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The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South [Kindle Edition]

Bruce Levine
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (184 customer reviews)

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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

In this major new history of the Civil War, Bruce Levine tells the riveting story of how that conflict upended the economic, political, and social life of the old South, utterly destroying the Confederacy and the society it represented and defended. Told through the words of the people who lived it, The Fall of the House of Dixie illuminates the way a war undertaken to preserve the status quo became a second American Revolution whose impact on the country was as strong and lasting as that of our first.
 
In 1860 the American South was a vast, wealthy, imposing region where a small minority had amassed great political power and enormous fortunes through a system of forced labor. The South’s large population of slaveless whites almost universally supported the basic interests of plantation owners, despite the huge wealth gap that separated them. By the end of 1865 these structures of wealth and power had been shattered. Millions of black people had gained their freedom, many poorer whites had ceased following their wealthy neighbors, and plantation owners were brought to their knees, losing not only their slaves but their political power, their worldview, their very way of life. This sea change was felt nationwide, as the balance of power in Congress, the judiciary, and the presidency shifted dramatically and lastingly toward the North, and the country embarked on a course toward equal rights.
 
Levine captures the many-sided human drama of this story using a huge trove of diaries, letters, newspaper articles, government documents, and more. In The Fall of the House of Dixie, the true stakes of the Civil War become clearer than ever before, as slaves battle for their freedom in the face of brutal reprisals; Abraham Lincoln and his party turn what began as a limited war for the Union into a crusade against slavery by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation; poor southern whites grow increasingly disillusioned with fighting what they have come to see as the plantation owners’ war; and the slave owners grow ever more desperate as their beloved social order is destroyed, not just by the Union Army, but also from within. When the smoke clears, not only Dixie but all of American society is changed forever.
 
Brilliantly argued and engrossing, The Fall of the House of Dixie is a sweeping account of the destruction of the old South during the Civil War, offering a fresh perspective on the most colossal struggle in our history and the new world it brought into being.

Praise for The Fall of the House of Dixie
 
“This is the Civil War as it is seldom seen. . . . A portrait of a country in transition . . . as vivid as any that has been written.”The Boston Globe
 
“An absorbing social history . . . For readers whose Civil War bibliography runs to standard works by Bruce Catton and James McPherson, [Bruce] Levine’s book offers fresh insights.”The Wall Street Journal
 
“More poignantly than any book before, The Fall of the House of Dixie shows how deeply intertwined the Confederacy was with slavery, and how the destruction of both made possible a ‘second American revolution’ as far-reaching as the first.”—David W. Blight, author of American Oracle
 
“Splendidly colorful . . . Levine recounts this tale of Southern institutional rot with the ease and authority born of decades of study.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
 
“A deep, rich, and complex analysis of the period surrounding and including the American Civil War.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This masterful work is essentially an examination of the political and social disintegration of the antebellum South under the strain of slow but relentless military defeat. Levine presents compelling evidence to counter revisionist arguments concerning the role of slavery in the South. He asserts that the entire edifice of Southern society was based upon the “peculiar institution” and the racial assumptions used to justify it. He effectively demolishes the mythology of a passive, even content slave population and illustrates how the maintenance of slavery depended on the threat and often the use of violence. Levine also acknowledges schisms in Southern society between the planter elite and the nonslaveholding majority. Once the military conflict began, the pillars of Southern society slowly eroded as men left the farms and plantations to fight and slaves refused to work and often fled into the arms of approaching Union forces. Levine’s employment of testimonies by slaveholders, slaves, and pro-Union Southerners is effective and often poignant. This work will be an excellent addition to Civil War collections. --Jay Freeman

Review

“This is the Civil War as it is seldom seen . . . and a portrait of a country in transition . . . as vivid as any that has been written.”The Boston Globe
 
“An absorbing social history . . . For readers whose Civil War bibliography runs to standard works by Bruce Catton and James McPherson . . . [Bruce] Levine’s book offers fresh insights.”The Wall Street Journal
 
“More poignantly than any book before, The Fall of the House of Dixie shows how deeply intertwined the Confederacy was with slavery, and how the destruction of both made possible a ‘second American revolution’ as far-reaching as the first.”—David W. Blight, author of American Oracle
 
“Splendidly colorful . . . Levine recounts this tale of Southern institutional rot with the ease and authority born of decades of study.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
 
“A deep, rich, and complex analysis of the period surrounding and including the American Civil War.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“This book limns the relationship between slavery and the rise and fall of the Confederacy more clearly and starkly than any other study. General readers and seasoned scholars alike will find new information and insights in this eye-opening account.”—James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry Freedom
 
