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Long Gray Lines: The Southern Military School Tradition, 1839-1915

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  • Bob Huddleston
    Cross posted from H-SOuth Take care, Bob Judy and Bob Huddleston 10643 Sperry Street Northglenn, CO 80234-3612 303.451.6376 Adco@FilmsToSee.com H-NET BOOK
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2, 2002
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      Cross posted from H-SOuth

      Take care,


      Judy and Bob Huddleston
      10643 Sperry Street
      Northglenn, CO 80234-3612
      303.451.6376 Adco@...

      H-NET BOOK REVIEW Published by H-South@... (May 2002)

      Rod Andrew, Jr. Long Gray Lines: The Southern Military School
      Tradition, 1839-1915. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina
      Press, 2001. 184 pp. Photographs, bibliography, index. $29.95 (cloth),
      ISBN 0-807802610-3).

      Reviewed for H-South by Buck T. Foster, btf1@..., Department
      of History, Mississippi State University

      A Southern Military Tradition

      The cadets from the Virginia Military Institute stormed across the
      battlefield at New Market in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley during the
      American Civil War, and thereby took their place in the annals of
      history. That glorious, but brief appearance, however, was only a moment
      in the long history of the Southern military school tradition. Rod
      Andrew, professor of history at Clemson University, examines the
      development of Southern military schools. He contends that "southerners
      equated military virtue with civic virtue and agreed that a good soldier
      was a good citizen"(3). The underlying reason for military schools in
      the South was to create responsible, respectable, young men who
      appreciated their role as American citizens.

      Andrew admits that antebellum Southerners agreed with other Americans
      that an able military force was important for the protection of the
      Republic. He believes, however, that Southerners never allowed this
      feeling to overshadow the true reason for the schools' existence, even
      during the decades prior to the Civil War. To be sure, this does not
      mean that states did not recognize the value of trained officers
      graduating from their schools. During the war, the graduates would
      provide the Confederate army with greatly needed trained officers during
      the conflict. Andrew, nevertheless believes that war was the least
      influential factor in the creation of the Southern military school

      The author disputes earlier claims that the schools developed as an
      "outgrowth of naturally 'militaristic'" society (19). Plenty of
      opposition came from state governments that were uninterested in
      providing public funding for the institutions, while other resistance
      appeared from local populaces who believed that young men were too rowdy
      for school. School supporters, on the other hand, used this same
      argument for the creation of the schools. Military training could "tame"
      the youngsters and make mature men of them.

      Postbellum Southern schools were quite different than their western and
      northern counterparts in their every day activities and requirements. To
      meet the Morrill Act's tactics clause, northern and western schools
      instructed their students in the art of drilling or tactics. Students
      did not wear uniforms at all times, nor did they organize in student
      companies. In the South, most students likely wore uniforms every day,
      were under strict supervision with a demerit and court-martial system,
      awoke to the sounds of reveille and bedded down at the sound of taps.
      Within the post-war Southern school, a strong dedication to the lasting
      memories of the Lost Cause crept into every moment, something that set
      them apart from northern and western schools.

      According to Andrew, the "Lost Cause strengthened the Southern military
      tradition"(47). What the Confederate soldiers symbolized was what the
      schools wanted their cadets to become. The spirit of the South and the
      pride associated with sacrificing for a larger cause meant students
      placed themselves in a larger context. The Lost Cause could set them
      apart from other regions of the nation, while simultaneously bringing
      them together under one banner. Cadets and administrators alike,
      contends Andrew, did not see a contradiction between their type of
      military life and "Americanism" (66). Indeed, they were, in their eyes,
      reinforcing the "American way."

      Another unique characteristic of the Southern military tradition, which
      Andrew succinctly illustrates, is the cadets' collective resistance to
      authority. The Esprit de Corps, ever-present in the best of the
      military, paradoxically promoted a questioning of authority. Challenging
      the establishment, usually school administrators or boards, over actions
      or rules that the students believed unacceptable, clearly represents a
      situation where militarism and the American belief about individual
      rights interplay or even contradict. Students believed that if the
      authorities wrongly handled a situation, it was their duty as citizens,
      to speak out and correct the problem. In some instances, entire student
      bodies threatened to walk out over a particular problem.

