I was pleased to spend some time recently with a new book by Stephen “Sam” Hood, Patriots Twice: Former Confederates and the Building of America after the Civil War, a new release from Savas Beatie (click here for details).
CM: I have to start with the cover and the collection of Confederates you chose to highlight—and, more specifically, a notable omission: James Longstreet, who does not get a lot of attention in the book. How does his absence from the cover tie into you overall approach to the book?
SH: Actually Chris, the individuals on the cover were selected randomly among those where we found quality wartime and postwar photos of sufficient quality. The book isn’t about any former Confederate in particular, rather all of them in general.
CM: What criteria did you use to choose the former Confederates you highlight in that book?
SM: It was totally subjective on my part, Chris. I estimate that I perused 8,000-10,000 Confederate veterans and my initial list was around 850. Then, regretfully, I had to cull the list down to 300+/- due to space limitations. I often felt guilty when I had to scratch a former Confederate from my list when the man accomplished more in his lifetime than I.
CM: You sort these men into categories: public service, education, higher ed, U. S. military, national professional societies, etc. What does that array of categories tell us about the breadth of Confederate reintegration into wider American society?
SM: Their reintegration was complete. There were no segments of postwar society or culture where former Confederates were not present.
CM: Lincoln had envisioned a fairly lenient reconciliation process for Southerners, although Radical Republicans ended up imposing a pretty harsh reconstruction. Those must have been complicated waters to navigate, yet so many of the Confederates seemed to manage to navigate them fairly well. What sort of effect did that have on the turbulent times?
SH: That is an interesting question. Although I didn’t study the aspects of Reconstruction on former Confederates in the context of my book, I did notice some interesting things. As most people know, several prominent Confederates joined the Republican Party. However, most of the Confederates in my book—and I assume universally among Confederate veterans—attained prominence in the Federal government later rather than earlier in the era of postwar reconciliation. Although former rebels were brought into Federal government early (Amos T. Akerman as attorney general by Grant in 1870), the mass reintegration was gradual, peaking during the two nonconsecutive administrations of Grover Cleveland from 1885 to 1897, long after Reconstruction ended.
CM: Not everyone had a smooth transition or was happy about their transition. I recall U. S. Grant, in his final weeks, calling out Jubal Early and D. H. Hill for their discontent. Why did some veterans integrate smoothly and others less so?
SH: I can only assume that it was due to basic human nature. Some former Confederates adopted a forgive-and-forget attitude, while others held a grudge. Also, some former Confederates seemed sensitive to their public perception in the South and avoided joining Republicans, while others embraced the Republican administrations of Grant, Hayes, Garfield, and Arthur.
CM: We live in fairly divided political and cultural times right now. Is there a lesson readers might be able to take from the book?
SH: Absolutely, and it was one of my prime motivations for researching and writing the book. If a vast majority of former combatants, their widows, and orphans could forgive each other and move forward, why, 150 years later, is there such bitterness and rage? The very men who tried to shoot, stab, and club each other to death got along better after 1865 than many of their descendants do in 2020.
CM: What inspired you to write the book?
SH: In 2020 Confederates are commonly called traitors. As Civil War enthusiasts know, no former Confederates were ever charged with treason, much less convicted. I was motivated to begin my research to learn what these so-called “traitors” actually did after the war.
CM: The promotional sheet for the book points out, right up front, that it’s not “a polemic.” Why might readers today mistake it as such?
SH: Because of today’s ever-evolving and fluid societal standards of acceptable political views, and the fact that they are now applied to historical characters, I did not investigate the values and opinions of men who have been dead for 100 years. Not only would such an analysis be impossible, I had no interest in doing it. The French have a saying about the actions of people in the past: “Différentes fois; différentes coutumes.” (“Different times; different customs.”)
And here are a few short-answer questions:
CM: What was your favorite source you worked with while writing the book?
SH: My favorites were also the most useful: Bobby Krick’s book, Staff officers in Gray, the books Crimson Confederates and Yale’s Confederates, and the Find-a-Grave database on Confederate surgeons maintained by Terry Hambrecht and Jodi Koste.
CM: Who, among the book’s cast of characters, did you come to appreciate better?
SH: Oh, there were so many. Probably the LeConte brothers, Joseph and John, and John William Mallet. It’s a difficult question because there were dozens of former Confederates who left me shaking my head over their accomplishments. I chose Mallet and the LeContes due to their scholastic and intellectual achievements I suppose. They were geniuses—literally and figuratively.
CM: What’s a favorite sentence or passage you wrote?
SH: Actually Chris, it wasn’t written by me, but a poem that I found and included in the Introduction, penned by Thomas Hughes in 1895:
No more will the war cry sever,
Or the inland rivers run red.
We have buried our anger forever,
In the sacred graves of the dead.
Under the sod and the dew,
Awaiting the Judgment Day.
Love and tears for the blue!
Tears and love for the gray!
CM: What modern location do you like to visit that is associated with events in the book?
SH: None really, because the men in the book literally served from New York to California, Alaska to the Panama Canal Zone, and worldwide in the US diplomatic corps.
CM: What’s a question people haven’t asked you about this project that you wish they would?
SH: Again, none really.
I have been giving presentations on former Confederates in postwar America for over a year—after my research was complete but the book was in process. The question that I am (thankfully) always asked is why do I think some people are destroying or removing Confederate monuments. My answer is because they want to erase all of American history, and Confederate monuments are simply the low-hanging fruit. With the subsequent removal of monuments to the Founding Fathers and even 16th century European explorers, my concerns have, unfortunately, proven true.