The first and most wide-ranging study on Civil War desertion was done by Ella Lonn (1928). In spite of its age Desertion during the Civil War is an important beginning for all future studies of desertion. Lonn examined the previously neglected issues of desertion in both the Confederate and Union armies. In an effort to highlight the horrors of war, she disassociated desertion from cowardice and primarily examined the causes of desertion, while also evaluating its effect on the armies. She maintained that there were multiple causes of desertion among the Confederates, which had little to do with cowardice. She found that desertion was caused by poor leadership, the Conscription Act, shortages of food and clothing at the front as well as poverty and disorder at home. While the Union army lost more twice as many men to desertion as did the Confederates, the Confederacy was more adversely affected by the desertions, causing them to lose battles, while Confederates who deserted to the enemy provided Union forces with intelligence, and in some cases, additional manpower. Desertion also caused demoralization amongst the civilian population. While Lonn argued that “desertion certainly contributed to the Confederate defeats after 1862 and was a prime factor in precipitating the catastrophe of 1865,” she did not claim that desertion caused Confederate defeat, only that it hastened the “inevitable.” In conducting her research Lonn utilized regimental muster rolls, which listed soldiers who were available for duty and those who were absent, thereby giving a rough estimate of the total number of deserters from Confederate units to conduct her study. Many of the muster rolls for the last seven months of the war were missing fro... ... middle of paper ... ...88/ Virginia Regimental Histories Series. 141 vol. Lynchburg, Va.: H. E. Howard, 1981-2002. Wakelyn, Jon L. Confederates Against the Confederacy: Essays on Leadership and Loyalty. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002. Weitz, Mark A. A Higher Duty: Desertion Among Georgia Troops During the Civil War. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2000. ____________. More Damning than Slaughter: Desertion in the Confederate Army. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2005. Wiley, Bell I. The Life of Johnny Reb. Indianapolis, IN: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1943. Williams, David, Teresa Crisp Williams, and David Carlson. Plain Folk in a Rich Man's War: Class and Dissent in Confederate Georgia. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2002. Williams, David. Bitterly Divided: The South’s Inner Civil War. New York: The New Press, 2008.
Nevertheless, an attitude they show is their cause for engaging in the war. On page 110, Lee describes, “With every step of a soldier, with every tick of the clock, the army was gaining safety, closer to victory, closer to the dream of independence.” His words reveal that their reason for coming was to gain their long overdue independence. Without a cause worth fighting for on each side, the war would have no fuel or reason to continue. In like manner, another attitude of the South was their admiration for their commander general. On page 251, Longstreet proclaims, “Colonel, let me explain something. The secret of General Lee is that men love him and follow him with faith in him. That’s one secret.” I believe this clarifies that the bond of brotherhood and respect for each other in this army would allow for these soldiers to follow their leader blindly. The overwhelming amount of faith and trust among the Army of the Northern Virginia is inspiring. The Confederates prove in these appearances that they do indeed have an important cause that they are willing to die
More than 25,000 letters and 250 private diaries from men on both side of North and South. Talking about the soldier's ideals for which they fought over conflicts and beliefs of each side. McPherson took all of the soldier’s ideas and beliefs and made this powerful and important book on an often-overlooked aspect of the Civil War. Also, it brought great honor and powerfully moving account for the men that fought in the civil war.
Marrin, Albert. Unconditional Surrender: U.S. Grant and the Civil War. New York, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994. Print.
Though morale became very low toward the end of the war, Watkins recounts the passion the privates felt for both the war and for their beloved South. He believed that the Confederate Army were “…trying to protect their homes and families, their property, their constitution and their laws, that had been guaranteed to them as a heritage forever by their forefathers.” Though slavery was an issue, it was not the primary concern and was rarely mentioned in the memoir. However, Watkins did write that any man who owned twenty or more slaves back home was allowed to leave the army, and he notes the war “…was a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight”. The South and its inhabitants especially believed that they were fighting for the faith that each state was a separate sovereign government, as laid down by the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Many southerners felt that the North was invading their country and doing despicable things all under the name of the “Union”, and that the war was a necessary last resort after all efforts to conciliate the North had already been made.
