Research Was Confederate nationalism weak or resilient?

jackt62

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The “sectionalism” of the time period suggests that taken as a whole Americans did not have as strong a identity with the nation as later time periods
I'm not as sure about that. Americans in the first half of the 19th century were proud of their revolutionary struggle, the ideals set forth in the nation's formative documents, and the sense that they were creating a unique identity in the New World, separate and apart from "old" Europe. To be sure, this may not have been defined in the way that 20th century "nationalism" has since been understood, and the associations of most people in the decades after the founding of the United States were with their immediate home and community. But a sense of belonging to a larger entity was evident in the massive outpouring of support for the Union in the north, and the embrace of the symbols of Washington and the early founders in the south.
 
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I agree, one of the many unintended consequences of the Civil War was a sense of nationalism that had not existed before. An example of that was George Thomas’ reply to a question about the layout of a cemetery. He told the Chaplin in charge to mix’em up, we’ve had quite enough of state’s rights.

Here in Tennessee, the CSA never maintained sovereignty long enough to create firm bonds. Whenever the CSA abandoned an area of the state soldiers went home.

In any case, as Stephens declared in his keystone speech, a state created to preserve the right to hold human beings as property was balancing a a very narrow base to begin with.
The term "nation" is consistently misused in the US, more as a synonym for "state" as used in much of the rest of world...there are stateless nations, i.e. Tibetans, Kurds, Uighurs...and multinational states, so maybe the question is, was "state-ism" in the south the more powerful sentiment than nation/nationalism and should that be what's examined rather than nation/nationalism? That's certainly how I've always perceived the CSA's difficulties for coordinated cooperation during the war. Petulant children telling Richmond "you're not the boss of me" sort of relationship. Now, that's oversimplifying it, a lot, but it's fun to consider and discuss.
 
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I was thinking about this thread earlier today, and what comes to mind for me is that perhaps the situation in the southern Confederacy was so tumultuous during its four years that there wasn't much of an opportunity for a strong and coherent national identity to develop. Maybe the leaders of the Confederacy and its states and its armies, and many of its citizens had a desire to develop and sustain a new nation, but there just weren't enough time and resources during the struggle to establish a lasting and stable nationalism. It's just a thought.

I don't know everything about the governorship of Zebulon B. Vance here in North Carolina, but I have read something of his history, and I came across his letter of 22 Sept. 1864 to his friend and former governor David L. Swain. Vance was lamenting the apparent unwillingness of citizens in Georgia to undertake guerilla action against Gen. Sherman's forces. In part, Vance wrote:

"It shows what I have always believed that the great popular heart is not now & never has been in this war! It was a revolution of the politicians not the people; was fought at first by the natural enthusiasm of our young men, and has been kept agoing by state & sectional pride assisted by that bitterness of feeling produced by the cruelties & brutalities of the enemy."

Roy B.
That's a great Vance quote: can you tell me the source? I'm in NC too and always found the state to be so sectional...mountain folk versus eastern folk, with eastern folk dominating the state's politics, even during the First World War when the governor had to go to the mountains to ask people there to register for the draft.
 

Rhea Cole

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I was thinking about this thread earlier today, and what comes to mind for me is that perhaps the situation in the southern Confederacy was so tumultuous during its four years that there wasn't much of an opportunity for a strong and coherent national identity to develop. Maybe the leaders of the Confederacy and its states and its armies, and many of its citizens had a desire to develop and sustain a new nation, but there just weren't enough time and resources during the struggle to establish a lasting and stable nationalism. It's just a thought.

I don't know everything about the governorship of Zebulon B. Vance here in North Carolina, but I have read something of his history, and I came across his letter of 22 Sept. 1864 to his friend and former governor David L. Swain. Vance was lamenting the apparent unwillingness of citizens in Georgia to undertake guerilla action against Gen. Sherman's forces. In part, Vance wrote:

"It shows what I have always believed that the great popular heart is not now & never has been in this war! It was a revolution of the politicians not the people; was fought at first by the natural enthusiasm of our young men, and has been kept agoing by state & sectional pride assisted by that bitterness of feeling produced by the cruelties & brutalities of the enemy."

Roy B.
When you consider the “cruelties & brutalities” that were the same official policies of Vance’s home guard, his claim of victimhood is a bit much.
 