      Andrew does not neglect the distinctive situation in which blacks found
      themselves when enrolling in a black Southern military institution.
      Unfortunately, the black schools' unique situation suppressed their
      development in the pre-World War I era. Constant discrimination from
      many separate sources caused most black schools to lack arms for
      training, maintain a constantly low Espirit de Corps, and create an
      atmosphere of general disgust from the students toward the institution
      that made them drill for, as they perceived it, no real reason. Black
      schools lacked proper training officers, because few black officers
      existed. Most white Southerners, who supported the creation and
      sustainment of black schools, believed that it was an adequate way to
      "correct the flaws of the Negro (and Native American) races"(91).
      Therefore, military institutions existed to make corrections to the
      inherently flawed black or Indian who, in order to become good soldiers,
      had to adapt to "civilized" society. Blacks and Indians, however, could
      never become fully developed soldiers in the Jim Crow South, because
      that meant being complete citizens.

      As the nineteenth century closed with the Spanish-American War, the
      qualifications of a good patriot were redefined. Civic virtue was
      replaced by battlefield prowess as a necessary component of patriotism.
      An able combatant who was proved in battle made a good soldier, not a
      person who could exercise republican virtues of individual rights

      Andrew concludes with a careful evaluation of the Southern military
      schools ability to contain both militaristic and liberal thought.
      Southern schools tried to create capable officers for the battlefield as
      well proper citizens for the communities of America. Northern schools,
      he argues, when experiencing the clash between militarism and liberalism
      quickly scorned militaristic education as "un-American or undemocratic"
      (117). Southerners, on the other had, embraced the two together and
      judged the merit of the individual, not the system itself.

      This study is the first in-depth look into the Southern military school
      tradition. Andrew takes a concise, well-researched, thought-provoking
      stance about the development of Southern military schools. Students of
      the South and those of the Civil War will be delighted with this work.
      This reviewer believes that a more comparative study between Northern
      and Southern schools may have benefited this research. Although the
      author does compare the two in some instances, the question that arises
      is why that the Southern schools did develop this tradition why the
      North did not. The Lost Cause, as the author points out, had some
      effect. Readers can understand how the Southern military tradition
      arose, but it is difficult to ascertain why. Despite minor flaws, this
      work is definitely worth reading.

      Copyright (c) 2002 by H-Net, all rights reserved. This work may be
      copied for non-profit educational use if proper credit is given to the
      author and the list. For other permission, please contact

      Rod Andrew's response to Buck Foster's review of Long Gray Lines:

      I wish to thank Mr. Buck Foster for undertaking to read and review Long
      Gray Lines, and for his generous comments. Even in the ablest reviews,
      book authors inevitably feel that some of their arguments have not been
      fully understood or perfectly represented. I am therefore grateful that
      this forum gives me one last shot at trying to make my points clear.

      The first of Mr. Foster's comments that I wish to address is his
      impression that I deny that southern military schools grew out of a
      "militaristic" society. It appears, unfortunately, that this mistaken
      impression is based on one of my own sentences on page 19 of the book. I
      do indeed believe that the South was "militaristic" and that its
      "military tradition" was distinctive. The fact that southerners were so
      apt and able to reconcile their brand of militarism with
      nineteenth-century liberalism was what made them so militaristic. There
      seemed to be a broad consensus that by training young men to become good
      soldiers, they were instilling the same traits that made for good
      republican citizens -- a quite militaristic notion indeed.

      I wish also to address Foster's comments on my chapter on cadet mutinies
      and rebellions. Foster correctly states that the strong emotional bonds,
      or esprit de corps, among cadets, "paradoxically promoted a questioning
      of authority." Then he writes that "Students believed that if the
      authorities wrongly handled a situation, it was their duty as citizens,
      to speak out and correct the problem." I'm afraid that this sentence
      indicates that I have overglorified or whitewashed the motives of angry
      cadets as they rebelled against faculty and administrators.

