Choose one of the following topics as the basis for your paper, which should be approximately 5-7 pages in length (double-spaced). The paper is due at the beginning of class on Tuesday, December 4. Papers must be turned in at the beginning of class, as we will be discussing in class your papers as well as the film we viewed in class the previous Friday. Late papers cannot be accepted without penalty unless an extension is approved in advance by Professor McCoy.
This assignment is an exercise in critical analysis that relies on your ability to understand and assess historical interpretations. No matter which topic you choose, your paper will be based on your careful reading and analysis of two books we are reading for the second part of the course: Gary W. Gallagher’s The Confederate War, and Chandra Manning’s What This Cruel War Was Over. Please note that I will not be including study questions for the Gallagher book in the normal “study question” sheets posted on Moodle during the next several weeks, and I will leave it to you to “pace yourself” in reading Gallagher for this paper assignment. You will also need to finish reading the Manning book beyond the chapters assigned on our weekly study sheets—specifically, the final two chapters, pages 180 to 221, which cover the year 1865 and her overall conclusion. Obviously you should leave plenty of time to work on the paper, which means you should tackle this reading on your own, well before the paper is due. Don’t leave it all for the last week of the course! But no worries; I will be reminding/nagging you throughout the month of November. Lucky you!
Good luck, and have fun.
1. Gary Gallagher describes Confederate morale, soldier and civilian, as generally very positive between mid-1863 and the end of the Civil War. In what specific ways, according to Gallagher, does his interpretation differ from those of most other historians? To what factors does he attribute these continuing high expectations among Southern civilians and soldiers during a period when hindsight informs us that defeat was increasingly likely and perhaps inevitable? In your judgment, does Chandra Manning’s analysis of Confederate soldiers (in What This Cruel War Was Over) support, refute, or complicate Gallagher’s interpretation of this matter? Whose approach or interpretation do you find more convincing, and why?
2. Unlike many Civil War historians, Gary Gallagher argues that the Southern Confederacy was bound together by strong feelings of nationalism. What evidence does he offer for this interpretation? Is he convincing? Why or why not? Chandra Manning addresses this matter from a somewhat different perspective in her book; in your judgment, does her analysis of Confederate soldiers support, refute, or complicate Gallagher’s interpretation of Confederate nationalism during the war?
American Civil War: Essay 2
Contrary to the views of many other historians, Gallagher (1999) argues that the Southern Confederacy was bound together by strong feelings of nationalism. In his view, despite the exploitations which have been made by historians in the quest to illuminate the facets of the Confederate war and experience, the findings have to a larger extent distorted the broader picture of the American Civil War. According to Gallagher (1999), the contemporary scholars have only emphasized the social tensions as well as fissures with the ultimate aim of painting a picture of the Confederate society being populated with lack of unity of purpose. However, the author disagrees with other historians on the concept that there was insufficient will from the Confederate society to win the War. According to Gallagher (1999), there was some sense of nationalism among the Southerners. The author argues that recent historians have gone off-track by their assertion that the Confederate defeat was due to weaknesses on the home support as opposed to the performance of the soldiers on the battlefield. Although most of the other scholars attribute the Confederate defeat to the presence of war-weariness, lack of national identity/will, and ambivalence towards the causes of independence, Gallagher (1999) holds that the traditional reason for the defeat was not based on the non-military factors, but rather a performance of the soldiers on the battlefront.
The argument by Gallagher (1999) that the Southern Confederacy was united by strong feelings of nationalism is backed by various resources by the author. One of those is the information from the letters, diaries, as well as newspapers which revealed a great deal of Confederate success as well as the presence of popular will which was rooted in the sense of national community. For instance, according to Gallagher (1999), the letter penned by Lucy Otey in 1864 contradicts modern scholars’ views which portray the Confederacy in a state of both despair and defeatism. According to the letter by Otey, which is used by Gallagher (1999) as supporting evidence, the Southern women could not faint or even tire in their quest to animate and sustain the soldiers of the Confederacy. The role of the women in not only praying and toiling were some of the aspects which demonstrate that there was unity of purpose and a sense of nationalism. The other evidence is that of a younger woman in Milledgeville who, despite lamenting on the fall of the Confederacy, troops to the Federal troops, argue that there was an expression of undiminished loyalty to the Confederacy. Although they had to withstand the degradation, there was a sense of unity and the people were not only united with the Confederate soldiers, but also firmer than before. The letters which have been presented by Gallagher (1999) support his claim that the Confederacy was united by the feelings of nationalism and the will to liberate themselves and attain emancipation.
The views of the Confederate Soldiers are the other evidence used by Gallagher (1999) to infer the existence of nationalism in the Southern Confederacy. According to Gallagher (1999), one North Carolina soldier in 1864 stated, in his letter, that he felt that there was only one cause and was willing to spend the rest of his life in the army as opposed to giving in to relentless foes who showed no mercy. Such a statement is one of nationalism and patriotism. Another solder, Barrier, encouraged people to stand together behind the Confederate flag as that was the only way that they were going to succeed. Another letter from the Confederate Soldiers demonstrated how they were willing to do no anything for their country. As such, Gallagher (1999) opines that the shift from the military actions of the soldiers to the non-military factors by some of the historians is incorrect. According to Gallagher (1999), the questions that recent scholars should ask is why the Confederate Soldiers fought so gallantly and for so long if they were full of despair. Additionally, Gallagher (1999) questions why the many soldiers of the Southern Confederacy jeopardized their lives and homes in the struggle if they were not committed to the war. The answer he provides is that there were enough conviction and nationalism in the South, an aspect which has been overlooked by other historians.
Gallagher (1999) is convincing is his assertion about the presence of a strong sense of nationalism. One of the reasons as to why he is convincing is the various pieces of evidence which he offers to support his interpretation. For instance, the various letters from people in the Southern Confederacy and the soldiers who participated in the war make his arguments not only credible but also reliable. Gallagher (1999) does not just make empty assertions and propositions, but rather uses letters, memoirs, and newspaper articles which were written at the time to demonstrate the strong sense of nationalism which made the Confederate Soldiers continue to participate in the War for an extended period of time. Additionally, the questions that Gallagher (1999) asks are further convincing aspects of the interpretation by Gallagher (1999). For instance, the question as to why the Confederate Soldiers could sacrifice their lives for the War if they were not committed to it serve to underscore the point that they were united for a common cause which was to liberate themselves from slavery. The admission by Gallagher (1999) that the Northerners was less divided than the Southerners is a further point which validates the arguments made by the scholar.
Manning (2007) analyses the subject of nationalism in the Southern Confederacy from a different angle. In specific, she argues that those who fought in both the Union and the Confederate armies were doing so because of slavery. Whereas other recent historians and scholars have focused on the use of memoirs to explain their viewpoints about the proceedings of the War, when it happened, and why the Confederate soldiers were defeated, Manning (2007) casts the net wider and even goes ahead to include the views of the immigrants, African Americans, and even the Western fighters. According to Manning (2007), despite the white Union troops rooting for the preservation of the Union, over the course of war, majority of the soldiers came to understand that it was in their interests to join the Southerners in the quest to confront the various racial prejudices which had made them complicit in the aspect of slavery. She further adds that the white Union troops were committed to racial change just as the black soldiers were and thus resulted in the creation of an undreamt potential for change. However, Manning (2007) admits that the potential for change fell short with not only the defeat of the Confederate soldiers, but also adds that there was a commitment from both sides on the need for change.
In my judgment, Manning (2007)’s analysis of slavery as the root cause of the War supports Gallagher’s interpretation of Confederate nationalism during the War. In specific, although Manning (2007) does not explicitly mention nationalism, the various arguments she makes coupled with the evidence she provides allude to the existence of a unity of purpose among the white Union soldiers and those from other races. Manning (2007)’s assertion that slavery was the root cause of the War; based on the accounts of many Union and Confederate armies fighting in the War, demonstrate that there were a common understanding and nationalism towards rooting out slavery which was entrenching itself in the society. The assertion that the white Union soldiers saw it as God’s favor for them to fight racial discrimination and slavery demonstrates that there was a common understanding of patriotism among the soldiers who participate in the Civil War. The implication of the interpretations by Manning (2007) align with those of Gallagher (1999) on the existence of a common understanding about the need to root out slavery despite Manning (2007) taking a different trajectory.
In conclusion, contrary to the views of many other historians, Gallagher argues that the Southern Confederacy was bound together by strong feelings of nationalism. Some of the pieces of evidence which have been put forward to support such an interpretation are the letters, memoirs, diaries, and newspaper articles which were published showing how the women in the South supported their husbands through prayers and emotional support. Additionally, he presents the evidence of the assertion of soldiers on how they were determined to lose their lives in the quest to emancipate themselves which is a demonstration of nationalism and patriotism. The arguments made are convincing as they are pegged on evidence. Although Manning examines the same aspect from a different perspective, she still supports Gallagher’s concept of nationalism based on her assertion that the white Union soldiers were united with others in the quest to root out slavery and racial prejudices.
Gallagher, G. W. (1999). The Confederate War. Harvard University Press.
Manning, C. (2007). What This Cruel War Was Over. Vintage.