Last week’s readings, along with our class discussions and the readings in and outside of class on the topic of forming a solid research question for our theses have been very enlightening. I found last week’s XYZ exercise on trying to formulate a good research question quite helpful and I hope that I have been able to tackle this first hurdle with a little more confidence than before.
I am writing my thesis about “Dispelling the Myth of the ‘Ragged Rebel’: A Case Study in Confederate Material Culture.” I wish to explore how the Confederate States government could begin supplying the various Southern armies through a non-existent supply system in the early days of the war, in such a short amount of time. Evidence points to (after the implementation of the Confederate Quartermaster Supply depots,) Confederate forces becoming more well supplied/better equipped, even as the war progressed, not the opposite. It has long been argued that the “ragged” rebels were just plain overwhelmed, overpowered, outnumbered and had they been properly supplied, or had more men, then they would have been victorious. This argument was one of the very tenet arguments upon which the “Lost Cause” myth was built. that as the Union naval blockade tightened its grip on Southern ports, or as Union armies overran supply depots, supplies to the troops, their uniforms, and equipment, became scarcer and the men became more and more bedraggled, tattered, and worn. Close Examination of original photographs, quartermaster records, veteran’s accounts, paintings, sketches, etc, supports the thesis of the troops being better supplied as the war drug on.
With my thesis, I hope to help others understand how this myth was the very foundation of the “Lost Cause” and that without the “ragged” rebel, then it would have been much harder to explain away the Confederate defeat. This part of the “Lost Cause” has been able to remain a major component of the argument for the last 150 years and I feel that it is a disservice to the fighting men of the Confederacy and their opponents, who according to the myth, were just barely able to win the war facing off against a “ragged”, tattered, starving, worn out, army of defiant Southerners.
So, I believe that my first draft of a research question will be as follows:
Dispelling the Myth of the “Ragged” Rebel: A Case Study in Confederate Material Culture. With the predominant idea of Confederate Armies being comprised of “ragged” rebels during the war, what then took the Union four years to defeat them? Did Confederate Quartermaster Supply Depots actually provide a larger amount of uniforms, weapons, and equipment to make much more well equipped Southern armies , than previously understood?