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The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South

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In this major new history of the Civil War, Bruce Levine tells the riveting story of how that conflict upended the economic, political, and social life of the old South, utterly destroying the Confederacy and the society it represented and defended. Told through the words of the people who lived it, The Fall of the House of Dixie illuminates the way a war undertaken to pre In this major new history of the Civil War, Bruce Levine tells the riveting story of how that conflict upended the economic, political, and social life of the old South, utterly destroying the Confederacy and the society it represented and defended. Told through the words of the people who lived it, The Fall of the House of Dixie illuminates the way a war undertaken to preserve the status quo became a second American Revolution whose impact on the country was as strong and lasting as that of our first.   In 1860 the American South was a vast, wealthy, imposing region where a small minority had amassed great political power and enormous fortunes through a system of forced labor. The South’s large population of slaveless whites almost universally supported the basic interests of plantation owners, despite the huge wealth gap that separated them. By the end of 1865 these structures of wealth and power had been shattered. Millions of black people had gained their freedom, many poorer whites had ceased following their wealthy neighbors, and plantation owners were brought to their knees, losing not only their slaves but their political power, their worldview, their very way of life. This sea change was felt nationwide, as the balance of power in Congress, the judiciary, and the presidency shifted dramatically and lastingly toward the North, and the country embarked on a course toward equal rights.   Levine captures the many-sided human drama of this story using a huge trove of diaries, letters, newspaper articles, government documents, and more. In The Fall of the House of Dixie, the true stakes of the Civil War become clearer than ever before, as slaves battle for their freedom in the face of brutal reprisals; Abraham Lincoln and his party turn what began as a limited war for the Union into a crusade against slavery by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation; poor southern whites grow increasingly disillusioned with fighting what they have come to see as the plantation owners’ war; and the slave owners grow ever more desperate as their beloved social order is destroyed, not just by the Union Army, but also from within. When the smoke clears, not only Dixie but all of American society is changed forever.   Brilliantly argued and engrossing, The Fall of the House of Dixie is a sweeping account of the destruction of the old South during the Civil War, offering a fresh perspective on the most colossal struggle in our history and the new world it brought into being. Praise for The Fall of the House of Dixie   “This is the Civil War as it is seldom seen. . . . A portrait of a country in transition . . . as vivid as any that has been written.”—The Boston Globe   “An absorbing social history . . . For readers whose Civil War bibliography runs to standard works by Bruce Catton and James McPherson, [Bruce] Levine’s book offers fresh insights.”—The Wall Street Journal   “More poignantly than any book before, The Fall of the House of Dixie shows how deeply intertwined the Confederacy was with slavery, and how the destruction of both made possible a ‘second American revolution’ as far-reaching as the first.”—David W. Blight, author of American Oracle   “Splendidly colorful . . . Levine recounts this tale of Southern institutional rot with the ease and authority born of decades of study.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)   “A deep, rich, and complex analysis of the period surrounding and including the American Civil War.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)


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In this major new history of the Civil War, Bruce Levine tells the riveting story of how that conflict upended the economic, political, and social life of the old South, utterly destroying the Confederacy and the society it represented and defended. Told through the words of the people who lived it, The Fall of the House of Dixie illuminates the way a war undertaken to pre In this major new history of the Civil War, Bruce Levine tells the riveting story of how that conflict upended the economic, political, and social life of the old South, utterly destroying the Confederacy and the society it represented and defended. Told through the words of the people who lived it, The Fall of the House of Dixie illuminates the way a war undertaken to preserve the status quo became a second American Revolution whose impact on the country was as strong and lasting as that of our first.   In 1860 the American South was a vast, wealthy, imposing region where a small minority had amassed great political power and enormous fortunes through a system of forced labor. The South’s large population of slaveless whites almost universally supported the basic interests of plantation owners, despite the huge wealth gap that separated them. By the end of 1865 these structures of wealth and power had been shattered. Millions of black people had gained their freedom, many poorer whites had ceased following their wealthy neighbors, and plantation owners were brought to their knees, losing not only their slaves but their political power, their worldview, their very way of life. This sea change was felt nationwide, as the balance of power in Congress, the judiciary, and the presidency shifted dramatically and lastingly toward the North, and the country embarked on a course toward equal rights.   Levine captures the many-sided human drama of this story using a huge trove of diaries, letters, newspaper articles, government documents, and more. In The Fall of the House of Dixie, the true stakes of the Civil War become clearer than ever before, as slaves battle for their freedom in the face of brutal reprisals; Abraham Lincoln and his party turn what began as a limited war for the Union into a crusade against slavery by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation; poor southern whites grow increasingly disillusioned with fighting what they have come to see as the plantation owners’ war; and the slave owners grow ever more desperate as their beloved social order is destroyed, not just by the Union Army, but also from within. When the smoke clears, not only Dixie but all of American society is changed forever.   Brilliantly argued and engrossing, The Fall of the House of Dixie is a sweeping account of the destruction of the old South during the Civil War, offering a fresh perspective on the most colossal struggle in our history and the new world it brought into being. Praise for The Fall of the House of Dixie   “This is the Civil War as it is seldom seen. . . . A portrait of a country in transition . . . as vivid as any that has been written.”—The Boston Globe   “An absorbing social history . . . For readers whose Civil War bibliography runs to standard works by Bruce Catton and James McPherson, [Bruce] Levine’s book offers fresh insights.”—The Wall Street Journal   “More poignantly than any book before, The Fall of the House of Dixie shows how deeply intertwined the Confederacy was with slavery, and how the destruction of both made possible a ‘second American revolution’ as far-reaching as the first.”—David W. Blight, author of American Oracle   “Splendidly colorful . . . Levine recounts this tale of Southern institutional rot with the ease and authority born of decades of study.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)   “A deep, rich, and complex analysis of the period surrounding and including the American Civil War.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

