Virginia's Private War: Feeding Body and Soul in the Confederacy, 1861-1865

Virginia's Private War: Feeding Body and Soul in the Confederacy, 1861-1865

Virginia's Private War: Feeding Body and Soul in the Confederacy, 1861-1865

Virginia's Private War: Feeding Body and Soul in the Confederacy, 1861-1865

Synopsis

William Blair's Virginia's Private War is a close study of the home front in the Confederacy and a significant contribution to our understanding of the Confederate defeat. Blair challenges and effectively overturns the dominant assumption that internal stresses and conflicts, particularly along lines of class and race, undermined the Confederacy. Rather, he shows that for most of the South the centripetal forces of Confederate nationalism and defence of home and hearth against an invading enemy were more powerful. Internal problems, including dissent, wracked the state of Virginia, yet these private wars actually helped prolong the conflict as they forced authorities to turn the war into more of a rich man's fight.

Excerpt

There are indications of a widespread feeling that people, even the most humble members of society, ought to have enough resources or facilities to do their job in the social order, and that there is something morally wrong or even outrageous when these resources are unavailable.

-- Barrington Moore , Injustice

Because of the military crisis in the spring of 1862, Confederate Virginians generally accepted conscription and other intrusions of government in their lives. Continued tolerance depended on how political leaders administered the new systems and met the challenges that lay ahead. As the year progressed, shortages of food and other goods eroded faith in the government. Popular resentment increased as hardships worsened -- especially as planters and other wealthy persons avoided military service by hiring substitutes or seemingly capitalized on the misfortune of others by charging exorbitant prices for goods. the belief that the rich benefited while others suffered caused civilians to riot for food and soldiers to leave the army, actions that the state and national officials could not ignore. Officials responded first with a heavy hand, employing measures that tightened discipline in the army and drew clearer lines between front and home front. As desertion and discord continued, however, authorities realized that they also needed a softer approach and increased the efforts to administer charity for the needy. the emphasis on public welfare still focused at the local level as leaders . . .

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