American Civil War : Soldiers' Motives

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"I apprehend that if all living Union soldiers were summoned to the witness stand, every one of them would testify that it was the preservation of the American Union and not the destruction of Southern slavery that induced him to volunteer at the call of his Country. As for the South, it is enough to say that perhaps eighty percent of her armies were neither slave-holders, nor had the remotest interest in the institution...both sides fought and suffered for liberty as bequeathed by the Fathers--the one for liberty in the union of the States, the other for liberty in the independence of the States." Reminiscences of the Civil War, by John B. Gordon, Maj. Gen. CSA
(General Gordon was shot 5 times during the Battle of Antietam but did not die until January 9, 1904. Regarding General John Gordon, President Theodore Roosevelt stated, "A more gallant, generous, and fearless gentleman and soldier has not been seen by our Country.")
 
"A great majority of the people were poor and had no interest in slavery, present or prospective. But most of them had little mountain homes and, be it ever so humble, there is no place like home...but when the Federal army occupied East Tennessee and threatened North Carolina..." Lt. Col. William W. Stringfield: Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-'65, Vol., 3, p. 734.

Recommended Reading: The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy (444 pages) (Louisiana State University Press) (Updated edition: November 2007) Description: The Life of Johnny Reb does not merely describe the battles and skirmishes fought by the Confederate foot soldier. Rather, it provides an intimate history of a soldier's daily life--the songs he sang, the foods he ate, the hopes and fears he experienced, the reasons he fought. Continued below...
Wiley examined countless letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, and official records to construct this frequently poignant, sometimes humorous account of the life of Johnny Reb. In a new foreword for this updated edition, Civil War expert James I. Robertson, Jr., explores the exemplary career of Bell Irvin Wiley, who championed the common folk, whom he saw as ensnared in the great conflict of the 1860s.
About Johnny Reb:
"A Civil War classic."--Florida Historical Quarterly
"This book deserves to be on the shelf of every Civil War modeler and enthusiast."--Model Retailer
"[Wiley] has painted with skill a picture of the life of the Confederate private. . . . It is a picture that is not only by far the most complete we have ever had but perhaps the best of its kind we ever shall have."--Saturday Review of Literature

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Related Reading:

Recommended Reading: Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldier of the Union (488 pages) (Louisiana State University Press). Description: This fascinating social history reveals that while the Yanks and the Rebs fought for very different causes, the men on both sides were very much the same. "This wonderfully interesting book is the finest memorial the Union soldier is ever likely to have. . . . [Wiley] has written about the Northern troops with an admirable objectivity, with sympathy and understanding and profound respect for their fighting abilities. He has also written about them with fabulous learning and considerable pace and humor.

 

Recommended Reading: Ordeal By Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction (816 pages). Description: Pulitzer Prize winning author, James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era and For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, describes the causes and origins of the Civil War; motivations and experiences of common soldiers and the role of women; social, economic, political and ideological conflicts; as well as a comprehensive study of the Reconstruction Era and its consequences. Professor McPherson also includes many visual aids such as detailed maps and comprehensive charts. “A must have for the Civil War buff!”

 
Recommended Reading: For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War. Description: Professor James McPherson posits that the common rank-and-file soldiers did indeed hold political and ideological beliefs that prodded them to enlist and to fight. His research is based on letters and diaries from 1,076 Union and Confederate soldiers that reveal many motivations, but always lead back to duty, honor, and a cause worth dying for. For Cause and Comrades is a fascinating exploration of the 19th-century mind--a mind, it seems, that differs profoundly from our own.
 

Recommended Reading: The Fighting Men of the Civil War, by William C. Davis (Author), Russ A. Pritchard (Author). Description: "A must for any Civil War library!" The sweeping histories of the War Between the States often overlook the men in whose blood that history was written. This account goes a long way toward redressing the balance in favor of the men in the ranks. The reader follows the soldiers from enlistment and training to campaigning. Attention is also given to oft-forgotten groups such as the sailors and black troops. Continued below...

No effort has been spared to include rare war era photographs and color photos of rare artifacts. Engagingly written by William C. Davis, the author of more than thirty books on the American Civil War. Award winning author and historian James M. McPherson states: "The most readable, authoritative, and beautifully designed illustrated history of the American Civil War."

 

Recommended Reading: Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War. Description: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Horwitz returned from years of traipsing through war zones as a foreign correspondent only to find that his childhood obsession with the Civil War had caught up with him. Near his house in Virginia, he happened to encounter people who reenact the Civil War--men who dress up in period costumes and live as Johnny Rebs and Billy Yanks. Intrigued, he wound up having some odd adventures with the "hardcores," the fellows who try to immerse themselves in the war, hoping to get what they lovingly term a "period rush." Horwitz spent two years reporting on why Americans are still so obsessed with the war, and the ways in which it resonates today. Continued below...

In the course of his work, he made a sobering side trip to cover a "murder that was provoked by the display of the Confederate flag," and he spoke to a number of people seeking to honor their ancestors who fought for the Confederacy. Horwitz has a flair for odd details that spark insights, and Confederates in the Attic is a thoughtful and entertaining book that does much to explain America's continuing obsession with the Civil War.

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