Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Anne C. Loveland


From 1861 to 1865, as white southerners waged their unsuccessful struggle for independence, they experienced shattering calamities. With the Civil War mostly fought on southern soil, Confederates witnessed the destruction of their environment, the deaths of their friends and family members, and the demise of their slave labor system. This study concerns the effects of this experience on the southern mindset. In short, this is an examination of discovery and transformation through ordeal. The Confederacy has been the subject of many a historical study. However, this interpretation approaches the subject from a slightly different perspective. Departing from the traditional reliance on letters, diaries, and newspapers, it is instead based on the analysis of Confederate speeches. Oratory played a fundamental role in the southern nation, and citizens described encountering it almost daily at military functions, before battle, in church, and even while lying in hospitals or strolling on city streets. This work effects a blending of rhetorical and historical scholarship, adopting theories by rhetoricians Lloyd Bitzer, Waldo Braden, Edward Corbett, and Ernest Bormann. Rhetorical analysis suggests that the Civil War had a highly revolutionary effect on the South. It forced white southerners to reconsider or even jettison cherished beliefs about themselves, their environment, and their slaves. Confederates began the war by outlining a detailed and idealized portrait of their nation and its people. However, during the conflict, they gradually altered the depiction, increasingly adding references to the grotesque and discordant. By the end of the war, Confederate orators were speaking of their nation in savage terms, applying to it expressions and characteristics once reserved only for the North. Rhetorical analysis therefore suggests that, caught in the maelstrom of Civil War, southerners actually drew closer to the culture and behavior of the North. Separation, in other words, effected reunion.