Their Heart Was Never In The War
James S. Pike

Notwithstanding the vigor with which the rebellion was sustained by the Confederate troops in the field, there is abundant testimony to show that, after the first sudden voluntary rush to arms which marked the opening of the contest, the heart of the people was never in the war. The idea had been sedulously inculcated that it was to be a mere holiday affair. Ex-Senator Chesnut, of South Carolina, proclaimed in the secession convention of that State, that he would drink all the blood that would be shed in consequence of secession. But, when it was found that earnest war was to be the result, the mass of the people were wholly averse to remaining in the army. As fast as their first short terms expired they hastened to return to their homes, and they never left them except as they were dragged out by the strong arm of military power. It was only by exercising despotic authority, and by being utterly callous and conscienceless in its exercise, that the Confederate authorities recruited the rebel armies. And, not withstanding all the exertion made, the losses by desertion were so great at times as to threaten the absolute dissolution of the army. In one of the incautious speeches in which President Davis indulged himself in a tour through South Carolina during the war, he substantially admitted this. The testimony now is uniform in the South that, as the war progressed, the troops made use of every excuse and opportunity to flee from the ranks and go to their starving households. A little handful of self-styled chivalry clung to the Confederate standard, urged thereto by the stimulants of personal pride and female pique, which urged them on, but these sentiments and influences had no weight with the mass.

It is only on this theory that we can account for the sudden and, at the time, almost inexplicable collapse of the Southern armies after Lee was driven from Richmond. They disappeared like the mist under the morning sun, while friends and allies both in this country and Europe were confidently predicting a fresh and strenuous guerilla resistance in detail.

Little did those allies know of the sufferings the rank and file had endured in fighting battles in which they had no interest, or how they had skulked, deserted, hid, and been hunted by bloodhounds, and torn from their suffering families under the most heartless and cruel circumstances. Thus oppressed, they only too willingly threw away their arms and returned to the welcome avocations of peace. They were men without a grievance or a complaint. They had never been oppressed, and they knew it. They had never been denied a personal nor a political right enjoyed by the most favored citizen of the republic. Why should they voluntarily continue a war against such a Government? The answer was found in their subsequent action. They never did. They never raised a hand to prolong the contest a day. This striking fact is the testimony of the rank and file in regard to the character of the wrongs the Confederate Government were professedly attempting to right.

We think there is full justification for the statement that a vast majority of the Southern people were entrapped by a handful of ambitious leaders, destitute of the first elements of sound statemanship, into a war for which there was no provocation, and which they would never have deliberately confronted. But, war once begun, they were in a vise. A despotic military government was thenceforth their master. To that is to be imputed all that followed.


The Prostrate State by James Shepherd Pike
D. Appleton and Company, New York, 1874, pages 74-77