Book Review: Patriots Twice: Former Confederates and the Building of America after the Civil War

Luckily for readers, Stephen M. Hood is a good writer. He is a collateral descendant of Confederate General John Bell Hood and takes his self-imposed charge to restore his ancestors’ good name and those of other Confederates very seriously. Patriots Twice goes a long way in that direction. Many of the men who served in the Confederate Army went on with their lives after the war. They made their postbellum choices with care, choosing a life dedicated to rebuilding the country rather than sitting in exile and nursing their bitterness. Author Hood examines 300 of them in this book.

Hood divides his book by professions: those who went back to national politics and served in Congress or for a president in a personal capacity, those who returned to the military (including eight former Confederate officers who became U. S. Army generals during the Spanish-American War), governors, city founders and mayors, officers in professional societies, higher education, and business. Hood claims that he did not investigate or render opinions of the personal politics of these former Confederates. He “identified and chose men based solely on their tangible professional accomplishments.” (viii-ix). More than less, this book looks at men whose careers were interrupted by war, not destroyed by it.

Each of the entries follows an easy-to-use format. The Confederate career of, for instance, Brigadier General William Henry Hunt is briefly explained. More detail accompanies the rest of the paragraphs, which explain his post-war career: he was a railroad president, he became an active Tennessee Republican, and he was in favor of reconciliation. His aptitude to find agreement points between former enemies led to his being appointed by no less than three presidents (Garfield, Arthur, and Cleveland) to various diplomatic posts in South America (27). These personal entries are occasionally interrupted by a series of explanations of specific situations or occurrences during a particular presidential term, including wars, floods, financial difficulties, etc. Many Library of Congress portraits illustrates Patriots Twice. The author is delicate in his touch, and each former Confederate is thoughtfully presented. Hood writes with respect for accomplished deeds and accurately places each subject into context. There is no Lost Cause bombast or exaggeration. 

The chapter on the United States Military is one of the most interesting and surprising. If a case was to be made for reconciliation, the actions by such southern luminaries as Fitzhugh Lee, Joseph Wheeler, William Oates, and John Castleman should be considered. Merely seeing a photo of “Fighting Joe” Wheeler standing as a member of the Rough Riders staff in Tampa, Florida–directly under the command of Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt–well, let’s say a hard heart could soften considerably. Fitzhugh Lee is another case in point. He volunteered for the U. S. Army at the age of sixty-two to participate in the Spanish-American War. Although he saw no action, he was assigned to be military governor of Havana after Spain capitulated. Two of his children attended West Point and served in the U. S. Cavalry.

“Fighting Joe” Wheeler is the one with the beard. T.R. stands to the right–bully!

Two other chapters of particular interest concern politics, both local and national. For several years after the war, former rebels were not permitted to seek or hold any sort of political office. As Reconstruction fell apart and more southerners decided to take the loyalty oath, more men became eligible for political service. Hood lists the impressive number of former Confederates who became elected governors of the eleven seceded Southern states and the border states. Often a governorship became a springboard to Senate membership. As appointed territorial areas became states, appointed governors often went to Congress as well. Simon Bolivar Buckner is a case in point: he served in the U. S. Army and fought in the Mexican War. His friendship with Ulysses Grant was interrupted by the Civil War when Bolivar resigned his commission and volunteered for the Confederacy. Bolivar surrendered Fort Donelson to his friend Grant–unconditionally. After the war, he was elected governor of Kentucky in 1887. Like Fitzhugh Lee and many others, his son, Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., served in the U. S. Army. Buckner, Jr., attained the rank of lieutenant general during WWII and was killed in action in Okinawa on June 18, 1945. This son of a Confederate was the highest-ranking American officer killed by direct enemy fire during the war (90).

Nationwide, former rebels founded or co-founded many of America’s colleges and universities—some exclusively for women and newly freed African-Americans. Some ex-Confederates served as presidents of prominent institutions, including the University of California at Berkeley. Others taught at universities outside the South, such as Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins, the University of San Francisco, and Amherst College. Others served on the United States Military Academy’s governing boards at West Point and the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. Former Confederate doctors, in tandem with past “enemies,” worked together to found professional societies of such renown as the American Medical Association, the American Gynecological and Obstetrical Society, and the American Neurological Association, and the American Surgical Association. The American Public Health Association, working right now to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, also worked in 1879 to fight Yellow Fever under surgeon H. B. Horlbeck, a surgeon with the Confederate 1st Regiment, South Carolina Infantry. 

It is often said that the South lost its “seed corn” when the war came. Two hundred fifty-eight thousand bright young men, full of promise, were casualties of the Civil War. Patriots Twice makes the loss the South suffered more apparent than ever. It may only be imagined what progress the whole of America might have made had the former Confederacy given up its “peculiar institution” much earlier, then used its energy and creativity for the good of the whole. Stephen M. Hood’s book is a physically small monument to the South. Still, it is more effective than those granite sentinels were at convincing readers to accept reconciliation as part of ending the Civil War.

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Stephen M. Hood, Patriots Twice: Former Confederates and the Building of America after the Civil War
Savas Beatie, 2020
256 Pages
Footnotes, Appendices for each chapter, Index

Read the ECW BookChat interview between Chris Mackowski and Stephen Hood from Oct. 14, 2020.

About Meg Groeling

CW Historian
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2 Responses to Book Review: Patriots Twice: Former Confederates and the Building of America after the Civil War

  1. Tony Robertson says:

    I thought Wheeler was TR’s commander in Cuba, not a subordinate or staff member?

  2. W Charles Young says:

    The man in the center of the picture is the actual commander of the Rough Riders, Colonel Leonard Wood. He is dressed similarly to TR. Wheeler was the commanding officer of both.

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