LOOK AWAY!: A History of the Confederate States of America

William C. Davis, Author . Free Press $35 (408p) ISBN 0-684-86585-8

Ironically, the institution for which it went to war became the Confederacy's single greatest source of internal dissension, Davis (Lincoln's Men) shows. While the Confederate constitution rendered slavery untouchable, the Confederate government increasingly requisitioned slave labor for military purposes. As white manpower at the front eroded, proposals to use slaves in direct support of the fighting men, even to draft them as soldiers, further subverted the premise of racial inferiority and eroded the primacy of the master-slave relationship which lay at the heart of Confederate self-definition, Davis demonstrates. The various Confederate legal systems also eroded under the stresses of war. In turn, resistance to taxation and conscription generated a scofflaw mentality. Enthusiasm for the war and "the Cause" faded as crops went unplanted and children grew hungry. Governments at all levels enhanced their controls over private enterprise, while "A rich man's war and a poor man's fight" became an increasingly familiar phrase as the Confederacy moved toward its endgame. Davis perceptively concludes that the South was too internally divided to sustain a broken-backed guerilla resistance. Enough, however, of the prewar oligarchies remained to take advantage of a lost-cause mystique to reconsolidate power sacrificed by defeat. Within months after the fighting ended, resistance began anew—in the parameters of reconstruction. Davis eschews both present-mindedness and lost-cause romanticism in this rigorous but accessible history, and does an excellent job depicting this early failed state from a variety of angles. (Apr. 7)

Forecast:The book's status as a History Book Club main selection and a BOMC and Military Book Club alternate will set up steady, long-term sales. And as the first full, single-volume history of the Confederacy in 20 years, fully footnoted and based on extensive archival research, it will be taken up on campus.

Reviewed on: 02/04/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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