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FW: Sutherland on Campbell, _When Sherman Marched North from the Sea_

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  • Bob Huddleston
    Forwarded from H Net Civil War History for the enjoyment of all! Take care, Bob Judy and Bob Huddleston 10643 Sperry Street Northglenn, CO 80234-3612
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1 8:27 AM
      Forwarded from H Net Civil War History for the enjoyment of all!

      Take care,


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

      -----Original Message-----
      From: H-Net US Civil War History discussion list
      [mailto:H-CIVWAR@...] On Behalf Of Scott L. Stabler
      Sent: Wednesday, June 30, 2004 9:38 AM
      To: H-CIVWAR@...
      Subject: Rev: Sutherland on Campbell, _When Sherman Marched North from the

      Published by H-CivWar@... (June 2004)

      Jacqueline Glass Campbell. _When Sherman Marched North from the Sea:
      Resistance on the Confederate Home Front_. Chapel Hill: University of North
      Carolina Press, 2003. xii + 177 pp. Index. $27.50 (cloth), ISBN

      Reviewed for H-CivWar by Daniel E. Sutherland <dsutherl@...>,
      Department of History, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

      Sherman's March and the Women

      This slender volume (barely one hundred pages of text) is chock full of good
      stuff. Jacqueline Glass Campbell's goal seems modest enough: she wishes to
      judge the response of southern civilians to Gen. William T.
      Sherman's destructive march through the Carolinas, from February through
      April 1865. She accomplishes her objective in fine fashion, and she does so
      in the context of several interesting--and sometimes
      controversial--historiographical issues. Not all readers will agree
      entirely with Campbell's conclusions, but her treatment of the campaign as
      social, rather than military, history provides several useful perspectives.

      Campbell, an assistant professor of history at the University of
      Connecticut, begins with two broad--and largely correct--assumptions.
      First, she believes that the consequences of Sherman's campaign become far
      more complex, than past military narratives have suggested, when viewed
      through the eyes of all its players, both soldiers and civilians, both
      blacks and whites. Historians must consider "racial attitudes, gender
      ideology, and perceptions of the military as a cultural entity" (p. 3),
      Campbell says, if they are to understand how wars are fought. Second,
      Campbell believes that the impact of the campaign on civilians can only be
      determined by treating the federal invasion as a penetration of
      psychological as well as geographical space. Sherman's march was designed
      to destroy the Carolinas physically, but also to wreck civilian morale.
      Campbell wants to know how effectively Union soldiers accomplished the
      latter goal.

      Campbell begins with a brief narrative of Sherman's march _from_ Atlanta to
      Savannah. Embracing recent interpretations of the campaign, she suggests
      that the famous March to the Sea was not nearly as destructive as
      traditional interpretations would have it. Also, and more to the point, she
      uses this prelude to clarify her main interests and introduce her principal
      historiographical conclusions. Her focus, it turns out, is not so much on
      the entire civilian population as on women and blacks. While this is a bit
      disappointing, it does enable Campbell to state more forcefully her
      historiographical concerns. Most importantly, she challenges recent
      interpretations of Confederate women bowing to wartime suffering and
      deserting the rebel cause. On the contrary, Campbell says, Confederate
      women-most especially "elite" white women-became even more devoted to the
      Confederate nation as a result of their ordeal. Similarly, she challenges
      the assumption that all blacks-especially slaves-welcomed or profited from
      Union invasion. The relationship between white soldiers and slaves was
      complex, Campbell admits, but in many instances, blacks were abused in their
      person and property more severely than were rebels.
      Finally, Campbell judges that Sherman, traditionally one of the great devils
      of Confederate history, has been misrepresented.

      Campbell pursues these same themes in tracing the more overlooked segment of
      Sherman's 1864-65 campaign, the march from Savannah through the Carolinas.
      She also adds an interesting observation about the Carolinas campaign
      itself. It might be assumed, she says, that Sherman's invasion would have
      been received differently in South and North Carolina. The latter state,
      after all, was supposedly in turmoil by this stage of the war, splintered by
      class divisions, high desertion rates among its soldiers, marauders prowling
      at will, and public officials at odds with the central government. Yet the
      notably poorer women of North Carolina, Campbell maintains, remained just as
      loyal to the Confederate nation as the well-to-do women of South Carolina,
      who would apparently have more to gain in the triumph of the Confederacy.
      The women of both states, she explains, as in Georgia, found a common foe in
      the Union army. "Moral outrage in the face of Northern behavior," Campbell
      concludes, "could reunite a fractured population and engender a new
      commitment to the Confederate cause." (p. 92).

      Throughout her narrative, Campbell emphasizes the courage, spunk, and
      durability of rebel women, who emerge as a much larger part of her story and
      historiographical focus than do the slaves of the Carolinas. Far from being
      the victims of war, these white women rose to the occasion, not only to show
      courage in the face of physical suffering and emotional abuse, but also to
      demonstrate their ideological loyalty to the Confederate nation.
      Campbell also maintains that their gritty determination carried over into
      the postwar years, when many ex-Confederate women showed themselves as ready
      as any man to face the perils of political and economic reconstruction.

