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The Collapse of the Confederacy

Mark Grimsley

Publication Year: 2001

Practically all Civil War historians agree that after the fall of Atlanta in September 1864 and Lincoln's triumphant reelection in November, the South had no remaining chance to make good its independence. Well aware that Appomattox and Durham Station were close at hand, historians have treated the war's final months in a fashion that smacks strongly of denouement: the great, tragic conflict rolls on to its now-certain end.
Certain, that is, to us, but deeply uncertain to the millions of Northerners and Southerners who lived through the anxious days of early 1865. The final months of the Confederacy offer fascinating opportunities-as a case study in war termination, as a period that shaped the initial circumstances of Reconstruction, and as a lens through which to analyze Southern society at its most stressful moment. The Collapse of the Confederacy collects six essays that explore how popular expectations, national strategy, battlefield performance, and Confederate nationalism affected Confederate actions during the final months of the conflict.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

List of Maps

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-12

Americans have known defeat—at Bataan, the Chosin Reservoir, and in the bitter ordeal of Vietnam—but Southerners are the only Americans ever to have confronted outright military disaster. For that reason the death of the Confederate States of America in 1865 has long fascinated Americans of every region, strongly focused on the stark question, Why did the Confederacy ...

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The Last Function of Government: Confederate Collapse and Negotiated Peace

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pp. 13-39

The seven men sat around a dining-room table, looking for all the world like so many mourners at a wake. Indeed, Confederate secretary of the navy Stephen Mallory thought he and his six companions made a picture that was "the most solemnly funereal" he had ever seen. The deceased, however, was not a person but an idea. The dream of Confederate nationhood had ...

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Learning to Say "Enough": Southern Generals and the Final Weeks of the Confederacy

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pp. 49-79

The process by which wars end is often even less rational than the process by which they begin. The leaders of a failing cause do not coolly decide that defeat has become inevitable and they must surrender or negotiate a settlement. Often they convince themselves that the situation, though superficially grim, is far from hopeless; that with firm resolve their cause may yet prevail. Even ...

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Facilitating Defeat: The Union High Command and the Collapse of the Confederacy

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pp. 80-103

Abraham Lincoln's reelection on November 8, 1864, meant that the United States would not let up in its relentless efforts to conquer the Confederacy and reunite the American republic. There would be no need to implement the dire plans foreshadowed by the president's private memorandum of August 23, 1864, in which he proposed that in the event of an "exceedingly ...

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Jefferson Davis and the "Guerrilla Option": A Reexamination

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pp. 104-128

Civil War historians have often reflected on the critical events and decisions of the war that, had they been different, might have resulted in a Confederate victory and ultimately Southern independence. Generations of Southerners have also reveled in this postwar counterfactual debate. As William Faulkner described so eloquently in his novel Intruder in the Dust, at some point in his ...

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Despair, Hope, and Delusion: The Collapse of Confederate Morale Reexamined

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pp. 129-167

On January 1, 1865, an Alabama preacher's wife sat down to write in her diary. How different this New Year's Day was compared to the holiday before the war; even the children seemed to feel the sense of impending gloom that hung over the household and were unusually quiet. Having just recovered from "another of my nervous attacks," she posed a plaintive question: "When each ...

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Did Confederate Women Lose the War? Deprivation, Destruction, and Despair on the Home Front

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pp. 168-194

The collapse of the Confederacy was disastrous for Confederate women. Women who had invested their hopes, their money, and their menfolk in the cause found that in a few short months they lost homes, crops, and worldly goods, as well as the husbands, sons, brothers, and sweethearts who were fighting and dying. Under the successful and increasingly stern leadership ...


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pp. 195-201

E-ISBN-13: 9780803200654
E-ISBN-10: 080320065X

Page Count: 201
Illustrations: Maps
Publication Year: 2001