30 review for The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South

  1. 4 out of 5

    Maciek

    Can anything new be written about the American Civil War? You would be surprised. Historians like to say that more than 60,000 books have been written about the war - a number proposed by Jonathan Sarna, a specialist on the history of American Jews, who in 2001 estimated that around 50,000 books have already been written on the war, with 1,500 new volumes appearing each year. It is both the last war fought on American soil and the most deadly in the history of the nation - the number of military Can anything new be written about the American Civil War? You would be surprised. Historians like to say that more than 60,000 books have been written about the war - a number proposed by Jonathan Sarna, a specialist on the history of American Jews, who in 2001 estimated that around 50,000 books have already been written on the war, with 1,500 new volumes appearing each year. It is both the last war fought on American soil and the most deadly in the history of the nation - the number of military casualties is estimated at 750,000, while the number of casualties among cannot be determined. The war was also not a subject of analysis, but an inspiration - with memorable novels such as North and South and Gone with the Wind being turned into even more famous adaptations on big and small screens. In 1997 the National Book Award for Fiction was given to Charles Frazier for Cold Mountain, his debut novel about a Confederate refugee's journey to his beloved (and adapted into a successful film), and in 2004 the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was awarded to The Known World, a novel examining slavery and its effects on people and society in antebellum Virginia. I have recently read Confederates in the Attic, which shows that in memories of some people the war is alive and well, and will continue to linger for a long time. Alongside all the historians who are more or less in agreement about what caused the war there exist a fair number of dissenting voices. Confederate apologists work with great effort at producing volume after volume of revisionist history: that the war was not a civil war but a "War Between the States" or a "War for Southern Independence", or even a "War of Northern Aggression", toiling endlessly to stress that slavery was not a cause of the war, but that the war was fought for "states' rights" (and not rights related to slavery, and if so then there were very few of them and they really don't matter). The slaves themselves were treated better on the southern plantations, they'd say, than they would be in the industrialized, dog eat dog cities of the north - turning a blind eye to hundreds of slave rebellions, including the famous Nat Turner's Southampton Insurrection in southwestern Virginia. Turner and his fellow escaped slaves ravaged through the plantations, from house to house, freeing slaves and killing over sixty white people - the largest number of casualties of a slave uprising in the south - before being caught and executed by hanging. Turner and his companions were not the only ones punished: the hysterical chaos which ensued in its aftermath led to as much as two hundred innocent enslaved blacks being murdered by the local militias and mobs. The state of Virginia passed the law which forbade teaching both enslaved and free blacks (along with mulattoes) to read and write, and another one which made it illegal for all blacks to hold a religious meeting without the presence of a licensed white minister. Other southern states followed suit and introduced similar laws; by making blacks illiterate and preventing them from holding organized meetings without a white agent they hoped to prevent another rebellion from being organized. But it did not work - rebellions still occurred, and slaves still ran away from their masters. Bruce Levine's book is a compelling work which deals with these claims, and lays waste to them with historical fact. I do not have any dog in that hunt, and could not detect any bias on Levine's part - I found the book to be an absolutely engaging history of the war from behind the scenes, and had difficulty putting it down. Most histories and accounts of the war tend to focus on battles - there is the famous The Civil War: A Narrative by Shelby Foote, perhaps a definitive narrative history of actual armed conflicts from beginning to end, alongside tens of thousands of volumes devoted to specific campaigns, clashes and skirmishes. The Fall of the House of Dixie is unique in that it focuses on the political, economic and social conditions of the period. It is truly a fascinating insight into a place where a small group of planters managed to amass an incredible amount of wealth alongside with social and political power, all through an evil system of human ownership and forced labor. Recently industrialized Britain needed lots of cotton for the world's first cloth factories, and British textile manufactures were eager to buy all the cotton produced in the south. At the time of the Civil War, the southern plantations provided for 75% of the world's cotton supply; a result possible because of favorable climate and workers who labored heavily in the fields without pay, stripped of their humanity and all rights, their worth being measured by their rate of productivity. And the demands kept increasing: from 720,000 bales exported annually in 1830 to 2,95 million bales in 1850. In 1860 southern planters exported nearly 5 million bales of cotton every year, and cotton alone accounted for almost 60% of all American exports and was worth almost 200 million dollars. Obviously, the more cotton was demanded the more slaves were needed to grown, pick and process it. Wealthy families of the southern plantations owned slaves for three generations - and together the combined value of the slaves added up to a colossal sum of three billion dollars, constituting about 19 percent of national wealth. These people were born with expectations of being served by and enjoy the fruits of labor of people who were born to serve and work without pay, in permanent indenture. Such was the confidence of southern planter aristocracy that they though that no power on earth would dare to challenge what they thought was an empire. In 1858 - two years before his state declared secession - James Henry Hammond, a senator from South Carolina, made the famous "Cotton is King" speech in which he boasted about the superiority of the southern states and the power they held over what he thought was the whole world. "Without firing a gun, without drawing a sword, should they make war on us we could bring the whole world to our feet. The South is perfectly competent to go on, one, two, or three years without planting a seed of cotton. I believe that if she was to plant but half her cotton, for three years to come, it would be an immense advantage to her. I am not so sure but that after three years’ entire abstinence she would come out stronger than ever she was before, and better prepared to enter afresh upon her great career of enterprise. What would happen if no cotton was furnished for three years? I will not stop to depict what every one can imagine, but this is certain: England would topple headlong and carry the whole civilized world with her, save the South. No, you dare not make war on cotton. No power on earth dares to make war upon it. Cotton is king." Hammon also vehemently defended slavery, speaking that "greatest strength of the South arises from the harmony of her political and social institutions", and that "In all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life.(...)Fortunately for the South, she found a race adapted to that purpose to her hand. A race inferior to her own, but eminently qualified in temper, in vigor, in docility, in capacity to stand the climate, to answer all her purposes. We use them for our purpose, and call them slaves. We found them slaves by the common "consent of mankind," which, according to Cicero, "lex naturae est." The highest proof of what is Nature’s law. We are old-fashioned at the South yet; slave is a word discarded now by "ears polite;" I will not characterize that class at the North by that term; but you have it; it is there; it is everywhere; it is eternal." Hammond made it perfectly clear that slavery was based purely on race: "We do not think that whites should be slaves either by law or necessity(...)Our slaves are black, of another and inferior race. The status in which we have placed them is an elevation. They are elevated from the condition in which God first created them, by being made our slaves." He also promoted the view that slaves were inferior to whites, and perfectly happy in a position they were put in by them: "None of that race on the whole face of the globe can be compared with the slaves of the South. They are happy, content, unaspiring, and utterly incapable, from intellectual weakness, ever to give us any trouble by their aspirations." Hammond's speech reflected the propaganda spewed by the rich planter aristocracy, whose whole power and wealth depended on the institution of slavery. Having had so much invested in it, they did all they could to convince the vast majority of poorer whites who did not own slaves to believe that the institution of slavery was the natural order of the world, and later convinced them to fight for their cause. The planters convinced the non-slaveholding population that whites and blacks must be kept separate in a society, and that they were doing their slaves a favor by taking care of them and providing supervision over their affairs, as they were unable to think for themselves, and that the free black people in the north were far worse off - mistreated, abused, facing unemployment and starvation. Bruce Levine is a good writer and a historian who knows how to make use of the wealth of data available to him. The book's bibliography is well over 100 pages - of actual documents, journals and letters from the period, documenting the rise and fall of the Confederacy. Levine's book shows how deeply the Confederate States of America were intertwined with slavery - an inhuman system, which they wanted to extend into perpetuity (as stated in the Confederate constitution). This shows an amazing lack of moral understanding, as abolition was already well underway throughout the world. The planters refused to see their slaves as their fellow human beings, and always considered them inferior - to the point where they refused to arm the slaves and send them into battle with Union troops, as they thought of it as confiscation of their property. Although the Union armies also struggled with accepting black soldiers among their ranks, the sentiment quickly evaporated in most regiments when they proved to be fierce and dedicated in their fight for freedom. The belief that European powers would succumb to the Confederacy because of their demands for cotton was vastly overestimated - European nations had large supplies of cotton, and the value of their stockpiles increased. No country has officially recognized the Confederacy as an independent nation. Problems plagued the Confederate effort from within: many planters displayed incredibly untimely greed as they refused to provide food supplies to the Confederate army, as they would rather let it "rot in the fields than sell it to the army at the low prices they were offered". The reasons were not only financial: for proud planters having to submit to the pressure of the army was an insult to their dignity, equal with branding "slave" on their foreheads. The Confederate army was starved by those in whose interest it fought, and many soldiers died from lack of food and related illnesses. Although both armies were plagued by deserters, the U.S. War Department encouraged desertion among the Confederate soldiers. Wanting to shorten the war, Confederate deserters were offered a pardon and restoration of citizenship if they took an oath of loyalty to the Union, and were allowed to return home. Near the end of the war, the Union offered Confederate deserters a monetary reward and transport home. Desertion was mostly common among officers of low ranks and enlisted soldiers; many poor southern whites grew disillusioned about fighting for the cause of the slaveowners, who themselves were exempt from military service if they owned fifteen or more slaves. Slaves proved to be much quicker to adapt than their masters. The sheer idea of freedom brought them up from a long sleep, and made them realize that it is something which they also deserve. Levine provides plenty of quotations from journals of rich slaveholding families - such as the Edmonstons from Louisiana and the Stones from South Carolina - who were genuinely surprised to see their always meek slaves stop obeying orders and start behaving with hostility, and their most trustworthy servants escape behind Union lines at the first opportunity. Their feeling of betrayal would be almost comical if it was not genuine; people who lived for decades with slaves tending to their every need suddenly found themselves in a world of chaos, with the only society and way of life ending in front of their eyes. As the war progressed, it became obvious that the "peculiar institution" of slavery was no longer sustainable - slaves were "infected" with the idea of freedom through the grapevine, and would never again behave like they did before. The ideological and emotional hold southern planters had over their slaves was gone. Without it, the House of Dixie went down like a house of cards. Although the book provides succinct summaries of the more important military campaigns and battles - a book on a war would be incomplete without them - they remain in the background, giving the stage to what can only be considered a second American revolution: a complete shift of the nature of the south, and a gradual transformation of the social and political fabric of the whole country. These matters, to me, are even more interesting and provide for a fascinating and compulsively readable book. The notion that the secession was not connected or motivated by the defense of slavery is rightfully demolished, and Levine sweeps aside the concept that it was just one of several issues over which this war was fought. Slavery was the core of everything - the desire to separate from the rest of the country so that it could be maintained, maintaining the society based on it and enjoying the wealth made possible by a slave generated economy. Although the war ended with the victory of the Union and emancipation of the slaves, the book closes on an ominous note. While many former slave owners were resigned with the idea of rejoining the union and abolition of slavery, they nonetheless hoped to create social and political conditions which allow to hold their former slaves as economic prisoners. The dark era of Jim Crow loomed ahead: a period of racial segregation and struggle for equality which would last almost a hundred years, well into the second half of the 20th century - but that's another story. The Fall of the House of Dixie is an excellent addition to the Civil War canon - it's well-written, well-researched and incredibly engaging, and offering an unique perspective on that terrible conflict which forever changed the American society.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mrs.Chili

