New Men, New Cities, New South: Atlanta, Nashville, Charleston, Mobile, 1860-1910

By Don H. Doyle | Go to book overview

2
The New Order of Things

The people of the South learned in the tremendous energy they put forth in war . . . that they had a dormant and inherent energy, and a capacity for industry and commerce of which they had never dreamed before.

-- Nashville American, 1878

{ Atlanta} is . . . a city of the new regime, erected on the ruins of the old.

-- Thomas H. Martin, 1898

Fought to defend the old order of slavery and plantation agriculture, the Civil War gave an unprecedented importance to the South's cities as centers for economic and social mobilization. Grasping the strategic importance of the Confederacy's cities, the invading Union armies targeted them for attack, siege, blockade, and, in several cases, massive destruction. When the smoke cleared, each city had to adjust to what contemporaries referred to as "the new order of things."

For some, war and defeat brought demoralizing losses from which it would take a generation or more to recover. Others seemed to thrive on the crisis and on the new opportunities that opened after the war. Charleston, South Carolina, and Mobile, Alabama, were two of the former kind. In Nashville, Tennessee, and Atlanta, Georgia, the subjects of this chapter, the latter spirit led a powerful postwar resurgence. Understanding the new order of things demands some knowledge of these cities under the old order. The story in this chapter and the next begins when each of these cities fell to the invading Union armies, then looks at the paths they all followed to secession, their experiences during the war, and their economic adjustments to the new order that came with defeat, emancipation, and Reconstruction.


The Fall of Confederate Nashville

Nashville was the first major Confederate city to fall to the Union. It was occupied by military forces longer than any other American city during or since the Civil War. During World War II, military officials studied the Union occupation of Nashville for lessons that might be applied to Europe.1 Nashville's experience of early defeat and prolonged occupation did much to shape its response to the postwar South. The city surrendered without a shot

-22-

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