- Editor’s Note
The contents of this issue testify to the rich rewards that come from digging into Civil War data. Two articles employ social science methods to produce fresh perspectives on the armies fighting in the war’s eastern theater and on the Union’s war financing. A third article and a review essay fill in where the numbers leave off, exploring the culture of secession and of reconciliation. In all, the issue shows what we can learn about the era by crunching some numbers and following the money and by taking another look at what Civil War Americans wrote and read.
Joseph Glatthaar begins this issue with a probing essay comparing the demographics of the Army of Northern Virginia to the Army of the Potomac and finding in them the basis for the two armies’ unique cultures. Glatthaar’s methods may lead us to ask new questions about soldier motivation, like, for instance, when he finds that the soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia were slightly older and considerably wealthier than their Army of the Potomac counterparts and that these men also registered more personal wealth than their southern white counterparts. What brought men into the war could also drive them out, and Glatthaar follows the men who decide to desert in higher numbers as fathers (Army of Northern Virginia) rather than sons (Army of the Potomac).
David Thomson’s essay puts a human face on the Union’s wartime financing, uncovering some striking facts about those who bought government bonds. Thomson traces thousands of individual transactions and finds that wartime bonds attracted investments, large and small, from “socialites, politicians, and senior military officials.” Women were responsible for a surprising number of these transactions, raising new questions about women’s relationship to the state and perhaps their control over their families’ finances. When the war was over, beyond Jay Cooke and the Treasury Department, the American people were the war’s “real financial heroes.”
Mark Neely rescues guerilla warfare from the West Point regulars and scholars who dismissed it as impractical, discovering its strong popular appeal and connections to Confederate nationalism. A close reading of the antebellum novels of William Gilmore Simms, Nathaniel Beverley Tucker, and Edmund Ruffin reveals that these proslavery authors imagined a war for Confederate independence waged in the particularly American style of “fighting in the wilderness” and that they did not fear that irregular warfare would threaten the institution of slavery. Setting aside the “what-ifs,” [End Page 313] Neely instead situates the myth of partisan warfare in the minds of pro-slavery southerners, where it allowed them to imagine a different end to the Confederate national experiment.
Robert Cook rounds out this issue with a review essay on reconciliation. Cook wonders if the process was as rapid and complete as scholars have suggested, finding Confederates late in the nineteenth century who “regarded themselves grudgingly as loyal U.S. citizens and more enthusiastically as modern-day patriots who had fought and suffered for an authentically American cause.” Fifteen years after David Blight’s Race and Reunion, Cook finds the scholarship on Civil War memory as vibrant as ever. [End Page 314]