    I LOVED THIS BOOK. This is a big deal for me, because I'm not really a big non-fiction fan. I picked this book up because of a happy coincidence of my re-watching Ken Burns' The Civil War on Netflix, having just recently seen Lincoln, and happening upon an interview on Fresh Air with Bruce Levine. Mr. Levine is a compelling interview; he's clear and easy to follow and interesting, and I was inspired to pick up his book to see what else I could learn. I borrowed the book from the library, but I'm g I LOVED THIS BOOK. This is a big deal for me, because I'm not really a big non-fiction fan. I picked this book up because of a happy coincidence of my re-watching Ken Burns' The Civil War on Netflix, having just recently seen Lincoln, and happening upon an interview on Fresh Air with Bruce Levine. Mr. Levine is a compelling interview; he's clear and easy to follow and interesting, and I was inspired to pick up his book to see what else I could learn. I borrowed the book from the library, but I'm going to go out and buy it now. It's delightful to read, meticulously researched, and approachable. I got bogged down in a couple of the battle details, but Levine more than made up for that with me by tracing the attitudes, investigating the motivations, and explaining the behaviors of the secessionist slaveholders (and the non-slaveholding Whites) that really helped to clarify for me what the Civil War was REALLY about. The only thing I found disturbing about this book was the startling - sometimes eerie - similarities between the rhetoric coming from the 1800s Southern Whites and the modern right wing GOP. Replace "nigger" with pretty much anyone the GOP is frightened of (gays, women, immigrants, poor people), and you've got a nearly word-for-word transcription from last night's news. The politics of privilege are important to understanding this book, and reading it, I think, helps us to understand a little better what's happening in our own time.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Gordon

    In 1859, Robert E. Lee, who was to become the greatest general on the Confederate side of the Civil War, recaptured three of his slaves -- a man and two women -- who had escaped to Maryland from his Arlington plantation in Virginia. They were brought back, taken to a barn, stripped to the waist, and given 20 to 50 lashes each. Lee stood and watched, and occasionally urged on the man with the man, telling him to "lay it on well." Lee was considered a Southern gentleman of the highest order. This i In 1859, Robert E. Lee, who was to become the greatest general on the Confederate side of the Civil War, recaptured three of his slaves -- a man and two women -- who had escaped to Maryland from his Arlington plantation in Virginia. They were brought back, taken to a barn, stripped to the waist, and given 20 to 50 lashes each. Lee stood and watched, and occasionally urged on the man with the man, telling him to "lay it on well." Lee was considered a Southern gentleman of the highest order. This is a book about Southern slavery, about how it caused and prolonged the Civil War, and how the war put an end to it. For me, the most interesting question addressed by the book is: why did men fight? It is quite remarkable that 250,000 or more Southern whites went to their deaths to defend the slave-holding system -- even though three quarters of them owned no slaves whatsoever. Why were so many of them willing to die to protect the wealth of their more well-off fellow whites, in a society where the inequalities of wealth and income were even more extreme than today's? I think the author presents a convincing set of answers. The simplest answer is that even the poorest of Southern whites could take refuge in their sense of superiority over blacks. If slavery were to disappear, then poor whites feared they would be in much the same economic position as their dark-skinned fellow humans on the lowest rung of the ladder. Not many were willing to slip down the social ladder if they could prevent it. A second answer is that Southerners simply rallied to the defense of home and hearth, against the invading armies of the North. When threatened by outsiders, the tribe drew closer together, their differences put aside in defense against the common enemy. Yet another reason is that many Confederate soldiers went to war for all the usual reasons that young men go off to war: in search of adventure, glory, and the chance to impress the local belles. And finally, some went at the point of a gun, as the Southern authorities deployed home guards not only to keep the restive slaves in place, but to round up unwilling white conscripts. The author also does a good job of explaining why some parts of the South did in fact refuse to go to war, or even sent their sons north to fight on the Union side. These were typically the yeoman farmers of the hill country -- for example, in western North Carolina, western Virginia, and eastern Tennessee -- who lived a largely self-sufficient life far from the large plantations of the cotton and tobacco slave-masters, and who had very little in common with the elites that had the most to gain from preserving the South as a slave-holder's country. In the process of telling the story of the disintegration of the Old South and the institution of slavery, the author also tells the story of the Civil War itself, but primarily from the perspective of how the war affected the slaves and their slavemasters. So, this is far from simply a retelling of the familiar battle tales of Gettysburg, Antietam, Shiloh and all the rest, though you will find a good deal of that too. The unfolding tale of the disintegration of the slave-holding system in the years and decades after the war is discouraging, of course. The war may have ended in 1865, but it was not until a century later that the Federal government finally put an end to the legal system that had kept African-Americans in a state of second-class citizenship in the South. As the historian W.E.B Dubois said of the post-war Reconstruction era, "The slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery." On the whole, I thought the author told his story insightfully and compellingly. He provided the high level analysis but without skimping on the powerful story-telling that makes the whole canvas come alive. As far as narrative history is concerned, this book is a page-turner; as a piece of analytical history, it's original and enlightening.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Matt Brady

    The American Civil War was about slavery. It's dumb to say it isn't. In this book, Bruce Levine comprehensively and meticulously details exactly how dumb. Levine has a clear agenda here, an argument to make, and he makes it very well. He writes with passion, but he backs everything up with logic and facts. He isn't about painting the South as some monolithic evil, or the North as crusading heroes. His focus is both broader and more narrow than that. It's the South's elite, the planter class, the The American Civil War was about slavery. It's dumb to say it isn't. In this book, Bruce Levine comprehensively and meticulously details exactly how dumb. Levine has a clear agenda here, an argument to make, and he makes it very well. He writes with passion, but he backs everything up with logic and facts. He isn't about painting the South as some monolithic evil, or the North as crusading heroes. His focus is both broader and more narrow than that. It's the South's elite, the planter class, the privileged few who lived lives of obscene power and privilege thanks to the hundreds of slaves they abused, who cop the brunt of Levine's criticism. And this borderline socialist over here is never going to complain about seeing a bunch of rich arseholes get their comeuppance. Especially rich arseholes as thoroughly detestable as the Old South's "aristocracy". The civil war was about slavery, yes, but class played a big role as well, and Levine doesn't ignore that. This isn't so much about the battles and the tactics as it is about how and why the war was fought, and how it affected people on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. It's a thorough exploration of the South's "peculiar institution" (holy hell, what a understated euphemism that is, it makes slavery sound like some corporation's quirky "casual friday" policy rather than the brutal oppression of an entire race) and how it came to be torn apart in what Levine often calls "the second American Revolution". Did the Union go to war to free the slaves? No. At least not initially. Abraham Lincoln's newborn Republican Party's goals were much more modest than that - to contain slavery in the states in which it already existed, and prevent it from spreading to new states that would later be added to the Union. But this fact, so often touted by the "states rights" crowd, missed the fairly obvious point - the North did not start the war. The South did. The slave states did. And did the South secede and attack the North for the sole purpose of protecting and maintaining the institution of slavery? Yes. Absolutely. This was, quite literally, the sole motivation for the Confederacy's creation. The civil was was about slavery. It was about the "right" of the mega-rich to maintain and expand their wealth by owning a race of people, and the triumphant destruction of that despicable society.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    The book's subtitle references the "Social revolution that transformed the South".. and the introduction states that this book is not a battle by battle war book. What I read however, far far more focused on battles and their consequences than it was on any "social revolution" (at least until the very final chapter). I understand that as went the war, so went the South, and any discussion of the fall of the South cannot be accomplished without referencing battles and gains/losses. I guess I was The book's subtitle references the "Social revolution that transformed the South".. and the introduction states that this book is not a battle by battle war book. What I read however, far far more focused on battles and their consequences than it was on any "social revolution" (at least until the very final chapter). I understand that as went the war, so went the South, and any discussion of the fall of the South cannot be accomplished without referencing battles and gains/losses. I guess I was expecting something that focused more on the societal impact - the privations, the effects of the blockade etc and how that may have (or may have not) changed minds about "the peculiar institution". Its not until the very end that the book truly discusses the societal impact - the fleeing Southern Masters hoping to reinvent slavery elsewhere, the regressive Jim Crow and white supremacy movement... I was thinking (partly based on the author's NPR interview) that the majority of the book would be on this line of thought rather than the progression of the war and how the South eventually collapsed. While filled with commentary from Southerners, nearly all are from loyal Southern masters/mistresses who show no sign of any societal revolution. Perhaps the revolution the author refers to is that of the North, which began the war with no intention of ending slavery but eventually came to determine that ending slavery was the only way out. This fact is not revolutionary to me, having read other books and seen documentaries on this period. I had assumed the social revolution was in the South. Perhaps I assumed wrong, and was therefore somewhat disappointed by this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    As someone who finds the Mexican Revolution more interesting than the American Revolution and the Spanish Civil War more interesting than the U.S. Civil War, I often need to "force" myself to get through books about 18th or 19th century America. Except for a few sub-fields (foreign policy, U.S.-Indian relations, and westward expansion) early American history rarely commands my attention. I suspect it might have something to do with that fateful day in the early 1980s, when my community college h As someone who finds the Mexican Revolution more interesting than the American Revolution and the Spanish Civil War more interesting than the U.S. Civil War, I often need to "force" myself to get through books about 18th or 19th century America. Except for a few sub-fields (foreign policy, U.S.-Indian relations, and westward expansion) early American history rarely commands my attention. I suspect it might have something to do with that fateful day in the early 1980s, when my community college history instructor delivered a 50-minute lecture on the administration of President Millard Fillmore. I understand that new perspectives on gender, race, and class have recharged scholarship on 19th century U.S. history, but that dreary discourse on Fillmore still casts a long shadow. Jacksonian Democracy? The Second Party System? Martin Van Buren? It all seems played-out, to me. *The Fall of the House of Dixie*, however, is an exception to this rule: The first paragraph got me hooked, and I willingly hung on tight until the closing sentence. Levine traces the origins of Southern slavery, reviews the issues that led to secession from the United States and formation of the Confederacy, and provides a gripping account of the Civil War's political, social, and military dimensions. While there is nothing "literary" about this book -- Levine's writing style is standard academic prose, with few adornments -- it packs a powerful narrative drive and a deep sense of moral purpose. The many passages about newly-liberated slaves evacuating their slavemasters' plantations and taking their first steps toward freedom are heartwrenching; for me, they brought to mind B&W photos of Jewish prisoners liberated from Nazi concentration camps during World War II. They also confirmed a belief that I've held since my teenage years: That the antebellum South actually WAS the network of small forced labor camps that it appeared to be, despite all of the mythmaking about brave Confederates fighting for honor and country. The American South, briefly configured as the independent Confederate States of America, was simply a brutal authoritarian regime that struggled to preserve its exploitative economic system until the very last gasp. Corrupt, decadent...The House of Dixie didn't fall soon enough. Great book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Donald Powell

