Monday, March 18, 2019

Booknotes: Private Confederacies

New Arrival:
Private Confederacies: The Emotional Worlds of Southern Men as Citizens and Soldiers
  by James J. Broomall (UNC Press, 2019).

James Broomall's Private Confederacies: The Emotional Worlds of Southern Men as Citizens and Soldiers asks and attempts to answer the question "How did the Civil War, emancipation, and Reconstruction shape the masculinity of white Confederate veterans?" According to the author, "the crisis of the war forced a reconfiguration of the emotional worlds of the men who took up arms for the South. Raised in an antebellum culture that demanded restraint and shaped white men to embrace self-reliant masculinity, Confederate soldiers lived and fought within military units where they experienced the traumatic strain of combat and its privations together--all the while being separated from suffering families. Military service provoked changes that escalated with the end of slavery and the Confederacy's military defeat. Returning to civilian life, Southern veterans questioned themselves as never before, sometimes suffering from terrible self-doubt.

That's interesting that Broomall would describe southern antebellum culture as one that "demanded restraint" among its males. Unless I am misunderstanding the context (which is entirely possible as the book is a brand new arrival and obviously unread by me at this point), this determination is contrary to the mountains of modern scholarship that tend to characterize white masculine culture during the period as excessively violent and lacking in restraint.

More from the description: "Drawing on personal letters and diaries, Broomall argues that the crisis of defeat ultimately necessitated new forms of expression between veterans and among men and women. On the one hand, war led men to express levels of emotionality and vulnerability previously assumed the domain of women. On the other hand, these men also embraced a virulent, martial masculinity that they wielded during Reconstruction and beyond to suppress freed peoples and restore white rule through paramilitary organizations and the Ku Klux Klan."

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