Reviewing the Possible Use of Wilson’s Book Confederate Industry


Spring 2015

Kevin “Tiny” Dawson

Wilson, Harold S., Confederate Industry: Manufacturers and Quartermasters in the Civil War. University Press of Mississippi, Jackson, 2002.


For this essay, I choose to write about one of my secondary sources, which was suggested to me by my adviser Dr. Paul Quigley. The book is Harold S. Wilson’s book titled Confederate Industry: Manufacturers and Quartermasters in the Civil War. I feel that after reading through this book, it will be paramount to my research and several of the sources that Wilson utilizes within this work have already led me to sources which I previously had not considered in my research on my topic.

In Wilson’s book, he examines the state and central government manufacturers necessary for the foundation of the Confederate Central Supply Depot System. He also explores the various entrepreneurs and businessmen that went about setting up the necessary facilities, mills, armories, etc. to supply a burgeoning military. His research into both American and foreign/import primary records, help to paint a picture of a very resourceful supply system, With the help of foreign blockade runners, ships designed to bring in much needed military supplies for the South, running through the Union naval blockade of Southern ports, and taking out valuable export raw materials, Confederate supplies were fairly plentiful even late in the war. Wilson is able to examine several different sources, ranging from mill records, Confederate States Quartermaster general records, foreign export records, ship manifests, etc. to show how the supply system operated during the war. His writing style is very engaging and his arguments are thoroughly researched, however, there are more questions that he leaves for future researchers.

The reception of this book in scholarly circles, has been well received, as it has been reviewed and found worthy of the research and time put forth by Wilson. His final work left room for future researchers to take his research and delve deeper to flesh out the lingering questions that were left after the publication. I found several reviews, both scholarly/academic and popular ones that all agreed that the book was very well written, yet some of the more scholarly reviews wanted more, which is why I wrote that there was room to research other aspects of his original work. Wilson’s intended audience, in my humble opinion was to be for both scholarly and popular readers, as was evident in his writing style. He did not seem to want to write down for a popular audience, yet he did not write in such a haughty tone that it was a turn off for hem either. The scholarly audience was also targeted in such a way that the desire for well researched evidence was met.

As for the use of his book in more recent works, I found several instances where Wilson was cited in reviews of other books as well. In several of the other secondary sources that I have investigated, I have found Wilson’s book referenced several times, which shows me that his research bears merit. I plan to mine his sources to see what primary sources, as well as other secondary sources will be available for use to me, as I move forward in researching my thesis. I want to see if any of his primary sources give any evidence of actual issue records of items to units, i.e. jackets, trousers, shoes, leather gear/accoutrements, weapons, ammunition, as well as the evidence of when foreign items began to make an appearance on the scene for Southern armies. I think that the author’s interpretation of the sources and the way that he presents his findings support what I am trying to prove. I feel that with closer scrutiny of the source materials, along with more recent secondary sources and their analysis’, I will be able to prove that as the war progressed, more and better equipment and uniforms were being provided to the soldiers, making them into a more competent fighting force. One thing that cannot be denied however, is that regardless whether the men were getting the needed uniforms, weapons, and gear, there was still a major shortage of food for the fighting men, which led to the description of them being lean and lanky. The lack of food and not the lack of fighting supplies was more of a detriment to the Southern fighting men than any uniform or leather gear shortage.

In short, I firmly believe that Wilson’s book, along with his sources will provide me with several leads for future digging and reading. I feel that his down to earth style of writing may have been what actually drew me into his writing, even after Dr. Quigley recommended the book to me. I am glad that he did so, as I have found this book to be very helpful, even after just reading through the work. I look forward to be able to get further into the reading and source material, as I wait for other books, articles, and manuscripts that I have requested through ILL and ordered off of the internet to arrive. I am getting more and more antsy to get into this project, as it has been a project that I have been thinking about for some time.

Asking the Difficult Question(s) for My Thesis on Dispelling the Myth of the “Ragged” Rebel

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?

