The Civil War: The Truth And The Legend

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In all the Confederate legend, no figure has shown more vitality or drawn more attention than that of The Confederate Woman; and the lady is allowed to speak for herself in Heroines of Dixie , a compilation of excerpts from diaries, journals, letters, and published and unpublished recollections put together by Katharine M. Jones. As Robert Selph Henry points out in his introduction to this book, while the Confederacy’s final defeat is often attributed to a cumulative loss of the will to fight, the really surprising thing is that the will to fight lasted as long as it did; and for that endurance, the women of the Confederacy were in large part responsible.

Heroines of Dixie , by Katharine M. Jones, with an introduction by Robert Selph Henry. 430 pp. The Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc. $5.

Here is the war as they saw it, in a long series of vignettes that catch almost every aspect of the struggle except that of the battle encounter itself. There are selections here from the writings of women as well-known as Mary Chesnut and Varina Howell Davis; there are others from the pens of wholly obscure women—farmers’ wives, private soldiers’ widows, people who were just trying to get along as best they could and carry their part of the war burden without too much complaint; and the book as a whole makes an uncommonly moving and informative narrative, into which the editor has intruded herself with intelligent restraint.

And here, finally, is one more of those innumerable “truths” about the Civil War. Like all the others, it is an essential truth; not the whole story, perhaps not even a major part of it, but nevertheless one more piece in the mosaic, which would not be complete without it. And while it is truth, it is also part of the legend; for the legend itself, in all of its guises, is simply one more aspect of the underlying reality.