book Review )

“[This book] is the first attempt in decades to treat desertion in the entire South and the entire war, and it does so masterfully, despite the lost records that are the curse of any serious researcher. Mark Weitz has provided an important study of a neglected topic. His research is extensive and thorough, and his writing is clear. The combination is a well done work of history that should appeal not only to students of desertion but to anyone interested in learning more about topics beyond the battles of the Civil War and the Southern myth of the noble but lost cause.”—John H. Barnhill, Chronicles of Oklahoma
(John H. Barnhill Chronicles of Oklahoma )

“Weitz presented his case convincingly and forcefully. . . . [He] has contributed significantly to our understanding of Confederate desertion and the way it became inextricably tied to the South’s ultimate defeat.”—Journal of American History
(Journal of American History )

“Like prisoners of war, who have received little scholarly attention until recently, deserters have not been the subject of a general study since Ella Lonn’s 1928 work. This comprehensive treatment supersedes that landmark for Rebels. Dense and crowded with details, Weitz proceeds in chronological fashion, employing a disease analogy to follow the spread of desertion through all parts of the South, devoting equal attention to the eastern and western theaters, and using data not available to Lonn.”—Michael B. Chesson, Military History of the West
(Michael B. Chesson Military History of the West 20070227)

“A fascinating read. . . . Mark Weitz has written an important book that adds to our understanding of soldier desertion, Confederate nationalism, and defeat.”—Lesley J. Gordon, Georgia Historical Quarterly
(Lesley J. Gordon Georgia Historical Quarterly 20070111)

"A pioneering study. . . . Bound to be the standard on the subject."—Brian Holden Reid, Civil War History
(Brian Holden Reid Civil War History 20080901)

“Weitz must be commended for his bold attempt to tell such an important story. Hopefully, his work here will drive other scholars to revisit desertion as a topic of study and, in time, a collection of literature befitting such an important aspect of the Confederate war effort will emerge.”—Peter S. Carmichael, H-Net Book Reviews
(06272008 H-Net Book Reviews 20080627)

About the Author

Mark A. Weitz is the former director of the Civil War Era Studies Program at Gettysburg College. He is the author of A Higher Duty: Desertion among Georgia Troops during the American Civil War (Nebraska 2005).


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 346 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (October 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803247974
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803247970
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,131,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mark A. Weitz is a dynamic author, speaker, attorney, and noted historian.

Mark writes and speaks on the American Civil War and Constitutional Legal History. He is the former director of the prestigious Civil War Era Studies Program at Gettysburg College and is currently partner and head of the litigation practice at his law firm Weitz Morgan PLLC.

His career has provided him with insight and experiences to see issues and topics from a variety of perspectives. He has worked as a private attorney and general counsel, served as the COO of an insurance company, and taught history at the university level. As the author of five books, Mark blends his training and experience as a professional historian with his legal expertise to provide audiences with a unique viewpoint that is thoughtful and captivating.

Mark is the author of the preeminent study on Confederate desertion and has tackled controversial topics like clergy malpractice and immigration in his legal history books. He regularly writes and speaks on topics related to the Civil War and constitutional law while providing his legal clients with high-level counsel and overseeing the growth of his firm.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By James W. Durney TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Few images are more enduring than the Confederate infantryman, clad in rags, blanket roll, slouch hat, dirty beyond belief with an immaculate rifle in hand. Standing without fear against long odds, he endures cold and hunger for "the cause" fighting to the bitter end. This book is NOT an attack on that image, rather it documents that there are multiple images in every great event and all of them can be true. Mr. Weitz has written a very readable, intelligent and thought provoking account of desertion and draft dodging in the Confederacy. He validates the image of the Confederate infantryman while showing us that other images are equally valid and need to be understood.

The heart of the book is a year-by-year account of desertion in each theater coupled with the military and political response. Every student of Civil War history knows about how understanding most armies were of "French Leave". In addition, we know that the South was not as solid as legend suggests but contained significant pockets of "Tories" throughout the war. That is a simple and somewhat straightforward story that hardly seems worthy of a book. If this was all that the author had to give, I would have been unable to finish the book.

First, we have a discussion of why non-slave owing White subsistence farmers are willing to fight and their understanding of the "contract" with the CSA. This is a very interesting subject that the author deftly handles, giving us a look into rural Southern life lacking in many books. This contract' while unwritten but understood forms the foundation upon which these men build their service. They leave expecting the government to care for and protect their homes. This includes seeing that their family is not in want.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By C. A. Temm on April 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
It often seems that no real new information can be found on the Civil War as it is THE most written about event in our nation's short history. Mark Weitz however has done just that, taken a subject, and wrote an authoritative tome on it.

Desertion is a subject that has seen little serious investigation done, especially on the Confederate side, for several decades. This is a subject that has deserved more work, especially for its effects on the fledgling Confederate nation. In the past, desertion has been at best covered on how it affected states (Alabama gets a very good book covering it's trials on the home front in "McMillians's Disintgration of a Confederate State") and seldom anything approaching a war wide study.

Weitz has done this and in a convincing way to show how desertion become a cyclic monster feeding and growing as it was either ignored or coddled by both state and federal (CS government) entities and the onset of lawlessness on the home front encouraged it. With few exceptions, officers/officials in the CS government tended to be at least sympathetic towards deserters, witness the constant offers of pardon/blanket amnesty that the CS trotted out every few months. While there were officers who shot deserters, they were few in the over all context of the war. The CS had thousands, if not tens of thousands of men who were multiple deserters. Captured or cajoled to return to duty, these men often wasted little time before deserting again. It was a problem that saw armies of deserters in many regions of the South by the end of the war. This was despite, desperately needed CSA soldiers being sent to root out deserters throughout the South during the war.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By William G. Davis on June 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A wonderfuilly constructed and well written history on a subject most Southerners prefer not to talk about. That is a shame because there was little shame in it as men went home to protect their families and farms from advancing Yankee armies. The CSA government recognized this as a rationale when they issued an amnesty program to get the men back. However, once home, many of them faced missing families, destroyed homnes and more, and thus turned to theft. Ultimately, however, these men tended to collect into small irregular units that fed off the local population creating a dangerous situation. Not only did the lack of troops in the armies handicap efforts to"keep the cause alive", so did these irregular bands of deserters by turning the population against the CSA government, and by using local regular troops to hunt them down.

A nicely crafted history that needed to be written.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By LINDSEY on July 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover
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0 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Cole on July 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Book arrived promptly and in the conditon advertised. I would purchase from this vendor again.
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