Sword slices off a big topic with this ambitious history of the heart of the Confederacy, the disunited southern half of the U. S. Civil War from 1861 to 1865. His title gives an accurate assessment of the state of the Southern heart in 1861: The South, soldier and civilian alike, was fighting a worthy cause for states rights and freedom to sustain a way of life--on the backs of coercive inhumane race slavery, but a civilization thus established nonetheless--against a morally and militarily weaker mongrel race of city dwellers who would fold in the face of Southern Invincibility in the battlefield and in the heart.
The outcome, as we know, was far different, and Sword traces the history of that Southern optimism from the beginning to the end of the war, as it was battered down by the reality of the superiority of Union manpower, material, money, leadership, and political will. It was really here, says Sword, where the perception of Southern Invincibility took its necessary and final beating--the assumption that the North would not have the will to stay the course of a long, bloody war over "an enemy's" way of life. In fact, the North did have the will, and partly because "the enemy" was so much alike on both sides, the weight of manpower, material and tactics was too much for the power of heart--however defined by the South--to overcome.
In addition to his broader research and writing, Sword uses personal journals and letters from a few mid-level participants in the war, Southern officers and their families, to highlight the progression from optimism to defeat. He intentionally does not draw on the writings of the top political and military strategists on both sides, because "implementation often proved to be more significant than conception. The common will to do, or not to do, was crucial." He documents the power of Robert E. Lee to maintain the will of the common soldiers in the Virginia theater, while the parade of losing generals in the Western theater quickly lost the confidence and deflated the will of the soldiers there.
As Sword concludes "willpower represented an awesome potential, or a damning weakness. It remained at the crux of their martial endeavor." When that will was gone, the South had lost. Southern Invincibility was proven a myth by the cold sharp reason of bitter warfare.
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