Review: Dixie Betrayed: How the South Really Lost the Civil War

Dixie Betrayed: How the South Really Lost the Civil War
By David J. Eicher

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown; 1st edition (March 22, 2006)
  • ISBN: 0316739057

David Eicher has a difficult premise to prove but makes a good logical case for it.  The short form is that the Southern mentality contained the seeds of the South’s defeat.   In saying this, he upsets all the Lost Cause tradition types, the new crop of Political Correctness types, in addition to all those that will disagree with his premise.  This is a very heavy load for one book to bear and with all the naysayer’s, I am not sure a fair review is possible.  One problem is the to lurid title, promising more than the premise can possibly deliver.  However, with 120+ books on the American Civil War being released in 2006, I can understand wanting a “grabber” tile.

What this book contains is an intelligent description of CSA politics during the war.  Detailing the waste of time, petty feuds and nastiness that the President, Congress and the state governors engaged in opens a window into a world that most histories ignore.  Jefferson Davis often bears this alone.  The book shows how much help he had from Stephens, Wigfall, Cobb, Brown and a legion of others.  Their preference for obstructing, debating and endless obsession with “State’s Rights” ended whatever small chance the South had for victory.

The war plays out in the background as Richmond and the states fight it out on center stage.  The “CSA government” often is the President vs. the Vice-president with congress back stabbing both.  The other option is the CSA congress unable to produce anything but endless debate.  The sovereign state governors, see little reason for a central government and bicker with it over everything, until a Union Army appears on their borders.  This leads to endless agreement over state regiments, where they are stationed and who commands them.

At the heart of the problem is the life experience of these men.  They are the “opposition”, a role that they cannot abandon when they become the nation.  All of them had spent their political life fighting the United States of America, if their party was in power or not.  Proud to a fault, ready to argue the smallest point of order and used to obstructing legislation they carry these traits to Richmond, damaging their cause and reducing any chance of winning the war.

The chapter “Peace Proposals” and the Epilogue are worth the price of the book.  The Epilogue contains as good a short history of the development of and Northern response to the “Lost Cause” as I have found.  “Peace Proposals”, shows how the years of silliness finally cause an almost total breakdown of the Confederacy.  David Eicher is a very good writer but this is not an easy or quick read.  If you stay with it, you will gain a valuable insight into why the CSA government did not work and the impact this has on the war effort.

Editor’s Note: Jim is a Top 500 reviewer.

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3 responses to “Review: Dixie Betrayed: How the South Really Lost the Civil War

  1. elektratig Avatar

    Thanks. I hadn’t heard of the book, which looks very interesting. I can’t say that I believe that the South lost the war because of them, but the disputes between Davis and characters such Wigfall of Texas and Brown provide wonderful insight into the men, differing views of what the Confederacy meant, and the effects of the burden of office on Davis in particular.

  2. admin Avatar


    I agree that saying the South lost the war solely because of their politicians is a bit much. This DOES look like an interesting book, and one that I might pick up soon. Nice review Jim!


  3. James Durney Avatar
    James Durney

    The major point is that the political games contributed to defeate not that they were responsible for it. I think we can agree for the CSA to win EVERYTHING had to go right. This is one of the major things that didn’t.

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