Understanding the Confederate Soldier

With little time to do any serious blogging today I thought I would extend yesterday’s theme, this time in reference to understanding the Confederate soldier.  Our friendly blogger at citizen.com has provided an overview of what made the Confederate soldier tick.  Yes, we’ve had studies by Wiley, McPherson, Hess, Linderman, Berry, Manning, Carmichael, etc., but none of them really gets to the core of the issue.  Here are some of the salient points to ponder:

That warrior ethic, which would carry the outnumbered and outgunned Confederacy a very long way, came from long traditions of service that had begun so many centuries before in Scotland and the north of Britain.

But not only the Revolutionary War spirit drove them. As I wrote of the Scots-Irish tradition in my novel Fields of Fire, the culture even to this day is viscerally fired by “that one continuous linking that had bound father to son from the first wild resolute angry beaten Celt who tromped into the hills rather than bend a knee to Rome two thousand years ago, who would…chew the bark off a tree, fill his belly with wood rather than surrender from starvation and admit defeat to an advancing civilization. That same emotion passing with the blood: a fierce resolution that found itself always in a pitch against death, that somehow, over the centuries came to accept the fight as a birthright, even as some kind of proof of life.  [Now who can argue with that.]

…The Confederate Army rose like a sudden wind out of the little towns and scattered farms of a still unconquered wilderness……….the Great Captains called, as they had at Bannockburn and King’s Mountain, and the able-bodied men were quick to answer.

…..the Confederate soldier fought because, on the one hand, in his view he was provoked, intimidated, and ultimately invaded, and, on the other, his leaders had convinced him that his was a war of independence in the same sense as the Revolutionary War…..This was not so much a learned response to historical events as it was a cultural approach that had been refined by centuries of similar experiences. The tendency to resist outside aggression was bred deeply into every heart—and still is today.

The end result was that on the battlefield the Confederacy, whose culture had been shaped by the clannish, leader-worshipping, militaristic Scots-Irish, fought a Celtic war while the Union, whose culture had been most affected by intellectual, mercantile English settlers, fought and entirely different manner. At bottom, the northern army was driven from the top like a machine…..by contrast, the Southern army was a living thing emanating from the spirit of its soldiers – …The Southern Army was run like a family, confronting a human crisis.

I think it’s safe to say that Grady McWhiney is resting well.

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

Purchase your copy today!

2 comments… add one
  • Kevin Levin Oct 11, 2006 @ 10:13

    Hi Ken, — Yeah, the reader’s responses are incredibly depressing, which is why I did not want to provide a direct link.

  • Ken Noe Oct 11, 2006 @ 9:03


    His chapter title says it all–he’s just taken McWhiney and Jamieson’s _Attack and Die_ and pushed it to the nth degree. Sort of the like the radio preacher I listened to once whose Y2K/doomsday scenario I finally recognized as the complete plot of “The X-Files” movie, minus Scully and Mulder.

    I’d note too, since this is your second post from that site, that nothing is scarier on there than some of the reader responses, especially in the earlier post when they blithely attack southern blacks.


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