Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
Volume 113 / Number 4
Justice Has Something To Do With It: Class Relations and the Confederate Army
- Aaron Sheehan-Dean, pp. 340–77
This essay assesses the extent to which class conflict within Virginia units of the Confederate Army inhibited the Confederate war effort. The historical literature that emphasizes class conflict as the cause of Confederate defeat typically focuses on hardship and the deterioration of will on the home front. Declining morale and confidence in the Confederate cause among civilians may have hindered the war effort, but it stands to reason that if soldiers developed the same disaffection from the Confederacy the consequences would have been much more severe. Ample evidence exists to show that many Confederate soldiers felt aggrieved over what they perceived as unfair treatment by officers. Many soldiers interpreted these actions within a framework of social conflict honed during the antebellum decades. Nonetheless, little evidence exists to show that common soldiers abandoned their support for the Confederacy as a result. Instead, the relative flexibility and responsiveness of Confederate military regulations, the actions of sympathetic officers, and the increasingly hard war waged by the Union inspired Virginia soldiers to remain in the army.