General Lee admired loyalty as a character trait to be respected as he was intensely loyal himself. When confronted with a choice at the beginning of the war, Lee chose to stay loyal to his home state of Virginia and resign his commission with the Union army. “He considered himself an American. He hated secession, as he hated slavery. Above all though, he was a Virginian” (Marrin 33). Lee’s loyalty to Virginia meant he fought for the very beliefs he disagreed with, slavery and succession. Unfortunately, Lee’s loyalty resulted in one of his greatest personal failures as he ended up on the losing side of the war. Confronted with the reconstruction of the United States under one flag, Lee refocused his loyalty and “urged former Confederates to become loyal Americans” (Marrin 192). Once he made a decision, Robert E. Lee embraced the change to the focus of his loyalty but never wavered in his passionate approach toward his allegiance.
In James McPherson’s novel, What They Fought For, a variety of Civil War soldier documents are examined to show the diverse personal beliefs and motives for being involved in the war. McPherson’s sample, “is biased toward genuine fighting soldiers” (McPherson, 17) meaning he discusses what the ordinary soldier fought for. The Confederacy was often viewed as the favorable side because their life style relied on the war; Confederates surrounded their lives with practices like slavery and agriculture, and these practices were at stake during the war. On the other hand, Northerners fought to keep the country together. Although the Civil War was brutal, McPherson presents his research to show the dedication and patriotism of the soldiers that fought and died for a cause.
When examining the role the homefront and the battlefront played during the Civil War, historians often make a glaring error by regarding the homefront and battlefront as independent entities. However, most battles took place on Southern soil, blurring the line between the Confederate homefront and the battlefield. To understand a war that split the country over regional differences, examining the impact the homefront had on the battlefront and exploring the ways these two environments overlapped and impacted each other is essential. Despite the Confederacy’s inferior resources, in the first years of the war, victory was possible. Yet, as the distinction between the homefront and battlefront blurred, the Confederacy’s ability to supply the military the resources required to sustain a war effort deteriorated. The Confederacy lost the war because its success was dependent on a limited resource supply that the homefront could not maintain on soils ravaged by the battles Northern armies brought to its home.
Book Title: The American Civil War: A Handbook of Literature and Research. Contributors: Robin Higham - editor, Steven E. Woodworth - editor. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of Publication: Westport, CT. Publication Year: 1996
Preisser, Thomas M. “The Virginia Decision to Use Negro Soldiers in the Civil War, 1864-1865.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 83, no. 1 (January 1975): 98-113. Accessed April 14, 2014. http://jstor.org/stable/4247927.
Desertion was most apparent in North Carolina. North Carolina was contradictory in both providing more soldiers to the Confederate army than any other state and of having more deserters from the army than other states. Although North Carolinian disloyalty to the Confederacy was not any worse than other Southern states, it was more publicly pronounced. North Carolina was the last to secede and did so only after a statewide vote of the people. Because desertion was not a crime in the state, citizens who housed and protected deserters felt safe from arrest for hiding them. It was said that the deserters could band together and defy the officers of the law who came after them because of t...
It was April, months after Confederate General Robert E. Lee made the request toward Union General Ulysses S. Grant, preparing an open discussion to restore peace, and the time had finally approached. Wishing they set up a sooner date, Lee was now extremely ready. After times of loss; loss of men; loss of supplies; Lee was dragged away from his original intentions. Death was now at their fingertips. Lee arrived to the McLean household around the middle of the day--1 o’clock pm. Arriving in a large beautiful horse that shinned through the whole town, Lee took a seat in the center in the room. He stood there with his fellow confederate soldiers. About thirty minutes had passed. Lee was curious where his opponent was.