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This is a scholarly analysis of the political and social events leading to the secession of South Carolina from the United States after the election of Lincoln as president. It focuses on the years from 1850 through 1860. The author paints a vivid picture of the South Carolina society and economy during this period, with myriad examples. He emphasizes the enormous white fear of negroes as the force behind very many social phenomena of the time. He follows this discussion with an exhaustive account of political happenings and opinions in the state during the period, ending with the secession convention in December, 1860. He explores in detail the roles of politicians, editors, slaveholders, Unionists, and the electorate in slowly bringing about near universal support for secession. He concludes that secession was a revolution, not of reason, but "of passion, and the passion was fear."

The research is formidable. The style is straightforward and a little dry. I found the book hard going, but my gain in knowledge rewarded the effort. The work is a prime example of how a historian can nail down his theories and opinions with facts and quotations, page by page, until his view seems panoramic and his conclusions unassailable.
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anthonywillard | May 5, 2015 |
Confederate Ordeal: The Southern Homefront is one of several books that addresses the Southern issues and citizen's viewpoint of the Civil War. The issues created when the general male population goes off to war leaving a female population that normally handles the "delicate" side of life to continue to produce the requirements for an army are well-documented as well as the shortsightedness of the Confederate government and politicians who push their populace into a war that they were ill-prepared for with only 1 factory able to produce cannon and firearms and none to create ammunition.

Entire areas are impacted when doctors are "drafted" leaving no medical care for the ordinary citizens. State Schools closed because there were no students and Ladies schools had no teachers. Stores closed because no one was there to stock the shelves.

Other issues that bother the citizens were related to their rights - the Confederate Government, in its rush to be setup, had not documented the individual rights of the citizens as had been specified in the USA Bill of Rights and Constitution. The Conscription Law, in essence drafting all men between the ages of 18 and 35 for 3 years, angered the majority of the population who saw it as favoring the rich and influential since they were able to avoid service if they could hire someone to take their place. Having a necessary job could also earn a man exemption from serving - some jobs that qualified were munitions worker, postal worker, preacher, blacksmith, telegraph operator. Because of this, the conflict became known as " a rich man's war and a poor man's fight."

The southerners saw, with the advance of the Union Army into the secessionist states, the confiscation of their property (food, livestock, and wagons), homes burned, and what couldn't be taken, destroyed. With all the young men in the army, those left behind were unable to restore what had been lost.

As the Union Army closed in, the Southerners in the battle states lost their last sense of dignity with the loss of their homes and their need to flee to other areas which could feed and shelter them. As the realization of their impending defeat hit home, many former anti-secessionists gave up the battle and supported the invading army both verbally and materially. President Jefferson Davis was ridiculed and on numerous occasions asked to end the war so that the surviving members of their families could come home and start again.

This wasn't a very large book but the impact with the numerous pictures of the suffering and destruction got the message across quite well.
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cyderry | Oct 1, 2010 |

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