In the first comprehensive study of the experience of Virginia
soldiers and their families in the Civil War, Aaron Sheehan-Dean
captures the inner world of the rank-and-file. Utilizing new
statistical evidence and first-person narratives, Sheehan-Dean
explores how Virginia soldiers--even those who were
nonslaveholders--adapted their vision of the war's purpose to
remain committed Confederates.
Sheehan-Dean challenges earlier arguments that middle- and
lower-class southerners gradually withdrew their support for the
Confederacy because their class interests were not being met.
Instead he argues that Virginia soldiers continued to be motivated
by the profound emotional connection between military service and
the protection of home and family, even as the war dragged on. The
experience of fighting, explains Sheehan-Dean, redefined southern
manhood and family relations, established the basis for postwar
race and class relations, and transformed the shape of Virginia
itself. He concludes that Virginians' experience of the Civil War
offers important lessons about the reasons we fight wars and the
ways that those reasons can change over time.