The Civil War thrust millions of men and women—rich and poor, soldiers and civilians, enslaved and free—onto the roads of the South. During four years of war, Southerners lived on the move. In the hands of Yael A. Sternhell, movement becomes a radically new means to perceive the full trajectory of the Confederacy’s rise, struggle, and ultimate defeat.
By focusing not only on the battlefield and the home front but also on the roads and woods that connected the two, this pioneering book investigates the many roles of bodies in motion. We watch battalions of young men as they march to the front, galvanizing small towns along the way, creating the Confederate nation in the process. We follow deserters straggling home and refugees fleeing enemy occupation, both hoping to escape the burdens of war. And in a landscape turned upside down, we see slaves running toward freedom, whether hundreds of miles away or just beyond the plantation’s gate.
Based on a vast array of documents, from slave testimonies to the papers of Confederate bureaucrats to the private letters of travelers from all walks of life, Sternhell unearths the hidden connections between physical movements and their symbolic meanings, individual bodies and entire armies, the reinvention of a social order and the remaking of private lives. Movement, as means of liberation and as vehicle of subjugation, lay at the heart of the human condition in the wartime South.