    Great history books weave the writings of the past into a narrative to help the reader understand and feel the events, emotions and motivations of those times. Bruce Levine has written a great history book! The haunting parallels of his quotes and citations to today's events are shivering. Citizen's United and Dred Scot? The speech given by Rand Paul days ago at CPAC about men resisting invasion of their rights to their "property" and the words of the slave masters are hair raisingly similar. Th Great history books weave the writings of the past into a narrative to help the reader understand and feel the events, emotions and motivations of those times. Bruce Levine has written a great history book! The haunting parallels of his quotes and citations to today's events are shivering. Citizen's United and Dred Scot? The speech given by Rand Paul days ago at CPAC about men resisting invasion of their rights to their "property" and the words of the slave masters are hair raisingly similar. The moves to Gerrymander Congressional districts and restrict voting rights, the dogma of the Tea Party and right wing Republicans, the rationalization that poverty is only because people will not work hard enough or refuse to work hard enough are all eerily reminiscent of the Civil War era rhetoric about slavery and rights of the wealthy and powerful. Even the trickle down economic theories we hear on Fox News and the "job creator" nonsense are all old ideas used by those who use to own people, controlling them with "stripes" (lashing with rough leather whips). The vilification of Lincoln is often only a few words different than those used now for President Obama. The slave masters controlled the majority of Southerners by ignorance, rhetoric and pleas for their unique "Christian" doctrine. When one looks at the makeup of the current majority of the US House of Representatives it is too weird to be coincidence. There are numerous quotes from slave masters which document their designs to stay in power and preserve a form of slavery through laws to control former slaves economically. Oh my, what we will do to each other for money and power over our fellow citizens on our short time on this rock. Will we ever take a lesson from history to move forward? I thank Providence for historians like Mr. Levine.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Some civil war histories look at the military battles and others look at the political battles. "The Fall of the House of Dixie" is a civil war history that looks at the social fabric of the south. This is an interesting idea, but I was disappointed that by page 200 author Bruce Levine had not developed much new material. However, it was around that point when it really took off and made the book a worthwhile read. It's not news that there was some degree of class struggle between poor southern w Some civil war histories look at the military battles and others look at the political battles. "The Fall of the House of Dixie" is a civil war history that looks at the social fabric of the south. This is an interesting idea, but I was disappointed that by page 200 author Bruce Levine had not developed much new material. However, it was around that point when it really took off and made the book a worthwhile read. It's not news that there was some degree of class struggle between poor southern whites and rich planters. The civil war was, it was said, "A rich man's war and a poor man's fight". Even in the north the policy allowing people to buy substitutes allowed the wealthy to avoid battle. Levine, however, goes beyond this to show that much of the southern planter class was clearly obstructionist and damaged the southern war effort. In a war to protect slavery, for example, many wealthy southern slaveholders refused to supply requisitioned slaves to help in support roles and claimed exemptions to keep their white overseers on the job. I think that today it would be hard to imagine that someone would prefer slavery over freedom, but Levine provides plenty of evidence showing that many slaveholders honestly believed that their slaves were 100% loyal and preferred to live a life in bondage. He supplies quote after quote, taken from contemporaneous southern diaries, including that of the famous Mary Chestnut, in which slaveholders talked about how much they believed their slaves loved them. Levine follows this with even more evidentiary quotes by southern masters expressing shock and outrage when their slaves bolted for freedom at the first opportunity. The lesson here is, I guess, to be careful about believing your own propaganda. Even though the Union Army praised the invaluable military intelligence and other assistance that self-freed slaves brought with them, I knew there were many instances where freed slaves were mistreated by Union soldiers. I was surprised, however, by the callous manner they were treated by General Sherman. Levine describes a shocking incident from December 1864, after the fall of Atlanta. Many newly freed slaves were following Sherman's army when they came to a creek near Savannah. The soldiers crossed using portable pontoon bridges. Once the soldiers had crossed, Sherman ordered the bridges be pulled up. This left refugee families trapped between icy, raging waters in front of them and vengeful Confederate soldiers closing in behind them. Hundreds were killed by rebel soldiers or by drowning as they tried to cross on their own. As Levine writes, "To put it mildly, Sherman's army sent out mixed signals to their black would-be friends and companions. But still they came." The book explores the idea that, by the end of the war, many slave owners were reconciled to rejoining the union, and even to the abolition of legal slavery, but held great hope that the north would allow them to create social conditions that would keep their former slaves in a form of serfdom, of economic bondage -- the effect of slavery without actual slaves. The south was successful. For a detailed examination of how the south accomplished this goal see Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. Levine's book is an examination of the unraveling of the southern social fabric, which he compares to Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher". The book is interesting and informative, but I'm only giving it 4 stars because the first two-thirds of the book broke little new ground.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Harold

    I loved this book. I am a civil war buff aka nerd. This is the best and especially most readable study of morale of both military and citizens alike from both the North and the South. My previous favorite in this category was James McPherson's "For Cause and Comrades". I found Levine to be a better storyteller and outstanding on documenting how morale shifted and politics and strategy shifted with it. The story had an arc of the certainty of the respective causes. The need for the North to make I loved this book. I am a civil war buff aka nerd. This is the best and especially most readable study of morale of both military and citizens alike from both the North and the South. My previous favorite in this category was James McPherson's "For Cause and Comrades". I found Levine to be a better storyteller and outstanding on documenting how morale shifted and politics and strategy shifted with it. The story had an arc of the certainty of the respective causes. The need for the North to make the cause bigger was analyzed. The effects of emancipation were very well documented. It was fascinating how greedy and selfish the plantation owners were with their slaves jeopardizing their precious way of life at the altar of their own greed and selfishness. There are ramifications for current day political coalitions that are too selfish and rigid to work at keeping their coalition together. But I digress. The story of CSA corps commander Gen. Pat Cleburne who advocated giving slaves freedom and taking them into the confederate army was fascinating. He garnered some support from the officer class but none from Jefferson Davis and the political class. It was probably the last chance the south had to prolong the war and win a political or diplomatic coup. Alas Cleburne was killed at Franklin. The book ends with Frederick Douglas, and WEB Dubois and reconstruction. Although it was a move back toward slavery it could never return to slavery. If you care about a People's history of the civil war, this is an excellent read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ray De

