DIXIE BETRAYED: HOW THE SOUTH REALLY LOST THE CIVIL WAR
By David J. Eicher
338 pp., hardcover, Little Brown, New York, 2006, ISBN 0–316–73905–7
For more than a century, since the end of the Civil War, the conventional wisdom has been that the South lost because of overwhelming Union strength and bad luck. The politicians and generals of the Confederate side have been lionized as noble warriors who bravely fought for an honorable cause that had little chance of succeeding. But in Dixie Betrayed, historian David J. Eicher reveals for the first time the real story, a calamity of political conspiracy, discord, and dysfunction that cost the South the Civil War.
Drawing on a wide variety of previously unexplored sources, Eicher shows how President Jefferson Davis viciously fought with the Confederate House and Senate, state governors, and his own cabinet. Confederate senators threatened to one another with physical violence; some were brutal drunks, others, hopeless idealists who would not bend even when flexibility was the difference between victory and defeat. Military commanders were assigned not on the basis of skill but on because of personal connections. Debates over such issues as whether the Confederacy needed a Supreme Court stretched out for years, squandering time that would have been better spent on making certain that troops were well fed. Davis frequently interfered with his generals in the field, micromanaging their campaigns and playing favorites, ignoring the chain of command. He trusted a number of men who were utterly incompetent.
And secession didn’t end with the breakaway of the Confederacy and Davis’s election as president; some states, led by their governors, wanted to set themselves up as separate nations, further undermining a unified war effort. Tensions were so extreme that the vice president of the Confederacy refused to live in the same state as Davis — and this while they were trying to win a war.
One of the most provocative and controversial books about the Civil War to be published in decades, Dixie Betrayed blasts away previous myths. For Civil War buffs as well as for anyone interested in how governments of any age can self-destruct during wartime, it is essential reading.