- The Confederate Heartland: Military and Civilian Morale in the Western Confederacy by Bradley R. Clampitt
Bradley Clampitt’s The Confederate Heartland examines the morale of white civilians and Confederate soldiers from Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee in 1864 and 1865. By using an array of wartime letters and diaries, Clampitt claims that white Southerners in these states constructed a Confederate identity based on a shared sense of sacrifice and desire to protect their homes from invaders. [End Page 136]
Many historians argue that this region, which witnessed numerous Southern military defeats, is where the Confederacy lost the Civil War. However, Clampitt argues that members of his sample group were confident of an ultimate Confederate victory in early 1864. Those soldiers who reenlisted at this time “for reasons other than a renewed commitment were a minority,” writes Clampitt, although he fails to mention that the soldiers really had no choice about whether to extend their military service (27). Under the leadership of General Joseph E. Johnston, Confederates in the Army of Tennessee maintained high morale throughout the opening weeks of the Atlanta Campaign, the first substantial blow to their morale occurring when Johnston retreated at Cassville rather than attacking the enemy as he had promised. Optimism in the Southern ranks peaked, according to Clampitt, in June 1864 as a result of several battlefield victories.
Like most historians of this subject, Clampitt relates that the removal of Johnston from command provoked disbelief and despondency in the ranks. Clampitt then astutely concludes that such emotions quickly gave way to a sense of cautious optimism about Johnston’s successor, General John Bell Hood. Although the costly battles of late July 1864 and the loss of Atlanta proved damaging to morale, the subsequent march into North Georgia and Alabama buoyed spirits as soldiers anticipated attacking enemy supply lines and “liberating” Tennessee from Yankee oppressors.
Hood’s offensive into Tennessee led to the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864, which many Southern soldiers described as a particularly costly victory. The Federals retreated northward after the fighting, and the subsequent Battle of Nashville resulted in a disastrous, crushing defeat for Hood’s army, which brought “near wholesale dejection” on the part of the heartland’s soldiers and civilians (123). Clampitt believes that these two Tennessee battles, rather than the fall of Atlanta, effectively ended Confederate hopes for independence in the west, even though some diehards continued praying for independence.
Confederate Heartland ends with a discussion of events in the opening months of 1865, including the reappointment of Joseph E. Johnston to command the western Confederate Army, the Hampton Roads Peace Conference, and Southern debates over arming slaves. Clampitt argues that there was no consensus on the issue of enlisting slaves, although those who supported the measure did so out of a willingness to sacrifice anything to achieve independence. The overall reaction to the war’s end in April 1865, the author claims, [End Page 137] included both disgust over submitting to the tyranny of Yankees and relief that the war had finally ended.
Clampitt chose not to utilize a quantitative approach to his study, as it “threatened to drain the life from a very human subject,” but providing at least some background regarding the individuals in his sample group would have been helpful (4). How many of his soldiers volunteered in the war’s earliest months? How many enlisted under the threat of becoming conscripts? What percentage of the soldiers and civilians he examined came from slave-owning households? How many members of his sample group had families far behind Confederate lines or in areas of the South occupied by Union armies?
The author quotes at one point from the correspondence of Grant Taylor, described as a reluctant soldier who “enlisted in 1862 primarily to avoid conscription.” Clampitt claims that Taylor “was atypical of the soldiers cited here” (84). This might be true, but could there have been large numbers of men like Taylor in the numerous regiments of the Army of...