Becoming Confederates: Paths to a New National Loyalty (Mercer University Lamar Memorial Lectures)
Gary W. Gallagher
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In Becoming Confederates, Gary W. Gallagher explores loyalty in the era of the Civil War, focusing on Robert E. Lee, Stephen Dodson Ramseur, and Jubal A. Early—three prominent officers in the Army of Northern Virginia who became ardent Confederate nationalists. Loyalty was tested and proved in many ways leading up to and during the war. Looking at levels of allegiance to their native state, to the slaveholding South, to the United States, and to the Confederacy, Gallagher shows how these men represent responses to the mid-nineteenth-century crisis.
Lee traditionally has been presented as a reluctant convert to the Confederacy whose most powerful identification was with his home state of Virginia—an interpretation at odds with his far more complex range of loyalties. Ramseur, the youngest of the three, eagerly embraced a Confederate identity, highlighting generational differences in the equation of loyalty. Early combined elements of Lee's and Ramseur's reactions—a Unionist who grudgingly accepted Virginia's departure from the United States but later came to personify defiant Confederate nationalism.
The paths of these men toward Confederate loyalty help delineate important contours of American history. Gallagher shows that Americans juggled multiple, often conflicting, loyalties and that white southern identity was preoccupied with racial control transcending politics and class. Indeed, understanding these men's perspectives makes it difficult to argue that the Confederacy should not be deemed a nation. Perhaps most important, their experiences help us understand why Confederates waged a prodigiously bloody war and the manner in which they dealt with defeat.
Early’s professed loyalties. On the evening of April 13, 1861, he spoke at the Virginia convention. The day before, Confederate artillery had forced Maj. Robert Anderson’s U.S. garrison at Fort Sumter to surrender, and Early, a longtime Whig, deplored the celebratory tone with which many Virginians received the news. Anderson’s father, a veteran of the Continental army, was reared in Kentucky while it still belonged to Virginia, a fact Early emphasized in his passionate speech. The patriots who
slaveholders to non-slaveholders in the state government, he asserted that Virginia had been good to his family and other residents, affording “ample protection for our persons and our property”—a good thing, because “were it not for the existence of property and its due protection, society could not remain in an organized state, for any considerable length of time.” Apart from his time at West Point and short stints in the army, in Mexico, and in Mississippi pursuing a legal case, he had lived
literature. 37. JAE to James L. Kemper, February 4, 1862, Ms. 4083, Kemper Papers, Small Library, UVA; James L. Kemper to JAE, February 14, 1862, Early Papers, LC. 38. John B. Gordon, Reminiscences of the Civil War (1903; reprint, Dayton, Ohio: Morningside, 1993), 325; “The Haversack,” Land We Love 2 (January 1867): 222. For a slightly different version of the incident with Breckinridge, see John Warwick Daniel’s account in folder titled “Cedar Creek 19 Oct 1864,” box 22, John Warwick Daniel
57–58, 65–67, 71 Lee’s reaction to, 10, 16–17 Ramseur’s support for, 35, 36, 40, 44, 45 Secessionists, 60, 74, 101n23 and Early, 105n38 as fire-eaters, 17, 68 Sectionalism, 6, 46, 49, 99n1 Seddon, James A., 19, 25, 96n23 Seminole War, 60 Sentiment. See Identity Seven Days battles, 30 Shaara, Michael, 10 Shenandoah Valley, 26, 37, 63–64, 77, 87, 106n41 1864 campaign in, 53, 54 Sheridan, Philip Henry, 26, 38, 63, 64, 77, 106n41 Sherman, William Tecumseh, 26 Slaveholding society, 4,
“I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home.” Many members of Lee’s extended family were staunch Unionists, including his sister Anne and many cousins, several of whom fought for the United States during the ensuing conflict. Some relatives never again spoke to Lee after he left U.S. service. Within his own household, Mary Anna Custis Lee and most of their children harbored Unionist sympathies. Only one daughter, Mary, fully embraced her