    I think this is a fabulous book; impeccably researched and superbly written. The most valuable service this book performs is to put to rest the nonsense that is still, to this day, propagated that the war was one of northern aggression or fought to preserve state's rights. Mr. Levine succinctly states the real reason; the war was fought on behalf of the economic elite of the south, who played on race hatred and fear amongst poor and middle class whites to persuade them to go along with the war t I think this is a fabulous book; impeccably researched and superbly written. The most valuable service this book performs is to put to rest the nonsense that is still, to this day, propagated that the war was one of northern aggression or fought to preserve state's rights. Mr. Levine succinctly states the real reason; the war was fought on behalf of the economic elite of the south, who played on race hatred and fear amongst poor and middle class whites to persuade them to go along with the war they wanted to continue a system of racial brutalization and slavery that was the source of their great wealth. I've always known this, being a historian, but the war, on the part of the southern states, has been romanticized and made something it was not. Bobby Lee? A slave master who encouraged the beating of his slaves and, post war, engaged in revisionist history about his actions and beliefs. Sherman? An avowed racist who had to be, bluntly speaking, kicked into line in order to follow Lincoln's and Grant's dictates for war strategy. I wish this could be required reading for everyone who has soft feelings for the south and its armies. It would change a lot of minds and hearts. HIGHLY recommended.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Wanda

    Well researched history on the context of the U.S. Civil War. What was particularly valuable about this book is that, unlike many Civil War histories, this is not a tedious re-hash of battle upon battle and military strategy. Levine puts the war in the socio political cultural environment of the time. There are fascinating portrayals of powerful southern plantation owners and their slaves and how day to day life transpired for them, before, during and after the war. Like other wars, it was one t Well researched history on the context of the U.S. Civil War. What was particularly valuable about this book is that, unlike many Civil War histories, this is not a tedious re-hash of battle upon battle and military strategy. Levine puts the war in the socio political cultural environment of the time. There are fascinating portrayals of powerful southern plantation owners and their slaves and how day to day life transpired for them, before, during and after the war. Like other wars, it was one that the wealthy did not fight, Margaret Mitchell notwithstanding. The war was fought by the working farmers and the poor who were manipulated by a combination of econmomic forces that they understood poorly and flat out racism. I did not previouslly know that the civil war was as controversial in the south as it was -- perhaps my mind has been poisoned by a combination of yahoo cracker propoganda and cursory history education. I gave it three stars, although I think that it is definitely a worthwhile read, because it is pretty dry reading. There are some folks who can make history hum for me (Timothy Snyder is one), and some who cannot and Levine put me to sleep at times.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    "The Fall of the House of Dixie" is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the Confederacy during the American Civil War. The author, Bruce Levine, details the social, cultural, and political environment, which, he says, led to the fall of Dixie. Using extensive quotes from Confederate leaders, ordinary soldiers, plantation slave owners, and slaves, Mr. Levine documents the central role which slavery played in the Civil War. Of particular interest to me was the many quotes from several whi "The Fall of the House of Dixie" is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the Confederacy during the American Civil War. The author, Bruce Levine, details the social, cultural, and political environment, which, he says, led to the fall of Dixie. Using extensive quotes from Confederate leaders, ordinary soldiers, plantation slave owners, and slaves, Mr. Levine documents the central role which slavery played in the Civil War. Of particular interest to me was the many quotes from several white women of the plantation aristocracy, which pointed to the contradictions in the Confederate narrative and policies. The women and their men counterparts would write that slaves were happy with their lives and were loyal to their masters. On the other hand, these same slave owners used chains, terror, and patrols to keep their "property" in line. This book gives a realistic and historically accurate account of the South's efforts to break from the Union. In addition, the book is well written, making it a great read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    A beautifully-written narrative history of the Confederacy and why it fell apart and was defeated in the Civil War by the more powerful and numerous North. I don't disagree with any of Professor Levine's conclusions but I felt that, while I was reading, that I had seen it all before. In fact, one can get a much more detailed portrait of why the inherent weaknesses of a society based on the use of slave labor to produce commodities and run on the principles of small government and States' Rights, A beautifully-written narrative history of the Confederacy and why it fell apart and was defeated in the Civil War by the more powerful and numerous North. I don't disagree with any of Professor Levine's conclusions but I felt that, while I was reading, that I had seen it all before. In fact, one can get a much more detailed portrait of why the inherent weaknesses of a society based on the use of slave labor to produce commodities and run on the principles of small government and States' Rights, in the classic works by Allan Nevins and Gary Gallagher. The southern Confederacy was not really capable of waging a modern, industrial war, the Civil War is among the first of those conflicts. The slaves themselves, who made up around a third of the population, were rightly seen as military assets and therefore their emancipation became a military neccessity as the conflict dragged on. Worth reading if you've read nothing else about the South during the war, but if you have there isn't much that is startlingly new here.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    This book was one of two books given to me as an early birthday present by my mum [1], and the book’s title is a reference to the Edgar Allen Poe tale “The Fall Of The House Of Usher,” which the author perceptively refers to with regards to the fissures and cracks that developed in the edifice of Southern antebellum society during the course of the Civil War that led to the destruction of the privileged life of the planter elite and the liberation of their human chattel from slavery despite the This book was one of two books given to me as an early birthday present by my mum [1], and the book’s title is a reference to the Edgar Allen Poe tale “The Fall Of The House Of Usher,” which the author perceptively refers to with regards to the fissures and cracks that developed in the edifice of Southern antebellum society during the course of the Civil War that led to the destruction of the privileged life of the planter elite and the liberation of their human chattel from slavery despite the strong racism within American society as a whole before, during, and after the Civil War itself. As an excellent example of social history [2], the work focuses on the actions of ordinary people like slaveowners and slaves and Yankee soldiers as well as political elites like Presidents and generals, giving a moderately revisionist view that gives full credit to Abraham Lincoln for his actions, however belated, to rid the nation of slavery and subject the institution even in loyal slave states to the abrasion of war, and that credits those who were able to follow the logic of events that an essential way of subduing the rebellion of the Deep South was by striking at the cruel and inhumane core of its wicked slave-based society. The book, as a result, is a gripping read of about 300 pages of material with lengthy bibliographic sources that demonstrate the author’s erudition and mastery of the relevant primary documents to undertake his task. The contents of this book are arranged in a mostly chronological fashion with some additional thematic layers of organization as well. After an introduction that compares the House of Dixie to the House of Usher based on some writing by a plantation mistress who commented on having read some Edgar Allen Poe, but not his more frightening stories, the book introduces the House of Dixie, discusses the revolt of slaveholders in late 1860 and early 1861 and its origins as an attempt to secure slaveholding in an age of increasing insecurity. From here the author turns to examining the early portents of conflict, the changing Union policy in response to the logic of events by which harming slavery helped the Union efforts, the dark clouds that the Confederacy faced in 1863, the concerns about the future of blacks after slavery, and then several chapters that contain structural elements of the discussion of the late Civil War in dealing with cracks in the wall widening, a ray of light shining briefly through the rafters, and the feeling of shuddering timbers before the walls give way at the fall of the Confederacy and the oblivion of Southern slaveowning society. The conclusion seeks to rejoice while also pointing to the imperfections of the postwar racial order. There are a few aspects that make this book particularly valuable. One is that it is obvious that the author sought to understand slavery through a deep reading of source material including the letters of soldiers, black and white, as well as the writings of slaves and slaveowners during the period before, during, and even after the Civil War. The book as a whole deals with themes of immense importance, including the way that religious doctrine can often be self-serving in social injustice and great evil. The capacity of people to justify their own sins and the desire of people to have those sins protected by the power of the law, with their enemies silenced to appease their own insecurities is not a matter of interest merely for those of us who study the 19th century, but it is an aspect of contemporary political history as well. By giving voice to a variety of people and pointing to the complexity of the situation of the South during the Civil War, and the incompleteness of Northern victory but the transformative importance of the end of slavery, this book prompts us to reflect upon the way that revolution is appealing to some and utterly frightening to others, and that justice is elusive to gain and maintain, all matters it is worthwhile to reflect upon. The author manages the difficult task of intensely criticizing the biases of slaveowners without making them appear ridiculous or inhuman, and by giving dignity to the sometimes idiomatic thoughts and reflections of often unlearned former slaves showing their grasp of the situation they faced, and the difficulty of dealing with the tangle of longings and goals of different parties in the aftermath of destructive civil conflict. For those who appreciate social history and have an interest in the Civil War, this is a good book to add to one’s collection. [1] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... [2] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    An excellent account of the causes of the Civil War and the inevitable loss by the Confederate Southern States. Levine also provides an up close and personal look at the plantation masters and their slaves. The Republicans and the slave holders knew that the South's slave-labor society could only survive by continuing to expand. So, when the South had failed in its efforts to shore up their representation in Congress and the Electoral College by increasing the number of slave states being brought An excellent account of the causes of the Civil War and the inevitable loss by the Confederate Southern States. Levine also provides an up close and personal look at the plantation masters and their slaves. The Republicans and the slave holders knew that the South's slave-labor society could only survive by continuing to expand. So, when the South had failed in its efforts to shore up their representation in Congress and the Electoral College by increasing the number of slave states being brought into the Union and thus strengthening their control over the Federal Goverment, it was the beginning of the end of slavery. The election of Abraham Lincoln was the icing on the cake as he had promised not to support any further expansion of slavery but instead, "put it in the course of ultimate extinction". Secession became the War's trigger along with the South's attack on Fort Sumter. Unfortunately, Reconstruction subequently collapsed and the southern elite once again set about imposing white supremacy and civic and political rights. Thus, "the slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery". A half century would pass before things would change for the better. In four years, the Civil War killed more than three-quarters of a million soldiers and wounded hundreds of thousands more. "The econmic cost was also huge. The war destroyed a third of the South's livestock and halved the value of all its real property.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    Levine's account of how the Civil War changed the economic, political, and (most importantly) social climate of the South offers a broad, narrative view that readers will find beneficial in understanding the mindset driving the (often horrible) decisions made during the leadup to the war, the war itself, and its aftermath. I found the heavy use of quotes from personal letters and journals to be an especially masterful touch, giving life and voice to a topic that's all too often boiled down to a Levine's account of how the Civil War changed the economic, political, and (most importantly) social climate of the South offers a broad, narrative view that readers will find beneficial in understanding the mindset driving the (often horrible) decisions made during the leadup to the war, the war itself, and its aftermath. I found the heavy use of quotes from personal letters and journals to be an especially masterful touch, giving life and voice to a topic that's all too often boiled down to a series of dry facts, dates, numbers, and events.

