Becoming Confederates
Paths to a New National Loyalty

Gary W. Gallagher

What loyalty tells us about the Civil War and the postwar political and social landscape


"While Gallagher’s examinations of this trio of men are interesting enough, it is the broader argument for which they serve as a base that is the true value of the book: namely, that the Civil War was not a conflict between regional entities (i.e., North vs. South), but rather between fleshed-out nations—'the United States versus the Confederacy'. . . . An excellent addition to Civil War scholarship."
Publishers Weekly

"In this slim volume, based upon his 2011 Lamar Lectures delivered at Mercer University, Gary W. Gallagher offers major new insights into how we should understand the Civil War soldier and his core motivations. . . . At one level, Gallagher offers valuable interpretive capsule biographies of the lives of three celebrated Confederate officers: Robert E. Lee, Stephen Dodson Ramseur, and Jubal A. Early. Even readers familiar with all three men will find new nuggets in each chapter. But in a broader sense, Becoming Confederates proposes a template for assessing the behavior of the Civil War participants, both military and civilian."
—Matt Gallman, Civil War Monitor

"These three powerful portraits, painted with bold strokes and evocative detail, bear the unmistakable marks of Gary Gallagher's mastery of the historical craft. The decisions made by these men help us understand the decisions all white southerners faced in the era of the Civil War."
—Edward L. Ayers, author of In the Presence of Mine Enemies: Civil War in the Heart of America, 1859-1863, winner of the Bancroft Prize

"Once again, Gary Gallagher, the master essayist on the Civil War, has given us wonderful food for thought on the nature of Confederate nationalism. Through three cross-generational test cases—R. E. Lee, Dodson Ramseur, and Jubal Early—Gallagher penetrates the thicket of state versus national loyalty in the Confederacy and emerges with some fascinating insights about the nationalizing power of slavery and the war and the persistence of Confederate national sentiment in the postwar years."
—Joseph T. Glatthaar, author of Soldiering in the Army of Northern Virginia: A Statistical Portrait of the Troops Who Served under Robert E. Lee

“[T]his is a useful book for those seeking to put aside simplistic analysis of Confederate loyalty and dig deeper into a complex and enduring riddle.”
—Richard B. McCaslin, Southwestern Historical Quarterly

"Gallagher has made another important contribution to the field by blending the crisp analysis and historiographical mastery that we've come to expect from him. Ably researched, forcefully argued, lacking any pretense or jargon, Becoming Confederates is an eminently teachable book that will soon find a place on many undergraduate syllabi – including my own."
—Brian Matthew Jordan, Florida Historical Quarterly

"In Becoming Confederates, Gallagher draws on his earlier work on [Robert E. Lee, Jubal A. Early, and Stephen Dodson Ramseur], as well as his decades of engagement with the primary and secondary sources of literature on nineteenth-century America, to produce a study that merits the attention of anyone interested in the question of whether the people of the wartime South developed a level of commitment to the Confederacy sufficient to make it possible to say that a true sense of national identity existed. . . . In this excellent book, Gallagher makes yet another valuable contribution to scholarship on [the Confederate] cause and the men who served it."
—Ethan S. Rafuse, Blue and Glory

“Gallagher has produced a series of intriguing lectures/essays that will push any reader to think about the creation and development of Confederate nationalism, as well as promote a general examination of the creation of nationalism amongst individuals or groups outside the confederacy.”
—Shawn Leigh Alexander, Louisiana History Book Reviews

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In Becoming Confederates, Gary W. Gallagher explores loyalty in the era of the Civil War, focusing on Robert E. Lee, Stephen Dodson Ramseur, and Jubal A. Early—three prominent officers in the Army of Northern Virginia who became ardent Confederate nationalists. Loyalty was tested and proved in many ways leading up to and during the war. Looking at levels of allegiance to their native state, to the slaveholding South, to the United States, and to the Confederacy, Gallagher shows how these men represent responses to the mid-nineteenth-century crisis.

Lee traditionally has been presented as a reluctant convert to the Confederacy whose most powerful identification was with his home state of Virginia—an interpretation at odds with his far more complex range of loyalties. Ramseur, the youngest of the three, eagerly embraced a Confederate identity, highlighting generational differences in the equation of loyalty. Early combined elements of Lee's and Ramseur's reactions—a Unionist who grudgingly accepted Virginia's departure from the United States but later came to personify defiant Confederate nationalism.

The paths of these men toward Confederate loyalty help delineate important contours of American history. Gallagher shows that Americans juggled multiple, often conflicting, loyalties and that white southern identity was preoccupied with racial control transcending politics and class. Indeed, understanding these men's perspectives makes it difficult to argue that the Confederacy should not be deemed a nation. Perhaps most important, their experiences help us understand why Confederates waged a prodigiously bloody war and the manner in which they dealt with defeat.

Mercer University Lamar Memorial Lectures

Page count: 152 pp.
12 b&w photos
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


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Gary W. Gallagher is the John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia. He is the author of many books on the Civil War, including most recently The Union War and Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War.