Becoming Confederates: Paths to a New National Loyalty (Mercer University Lamar Memorial Lectures)
Gary W. Gallagher
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In Becoming Confederates, Gary W. Gallagher explores loyalty in the era of the Civil War, focusing on Robert E. Lee, Stephen Dodson Ramseur, and Jubal A. Early—three prominent officers in the Army of Northern Virginia who became ardent Confederate nationalists. Loyalty was tested and proved in many ways leading up to and during the war. Looking at levels of allegiance to their native state, to the slaveholding South, to the United States, and to the Confederacy, Gallagher shows how these men represent responses to the mid-nineteenth-century crisis.
Lee traditionally has been presented as a reluctant convert to the Confederacy whose most powerful identification was with his home state of Virginia—an interpretation at odds with his far more complex range of loyalties. Ramseur, the youngest of the three, eagerly embraced a Confederate identity, highlighting generational differences in the equation of loyalty. Early combined elements of Lee's and Ramseur's reactions—a Unionist who grudgingly accepted Virginia's departure from the United States but later came to personify defiant Confederate nationalism.
The paths of these men toward Confederate loyalty help delineate important contours of American history. Gallagher shows that Americans juggled multiple, often conflicting, loyalties and that white southern identity was preoccupied with racial control transcending politics and class. Indeed, understanding these men's perspectives makes it difficult to argue that the Confederacy should not be deemed a nation. Perhaps most important, their experiences help us understand why Confederates waged a prodigiously bloody war and the manner in which they dealt with defeat.
showed at Cedar Creek on October 19. His brigades contributed to stunning Confederate success in the morning, then anchored Early’s defense as Federal pressure mounted in the late afternoon. Married since the previous October 28 to his cousin Ellen Richmond, Ramseur had learned three days before the battle of the birth of their only child (a daughter—although he did not know the gender). At Cedar Creek, he wore a flower in his lapel to honor the child and seemed to be infused with tremendous
the North. Few men admired Lee more than Early himself, who overlooked his old chief’s public advice to move forward without rancor. He perfectly grasped that Lee represented the best card ex-Confederates could play. “[I]t is a vain work for us to seek anywhere for a parallel to the great character which has won our admiration and love,” he stated in a famous 1872 address on the anniversary of Lee’s birth: “Our beloved Chief stands, like some lofty column which rears its head among the highest,
the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee through His Private Letters (New York: Viking, 2007), 291–93; Wayne Wei-Siang Hsieh, “‘I Owe Virginia Little, My Country Much’: Robert E. Lee, the United States Regular Army, and Unconditional Unionism,” in Edward L. Ayers, Gary W. Gallagher, and Andrew J. Torget, eds., Crucible of the Civil War: Virginia from Secession to Commemoration (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2006), 35–37, 47. 14. Charles Royster, Light-Horse Harry Lee and the Legacy
Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of the New South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987); and Gary W. Gallagher, Lee and His Army in Confederate History (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 255–82. The best biography, though unsatisfying in some respects, is Charles C. Osborne, Jubal: The Life and Times of General Jubal A. Early, CSA. Defender of the Lost Cause (Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1992). 50. John Warwick
1861, Lee proclaimed that although he was opposed to secession, he “would not take up arms against the South” or fellow southerners.18 A desire to maintain racial control figured most prominently in Lee’s southern identity. Often portrayed as opposed to slavery, he in fact accepted the peculiar institution as the best means for ordering relations between the races and resented northerners who attacked the motives and character of slaveholders and seemed willing, or even eager, to disrupt racial