      The point of the chapter was that there was a profound contradiction
      within the southern military tradition that the cadets inherited. Any
      brand of militarism relies implicitly on order and obedience. The
      southern version of militarism, however, also glorified rebellion when
      it occurred in a military context, by honoring Revolutionary and
      Confederate soldiers as heroes who had supposedly fought against
      tyrannical authority. Cadets rebelled mostly out of anger against
      specific college policies or disciplinary actions, not out of a sense of
      civic duty. But the rhetoric and mythology of southern militarism gave
      them ample ammunition for justifying their actions as honorable ones
      within that tradition.

      The other points I wish to clarify are not as central. The review states
      that northern and western land-grant colleges did not typically form
      their students into military companies. They did, but usually only for
      the purpose of the military drills that occurred once or twice a week -
      not as a means of ensuring military discipline and routine on a daily,
      round-the-clock basis. The review states also that discrimination
      against black schools and the lack of arms for the cadets "created an
      atmosphere of general disgust from the students toward the institution
      that made them drill for, as they perceived it, no real reason."
      Unfortunately, I simply did not have the sources that would have allowed
      me to gauge morale among black military school cadets. I simply said
      that military commandants at black schools, like Lieutenants George
      Leroy Brown and E. W. Hubbard and Professor Robert R. Moton at Hampton,
      claimed that denying black cadets the use of rifles "impaired the
      spirit" (p. 95) of the cadet corps and limited the usefulness of
      military drill.

      Finally, I offer a word concerning Foster's coverage of my chapter
      dealing with the Spanish-American War. Foster writes, "Civic virtue was
      replaced by battlefield prowess as a necessary component of patriotism."
      That sentence summarizes an argument that I borrow from Cecilia O'Leary,
      Nina Silber, and others, who show that, on a national level, national
      reconciliation near the end of the late nineteenth century resulted from
      a reformulation or redefinition of patriotism as "male warrior heroism,"
      (O'Leary, To Die For: The Paradox of American Patriotism [Princeton,
      1999]: p. 30), not civic virtue or respect for racial equality.

      What I hoped to contribute, and what Foster apparently missed, was that
      while this reformulation may have been true for other Americans, the
      definition of patriotism changed little for southerners. Southerners,
      particularly military school leaders, had always had trouble separating
      martial valor from moral and civic virtue. They had been intertwined at
      least since the military school movement began to sweep the South in the
      1820s and 1830s. Indeed, this point echoes the central argument of the
      entire book.

      Foster may be right that, despite a few comparisons to northern military
      schools, the book would benefit from an approach that is more
      comparative. But I do offer an explanation why a stronger military
      school tradition did not develop in the North, and amplify it in several
      sections of the book. It was because many northerners occasionally saw
      serious and profound contradictions between liberalism, or
      "Americanism," and military institutions. Southerners, including
      legislators, educators, parents, and cadets, did not.

      Foster is correct to point out that my book does not explain the origins
      of the southern military tradition. I am careful to explain what I mean
      by the use of the terms "militarism" and "southern military tradition,"
      but tracing the latter's origins is a worthwhile (and daunting) task
      that I did not undertake. I do hope that I have contributed something,
      however, with my brief tracing of classical, enlightenment, and
      Jacksonian arguments in favor of military education - especially the
      argument that military education and training produced more useful
      citizens, not just soldiers. Hopefully by doing so I have not glorified
      the uniquely militaristic aspects of southern culture. I hope, instead,
      that I have reminded readers that militarism and liberalism are not
      always incompatible. Just because the South had a military tradition
      (one that was more robust than the North's, I would argue) does not
      necessarily mean that it rejected republicanism or nineteenth-century
      liberalism. The distinctive features of southern militarism show that it
      flowed easily into, not against, the main currents of nineteenth-century

      Many thanks once again to Mr. Foster and the editors of H-South.

      Rod Andrew Jr.
      Clemson University
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