In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

BOOK REVIEWS267 The Confederacy as a Revolutionary Experience. By Emory M. Thomas. (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1971. Pp. x, 150. $5.95.) Those who think that the Civil War has been exhausted as a fertile field of historical inquiry ought to read this book by Emory Thomas. He introduces little new information and most of his analysis has been separately stated by others; but the way he synthesizes this material and the conclusions he reaches is a unique and provocative contribution. The author's premise is simple: the Civil War represents a radical means to achieve conservative ends. The Confederacy, though attempting to halt much of western "progress," did so by radical and revolutionary means. He begins by describing the South's concept of its own identity : States rights, agrarianism, racial slavery, aristocracy, and an individualistic habit of mind. When his unique life came under assault, the southerner reacted as a "radical." Though the author does not completely define his terms, he does connect them philosophically. In seven well constructed essays, Thomas establishes the "revolutionary " nature of the Confederate experience. He examines the secessionist as a revolutionary type (Edmund Ruffin, Robert Barnwell Rhett, William Lowndes Yancy); he views Confederate military activity as reliant on guerrilla tactics and unconventional strategy; he notes the "radical" departure from states rights by a centralizing government at Richmond; he considers the southern growth of industry and urbanization an "economic revolution." And, finally, he explores the social upheaval brought by wartime: a new role for women, growing class consciousness among workers, and the emergence of a more independent black population. Though Thomas does not present new primary material, the total impact of his conclusions challenges some historical assumptions. An example is his sympathetic treatment of Jefferson Davis. To Thomas, Davis "revolutionized Southern politics to fight total war" and lost not because of his ineptitude or because of states rights, but because in the final analysis there were not enough resources to nationalize in defense of the Confederacy. There is also much ground for argument here. Because the author does not examine the comparative nature of revolutions (this was not his intent) the reader finds himself mentally challenging analogies. Since the Chinese civil war was aimed at building a new society on the ruins of the old regime, it is dissimilar to both the American and Confederate "revolutions." Can one then really compare southern warfare to Mao's theory of protracted struggle? Also, many of the "revolutionary changes," especially in social conditions, were of such limited duration that they did not have a "revolutionary impact" regardless of how they may have diverged from earlier experience. This is particularly true of the brief Civil War "liberation" of southern women and socialization of the southern church. All of this does not alter the fact that this is no vignette—it is a major 268CIVIL WAR HISTORY work with important new perspectives. Thomas is certainly convincing in his major thesis that at least between 1861 and 1865 radical changes were championed by die conservative South. Wayne Flynt Samford University The White Savage: Racial Fantasies in the Postbellum South. By Lawrence J. Friedman. (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1970. Pp. vii, 184. $6.95.) Students of southern history have generally assumed that lower class "rednecks" and their demagogic spokesmen were primarily responsible for the region's drift to extreme racism after the Civil War. Such men as William G. Brownlow, "Marse Henry" Watterson, George W. Cable, and the pre-1900 Thomas E. Watson have been commonly portrayed as genuine dissenters and their various racial ideologies interpreted as "forgotten alternatives" to the rabid negrophobia that eventually engulfed the South, alternatives that offered Negroes an honest measure of freedom and human dignity. This interpretation has been convincingly challenged by Lawrence J. Friedman's The White Savage, a study of prominent southern racial theorists from Brownlow to Woodrow Wilson. According to Friedman, white southerners after Appomattox were confused over the future of race relations and divided between rebuilding the antebellum ties between master and slave or excluding the Negro altogether. First formulated by Brownlow and later adopted by Watterson, Thomas Nelson Page, Watson, Cable, and Wilson, southern thinkers reconciled...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 267-268
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.