Rhea Cole

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The term "nation" is consistently misused in the US, more as a synonym for "state" as used in much of the rest of world...there are stateless nations, i.e. Tibetans, Kurds, Uighurs...and multinational states, so maybe the question is, was "state-ism" in the south the more powerful sentiment than nation/nationalism and should that be what's examined rather than nation/nationalism? That's certainly how I've always perceived the CSA's difficulties for coordinated cooperation during the war. Petulant children telling Richmond "you're not the boss of me" sort of relationship. Now, that's oversimplifying it, a lot, but it's fun to consider and discuss.
There is a profound difference between a tribe or ethnic group & a nation state. Tribes don’t deliver mail or pick up the garbage on Tuesday morning.
 
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This is Vance's letter to David L. Swain of 22 Sept. 1864. I have it in Joe A. Mobley's The Papers of Zebulon Baird Vance, Volume 3, 1864-1965; Raleigh: Office of Archives and History, 2013.

ARB
Thank you. I have an old version of some addresses, speeches, etc. from Vance that I have from archive.org, but not a newer version of his papers.
 

Lubliner

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I would think the real kernel of the confederate nation/state would be the American Revolution of the forefathers. Somehow this brings to mind the big contemporary 'push' for Woodstock II.
Lubliner.
 

leftyhunter

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I find that a lot of historiography seems to argue it was weak as Confederate lost the war. However surely it was resilient given that they kept fighting through 4 years of bloody conflict until they were literally unable to fight anymore?
Im really interested to hear other people's opinions on the topic.
As compared to what? Certainly not compared to Irish or Scottish nationalism that resulted in armed conflict off and on for hundreds of years not just dressing up as their ancestors. A significant amount of Southeners enlisted in the Union Army ( Lincoln's Loyalists Union soldiers from the South" Richard Current North East University Press) 104 k white Southeners and well over 150k Southeners of color not including Unionist guerrillas and Homeguards.
There never was a serious politcal movement in the South for Secession either in the antebellum or post antebellum era other then the ACW.
The Confedracy wasn't all resilient as it lost territory every year of the war plus it had a significant desertion problem.
Leftyhunter
 

leftyhunter

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I find that a lot of historiography seems to argue it was weak as Confederate lost the war. However surely it was resilient given that they kept fighting through 4 years of bloody conflict until they were literally unable to fight anymore?
Im really interested to hear other people's opinions on the topic.
As compared to what? Certainly not compared to Irish or Scottish nationalism that resulted in armed conflict off and on for hundreds of years not just dressing up as their ancestors. A significant amount of Southeners enlisted in the Union Army ( Lincoln's Loyalists Union soldiers from the South" Richard Current North East University Press) 104 k white Southeners and well over 150k Southeners of color not including Unionist guerrillas and Homeguards.
There never was a serious politcal movement in the South for Secession either in the antebellum or post antebellum era other then the ACW.
The Confedracy wasn't all resilient as it lost territory every year of the war plus it had a significant desertion problem.
Leftyhunter
I would submit that without conscription/impressment loyalty would have deepen. Also leaving the destruction of property to the union forces would also helped spread support for the confederacy.
Maybe not as desertion and defection of Confedrate soldiers to the Union was rather significant. The 2nd Florida Cavalry Union was composed almost entirely of Confedrate deserter's as well as the Third North Carolina Mounted Union.
Leftyhunter
 

leftyhunter

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I would think the real kernel of the confederate nation/state would be the American Revolution of the forefathers. Somehow this brings to mind the big contemporary 'push' for Woodstock II.
Lubliner.
Yes in the sense the ARW served as an inspiration but obviously the ARW was fought for different reasons as slavery was not a reason for the ARW as slavery was legal in the British Empire until 1837.
I'm not as sure about that. Americans in the first half of the 19th century were proud of their revolutionary struggle, the ideals set forth in the nation's formative documents, and the sense that they were creating a unique identity in the New World, separate and apart from "old" Europe. To be sure, this may not have been defined in the way that 20th century "nationalism" has since been understood, and the associations of most people in the decades after the founding of the United States were with their immediate home and community. But a sense of belonging to a larger entity was evident in the massive outpouring of support for the Union in the north, and the embrace of the symbols of Washington and the early founders in the south.
Indeed there was significant opposition in the South itself in favor of the Union especially by Southeners of color who composed forty percent of the South's population and among Southern whites especially those of low income although yes at least some Union officers including General Thomas were slave owners.
Leftyhunter
 
