How I Advanced My Research Over Spring Break

Because of the fact that I am an idiot…I somehow posted this original post on one of my old undergraduate blogs. Had Dr. Winling not pointed this out, I would never have thought to look there to find it, as I was frantically looking for it. I am posting this for my fellow cohort members to peruse….

Over Spring Break, I was able to advance my research by reading through many of the books and articles which I have been collecting over the last few weeks. I have been able to dig many different sources up, especially in the field of imported items into the Confederacy. The ability to uniform, arm, and equip the soldiers of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, (the specific army on which I am doing my research) more aptly than previously understood, makes for quite a compelling argument for the capabilities of the Confederate States of America’s Quartermaster system, as well as for the Confederate logistical system.

The research that I have been able to uncover shows a significant increase in imported uniforms, shoes, accoutrements, weapons, including small arms, artillery, and edged weapons. What was the main source of the downfall with the Confederacy, was not the shortage of uniforms, weapons, and equipment, not the fewer numbers of fighting men, not even the overarching agenda of slavery, reprehensible as it was, it was due mainly to political infighting, the argument between states, over state’s rights vs. a central government, and the lack of being able to properly feed the men in the field.

In doing all of the reading on my sources and digging deeper into how I am going to frame my argument, ask my questions, and attempt to redefine my focus statement, I am suddenly aware of a new direction I wish to take my research. I feel that to try to engage with the idea of dispelling the myth of the “ragged” rebel, I will be unable to tackle the myth, the material culture aspect of an argument, and the origin/longevity of the myth in one paper, and still be able to meet the assignment parameters in a timely fashion.

I therefore wish to examine the evolution of the Confederate supply system and the way that the importation of foreign military goods helped to allow the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to fight on for four years.  This will allow me to examine ship manifests, ordnance records, diaries, journals, quartermaster reports, inspector general reports and analyses, as well as much of the secondary research into various aspects of material culture, which in turn, will help to help paint the picture of how the importation of foreign goods aided the Confederacy in its fight for Southern Independence.

The source which I chose to investigate for this blog post is an article by Leslie Jensen, in which he examines extant Confederate uniforms in particular. His ability to differentiate the various depot patterns, the changes over time, the origins of the patterns for the item, the construction techniques, i.e. hand sewn vs. machine, etc., and the artifact’s significance to the field of material culture is evident in his research into the field. In his article, Jensen breaks down several different surviving uniforms, and attempts to formulate a sort of typing system for these items.

The author uses extensive research into original sources materials, not only the uniforms themselves, but quartermaster records, requisition forms, journals, diaries, and goes into great detail in secondary sources. His methodology utilizes the lenses of material culture, cultural, social, political, and economic studies. The way that he examines these items alone, is material culture. As for the cultural and social aspects of researching the topic(s), this includes a look at Southern homefront ways of meeting the challenge of supplying the soldiers in a “stop gap” way of filling the need for outfitting the soldiers until foreign goods could be secured. This includes who would have been working on these items at the time, be it women, or men that were not fighting at the front. The political and economic lenses examine the Confederacy’s trade and purchasing operations abroad from foreign supporters, or military goods companies.

My research interests and my lenses of examination will follow Jensen’s model and will look more closely at the way that the Confederate supply system evolved and how the foreign partners in supplying the Confederacy’s war efforts made the Confederate cause last longer than it should have been able to on its own.

One thought on “How I Advanced My Research Over Spring Break”

  1. So, as I read the new focus of your project you are asking “how was the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia supplied over the four years of the Civil War? And you want to argue that importation played a key role in supplying the Army. To do so you’ll investigate where the various provisions came from and how they were transmitted to the troops in the field. And you want undertake this research in order to understand how a largely agrarian economy was able to provision an Army that required supplies that had to be produced by a largely manufacturing economy. Did I get it right? If so, notice that I have said nothing in explaining what you are doing and why you want to do it about the ability of the Confederacy to “fight on” or the need to search for reasons the Confederacy lost the war that are not grounded in lack of provisions. That would be beyond the scope of the research project I described.

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