BITTERLY DIVIDED by David Williams


The South’s Inner Civil War
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There was not one civil war between 1861 and 1865 but many—so many that if the South were to rise again, it would do so on only one leg.

“Secession,” writes Williams (History/Valdosta State Univ.; A People’s History of the Civil War, 2005, etc.), “divided families all across the slave states. It pitted fathers against sons, siblings against each other, and even wives against husbands.” It divided communities as well. Whole counties in Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama and Virginia refused to leave the Union and seceded from the secession; homegrown unionist militias fought guerrilla wars against the Confederacy throughout the South; and as much as a quarter of the Union Army were Southern boys. Small wonder that one Atlanta newspaper opined early in the war, “If we are defeated, it will be by the people at home.” As the war went on, the tide of sentiment turned against rebellion, as civilians starved and farmers had their crops and livestock requisitioned out from under them. By Williams’s Marxist-tinged account, the Confederacy brought this upon itself, for it was a stringently class-conscious society organized for the economic and political benefit of the rich and visibly against the poor. The poor suffered disproportionately, but they did not rise up en masse, even though plenty of those poor folk worked quietly against the government. And not just the poor, as Williams observes. African-Americans resisted the Confederacy, too. Similarly, many Native Americans within the bounds of the South packed up and moved rather than take up arms against the Union; the band led by Opothleyahola, a Creek chief, petitioned Lincoln to protect them and, upon receiving no reply, relocated to Kansas, attacked by pro-Southern Indians as they traveled. These acts of struggle within the Civil War are too little documented within standard textbooks, and Williams does a good job with this book, though some historians may question his close focus on class analysis.

Of interest to students of the Civil War, and certain to provoke discussion in the professional journals.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-59558-108-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: New Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2008


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