Type of Document Master's Thesis Author Paxton, James W. B. Jr. Author's Email Address firstname.lastname@example.org URN etd-52997-225557 Title Fighting for Independence and Slavery: Confederate Perceptions of Their War Experiences Degree Master of Arts Department History Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Robertson, James I. Jr. Wallenstein, Peter R. Shifflett, Crandall A. Committee Chair Keywords
- Civil War
- Confederate States Army
- Confederate soldiers
Date of Defense 1997-06-19 Availability unrestricted Abstract
Fighting for Independence and Slavery:
Confederate Perceptions of Their War Experiences
It is striking that many white southerners enthusiastically went to war in 1861, and
that within four years a large number of them became apathetic or even openly hostile
toward the Confederacy. By far, nonslaveholders composed the greatest portion of the
disaffected. This work interprets the Confederate war experience within a republican
framework in order to better understand how such a drastic shift in opinion could take
Southern men fought for highly personal reasons--to protect their own liberty,
independence, and to defend the rough equality between white men. They believed the
Confederacy was the best guarantor of these ideals. Southerners' experiences differed
widely from their expectations. White men perceived the war as an assault against their
dominance and equality. The military was no protector of individual rights. The army
expected recruits to conform to military discipline and standards. Officers oversaw their
men's behavior and physically punished those who broke the rules. Southerners believed
they were treated in a servile manner. Legislation from Richmond brought latent class
tensions to the surface, making it clear to nonslaveholders that they were not the planters'
equals. Wives, left alone to care for their families, found it difficult to live in straitened
times. Increasingly, women challenged the patriarchal order by stepped outside of
traditional gender roles to care for their families.
Wartime changes left many men feeling confused and emasculated. Southerners,
who willingly fought the Yankees to defend their freedoms, turned against the
Confederacy when it encroached upon their independence. Many withdrew their support
from the war. Some hid crops from impressment agents or refused to enlist, while others
actually or symbolically attacked the planter elite or deserted.
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