Southern Invincibility A History of the Confederate Heart

Wiley Sword

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

448 Pages



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"The War feeling is swelling and surging like the waves of the sea.
Who can resist a whole people, thoroughly aroused,
brave to rashness, fighting for their existence?"
—The Review (Charlotte, Virginia), April 19, 1861

Southern pride—the notion that the South's character distinguishes it from the rest of the country—had a profound impact on how and why Confederates fought the Civil War, and continued to mold their psyche after they had been defeated. In Southern Invincibility, award-winning historian Wiley Sword traces the roots of the South's belief in its own superiority and examines the ways in which that conviction contributed to the war effort, even when it became clear that the South would not win.

Through the letters and diaries of soldiers and civilians—men and women, gentrified plantation owners and rural farmers—Sword demonstrates how the spirit of invincibility fueled the South's initial victories and how it metamorphosed into a noble pride that enabled the South to endure after it had lost the war. He takes us into Confederate camps where soldiers relied on their sense of righteousness to fight boredom, homesickness, and, later, the temptation to desert. He also leads us into several of the war's most decisive battles, where leaders used Southern pride to inspire their men to endure the brutalities of combat. Finally, he introduces us to the wives, daughters, and sisters of Confederate soldiers who depended on their belief in the justness of the cause to withstand life under military occupation and the uncertainty of their future. Southern Invincibility is the historical investigation of a psychology that continues to define the South.


Praise for Southern Invincibility

"A compelling and nuanced accounting of the South's flawed confidence in its cause . . . Relying on letters, journals, and contemporary memoirs of soldiers and their families, Sword traces the evolution of Southern self-image, from early confidence in their superior bravery and physical hardiness to the eventual rise of the romantic 'lost cause' myth, which cast the Confederacy's defeat as moral right overwhelmed by industrial might."—Kirkus Reviews

"Dramatic and moving . . . a frequently fascinating glimpse at the genesis and durability of such Southern myths as Confederate 'valor' and the 'lost cause.'—Booklist

"Through a combination of excellent writing and selection of the participants' words, Sword has provided us with a perception of the Southerner of the 1860s"—The Post & Courier (Charleston)

"Sword's new book about the morale of civilian and military Confederates is a thorough and entertaining study."—Tribune-Times (Tampa)

Reviews from Goodreads



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Southern Invincibility

Chapter One
Alexander Frederick Fleet--"Fred" to his family and friends--was a precocious youth of seventeen and a student at the University of Virginia in the...

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  • Wiley Sword

  • Wiley Sword is the author of several Civil War histories, including Mountains Touched with Fire and Embrace an Angry Wind. He has won the Fletcher Pratt Prize for the best book of Civil War history and has been nominated for numerous other prizes. He lives in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.