Becoming Confederates: Paths to a New National Loyalty (Mercer University Lamar Memorial Lectures)

Becoming Confederates: Paths to a New National Loyalty (Mercer University Lamar Memorial Lectures)

Gary W. Gallagher

Language: English

Pages: 149


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In Becoming Confederates, Gary W. Gallagher explores loyalty in the era of the Civil War, focusing on Robert E. Lee, Stephen Dodson Ramseur, and Jubal A. Early—three prominent officers in the Army of Northern Virginia who became ardent Confederate nationalists. Loyalty was tested and proved in many ways leading up to and during the war. Looking at levels of allegiance to their native state, to the slaveholding South, to the United States, and to the Confederacy, Gallagher shows how these men represent responses to the mid-nineteenth-century crisis.

Lee traditionally has been presented as a reluctant convert to the Confederacy whose most powerful identification was with his home state of Virginia—an interpretation at odds with his far more complex range of loyalties. Ramseur, the youngest of the three, eagerly embraced a Confederate identity, highlighting generational differences in the equation of loyalty. Early combined elements of Lee's and Ramseur's reactions—a Unionist who grudgingly accepted Virginia's departure from the United States but later came to personify defiant Confederate nationalism.

The paths of these men toward Confederate loyalty help delineate important contours of American history. Gallagher shows that Americans juggled multiple, often conflicting, loyalties and that white southern identity was preoccupied with racial control transcending politics and class. Indeed, understanding these men's perspectives makes it difficult to argue that the Confederacy should not be deemed a nation. Perhaps most important, their experiences help us understand why Confederates waged a prodigiously bloody war and the manner in which they dealt with defeat.

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to the secretary of war. Confederate “railroads should be at once devoted exclusively to this purpose, even should it be found necessary to suspend all private travel for business or pleasure upon them for the present.”32 Late in the war, Lee supported arming some slaves and freeing all who served honorably in the cause of Confederate independence. He did so not because he harbored secret abolitionist sentiment, as some have argued, but because he believed it necessary to win independence. This

William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Henry Sheridan in Georgia and the Shenandoah Valley,38 Lee repeatedly deplored Union actions and policies. His response to the Emancipation Proclamation, already discussed, was not the earliest example. The conflict’s first autumn witnessed the death of Col. John A. Washington, a member of Lee’s staff and grandnephew of the Revolutionary hero, at the hands of Union pickets. “His death is a grievous affliction to me,” Lee wrote to a cousin, adding, “Our enemy’s

society on that bedrock, and thus to maintain control over millions of enslaved black people while guaranteeing a form of equality for all white people took on profound importance. Those who shared Ramseur’s views possessed a loyalty to the South forged amid chronic sectional tensions and characterized by bonds of sympathetic interests across state lines, a shared Revolutionary inheritance, and a belief in common destiny—factors important to any conception of national community. The somewhat

peace. Oh! I do pray that we may be established as an independent people, a people known and recognized as God’s Peculiar People!” He revisited this theme in early September, placing the Confederate struggle in a world context. “Let us pray for peace,” he implored Nellie, “[t]hat the minds & hearts of our Enemies may be turned from War & that our Heavenly Father will establish us in peace & independence. That we may be a Nation whose God is the Lord! An Example of National Christianity to the

abolitionism—highlight the degree to which Lincoln’s policy menaced more than the integrity of the Confederate political state. Although Lee did not single it out, the passage announcing that freedmen “will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service” must have struck a special chord. It represented nothing less, from a Confederate perspective, than official sanctioning of the

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