      It all makes for a nice, concise case study with which to address a variety
      of historiographical themes. Campbell offers a well-grounded account of
      events, too. Her research in the primary sources, both published and
      unpublished, is good. Her secondary research on the Confederate home front
      could be broader-would even strengthen some of her key points-but it is
      sufficient for her purposes. Where readers are more likely to pause is in
      her interpretations of events. Perhaps her most convincing point-and
      probably the most important one from her perspective-is the resolve shown by
      Confederate women in the face of Sherman's invasion. This is a direct
      challenge to recent claims that the Confederacy collapsed because its female
      population ceased to support the war. One might quibble that Campbell is
      looking at only a tiny portion of the white female population, and she does,
      in fact, sometimes slip into unwarranted generalizations about all "Southern
      women" (especially on pp.
      93-110), but she makes a good case for the response of those women in the
      path of Sherman's 1865 march..

      The trickier part is to translate continued loyalty to southern independence
      into devotion to Confederate nationalism. This has been a hotly debated
      issue in recent years, the main sticking point being how to balance admitted
      rebel concerns over state rights and local prerogatives against a genuine
      identification with the nation. Being one of those people who believe
      national loyalty was relatively weak in the Confederacy, I kept looking for
      some knockout punch in Campbell's arsenal of evidence to convince me
      otherwise. It never came. The connection is more asserted than proved.
      She shows that Confederate women were "patriotic" and devoted to beating the
      Yankees, and that they saw "a direct link between the survival of their
      families and the survival of the nation" (p. 71), but that is not the same
      thing as embracing a national identity. Catch them off guard, and these
      people still would have called themselves Georgians or South Carolinians
      before they answered to the label Confederate.

      Another area I can imagine fair-minded people discussing has to do with the
      "gender ideology" of North and South. I raise this issue with no little
      trepidation, as I am even less knowledgeable about it than I am Confederate
      nationalism. Yet my gut reaction is to think that Campbell has drawn too
      stark a difference between northern and southern views of gender. There
      were differences, to be sure, but I wonder if the criteria used by Campbell
      can satisfactorily explain them. She states that an industrial, urban, and
      middle-class northern society assigned more passive roles to women than did
      a southern society based on race and deference.
      These distinctions strike me as too stereotypical to be used with much
      precision, especially when employed, as Campbell does, to explain the
      reactions of Union soldiers to Confederate women. She assumes that these
      soldiers responded as they did because they shared a universal northern view
      of women. That seems a bit dicey to me. Campbell herself notes
      distinctions between the women of North and South Carolina, so might there
      not be differences between soldiers from Chicago and soldiers from rural
      Ohio? And how did such factors as education and religion--which Campbell
      does not consider--affect sectional gender roles? Again, I may be out of my
      depth here, but such issues set me wondering.

      Finally, some readers may question Campbell's interpretation of William T.
      Sherman. As with the other historiographical issues she boldly tackles,
      this one, too, has produced a recent flurry of debate. Campbell joins those
      scholars who believe Sherman has been unjustly portrayed as a demon who
      waged war on civilians and unleashed "total war" upon an unsuspecting world.
      She also adds an interesting note to that debate by showing how our
      impressions of both Sherman and the Confederate women his men supposedly
      terrorized are intrinsically bound together: the image of Sherman as the
      scourge of the South has required that the region's women be portrayed as
      vulnerable and defenseless. I like that twist; it has a certain appeal.
      Yet it may also have influenced Campbell's reading of the evidence
      concerning Sherman. While I would not place him in the same camp as old
      Beelzebub, it may be that Campbell has let him off too lightly by assuming
      that if the interpretation of the weak woman is wrong than so, too, must be
      the contrasting image of Sherman.

      The factors that work against this conclusion are too numerous to sort out
      here. Definitions of "total" war, distinctions between seveenth-century
      dynastic/religious wars and nineteenth-century democratic wars, the gap
      between military "policy" and its implementation in the field, the
      evolutionary stages of Union military strategy, even the definition of
      "non-combatants" are all part of the mix. However, it seems to me that
      Sherman cannot be exonerating in the 1864-65 campaign without also
      accounting for the reputation he had already earned as a practitioner of
      "hard war." To be fair, Campbell acknowledges that Sherman is a difficult
      man to sort out. Yet her insistence, on the one hand, that he waged a
      perfectly traditional war, seeped in "prevailing ideologies of acceptable
      conduct that illuminated nineteenth-century social values" (pp. 55-56)
      stands in sharp contrast to her many references, on the other hand, to Union
      soldiers who felt compelled to justify or explain away the army's strategy
      of exhaustion. A more profitable approach to understanding why the war was
      fought with increasingly destructive force--and not just by Sherman--may be
      to recognize the fact that _both_ armies waged, in Jefferson Davis's words,
      a "savage war," and accept it on those terms.
      Let us assume that both sides were justified in waging war as they did, but
      then let us try to understand why they did so.

      Still, none of these reservations about a few of her conclusions should
      detract from Campbell's achievements. Her book is well worth reading for
      its insights on gender, race, and what she calls the cultural politics of
      war. Her study of a single campaign, strictly limited by geography and
      chronology, cannot be expected to satisfy every dimension of the complex
      interpretive structure she has erected. It is enough that she has offered
      new ways of considering those interpretations, and that, after all, is what
      good books do.

      Copyright (c) 2004 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits
      the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit,
      educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the
      author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and
      H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For other uses
      contact the Reviews editorial staff: hbooks@mail.h-net.msu.edu.

      Scott L. Stabler
      PhD Candidate Arizona State University
      H-CivWar Book Review Editor
      Grand Valley State - fall 04
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