The American Civil War came down to a war between statesí rights and the federal government. Ironically, statesí rights helped to defeat the South. The Union had a strong central government while the Confederacy was founded with the intent to not to have a strong central government; the states were to be sovereign and strong. President Jefferson Davis soon realized that this kind of government was not going to win the war and independence for the Confederacy. He needed the central government to be more powerful, to be able to control not only the central governmentís military but also that of the states in states of emergency - which the Confederacy was always in. Many state governors and other supporters of statesí rights opposed Davis at every turn. Some states even almost seceded from the Confederacy over control of their soldiers and other such issues.
The championing of statesí rights was the downfall or betrayal of the Confederacy. Eicherís lively presentation of the relationship between President Davis and the Confederate Congress depicts a constant battle to get anything done. For example, many opposed the creation of a Supreme Court. Davis wanted to revoke the writ of habeus corpus to improve the countryís security against spies and traitors. President Lincoln was able to do this, even though he was censored for it later. Davis also fought with the Congress on the appointment of generals, cabinet members and other officials of the central government.
Eicher also expounds on the in-fighting among politicians, generals and others. Generals constantly stabbed their superior officers in the back by writing letters to their friends in the government. Those generals who were friends of the president ended up in one group, while those who opposed the president ended up in another. This touch of human nature was a major problem for the Confederacy and went a long way to aiding the Unionís triumph over the Confederacy.
The desperation of the South toward the end showed when many politicians considered conscripting slaves into the Confederate Army, not as fighting soldiers, but as support personnel. The dwindling Army had no reserves to call up, and the states became more and more reluctant to send their militias to help the Confederate Army; they wanted them to stay to defend their respective states. If a militia unit was allowed to serve with the Army, they had to stay within their state, causing problems for the Army when it had to move to another state.
Many of the Southís political and military leaders penned autobiographies or histories of the War in its aftermath, creating the Lost Cause myth. Many tried to cover up their part in the defeat of the South by accusing others for the defeat. Some Southern leaders continued fighting with others for the rest of their lives through articles and books. Many Southerners came to respect Jefferson Davis more after the War than they did during the War, likely as a result of learning the extent of the opposition he faced within the Confederate and state governments.
Civil War enthusiasts will enjoy this book. Eicher provides black and white illustrations of many of the important people in the Confederacy, as well as photographs from that time period of Richmond, the Confederate capital. The postlude follows what happened to some of the notable figures of the Confederacy after the War. The appendix lists various officials and politicians of the Confederacy and when they served. This is followed by endnotes, a bibliography, and an index.
David J. Eicher is the author of Gettysburg Battlefield: The Definitive Illustrated History (2003), Robert E. Lee (2002), The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War (2002), co-author of Civil War High Commands (2001), and author of Mystic Chords of Memory: Civil War Battlefields and Historic Sites Recaptured (1998), The Civil War in Books (1996), and Civil War Battlefields: A Touring Guide (1995).