Book Review: Jefferson Davis and the Civil War Era

Archives

by William J., Jr. Cooper, Jr.

Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008. Pp. viii, 128. Notes, index. $24.95. ISBN: 080713371X

Jefferson Davis’ life and career, as politician, Confederate president and warlord, and shaper of the “Lost Cause” myth.

Jefferson Davis and the Civil War Era comprises nine essays by William J. Cooper, who is a noted Davis biographer and historian of the South.  The essays fall into three broad categories: Davis and the politics of secession and of the Confederacy, Davis and the conduct of the war, and Davis and the rise of the myth of the “Lost Cause.”  Some of the essays make vital, and often overlooked, points.

In what is his most important point, Cooper argues effectively that rather than see Davis as an inept politician and war leader, we should keep in mind that Lincoln’s brilliance in these roles obscures the Mississippian’s very real abilities.  But Cooper goes on to also make a good case that Davis failed to make full use of his considerable political skills during the war because he took his role as president as being above politics, as a symbol of “The Cause,” a charge that certainly could not be made against Lincoln.  Cooper further argues that Davis had a good grasp of the overall strategic situation, for example, believing strongly in the importance of the Western Theatre, but was hampered in efforts to develop a more effective strategy by domestic and military politics. There’s more, of course, Davis’ personal relationship with Braxton Bragg, other commanders, and some politicians, his postwar life, during which his efforts to shape the “Lost Cause” helped turn revive his popularity in the South, and more.

Jefferson Davis and the Civil War Era is an interesting work for those curious about national leadership in time of war, and, of course, a valuable one for any student of the Civil War.

---///---



Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   


Buy it at Amazon.com




X

ad
$0
$2500

Don't Let Us Go Up In Smoke!

January, February and March are notoriously low ad revenue months online. And StrategyPage has not been spared. We need to raise $2500 in combined subscriptions and contributions to keep us moving forward.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close