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leftyhunter

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The term "nation" is consistently misused in the US, more as a synonym for "state" as used in much of the rest of world...there are stateless nations, i.e. Tibetans, Kurds, Uighurs...and multinational states, so maybe the question is, was "state-ism" in the south the more powerful sentiment than nation/nationalism and should that be what's examined rather than nation/nationalism? That's certainly how I've always perceived the CSA's difficulties for coordinated cooperation during the war. Petulant children telling Richmond "you're not the boss of me" sort of relationship. Now, that's oversimplifying it, a lot, but it's fun to consider and discuss.
I would argue ethnic identity does not a nation make. A nation has to be recognized as a nation by at least another nation. Nations facing peril spend a lot of time and money seeking foreign recognition such has when the Continental Congress sent Benjamin Franklin to France where he sucessfully obtained diplomatic recognion from France then Spain and the Netherlands. Yes President Davis did send Mason and Slidell to Western Europe trying to replicate what Franklin did eighty odd years earlier but it was a bridge to far.
Yes there are unrecognized sections of the world that some nations informally recognize as soverighn nations but in the long run it doesn't work out I. e. Rhodesia.
To make matters more complex the Confedracy was granted Belligerent Status but ultimately it's a poor substitute for formal diplomatic relations.
Leftyhunter
 
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I would argue ethnic identity does not a nation make. A nation has to be recognized as a nation by at least another nation. Nations facing peril spend a lot of time and money seeking foreign recognition such has when the Continental Congress sent Benjamin Franklin to France where he sucessfully obtained diplomatic recognion from France then Spain and the Netherlands. Yes President Davis did send Mason and Slidell to Western Europe trying to replicate what Franklin did eighty odd years earlier but it was a bridge to far.
Yes there are unrecognized sections of the world that some nations informally recognize as soverighn nations but in the long run it doesn't work out I. e. Rhodesia.
To make matters more complex the Confedracy was granted Belligerent Status but ultimately it's a poor substitute for formal diplomatic relations.
Leftyhunter
In part, you're conflating nation/state/and ethnic...nations are not states nor are they ethnic groups per se, although most nation-states have both an ethnic and national core, but some don't. A state seeks "foreign" recognition, but a nation, particularly one that is a minority within a state governed by a different nationality, such as Sami in Sweden, Finland, Russia, and Norway, or Basques, or Roma...it depends on the definition of nation (I use Ernest Renan's definition). The US treated Native Americans, in many cases, as distinct nationalities, but not as sovereign nations by the 1820s (the Supreme Court's decision to define them as domestic, dependent nations). The Russian Empire had more than 180 different nationalities, same with the Hapsburg Empire being composed of distinct nationalities. So, for the US, it's quite common to conflate nation/state, but they're not the same thing. For the South, and why I think using "nationalism" as a point of reference does not work, but rather state-ism was probably the stronger sentiment and probably stronger in the South than North due to the different immigration and settlement patterns in the decades prior to the war and that resulted in a much more influential nativism there than in the South.
 

NetoWann

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I believe the Civil War solidified a Southern identity that was further emboldened by the defeat of Planter-Bourbon Democrats at the hands of Upland Democrats during the 1880s-1910s. If you look at West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, states by no means radically secessionist before the war, they elect ex Confederate Democrats, reinstate prewar constitutions, and generally begin to identify formally with the Southern Confederacy pretty shortly after the war.
 

nc native

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Among the upper class and the educated I believe that there was a sense of Nationalism because these citizens realized more so than the rest of the population what was at stake as far as a changed social order and economically if the South were to lose the Civil War.
The small farmers and poorer citizens did not share the same sense of Nationalism, they fought to preserve what little they had and to keep the ravages of war away from their homesteads. In some cases, Southerners fought against the Confederacy because they felt the sting of the Civil War more so from the local and state authorities where they lived than from the Union forces of invasion that eventually swept through the South.

It was after the Civil War during Reconstruction that the lower classes in the South began to show more of a sense of regional identity. With emancipation, they felt threatened by the freedmen taking away their means of livelihood and land so they were more easily stirred up to stand together as one against the changes that the Civil War had brought to the states and communities where they lived.
 
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