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Confederate Phoenix

Rebel Children and Their Families in South Carolina

Edmund Drago

Publication Year: 2008

In this innovative book, Edmund L. Drago tells the first full story of white children and their families in the most militant Southern state, and the state where the Civil War erupted. Drawing on a rich array of sources, many of them formerly untapped, Drago shows how the War transformed the domestic world of the white South. Households were devastated by disease, death, and deprivation. Young people took up arms like adults, often with tragic results. Thousands of fathers and brothers died in battle; many returned home with grave physical and psychological wounds. Widows and orphans often had to fend for themselves.From the first volley at Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor to the end of Reconstruction, Drago explores the extraordinary impact of war and defeat on the South Carolina home front. He covers a broad spectrum, from the effect of boy soldierson the ideals of childhood and child rearing to changes in education, marriage customs, and community as well as family life. He surveys the children's literature of the era and explores the changing dimensions of Confederate patriarchal society. By studying the implications of the War and its legacy in cultural memory, Drago unveils the conflicting perspectives of South Carolina children-white and black-today.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vi-vii

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pp. viii-ix

A variety of people have made this book possible, beginning with my wife, Cheryle Drago. Jason Anderson’s expertise as a computer consultant was invaluable. Paul Cimbala suggested I send the manuscript to Fordham University Press. Director Robert Oppedisano was very supportive. Joan Cashin’s review of the manuscript was crucial. The College of Charleston Foundation...


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pp. x-xi

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Introduction: Les Enfants de la Guerre

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pp. 1-4

‘‘Like previously unseen ghosts,’’ James Marten saw, ‘‘children peer out from Civil War photographs.’’1 His pathbreaking book brought them back from the unseen world by showing how the war reverberated through all aspects of their lives...

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1. Children as a Factor in War Strategy

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pp. 5-13

Confederate leaders made children central to why they seceded and went to war. Jefferson Davis, in his farewell speech to the U.S. Senate on January 21, 1861, defended Southern secession as a necessary action to protect their inherited rights and their ‘‘sacred duty to transmit [this legacy] unshorn to [their] children.’’ Contemporaries used the words ‘‘fever’’ and...

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2. Boy Soldiers and Their Families

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pp. 14-29

Boy’’ was a nebulous term in Southern society in the 1860s. All black males were ‘‘boys.’’ On the other hand, the ‘‘boys of ’64’’ became a nostalgic term to describe Confederate veterans. ‘‘Mere boy’’ meant males under twenty. ‘‘Boyish’’ was used to describe women soldiers. ‘‘Boys’’ also appealed to the maternal instincts of Southern women, who saw them as the...

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3. Childrearing

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pp. 30-41

In 1860, childrearing in South Carolina was in transition from premodern to modern. The society was undergoing anxieties caused by the transition. Confederate men and women still subscribed to the supposed Christian ideal of family life, which was patriarchal. Gender shaped all aspects of childrearing. Girls were expected to be self-sacrificing and service-oriented; boys...

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4. ‘‘Spilt Milk’’: Three Family Cameos

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pp. 42-49

Southerners expected the war to bring a quick victory to the Confederacy. It did not, and as the war continued, a volunteer army became insufficient. The Conscription Act of 1862 was passed, requiring all men between the ages of eighteen and thirty to serve. Those ranging from eighteen and over thirty-five, already in the army, had to serve an additional ninety days...

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5. Education and Nation Building

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pp. 50-64

Confederate leaders in South Carolina had no master plan for education when their state abruptly seceded in December 1860. The ensuing war disrupted schools and drastically reduced the number of teachers; families scrambled to find ways to maintain local schools. Women tried to fill the gap, but their contributions did not resolve a worsening teacher shortage...

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6. ‘‘Something for the Girls’’:Marriage Customs and Girlhood

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pp. 65-74

Put a high price on yourself,’’ a Southern newspaper warned girls wanting good husbands who could provide for them. In 1864 the impact of the war caused the Yorkville Enquirer to reprint this piece of counsel highlighted ‘‘Something for the Girls.’’...

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7. ‘‘Going up the Spout’’:Converging Defeat on the Battlefield and Home Front

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pp. 75-91

Perhaps the Civil War’s greatest impact on children,’’ Steven Mintz has noted, ‘‘was on family life.’’ The widows, children, poor, and elderly of South Carolina paid dearly. South Carolina households went ‘‘up the spout’’ because the war drained their districts of doctors and skilled artisans vital to the smooth functioning of their communities. Men critically needed at...

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8. Baptism by Fire

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pp. 92-101

Between 1861 and 1865, South Carolina underwent a baptism by fire. In November 1861 the Great Fire of Charleston swept though the city. During a 587-day siege, Greek fire rained down on the population. On the morning of February 18, 1865, the fate of the city was sealed when the last Confederate troops left. An enormous explosion at the city’s Northeastern Depot followed their departure. Caused by children playing, the disaster killed more...

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9. Widows and Orphans

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pp. 102-107

Beginning in July 1861, Magnolia Cemetery became an integral part of Confederate folklore. Charleston nearly shut down as growing crowds watched a procession transport the dead soldiers of Bull Run from the train station to St. Paul’s Church. The procession culminated in a ceremony at Magnolia, where there is now a Confederate section. Ten years later, on Confederate Memorial Day, six thousand people hailed the return of dozens of...

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10. Reconstruction and Redemption:The Civil War, Part II

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pp. 108-122

Bishop Benjamin Tanner, active in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, denounced the deification of the evangelical Confederate General Thomas J. Jackson: ‘‘The prayers of Stonewall Jackson were as refreshing to Beelzebub as a draught of ice water.’’ Tanner knew the canonizing of Confederate heroes could endanger the opportunities...

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11. The Last Phoenix:Conflicting Legacies, 1890–2007

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pp. 123-136

Since the 1890s, two conflicting legacies of the Civil War and Reconstruction have competed for hegemony in South Carolina. More than any organization, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) realized that children were central in preserving ‘‘Confederate Culture.’’ Racial Radicals who eviscerated Hampton’s paternalism abetted them. The blow to the rights...

Appendix A: Methodology

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pp. 137-139

Appendix B: Conscription

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pp. 140-142


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pp. 143-170


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pp. 171-196


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pp. 197-204

Reconstructing America Series

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pp. 205-206

Photo Insert

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pp. 207-212

E-ISBN-13: 9780823247608
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823229376
Print-ISBN-10: 0823229378

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2008

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Participation, Juvenile.
  • South Carolina -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Participation, Juvenile.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Children.
  • South Carolina -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Children.
  • Child soldiers -- South Carolina -- History -- 19th century.
  • Children -- South Carolina -- History -- 19th century.
  • Teenagers -- South Carolina -- History -- 19th century.
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