Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Becoming Confederates: Paths to a New National Loyalty

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Becoming Confederates: Paths to a New National Loyalty

Article excerpt

Becoming Confederates: Paths to a New National Loyalty. By Gary W. Gallagher. Mercer University Lamar Memorial Lectures. (Athens, Ga., and London: University of Georgia Press, 2013. Pp. [xii], 117. Paper, $18.95, ISBN 978-0-8203-4540-6; cloth, $59.95, ISBN 978-0-8203-4496-6.)

In this interesting volume Gary W. Gallagher examines the nature of Confederate commitment for Robert E. Lee, Stephen Dodson Ramseur, and Jubal A. Early. Their responsibilities as high-ranking generals naturally played a role, but Gallagher finds differences among them that have wider significance and that illuminate major sources of support for the Confederate nation. The book both advances the author's overall interpretation of the Confederacy and contributes to our understanding of three important individuals.

Robert E. Lee rightfully emerges as a more complex figure than he does in the various studies that exaggerate his self-control and identify him almost wholly with Virginia. As a member of an older generation and as a career army officer, Lee felt strong ties to the United States. His southern feelings had much to do with the issue of race and what he saw as mistreatment of the South in national politics. Once he became a Confederate, he favored and advocated the strongest of measures to achieve independence. In defeat, he generally hid his anger at the North.

By contrast, Stephen Dodson Ramseur was a much younger man who had not experienced the early republic's growth and progress. His political viewpoints were formed wholly within two decades of intensifying sectional conflict. As an ambitious young man eager to make his mark, Ramseur quickly adopted strongly pro-southern attitudes, and by 1856 he favored secession. Although he regarded southern men as '"far superior to the Yankees,"' the "bedrock" of his belief was the South's right "to maintain control over millions of enslaved black people while guaranteeing a form of equality for all white people" (pp. …

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