“With his characteristic judiciousness and crystalline prose, Bruce Levine demonstrates the toll that disaffection and dissent took on the Confederate cause and brings into sharp focus what the Union victory, enduringly, achieved. He has, in short, written another modern classic.”—Elizabeth R. Varon, author of Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789–1859
 
“A gripping, lucid grassroots history of the Civil War that declines the strict use of great battles and Big Men as its fulcrum, opting instead for the people. In the tradition of James McPherson, Bruce Levine has produced a book that is a work of both history and literature.”—Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of The Beautiful Struggle
 
“Levine illuminates the experiences of southern men and women—white and black, free and enslaved, civilians and soldiers—with a sure grasp of the historical sources and a deft literary touch. He masterfully recaptures an era of unsurpassed drama and importance.”—Gary W. Gallagher, author of The Confederate War
 
“A compelling, valuable and eye-opening work [that] will inform and entertain the most discerning student of ‘the second American revolution.’”The San Antonio Express-News

“Masterful . . . Levine’s employment of testimonies by slaveholders, slaves, and pro-Union Southerners is effective and often poignant.”Booklist
 
“Levine’s engrossing story chronicles the collapse of a doomed republic—the Confederate States of America—built on the unstable sands of delusion, cruelty, and folly.”—Adam Goodheart, author of 1861: The Civil War Awakening
  
“Bruce Levine vividly traces the origins of the ‘slaveholders’ rebellion’ and its dramatic wartime collapse. With this book, he confirms his standing among the leading Civil War historians of our time.”—James Oakes, author of Freedom National
 
“Eloquent and illuminating . . . Shifting away from traditional accounts that emphasize generals and campaigns, Levine instead offers a brilliant and provocative analysis of the way in which slaves and non-elite whites transformed the conflict into a second American Revolution.”—Douglas R. Egerton, author of Year of Meteors
 
“The idea that Southern secession was unconnected to the defense of slavery has a surprising hold on the popular historical imagination, North and South. Levine’s demolition of such a misapprehension profoundly succeeds as both argument and drama.”—David Roediger, coauthor of The Production of Difference
 
“Thorough, convincing, and, in a word, brilliant. Our understanding of this central event in American history will never be the same.”—Marcus Rediker, author of The Slave Ship
 
The Fall of the House of Dixie will delight and disturb—and provide much needed clarity as Americans take a fresh look at the meaning of the Civil War.”—Ronald C. White, Jr., author of A. Lincoln
 
“The story of a war waged off the battlefield, a war of politics and ideology that transformed both Southern and Northern culture unfolds brilliantly in the able hands of this fine historian.”—Carol Berkin, author of Revolutionary Mothers

“Levine offers a fresh perspective on this oft-told story by relying heavily on personal letters, journals and diaries. . . . Brushing aside the notion that slavery was merely one of many issues over which the war was fought, Levine . . . shows that it was at the center of everything—the economy, culture, social relationships and worldview.”—BookPage
 
“Levine’s well-documented study . . . provides a concise and well-written overview of the conflict and a cogent discussion of . . . still-polarizing issues.”The Dallas Morning News

Product Details

  • File Size: 7469 KB
  • Print Length: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (January 8, 2013)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00957T4ZQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,343 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
207 of 218 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The destruction of a way of life January 9, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Having read the book after seeing all the negative reviews, I don't find any evidence of the "Yankee bias" that the negative reviewers of this book claim exists. What I see instead is a comprehensive and engaging narrative of how the culture and commerce of the Antebellum South thrived on the institution of slavery and how deep and widespread the South's dependence on slave labor was, not just in shaping its economic structure but also its moral worldview. By focusing on the devastating cultural and social effects of the Civil War on this colossal edifice, the volume nicely complements others primarily dealing with military campaigns. At the same time the military campaigns provide a recurring background to the author's narrative. The story is illuminated by valuable diary entries and testimonies from a handful of key Southerners and slave-owners, most prominently the Edmondstons of North Carolina and the Stones of Louisiana. In addition Levine draws upon the words of dozens of major and minor players, including generals, privates, politicians, slaves, non slave-owning commoners, religious leaders and merchants. Their words showcase the diversity of opinions about slavery, the Union and the Civil War dispersed across multiple social strata.

