Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Book review - The Fall of the House of Dixie

The War Between the States. The War of Northern Aggression. The Civil War.

No matter how you slice it, no matter what you call it, one thing is very clear according to historian Bruce Levine. The war was fought over the issue of slavery.

Modern day apologists for the South argue that the conflict was about states' rights and sovereignty. They will tell you it was about whether the federal government had the right to dictate to the states how they conducted their business.


The South attempted to secede in order to preserve its "peculiar institution." There were no other issues involving states' rights. The sides had fought in Congress for years over the expansion of slavery to the new territories in the west. While the North housed the financial and commercial power of the nation, the political power resided down south.

No one wants to admit it. It certainly doesn't make the Southern cause seem very heroic. And it drives a spike into the myth that those who fly the Confederate battle flag are merely celebrating their southern heritage. That flag represented the planters and slaveowners who had no compunction about sending poor whites to their deaths to defend an economic system that benefited only the wealthy.

The Fall of the House of Dixie provides ample quotes from soldiers, planters, the ladies of the house, slaves and politicians in painting a portrait of why we endured a civil war. The most telling quotes come from late in the war when some in the South suggested that the slaves be armed and sent to fight. The wealthy elite and their politicians steadfastly refused to arm the slaves knowing that doing so would be the death knell of their economic system. Had the rebellion been about anything else, the issue would never have been debated.

Mr. Levine provides a fresh look at the Civil War era. Most of the books on the shelf look at the war years through the prism of the war - disregarding the root causes of the conflict. The Fall of the House of Dixie, on the other hand, looks at the war from a cultural perspective. It wasn't just a war to preserve the Union, it was a war to end an antiquated economic system.

So the next time someone refers to it as the War of Northern Aggression, you can let them know it was the Second American Revolution or the War of Liberation.

And, just for the record, I was born and bred in Texas.

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