THE IRON WILL OF JEFFERSON DAVIS by Cass Canfield

THE IRON WILL OF JEFFERSON DAVIS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A slight, spotty biography of the Confederate president based on secondary sources and either broadly derivative--Davis' ""iron will,"" specifically mentioned by Bruce Catton (in a quoted passage), has impressed every biographer--or loosely conjectural. The author's purpose, in fact, remains unclear: ostensibly, Davis' ""indomitable will"" enabled him to hold the Confederacy together; yet one after another damaging instance of his ""inflexible,"" ""unbending"" behavior is cited, along with a related ""inability to ignore criticism"" or to share power. His imperviousness, in short, would seem to have been as much a handicap as an aid. Meanwhile the narrative is confusingly imprecise and, as regards the course of Civil War conflict, incomprehensible to the uninitiated--in part because of frequent digressions on the attributes of one or another general or the advisability of one or another course of action. (Had Lee been made head of the Southern armies in 1862, Canfield avers--at a time when even his appointment to command the army of northern Virginia was disputed--the ""Confederacy might still have won."") And many will take exception to the all-enveloping view of the ""gracious and civilized"" antebellum South. Last year's Cyrus Eaton biography, though bigger, is immeasurably better.

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 1978
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich