The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

The Creation of Confederate Nationalism: Ideology and Identity in the Civil
War South. By Drew Gilpin Faust. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State
University Press, 1988. Pp. 1 lo. Preface, acknowledgments, con-
clusions, notes, index, illustrations. $19.95.)
This slender book is a revised version of the Walter Lynwood Flem-
ing Lectures Faust delivered at Louisiana State University in 1987.
While its brevity precludes definitive answers, Faust, like other Fleming
Lecturers, dares to grasp the big picture, providing bold, thought-
provoking assertions concerning the nature and importance of Con-
federate nationalism.
Faust begins with a reminder that the study of Confederate ideology
and identity must be divorced from postwar judgments concerning the
legitimacy of a slave-based society's right to autonomous existence, and
that nationalistic movements, far from being spontaneous develop-
ments, are more often conscious creations of the persons involved.
Within this context she presents evidence that Southerners worked to
establish symbols that would inspire and unify their nation. Faust's ex-
ploration of Confederate literature and music is particularly interesting.
But because nationalism by its nature rests upon a consensus of the
majority, from the very first, attempts to formulate Confederate na-
tionalism undercut the primary purpose of the war-the maintenance
of the status quo. The common soldiers on whose shoulders indepen-
dence rested were, Faust contends, evangelical Christians who placed
Confederate nationality in a religious framework. Viewing the war it-
self as evidence of divine disapproval, they saw moral and social change
as prerequisites of victory, particularly relating to two issues: "extor-
tion" (a term for any sort of excess wartime profiteering) and slavery.
Both undercut the planters' traditional hegemony.
The war forced the South to embrace industrialism and a market
economy on a unprecedented scale. Wartime profits brought into the
monied classes persons whose values and social background did not
match the planters', while wartime shortages lessened the planters' abil-
ity to help their poorer neighbors and thereby earn their deference.
Faced with overwhelming evidence of "extortion," some Southerners
advocated price controls, while others embraced a laissez-faire free-
market philosophy. Both threatened the paternalistic patterns upon
which the plantation system depended.
Moreover, while Southerners portrayed Confederate independence
as the fulfillment of a divine mission to uplift and Christianize African-
Americans, criticisms of the abuses of slavery mounted as Confederate
military fortunes sagged. Calls for "reforms" such as the recognition of
slave marriages, greater slave literacy, fewer restrictions on slave preach-


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed August 20, 2014.