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The Confederate War

3.9 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674160569
ISBN-10: 0674160568
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Historians have often looked backward from the surrender at Appomattox to explain the failure of the Confederacy. They have concluded that the Confederacy's defeat was due mainly to decay from within resulting from internal strife among different factions of Southern society. Gallagher (American history, Pennsylvania State Univ.; editor of Lee the Soldier, LJ 4/15/96) disputes that interpretation. While he concedes that there were disagreements, he points to numerous letters and diaries that support his contention that Confederate society rallied around the Stars and Bars until Appomattox. Popular will gave rise to national sentiment whose morale depended on the battlefield victories won by Lee's army. Only Lee's surrender convinced many that the Confederate cause was indeed lost. The author makes a fine case for a new look at an old argument. Recommended for academic libraries and public libraries with Civil War collections.?Grant A. Fredericksen, Illinois Prairie Dist. P.L., Metamora
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A revisionist examination of the Confederate experience, as much concerned with historians and their methods as with history itself. ``Any historian who argues that the Confederate people demonstrated robust devotion to their slave-based republic, possessed feelings of national community, and sacrificed more than any other segment of white society in US history,'' frets Gallagher (American History/Penn. State Univ.), ``runs the risk of being labeled a neo-Confederate.'' He's right to worry. Making precisely that argument, his history of Confederate military and civilian experience veers dangerously close to hagiography of an entire culture. Challenging the current historical consensus that lack of will, absence of national unity, and flawed military strategy doomed the Confederacy, Gallagher presents contemporary letters, diaries, and newspaper accounts that rhapsodize about the true grit of rebel soldiers and civilians. To his credit, he resists the urge to backtrack from Appomattox when explaining military failure (as he accuses other historians of doing) and instead puts the Confederate war effort in a larger historical framework--namely the successful rebellion of the American Revolution. He poses a number of intriguing questions for fellow historians, suggesting most notably that scholars ask not why an uprising viewed as ``a rich man's war but a poor man's fight'' failed, but why so many non-slaveholders fought for so long. But his parade of testimonials to the nobility of the Lost Cause, unchallenged by critical questioning, sticks in the craw. Soldiers' letters, reenlistment figures, and editorials--which all suggest high morale when taken at face value by Gallagher--could easily be viewed as propaganda. At least their bombastic language enlivens an otherwise stiffly formal academic text. A work of more interest to historians than general readers, and more important for the questions it raises than any it answers. (40 photos, not seen) (History Book Club selection) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (March 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674160568
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674160569
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #126,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on January 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This quotation from Lee's analysis of Confederate prospects in Virginia in 1864 might be applied to the overall military picture in the South argues Gallagher. Bucking revisionists who blame Confederate defeat on a lack of popular support for the war effort, the author attempts to show how the agrarian South mustered a heroic effort against overwhelming odds, much as the "Lost Cause" supporters originally held. He counters Alan Nolan's argument that Lee's aggressive strategy was at fault with contemporary reports about the effect of this strategy on civilian morale. While the evidence on both sides of this argument is less than convincing, Gallagher finds the mark with statistics comparing the losses in men and property suffered by the Confederates compared with those suffered by U.S. forces in both this and all other wars involving American forces. He points out that a proportional Federal loss of 850,000 men during a conflict in which Northern war weariness led even Lincoln to the brink of despair might have found the Northern populace lacking in will. Although much of his argument is necessarily anecdotal, Gallagher presents a strong case that civil war buffs will spend a long time attacking or defending.
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Format: Hardcover
Among historians, the dominant view of the Confederacy since the 1960s was the "lack-of-will" thesis, which offers the vision of a failed CSA collapsing under the weight of its own internal contradictions. A Southern government abandoned by its people, rejected and repudiated by every non-slaveholding white person, fighting with an army of disgruntled draftees: That is some people's estimation of the CSA.
Since the early 1990s, however, this fixation with Southern "lack of will" has been questioned by some of the most active and able historians, who believe we have replaced one unbalanced view (the old "Lost Cause" thesis) with another.
Such questioning invites a charge of "neo-Confederate," or worse, from people who have some political or personal investment in the prevailing paradigm. Yet this questioning is not the work of "moonlight-and-magnolia" sentimentalists. Many of them are not Southern-born; many have no ancestors who fought the war.
Gary W. Gallagher is among them. This handsome little book, engagingly written, summarized the work that has been done to date in correcting the historical view of the South's war effort.
Gallagher, in an interview, has said, "Common sense should play more of a role in historical evaluation than it often does. To be able to wage war, the Confederacy was willing to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of its young men and suffer the destruction of its economy. In terms of military casualties, Confederates sacrificed far more than any other generation of white Americans in U.S. history. Yet the South still fought. This would suggest broad popular support for the war."
Among the points he makes: The battle losses the South took would translate into six million U.S.
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Format: Hardcover
In this short but very important work, Gallagher challenges the notion that the Confederacy did not develop a sense of nationalism and also many of the notions of the "lost cause" theory as well as a notion that the Confederacy was "stabbed in the back" by extensive internal tension among the populace as well as desertions. Gallagher uses many diaries and letters to bring home his points that the citizens of the CSA did in fact develop an extensive sense of nationalism and supported their cause right up until the end at Appomattox and even beyond. Gallagher also proves that while there were extensive disertions among some troops during many points in the war, many of those same troops rejoined their units after taking care of affairs at home. He also shows that rather than encouraging disertion because of problems at home, many Confederate women encouraged their men to stay with the army and not shirk their responsibilities to the CSA. Many historians also have recently concluded the CSA would have been better served to adopt a strategy of guerilla warfare against Union troops, Gallagher shows why this strategy would have been detrimental to southern society and the slave holding republic it wished to establish and therefore many recent historians miss the mark in asserting this strategy would have been proper and acceptable to the southern populace which wanted victories over Union forces.
My only gripe with this book is that it is really a compliation of several lectures by Dr. Gallagher that have been footnoted and extended. Therefore they really don't form an interconnected narrative and read like seperate small books. Had Dr. Gallagher attempted to form a more complete narrative with each of his sections of the book it would have been much better. However this is still an outstanding book and necessary for any serious student of the Civil War.
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Format: Paperback
Gary Gallagher has written an excellent and insightful book that presents novel interpretations and raises insightful questions; this book should be required reading for all Civil War historians.
In The Confederate War, Gallagher discusses the historiography and different interpretations of important themes in Confederate history--popular will, nationalism, military strategy, and ultimately defeat. One of Gallagher's main contentions develops the idea that Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia were the rallying point for nationalism and the support of the Confederate people, yeomen and slaveholder alike: he writes, "As the war progressed, Confederate citizens increasingly relied on their armies rather than on their central government to boost morale, and Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia eventually became the most important national institution." Gallagher also contends that the Southern people had a strong sense of nationalism prior to the war, and he cites numerous letters, diaries, and other written documents of the time to illustrate this Southern concept and identity. In addition, by presenting evidence of Southern support from the home front throughout the war and the unique problems surrounding Confederate desertion (fear of Yankee threats to loved ones at home and not lack of support for the war effort), Gallagher masterfully illustrates that the war was not lost because of internal divisiveness or strife within the Confederacy. He says that the Confederacy "waged a determined struggle for independence," and argues that the South could have won the war. Working from the beginning of the war, and not backwards from the defeat, Gallagher argues the Confederacy lost because of a flawed military strategy.
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