  17. 4 out of 5

    David

    "Why, India Wilkes, what a lovely dress! I just can't take my eyes off it! " Haughty, duplicitous, unbelievably cruel ... and just so remarkably insincere ... the American South has intrigued me since To Kill a Mockingbird and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry as a young teenager. And then there was Gone with the Wind... This was my first non-fiction of the American civil war and it was fascinating. I should read more. I think this quote from the Confederacy's Assistant Secretary of War in 1863 rathe "Why, India Wilkes, what a lovely dress! I just can't take my eyes off it! " Haughty, duplicitous, unbelievably cruel ... and just so remarkably insincere ... the American South has intrigued me since To Kill a Mockingbird and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry as a young teenager. And then there was Gone with the Wind... This was my first non-fiction of the American civil war and it was fascinating. I should read more. I think this quote from the Confederacy's Assistant Secretary of War in 1863 rather sums up the contradiction the slavers were wrestling with: "'The sacrosanctity of slave property in this war has operated most injuriously to the Confederacy." "Let's put the future behind us!" Seceding from a union ... squaring circles ... At times I couldn't help thinking of the Fall of the House of Brexit. ... ... Something pursued on the promise that it'll be quick and easy, only for it to be difficult and take forever. Something pursued on the promise that it will empower, only for it to bring the very dissolution it warned against. The end of the civil war saw the Richmond government offering slaves their freedom ... if they fought for slavery. Sorry ... what? Confusions and impossible contradictions are falling out of Brexit, too. Bits (many of which are really horrible): "Hammond purchased eighteen-year-old Sally Johnson and her year-old daughter Louisa. Hammond first took Sally to his bed and then, years later, took Louisa as well. Hammond's son Harry followed suit. In time, both Louisa and Sally bore Hammond (or his son's) children, and those children, too, as a matter of course, became Hammond family property. The elder Hammond counseled the younger not to sell either of those youngsters ... 'slavery in the family will be their happiest earthly condition.'" "Judge Samuel S. Boyd ... kept a slave mistress named Virginia with whom he fathered three children, all of whom became his property. To avoid a possible scandal, Boyd eventually arranged to have Virginia and the children sent off to Texas for sale. Perhaps naively, Virginia expressed shock that 'the father of my children' had so easily decided 'to sell his own offspring yes his own flesh and blood.'" Many in the South "vociferously demanded and lustily cheered first the annexation of Texas and then a war against Mexico that in 1848 transferred to the United States the huge provinces of California and New Mexico - in anticipation of opening much, if not all, of that newly acquired terrain to slavery. ... many masters and would-be masters hoped to annex Cuba and perhaps other parts of central America and the Caribbean and turn them first into slave territories and then into slave states." "South Carolina congressman Preston S. Brooks strode into the Senate chamber and with his walking stick beat Massachusetts Republican senator Charles Sumner into unconsciousness as he sat at his desk, Sumner's offense? He had denounced slavery and proslavery actions in harsh words that Brooks found personally insulting." "'Slavery must die and if the South insists on being buried in the same grave I shall see in it nothing but the retributive hand of God.'" "the Confederate flag included two stars for Missouri and Kentucky" "John P. McGowan ... denounced the Confederacy as 'a damned stinking cotton oligarchy.'" "When Gilmer was shot in the leg in the fall of 1862, Ike (his slave) picked him up, put him on a horse, and carried him to safety. But Ike then rode on to find and remain with the nearest Union infantry company. James S. Clarke ... complained about a servant he had known since childhood. The man had accompanied him into the Confederate army but had then 'seized the first opportunity which presented of deserting' him and 'joining the Yankees' ... The number of servants who did the same eventually discouraged masters from bringing body servants with them into the army." "In eastern Virginia, an elderly woman preparing Sunday dinner for her masters in July 1861 could hear the artillery fire on the Manassas battlefield. To each cannon roar she responded quietly, under her breath, 'ride on Massa Jesus.'" "'This war ... has taught us the perfect impossibility of placing the least confidence in any Negro ... sooner or later every negro will leave, or those who remain [will] become so insolent as to force us to shoot them.'" "'There is not one negro in all the South who will remain faithfull from attachment to their master & mistress - not one'" "'I have seen the favourite and most petted negroes the first to leave in every instance,'" "A Georgia editor reported in August 1863 that 'thousands of men in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi look upon slavery as doomed' whether the Confederacy survived or not. The Confederate vice-president's brother ... agreed with them. 'I believe that the institution of slavery is already so undermined and demoralized' ... that it would never again 'be of much use to us, even if we had independence to day.'" A Confederate commander ordered a dead white Union colonel "to be buried in a mass grave with dead black troops. (He) considered this a fitting way to shame the dead officer. But (his) father, a longtime abolitionist, saw things differently. 'We can imagine no holier place than that in which he is, among his brave and devoted followers, nor wish for him better company ... What a bodyguard he has!'" More than 100,000 white men from the South served in the Union army, "most of them serving under officers from their states and in federal units that bore their states' names." When the Richmond Government ordered slavers to burn cotton to avoid the Union having it: "Even the Confederate president's brother, Joseph Davis, reportedly hid two hundred cotton bales in a nearby swamp ... until his neighbors informed on him and exposed the evasion." When the Richmond Government called on slavers to provide slaves: "while 'those people have given their sons freely enough,' it was 'folly to talk to them about [giving] a negro or a mule.' The 'do not seem to be aware ... how valueless would be their negroes were we beaten.'" Slavers "'have grown suddenly lukewarm, when sacrifices were to be made for the country and the cause.'" "Thus did the ideology of white supremacy, which had always provided crucial support for slavery, inhibit the slaveholders' government from doing what it needed to do in order to survive. A war launched to preserve slavery succeeded instead in abolishing that institution more rapidly and more radically than would have occurred otherwise." When the Richmond Government called on slavers to move their slaves away from the frontline: "state legislators loudly objected to that suggestion. It would tread upon masters' rights to keep their human property wherever they saw fit" When the Richmond Government introduced conscription: The Georgian Governor: "'no act of the Government of the United States prior to the secession of Georgia struck a blow at constitutional liberty'" He resisted "Richmond's attempts to centralize control over the Confederate armed forces. ... When (he) finally relented, he did so on condition that those troops be used for the defense of Georgia alone. Meanwhile, he announced that weapons supplied to Georgia troops could be carried out of that state only with the express permission of the governor. ... The Confederate secretary of war complained ... 'it would be better to abandon at once all attempts to conduct the defense of the country on an organized system.'" "'I think I am worth more to my family and their interest at home than I would be in the Army.'" Whites who weren't slaveholders: "'The poor ones are very bitter against the others; charge them with bringing on the war, and are always willing to show where the rich ones have hid their grain, fodder, horses, etc. Many of them tell me it is a great satisfaction to them to see us help ourselves from the rich stores of their neighbors.'"

