Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Yellowhammer War

The Yellowhammer War: The Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama
© 2013 ed. Kenneth Noe
University of Alabama press
320 pages

First home of the Confederacy's government, and site of some of its final battles, Alabama's involvement in the Civil War was intense from the beginning-- and given its diverse geology, loyalties were mixed from the Union-sympathizing hill folk to the secessionist plantation owners living in the coastal plains. The Yellowhammer War collects articles from southern historians that delve into how Alabamians experienced the war's strife and Reconstruction's havoc. Most are domestic, with only two pieces centered on combat. The detail throughout is considerable, and well-documented, making it an absolute  boon to students of Alabaman history.  It is valuable, too, in presenting so many thoughtful voices, working from the letters from a diverse set of southerners.

An opening section examines the motives of the most stereotypical secessionist – the elite lawyer-plantation master – but the articles which follow give repeated attention to the role of women in supporting the rebellion, and the waxing and waning of support for the Confederacy among the poor laborers. Reconstruction, often ignored, is given special attention here, and the author opines that compared to the experience of other defeated nations by the victors, the south’s treatment was comparatively mild – not a trace of ethnic cleansing followed, for instance. (Still-grumpy southerners will no doubt appreciate the basis for comparison: "Well, it wasn't as bad as an ethnic cleansing...")  Especially of interest are essays examining the roots of white Republicans in the postwar period, and a history of the Freedman’s Bureau, which attempted to convert ex-slaves into citizens of the republic with mixed results. What all of the essays convey is a sense that Alabamians played no simple role in the story of the Confederacy;   loyalties were mixed, and even some ardent secessionists did not believe themselves to be leaving the Union voluntarily  Students of southern history, and especially Alabamians, will find this a treasure. 

Alabama: the History of a Deep South State, Wayne Flynt

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