All That Makes a Man

All That Makes a Man : Love and Ambition in the Civil War South

4.04 (25 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

In May 1861, Jefferson Davis issued a general call for volunteers for the Confederate Army. Men responded in such numbers that 200,000 had to be turned away. Few of these men would have attributed their zeal to the cause of states' rights or slavery. As All That Makes a Man: Love and Ambition in the Civil War South makes clear, most southern men saw the war more simply as a test of their manhood, a chance to defend the honor of their sweethearts, fiances, and wives back home. Drawing upon diaries and personal letters, Stephen Berry seamlessly weaves together the stories of six very different men, detailing the tangled roles that love and ambition played in each man's life. Their writings reveal a male-dominated Southern culture that exalted women as "repositories of divine grace" and treasured romantic love as the platform from which men launched their bids for greatness. The exhilarating onset of war seemed to these, and most southern men, a grand opportunity to fulfill their ambition for glory and to prove their love for women-on the same field of battle.As the realities of the war became apparent, however, the letters and diaries turned from idealized themes of honor and country to solemn reflections on love and home. Elegant and poetic, All That Makes a Man recovers the emotional lives of unsung Southern men and women and reveals that the fiction of Cold Mountain mirrors a poignant reality. In their search for a cause worthy of their lives, many Southern soldiers were disappointed in their hopes for a Southern nation. But they still had their women's love, and there they would rebuild.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 300 pages
  • 163.1 x 241.3 x 26.2mm | 612.36g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • numerous halftones
  • 0195145674
  • 9780195145670

Review quote

... this book is a fascinating collection of mini-biographies, derived from an impressive array of manuscript sources, and one that historians will be mining for anecdotes for years to come. Journal of American Studies ... there is a lot that is valuable in this work for anyone interested in the social history of the antebellum South. The biographies of these southern men are handled with flair and panache. Journal of American Studiesshow more

About Stephen W. Berry

Stephen W. Berry II is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. All That Makes A Man is his first book.show more

Review Text

Mentalites meet Minie balls in this study of the Old South's romantic "honor culture" and its collapse into disillusionment. "You ought to be delighted at my occasionally leaving you," wrote a Confederate officer to his spouse on riding off to war, "for it shows me more plainly than anything else that you are my wife indeed." The battlefield was the place to test and earn honor, the hearth the place to enshrine it: such notions, asserts debut author Berry (History/ Univ. of North Carolina, Pembroke), were central to the "hypermasculinized" culture of the South, which prized women but didn't find much for them to do apart from serve as vessels of civilization. Working with a body of letters and diaries, Berry explores the emotional world of Southern soldiers, who went off to fight full of high ideas about warfare and womenfolk but returned from four years of bloodshed and starvation with a less glamorous view of things. Those poignant documents are immediate and revealing. One Alabama soldier who later died in combat, for instance, wrote to his wife that he and his comrades "are hardly allowed to sigh at the fall of our friends and relatives, and if we do happen to shed a tear secretly, it is soon dried up to make room for someone else." Berry's treatment of the documents is respectful but dispassionate, as when he dryly observes that men, "as much as women, depended on members of the opposite sex to validate and make meaningful their struggles and successes, to aid, comfort, and believe in them, even and especially when self-belief began to fade or fail"-as it did, Berry writes, when the Southern fighters discovered that the creed of death before dishonor carried a contradiction: death was dishonor, for "how much nobility is there in dying of dysentery?" Lively reading, no, but a useful contribution to the scholarly literature. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

25 ratings
4.04 out of 5 stars
5 36% (9)
4 36% (9)
3 24% (6)
2 4% (1)
1 0% (0)
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