Levine starts by providing us with an overview of the astounding affluence that slave labor made possible for Southerners and the sheer size of the slave-based economy. The combined value of the slaves in the South was a gargantuan $3 billion and one in three persons was a bonded laborer. Levine then documents the slave policies perpetuated by masters in the south and the self-serving justifications that they came up with for sustaining this labor.
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86 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Authors -- and their Critics January 14, 2013
By Scott
Format:Hardcover
I greatly admired Levine's last book, Confederate Emancipation and therefore looked forward to the release of his latest volume. I was not disappointed. The Fall of the House of Dixie brilliantly displays how the institution of slavery played the central role, first in the creation and then in the destruction of the Confederacy--and with it slavery itself. In an incredible irony of fate, it was the struggle to defend "the "peculiar institution" that led to a social revolution in the South that destroyed slavery once and for all.

You will not find blow-by-blow descriptions of all the battles, nor dozens of battle maps that I, for one, could never figure out. (There are three maps of the war as a whole clustered right at the front where you can find them easily). Instead Levine looks at the war over time from the point of view of the participants at every level of society -- from slave to planter and from Union soldier to New York banker.

Not only is Levine's thesis powerfully argued, it is eloquently written as well. In fact, he is right up there with McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom when it comes to sheer reading pleasure. The two books complement each other.

Those of you who heard Levine on Fresh Air and then searched for his book may have been surprised to find that his Amazon average customer review at the moment is only three stars despite glowing professional reviews. Then you notice that his three star average includes not one 3 star review. Almost all his reviews are either five stars or one star.

Here is a clue to this mystery: the eight one star reviews all appeared within 24 hours of the book's release, none of them amount to more than a few sentences, and none show any sign of having read the book.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fresh & Needed View of the American Civil War January 26, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I heard about this book on NPR and am presently half way through it. I grew up in Arkansas. It's difficult to realize how ones views of the world get so subconsciously colored, even when you thought you had exploded every myth. My hat's off to Prof. Levine for having the eyes to see this formative period in American history without preconceptions, just as if he were a historian dropped in from another planet who had never heard the way so many of us, as Americans both North and South, have become accustomed to think of these truly revolutionary events.

It's interesting to see how Southerners, 75% of whom did not own slaves, were carried head-long into a war to protect a small and very rich class who felt their economic position to be in jeopardy by the election of a Republican administration which, oddly enough, had sworn to prevent the expansion of slavery into the territories, and not to abolish slavery in the states where it then existed. Lincoln believed that he had no Constitutional authority for an abolitionist agenda and, apparently, in the beginning, had a racist view of African Americans, and fantasized about sending his fellow countrymen and women back to Africa, rather than giving (at least the men) full civil rights.

Sometimes you make a mistake. The South's economy depended on the forced labor of a full third of its population. As long as the Federal government accepted the legality of this system, it was secure. But when the slave-owning class engineered a rebellion against the government, they apparently just didn't comprehend that they would take the lid off the pot and create an avenue for the four million people in their midst to quit their forced labor jobs as soon as Union soldiers showed up.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Anyone not familiar for the reason of the Civil War ...
Anyone not familiar for the reason of the Civil War should read this book. I learned many things that I did not know. Very interesting & well written.
Published 9 days ago by Buster
5.0 out of 5 stars An accumulation of damage causes the House of Dixie to fall. This is a...
Levine notes that the Civil War consumed three quarters of a million lives, but that the war was worthwhile, necessary and even glorious. That succinctly is his bias. Read more
Published 26 days ago by lyndonbrecht
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put this book down!
Mr. Levine documents his writings about this history of the South like a true historian, yet his writing somehow reads like he was a reporter on the scene. Read more
Published 27 days ago by D. Kurtzweil
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
One of the best books I have ever read. It's applicable for today's political tensions. The resentments still seethe.
Published 1 month ago by MAUREEN OREILLY
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful work on a terrible time
Mr Lavine has written a new classic that will be the benchmark of those that follow. A great book for the serious student or the casual reader. I have been unable to put it down. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Vaughn Meatte
5.0 out of 5 stars ... War history and this one seems to capture a better flavor for it...
I have read a fair amount of Civil War history and this one seems to capture a better flavor for it than many. An enjoyable read.
Published 2 months ago by Dakota Papa
5.0 out of 5 stars NOT GONE WITH THE WIND.
This is a side of the civil war that you won't find in "Gone With the Wind." I was a history major, and this book was a totally new slant on the war. Read more
Published 3 months ago by budda
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
Interesting but a little slanted toward the Northern perspective, I thought.
Published 3 months ago by Robert H. Cline
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding requires knowledge and the elimination of popular myth
A surprising read about the realities of the pre-civil war South. Great clarity about the power structure that imposed slavery on the nation and keep it there. Read more
Published 3 months ago by B. Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars It's complicated
Emphasis is on how secessionists lost support among non-slaver whites during the civil war. How slaves supported each side, or not, was also well developed. Read more
Published 4 months ago by William Meyers
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