A War of Words
The Rhetorical Leadership of Jefferson Davis
Publication Year: 2017
Numerous biographies of Jefferson Davis have been penned; however, until now, there had been no substantive analysis of his public discourse as president of the Confederacy. R. Jarrod Atchison’s A War of Words uses concepts from rhetorical theory and public address to help answer a question that has intrigued scholars from a variety of disciplines since the collapse of the Confederacy: what role, if any, did Davis play in the collapse of Confederate nationalism?
Most discussions of Davis and nationalism focus on the military outcomes of his controversial wartime decisions. A War of Words focuses less on military outcomes and argues instead that, in the context of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis’s rhetorical leadership should have been responsible for articulating a vision for the nation—including the core tenets of its identity, the values the nation should hold dear, the principles it should never compromise, and the goals it should set for its future. Undoubtedly, Davis possessed the skills necessary to make a persuasive public argument. It is precisely because Davis’s oratory skills were so powerful that there is room to judge how he used them. In short, being a great orator is not synonymous with successful rhetorical leadership.
Atchison posits that Davis’s initial successes constrained his rhetorical options later in the war. A War of Words concludes that, in the end, Davis’s rhetorical leadership was a failure because he was unable to articulate a coherent Confederate identity in light of the sacrifices endured by the populace in order to sustain the war effort.
Published by: The University of Alabama Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
Academia puts a premium on scholarly work that is credited to a single author. In my experience, many support systems have to be present to enable the type of focus, time, and energy necessary to engage in any scholarly endeavor and this book is no exception. This book would not have...
By December 20, 1860, Jefferson Davis had built an impressive resume. He had taken advantage of his family’s wealth and power to pursue an admirable career at West Point. He propelled himself into the national spotlight as a hero in the Mexican-American War. He used his national fame to...
1. Decorum in Davis’s Resignation from the Senate
With the flames of secession fanning throughout the South, Jefferson Davis found himself in a troubling situation. He was a senator from Mississippi who had risen to national prominence to become one of the central spokespersons for the South, but he was also an outspoken critic of the rash and...
2. Civic Republicanism in Davis’s Inaugural Address
On February 18, 1861, the Confederate States of America inaugurated Jefferson Davis as provisional president. Sworn in on the front portico of the state capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, in front of an estimated ten thousand people, Davis delivered the first official presidential address of...
3. Amplification in Davis’s Defense of Conscription
In Jefferson Davis’s inaugural address on February 18, 1861, he called for peaceful relations and free trade between the Confederacy and the Union. Less than two months later, at 4:30 a.m. on April 12, 1861, the prospects for peace vanished when forty-three Confederate guns opened fire on Fort...
4. Conspiracy Rhetoric in Davis’s Response to the Emancipation Proclamation
On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued one of the best-known rhetorical artifacts of the Civil War. The Emancipation Proclamation—declaring that “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United...
5. Pragmatism and Desperation in Davis’s Push for Conditional Emancipation
In the two years following Davis’s response to the Emancipation Proclamation, the Confederate States of America suffered major setbacks in its campaign for independence. Despite Davis’s controversial conscription policies, the Confederacy put 850,000 soldiers into the field compared...
Six months after Davis’s desperate call for conditional emancipation, the Confederacy was on the brink of losing its capital at Richmond, Virginia. By April 3, 1865, the Confederate government was on the move as Grant’s forces were poised to capture the city that had been at the center of the...
Page Count: 135
Publication Year: 2017
OCLC Number: 986538432
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