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jasonlylescampbell

    This book was incredible. It covers a history you feel like you know something about, but in a new way where you answering and addressing so many questions that have felt bare. Without ever addressing or using the phrase "Lost Cause", simply by showing what various southern voices said about slavery as well as the mechanics and the structure of the "peculiar institution" it reveals the strange split world of the United States before the Civil War--what Levine thinks was our second revolution. Th This book was incredible. It covers a history you feel like you know something about, but in a new way where you answering and addressing so many questions that have felt bare. Without ever addressing or using the phrase "Lost Cause", simply by showing what various southern voices said about slavery as well as the mechanics and the structure of the "peculiar institution" it reveals the strange split world of the United States before the Civil War--what Levine thinks was our second revolution. The American South was a heirachical structure, really an oligarchy, but with the individual planters as strongmen who would not bear others to tell them what to do; while most non slave-owners did fight on the confederate side, there were a great many who refused and who called it a rich mans war. The ones who did fought for white supremacy, fought to keep from their fears of having to live side by side with blacks. And they fought out of their own myths--yankees can't fight; slaves love us and need us; cotton is king; etc. The US continues to sputter on myths like this so seeing how these old myths played out for Southerners in 1860 seems very important. Levine does a great job of explaining Lincoln's changing position on what the war was about and how emancipation becomes a key part of it (leading even after his death to the 14th ammendment). I think this part of history is where most people have lots of wrong thinking ... Please read this book!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Williams Parker

    Stands alone as a well-researched and argued social history of the South during the Civil War. I especially enjoyed Levine's focus on the ideological underpinnings of the slave-holding elite and how it both created and destroyed the Confederacy.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Stieb

    This is an outstanding piece of history and one of the best books I've read on the Civil War. I recommend it to all readers who want to see how the war transformed the South in what Levine justifiably calls the Second American Revolution. Levine uses the metaphor of the South as a stately, Souther mansion that appeared unified and immutable in 1860, but had many cracks that emerged to bring down the entire facade during the war. The two main fissures were class and slavery itself. The Union helpe This is an outstanding piece of history and one of the best books I've read on the Civil War. I recommend it to all readers who want to see how the war transformed the South in what Levine justifiably calls the Second American Revolution. Levine uses the metaphor of the South as a stately, Souther mansion that appeared unified and immutable in 1860, but had many cracks that emerged to bring down the entire facade during the war. The two main fissures were class and slavery itself. The Union helped open up these cracks, but they also emerged from within Southern society to bring the House of Dixie Down. Oddly enough, the Southerners started a war to protect their slave-centric system, but the war ultimately destroyed that system. By the end, the CSA had decided to start arming slaves in a desperate attempt to stay afloat. They thus had to face some of the central contradictions of slavery. If the slaves could be good soldiers, didn't this mean they were capable, intelligent human beings who were therefore not biologically and divinely destined to be slaves? Luckily, the end of the war precluded this cynical and horrifying experiment. Southerners do not come across well in this book. Levine shows how their social system, economy, and cultural identity was built around slavery and white supremacy. The latter was far more important for non-slaveholders, who nevertheless aspired in most cases to join the planter ranks. He emphasizes their brutality towards slaves and especially towards black soldiers, against whom they committed the war's worst atrocities. They also emerge as willfully blind to the desires for freedom among their slaves. You just want to strangle slaveholders who say that they were surprised and saddened when their slaves ran away during emancipation. Even when they offered nominal freedom in exchange for military service or tried to make peace with the Union, the CSA still intended to impose serfdom upon the black population. The North was moving in a much more progressive direction racially under the Republicans, for the time being. Although the freedmen quickly went into a subordinate position in, Levine shows balance in concluding that the destruction of slavery was still a massive improvement in their lives and a fundamental change in the history of the nation. It would be the North that would dominate politics for the next 75 years or more and determine the course of the nation. This book is history at its best: accessible and compelling to the layperson, but challenging and historiographically relevant to the scholar. As someone who's in between those categories for the Civil War, I was absolutely gripped by this book. The author manages to bring out the drama of the events and the people without sparing analysis and subtlety. There are dozens of touching moments and anecdotes, such as Lincoln taking his hat off and bowing to return the same gesture from an old freedman, or, in the aftermath of the 13th Amendment, a new citizen.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cheyanne

    A very interesting account of the social upheaval the South experienced over the course of the Civil War. The author draws on a wealth of contemporary accounts-- diaries, letters, speeches, newspaper articles-- and weaves them together in an engaging narrative. (There is also a good collection of archival photographs and drawings.) While it may seem that there is little new to be written about the era, Levine manages to bring fresh perspectives and illuminate some neglected issues. For example, A very interesting account of the social upheaval the South experienced over the course of the Civil War. The author draws on a wealth of contemporary accounts-- diaries, letters, speeches, newspaper articles-- and weaves them together in an engaging narrative. (There is also a good collection of archival photographs and drawings.) While it may seem that there is little new to be written about the era, Levine manages to bring fresh perspectives and illuminate some neglected issues. For example, why did the majority of white southerners who owned no slaves nevertheless fight for the Confederacy? One rather surprising answer is that many such southerners did not -- some 300,000 union troops were made up of volunteers from the Confederate and slave-holding border states. Many soldiers in the Confederate armies were not volunteers, but were conscripted. While other "non-masters" (in Levine's term) certainly did support The Cause out of racial and regional solidarity, that support frayed as the war dragged on and families at home suffered. Desertion was rampant in the final year of the war and some deserters formed guerrilla bands that fought against Confederate militias for the right to "secede from secession." Another revelation that may surprise the modern reader is the degree to which the plantation owners convinced themselves that their slaves really were happy in servitude and loyal to their masters. When those slaves took the opportunity to flee toward union troops and freedom, many a former mistress turned to her diary to lament the "ingratitude." Levine also emphasizes the degree to which the length of the war and its toll on the Union pushed the federal government toward a more radical policy of emancipation than anyone, particularly Lincoln, had supported in the beginning. Some of the most dramatic scenes in the book are the accounts of liberated African-Americans, some of them serving in the union army, marching in celebration through the streets of devastated southern capitals such as Charleston and Richmond at the war's end. To white southerners watching, it truly seemed as if the world had turned upside down. But Levine is also honest about the limits to the freedom former slaves were able to achieve, when land-reform failed to follow emancipation. In short, Levine makes a good case for using the term "revolution" to describe the transformation in Southern society over the course of the war. And he stresses that like any revolution, it followed an "inexorable logic of events" (in the words of Frederick Douglass) beyond the control of generals or politicians.

  22. 5 out of 5

    James H.

    The grounds of the Texas State Capitol holds a monument commemorating the South's favorite sport, historical revisionism. Confederate soldiers, reads the plaque at its base, "died for state rights guaranteed under the Constitution." Nowhere is the word "slavery" mentioned. As "The Fall of the House of Dixie"makes clear, the Civil War was all about slavery and little more. The book tells the story of America's "Second Revolution" from the standpoint of the South, how a "way of life" was upended by The grounds of the Texas State Capitol holds a monument commemorating the South's favorite sport, historical revisionism. Confederate soldiers, reads the plaque at its base, "died for state rights guaranteed under the Constitution." Nowhere is the word "slavery" mentioned. As "The Fall of the House of Dixie"makes clear, the Civil War was all about slavery and little more. The book tells the story of America's "Second Revolution" from the standpoint of the South, how a "way of life" was upended by impetuous, arrogant decisions by the wealthiest white southerners -- the planter class -- who abandoned the conflict they had created to the poorest whites among them, all while denying their fledging nation the human resources that might have allowed it to survive through sheer racism. Author Bruce Levine shows that, far from being a conflict over state's rights, the central government demanded (but was often denied) powers that the Union government never sought. He traces the roots of the historical lie to diplomatic efforts by the Confederacy to sell a more palatable story to England and France, which had both outlawed slavery and therefore had no sympathy for the rebel cause, in an unsuccessful effort to get both nations to intervene. While much of this story has been told before, the book is at its best when it recounts the collapse of the Confederate military effort, as the monied class denied it men and funding, and the poor, white farmers from the Appalachians, where slavery did not exist, began to realize that this was not their fight. Thousands simply walked away, and their communities sheltered them from arrest. Levine's depiction of the lives led by slaves and their steady march to personal independence as the Confederacy contracted is excellent, but the book gives only token attention to the South's efforts to reconstitute slavery under a different name and the century of official repression of blacks that followed. In fewer than 300 pages, however, Levine presents an engrossing story of why the South went to war, the reasons for its self-destruction, and the effects of the conflict on the lives of all southern classes, white and black.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Schlow Library

