Johnny Reb's War: Battlefield and Homefront

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McWhiney Foundation Press, 2000 - Biography & Autobiography - 118 pages
In this compelling new volume, historian David Williams explores how the fledgling Confederate government's handling of the war and the very nature of Southern society negatively impacted the common soldier in the field and doomed the South to defeat.

Williams devotes the first section of Johnny Reb's War to the soldiers' experience in battle, offering as a poignant case study the Maryland Campaign of 1862, which culminated in the bloodiest day in American history--the Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam).

Through firsthand accounts, the author demonstrates that critical shortages of footwear and adequate sustenance brought misery to the ranks and seriously depleted General Robert E. Lee's army prior to the crucial battle.

But the battlefield provides only one aspect of war. In his examination of the Georgia homefront, Williams shows that the hardships endured by their families back home weighed heavily on soldiers in the field, contributing to rampant desertion. Food shortages, runaway inflation, and perceived governmental excesses, including the hated conscription act, highlighted societal rifts between wealthy planters, who continued to produce profitable cotton instead of desperately needed food, and the plain folk, who bore the brunt of the fighting and the suffering.

According to Williams, class conflict eroded already shaky support for the war among plain folk, while the government appeared unable or unwilling to address the situation. When confronted with the choice of protecting their homes and families or serving a government that so neglected them, a great many Johnny Rebs chose the former. Recommended for classroom use.

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About the author (2000)

DAVID WILLIAMS is professor and acting chair of the history department at Valdosta State University. He is author of Rich Man's War: Class, Caste, and Confederate Defeat in the Lower Chattahoochie Valley. A Georgia native, he holds a Ph.D. from Auburn University.