Wednesday, January 16, 2013

In The Review Queue: The Fall of the House of Dixie


By Bruce Levine

In this major new history of the Civil War, Bruce Levine tells the riveting story of how that conflict upended the economic, political, and social life of the old South, utterly destroying the Confederacy and the society it represented and defended. Told through the words of the people who lived it, The Fall of the House of Dixie illuminates the way a war undertaken to preserve the status quo became a second American Revolution whose impact on the country was as strong and lasting as that of our first.

In 1860 the American South was a vast, wealthy, imposing region where a small minority had amassed great political power and enormous fortunes through a system of forced labor. The South’s large population of slaveless whites almost universally supported the basic interests of plantation owners, despite the huge wealth gap that separated them. By the end of 1865 these structures of wealth and power had been shattered. Millions of black people had gained their freedom, many poorer whites had ceased following their wealthy neighbors, and plantation owners were brought to their knees, losing not only their slaves but their political power, their worldview, their very way of life. This sea change was felt nationwide, as the balance of power in Congress, the judiciary, and the presidency shifted dramatically and lastingly toward the North, and the country embarked on a course toward equal rights.


Levine captures the many-sided human drama of this story using a huge trove of diaries, letters, newspaper articles, government documents, and more. In The Fall of the House of Dixie, the true stakes of the Civil War become clearer than ever before, as slaves battle for their freedom in the face of brutal reprisals; Abraham Lincoln and his party turn what began as a limited war for the Union into a crusade against slavery by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation; poor southern whites grow increasingly disillusioned with fighting what they have come to see as the plantation owners’ war; and the slave owners grow ever more desperate as their beloved social order is destroyed, not just by the Union Army, but also from within. When the smoke clears, not only Dixie but all of American society is changed forever.


Brilliantly argued and engrossing, The Fall of the House of Dixie is a sweeping account of the destruction of the old South during the Civil War, offering a fresh perspective on the most colossal struggle in our history and the new world it brought into being.



About the Author

Bruce Levine is the J. G. Randall Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Illinois. An associate editor of the Civil War magazine North and South, he has published three books on the Civil War era. The most recent of these, Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves During the Civil War, received the Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship and was named one of the ten best nonfiction books of 2005 by The Washington Post.

ISBN 978-1400067039, Random House, © 2013, Hardcover, 464 pages, Photographs, Maps Illustrations, End Notes, Bibliography & Index. $30.00.  To purchase a copy of this book click HERE.

1 comment:

Miss Tarleton said...

I just saw this in Barnes & Noble the other day, and was sorely tempted to bring it home with me! I look forward to your review... I may have to pick it up, after all :)