Record Details

Catalog Search

Back To Results
Showing Item 7 of 335

The failure of our fathers : family, gender, and power in Confederate Alabama  Cover Image Book Book

The failure of our fathers : family, gender, and power in Confederate Alabama


"The Failure of our Fathers: Common White Families in Confederate Alabama is an in-depth study of non-elite white families in Alabama during one of the most pivotal epochs in the state's history. Drawing on a wide range of personal papers, court records, government documents, and newspapers reflecting the state's varied regions and economies, Victoria E. Ott uses gender as a lens to examine the yeomanry and poor whites who identified with the Confederate cause. Working in a similar vein as historians Stephanie McCurry, Stephen Berry, LeeAnn White, and Laura Edwards, Ott provides a nuanced examination of how these Alabamians fit within the antebellum era's paternalistic social order, eventually identifying with and supporting the Confederate mission to leave the Union and create an independent, slaveholding state. But as the reality of the war slowly set in and the Confederacy began to fray, the increasing threats to the survival of their families led Alabama's common white men and women to find new avenues to power as a distinct socioeconomic class. In the four decades from formation to secession, family provided small landholders and poor, landless whites in antebellum Alabama a source of power and identity through personal relationships, social connections, and economic support. Anglo-American legal conventions also provided common white men legal rights to control their dependents and property, similar to their elite counterparts. By utilizing the courts and exercising those rights, common white men staked a claim to social legitimacy and even perhaps a sense of equality alongside their wealthier brethren. In the 1850s, as war drew nearer, a sense of kinship and the idealization of family drew common whites into the conflict to preserve social and racial hierarchies stemming from the institution of slavery. Common white men and women relied on constructs of family and gender to understand the reasons why they should fight to protect the right to secede and form a separate Confederate nation. They conceptualized the Confederacy as a larger family and the state as paternal figures devoted to protecting its loyal dependents. Through the rhetorical notions of honor and duty, they came to believe the reciprocal relationship between the fatherly protector and loyal dependents would remain throughout the course of the war. Yet, as total war increased, heaping tremendous economic and emotional burdens on Alabama's common whites, the construct of a familial structure that once created a sense of loyalty to the Confederacy now gave them cause to question its leadership. Severe food scarcity due to labor shortages and government impressment policies threatened the survival of their families. Common white men and women alike demanded relief through desertion, petitions, and, in the case of the Mobile bread riot, public protests. Some launched formal and informal forms of resistance to the war and the leaders who continued to demand their sacrifices. The war-torn conditions of the state emboldened common whites to claim and exert their authority, framed in the context of gender identities, and demand action from Alabama's leaders to stave off the destruction of their families. In doing so, they played a central role in shaping state policies concerning civilian aid. After the war, the effort to achieve a sense of normalcy proved even harder for common whites who faced greater struggles in rebuilding their lives as compared to the elites, despite the collapse of the socioeconomic system on which elite status and power had been based. Challenged by severe privation and a state left in physical ruins in the wake of war, these families turned once more to the support of the state. Placing pressure once again on state leaders, they found a source of power to temporarily shape the post-war political agenda regarding recovery, emerging as agents of change in the quest to determine the fate of themselves and their families. Departing from a traditional focus on Confederate Alabama's political and economic leadership class, Ott's primary concern in 'The Failure of our Fathers' is how domestic values and highly gendered concepts influenced common white soldiers and civilians and were used to bolster their motivation to fight and support a war that threatened the very things they were fighting for, and how this conflict redefined Alabama's social structure and increased class distinctions after the war. Although many scholars have demonstrated how elite and common white soldiers alike remained loyal to the Confederate war effort and fought to the very end, Alabama's common whites nevertheless found that the mounting pressures that threatened to undermine their support for the Confederacy also served as the catalytic agent in an emerging class consciousness that challenged the hegemony of the states' elites"-- Provided by publisher.
"Examines the evolving position of non-elite whites in 19th Alabama society--from the state's creation through the end of the Civil War--through the lens of gender and family"-- Provided by publisher.

Record details

  • ISBN: 9780817321475
  • ISBN: 0817321470
  • Physical Description: xii, 209 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
  • Publisher: Tuscaloosa : The University of Alabama Press, [2023]

Content descriptions

Bibliography, etc. Note:
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Formatted Contents Note:
"Faithfully and affectionately" : claiming equality in the antebellum era, 1820-60 -- "Remember me, with soft emotion" : family and honor in wartime, 1860-62 -- "This unholy war" : families in crisis, 1863-65 -- "There is a great wrong somewhere" : the state and family in conflict -- "Oh! How changed everything has become" : families in the postwar state.
Subject: Middle class white people > Alabama > History > 19th century.
Poor white people > Alabama > History > 19th century.
Families > Alabama > History > 19th century.
Alabama > Social conditions > 19th century.
Alabama > History > Civil War, 1861-1865.
Alabama > History > 1819-1950.
United States > History > Civil War, 1861-1865 > Social aspects.
HISTORY / United States / Civil War Period (1850-1877)
HISTORY / Social History.
Middle class white people.
Poor white people.
Social aspects.
Social conditions.
United States.
Genre: History.

Available copies

  • 2 of 2 copies available at State Library of Alabama.


  • 0 current holds with 2 total copies.
Show Only Available Copies
Location Call Number / Copy Notes Barcode Shelving Location Status Due Date

Back To Results
Showing Item 7 of 335

Additional Resources