    "If you ever think about the ending of slavery, you might remember the Emancipation Proclamation, or the series of amendments to the Constitution that brought slavery officially to an end in the United States. But as Bruce Levine shows in his excellent book The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution that Transformed the South, this is only part of the story. For Levine, drawing on the work of many scholars of slavery and the Civil War, the conflict between North and "If you ever think about the ending of slavery, you might remember the Emancipation Proclamation, or the series of amendments to the Constitution that brought slavery officially to an end in the United States. But as Bruce Levine shows in his excellent book The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution that Transformed the South, this is only part of the story. For Levine, drawing on the work of many scholars of slavery and the Civil War, the conflict between North and South was far more than just the military movement of armies. The war represented the destruction of the social order in the South in many ways, with the military conflict eroding the institution of slavery until, by the ending of the war, hardly anything was left of the antebellum system. Above all, the ending of slavery was a process that unfolded over years, rather than any single event. As Levine demonstrates, the initial insistence that the aims of the Union in the war had nothing to do with slavery could not hold up in the face of the reality on the ground. The actions of free blacks, escaped slaves, and Union commanders forced an evolution in policy that came to view abolition as essential to ending the war and saving the Union. While there is little that Levine writes that will be considered ground-breaking to those who’ve read about the ending of slavery, his book still represents one of the best descriptions of the topic that I’ve read!" - Brady

  24. 5 out of 5

    E. Ozols

    I liked this book overall, and definitely learned a lot. I recommend this wholeheartedly for everyone and their mother. I personally would have liked more info about aftermath and reconstruction, but I guess that's such a big topic that really you'd need a whole 2nd book. As I was reading I alternated between being fascinated and being bored- the boredom came at points that just seemed redundant. I also happened to be in the middle of the Civil War chapter of my other book at the same time, thoug I liked this book overall, and definitely learned a lot. I recommend this wholeheartedly for everyone and their mother. I personally would have liked more info about aftermath and reconstruction, but I guess that's such a big topic that really you'd need a whole 2nd book. As I was reading I alternated between being fascinated and being bored- the boredom came at points that just seemed redundant. I also happened to be in the middle of the Civil War chapter of my other book at the same time, though, so that may have contributed to my Civil War overload. There were also a few pockets of Southern society that I would have liked hearing a bit more about, like the attitudes of people who were well off enough to have just one or two slaves, but I understand that the source material might just not exist for everyone. My favorite parts were anytime they mentioned how bewildered the wealthy slaveowners were when they discovered that the people who they had enslaved were NOT happy and loyal. I could not get enough of these stories, because I'm just amazed by how much we humans can talk ourselves into believing things that are just so insane, and how dark of a place this phenomenon can lead us into. Well... and, not gonna lie, whenever we hit one of these stories I'd be like "HAHAHAHAha, take THAT, you evil bastards!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Some fleeting samples of slavery incidents: beatings, the family separations, “Take me wid you, mammy; take me wid you!” choked me up. I don’t know how God permitted this to happen, and then I remind myself that this happened all over the world, since the beginning of time—torture so bad (dark ages) that things weren’t documented or recorded. A quarter of the book dedicated (at the end) to acknowledgments, bibliography and other misc. does seem a little excessive; more like a filler. After a while Some fleeting samples of slavery incidents: beatings, the family separations, “Take me wid you, mammy; take me wid you!” choked me up. I don’t know how God permitted this to happen, and then I remind myself that this happened all over the world, since the beginning of time—torture so bad (dark ages) that things weren’t documented or recorded. A quarter of the book dedicated (at the end) to acknowledgments, bibliography and other misc. does seem a little excessive; more like a filler. After a while, I just lost interest. Too dry.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Peter Boody

    A look at the war through a very different prism — letters, diaries, political speeches, news stories — that elegantly documents, distills and clarifies the institution of slavery, its effects and the impacts of its 19th century rise and fall, on the nation and the South in particular. What a story — and what people will talk themselves into believing when ignorance, fear and self-interest allow it. Fascinating page turner.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Susan Decker

    An excellent, well-written account of politics and the economy that led up to the Civil War, as well as during the conflict. Although I thought I knew a lot a out the Civil War, there were a number of things that I was reading for the first time. Now my interest has been piqued and I am going to read Prof. Levin's next book and have begun reading Shelby Foote's 3-volume The Civil War. I think I am hooked.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    We know what like was like for Southern civilians during the Civil War largely through the eyes of Scarlett in the middle section of Gone With the Wind. This book tells a more sweeping, comprehensive, and factually detailed story, drawing from a number of perspectives. Most of the book is set right before and during the war... I would have preferred a bit more emphasis on the Reconstruction period.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Craigtator

    Interesting look from an almost purely southern point of view. Slave owners absolutely amazed at the ingratitude of slaves that chose freedom when the Union soldiers appeared.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    First rate history. I would recommend it to anyone who is a) interested in the Civil War b) engaged in arguments with people about whether the statues should continue to be allowed in public spaces. Levine succinctly analyzes where the Confederacy failed from the beginning. It never represented more than the slave-holding interests of the owners of large plantations. He is able to demonstrate that there was opposition to secession in most Southern states based upon the fact that most Southerners First rate history. I would recommend it to anyone who is a) interested in the Civil War b) engaged in arguments with people about whether the statues should continue to be allowed in public spaces. Levine succinctly analyzes where the Confederacy failed from the beginning. It never represented more than the slave-holding interests of the owners of large plantations. He is able to demonstrate that there was opposition to secession in most Southern states based upon the fact that most Southerners did not own slaves, or if they did, a minimal amount. Those who took states out of the Union were galvanized by fear of the Lincoln Republicans, despite the President's statements that he would not interfere with slavery where it already existed. Levine also demonstrates that Lincoln was transformed by the war into a complete abolitionist. Slavery was to be destroyed by the ugly fraternal conflict. He began the war committed to the Union, but he clearly finished as a man morally committed to the extirpation of this blot upon our history as a nation. Time and again Levine proves that slavery, and not states' rights, was the driving force of the Confederate leadership (including the hapless Robert E. Lee, who was a member of the planter class and not known as a lenient master). He has assembled factual evidence (starting with the Confederate Constitution), and a raft of anecdotes that demonstrate how important slavery was to these men --- and their wives. Mary Chesnut, I am looking at you. He demolishes the lie that slaves were happy with their lot. Southern whites constantly asserted the falsehood that bonds between slaves and their owners were good, if not actually familial. The evidence presented in this book indicates that once the slightest possibility of freedom presented itself, the slave leaped for it. My favorite anecdote was the house slave waiting upon the dinner table. She listens to the plantation folk discussing the approach of Sherman with an impassive face. But once she is finished in the kitchen, she runs into a dark copse nearby and shouts "Hallelujah!" to the sky over and over. At the end of The Fall of the House of Dixie, Levine presents a small vignette that sums up the horror that was the South's "peculiar institution". A young black Army Chaplain is with the Union Army as it moves into Richmond at the end of the war. The streets are filled with cheering slaves, whose freedom arrives at last. From windows, their owners look down with disdain. But as the chaplain walks the streets with his fellow soldiers, he encounters a woman who embraces him. After a moment, he realizes it is his mother. When he was a child, he was separated from her and sold South to a plantation in Georgia owned by Confederate leader Robert Toombs. He was able to escape North, but never thought to see his mother again. Put up a statue to that moment, please. It really is a good book, and I highly recommend it. It strikes home with particular strength at a moment when the government of the United States, currently in the hands of . . . well, let's just say currently in the hands of ---- is separating children from their parents. The men who designed the Confederacy twisted everything they could about law and Christian Scripture to justify behaviors condemned by most Western states in 1860; it has been interesting to watch Stephen Miller and his henchmen operate. They don't even bother. It is right because a small cabal deems it right.

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