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  • Invisible Southerners: Ethnicity in the Civil War
  • Walter D. Kamphoefner
Invisible Southerners: Ethnicity in the Civil War. By Anne J. Bailey . Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2006. ISBN 0-8203-2757-3. Notes. Index. Pp. ix, 95. $24.95.

This slim volume, comprising barely seventy pages of text, originated as the 2004 Averitt Lectures at Georgia Southern University. Such a format largely precludes original research, but lends itself to re-examining a body of secondary literature under a new angle or set of questions. That is the strategy of Anne J. Bailey, who examines the military (and political) role of three groups of "nontraditional Civil War soldiers" in the South who were not usually perceived as Southerners: German immigrants, Native Americans, and Southern blacks. Although the Confederate army looked quite homogeneous compared to its Union opponents, even small "nontraditional" elements shed interesting light on the values of native Anglo Rebels, and the extent to which they were shared by such "invisible Southerners." Bailey is certainly correct in her portrayal of German Southerners or Texans as divided, but the devil is in the details. Although she laments the dearth of materials, a number of recent articles and translated documents in Southwestern Historical Quarterly escaped her. Along with the mere fact of Confederate service on the part of some Germans, too little attention is given to the date of enlistment in relation to conscription laws, or to the social class of those most sympathetic to the Rebel cause. Bailey cites the bravery of German Confederate Charles Leuschner of the Sixth Texas Infantry (pp. 18-19), but neglects to mention that when his regiment was captured at Arkansas Post, 150 of his comrades, mostly Germans and Poles, "took the oath" and became "galvanized [End Page 252] Yankees." The statement that a "large number of German-speaking Texans . . . suffered along with other ex-Confederates during the Reconstruction years" (p. 22) overlooks a German Republican Congressman elected in 1869 and black-German coalitions, documented by Randolph Campbell, Donald Nieman, and Sean Kelley, that persisted well into the 1880s.

Not surprisingly, the chapter on Native Americans continues the theme of internal divisions. The focus is almost exclusively on Oklahoma; "Lumbee" does not rate an index entry. Bailey stresses that Indians approached the Civil War with their own agendas which only partially overlapped with those of Anglo Southerners; the internal fault lines that reemerged often originated decades earlier, hundreds of miles farther east. In the long run, Indians who sided with the Union hardly fared better than their Confederate counterparts. Perhaps the most startling fact to emerge from this chapter is the extent of devastation in Oklahoma, even if the author confuses the issue by citing a Creek population decline of 24 percent, "the highest among the five civilized tribes," and stating on the next page that "one third of that [Cherokee] nation had died during the four years of war" (pp. 45-46).

The essay on blacks covers what by now is mostly familiar territory, at least to Civil War specialists: the Louisiana Native Guards and their relationship with both sides of the conflict, Patrick Cleburne's controversial proposal to enlist blacks for the Confederacy, William Sherman's unwillingness to do so for the Union, Fort Pillow and other atrocities against black prisoners. Neo-Confederate claims of blacks in gray are addressed only peripherally: "no matter a black [Confederate] soldier's unofficial capacities, a black man armed with a weapon was not typical" (p. 53).

Three brief essays are insufficient to correct a "collective historical memory [that] excludes what does not fit into the accepted stereotype" (p. xiii), but Anne J. Bailey has at least begun to make "invisible Southerners" visible.

Walter D. Kamphoefner
Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas


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pp. 252-253
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2010
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