Reflections on New Discoveries

Well this has been a great experience for me this far, as I found  out a lot more information about this great source for research. I had dabbled into WorldCat before, but not with the variations on search terms. I think that I was looking for one set of ideas in my previous search terms, i.e. just Confederate uniforming and the “ragged” rebel myth. I had been finding some information, but after this week’s searching, I began to have my eyes opened, not only open,  but, WIDE open to the possibilities of what might be out there.

I was surprised to find several new sources which really are almost exactly what I have been hoping were out there. I found leads to other thesis’ that might have new source materials, as well as other insights into Confederate uniformology and material culture. This is very helpful in my research and I am very excited about the possibilities in the next few weeks. I have a lot of sources to request on Monday. I am looking forward to getting into these, as well as many others that I have just put on my list of findings.

I started out searching Confederate, uniforms, then moved into more detailed searches, including the terms, quartermaster, requisitions, blockade runners, invoices, imports, shoes, accoutrements, etc. These search terms led me to many different sources, which I hope will lead to support for my thesis, yet if they point to a different finding, well, I guess the “ragged” rebel theory will stand, as it has for almost 150 years. However, I feel that with just reading through some of the new information, (even if it is just cursory look to start with), and combining these new sources with the digitized photographs from the Library of Congress, the myth is just that, a myth.

This evidence is important to me, as this has been a great learning experience for me this week and I am excited about moving forward on this project. These sources have helped to focus my research not only on the Confederate uniforms, but also on the other parts of Confederate material culture, i.e. mills, depots, developing a working quartermaster system from a non – existent entity to a fully functioning system, etc. I am also looking forward to sharing my recent findings with Dr. Quigley and the other faculty who I am considering consulting with on this topic and possibly on my future committee.


Embracing the 21st Century and New Sources of Search Techniques

WOW!… Just WOW! What else can be said about WorldCat? This is a phenomenal source of information, and leads, leads for days! This was such a great source fr searching. I know where I will be searching over the next several weeks … searching … searching … searching. This sources led to many different rabbit trails to explore. I found a thesis written on a topic that seems like it may be very helpful to my research and from this I am looking forward to mining some of the sources that t hey used. I also found several other leads that seem to support my thesis idea and I am looking forward to requesting them and can hardly wait to begin delving into them upon their arrival. I created an account within WorldCat and have created a list to start saving sources from which to draw.

I also began “mining” the America: History and Life site suggested by Dr. Quigley, it too held many new sources within its vast wealth of information storage. I began by searching Confederate uniforms,  which then led to material culture, quartermaster records, supply systems, blockade runners, Confederate woolen mills, Confederate supply depots …, this was something to be very wary of, as I began finding a lot of rabbit trails that led to very interesting topics, but which also could be very distracting from my research time.

I found both of these searches to be very enlightening in such a way that I hope to be able to ultimately harvest a lot of information to support my thesis/argument research. With the numerous resources found, I do not think that it will be hard to do. As I mentioned earlier, I started a list to keep relevant searches available for further reading and research, as I find them.



Trying to Make Heads or Tails from the Citeable Notes Readings

I know that I said that I would blog on my search results this time, but I promise to do so in my next one, I am just so excited about looking at my reading/notetaking/recording in a different light. I am almost overwhelmed at the many possibilities that this now presents… where to start?

For my choice of article to blog on this week, I chose a source, which was partly responsible for my initial idea to set out to disprove the standing history of the “ragged” rebel. This article was first published in 1989 by Leslie D. Jensen. In this series of articles, titled “A Survey of Confederate Central Government Quartermaster Jackets” Jensen provides some startling data drawn from surviving records showing staggering numbers of uniforms, including jackets, trousers, caps, and shoes. These numbers are from later in the war, which support the theory of Confederate forces being better supplied later in the war, more so than earlier in the conflict.

I chose to look at this three part article using the citeable notes fashion described in this week’s readings. In doing so, I found myself almost seeing the information for the first time, as it revealed much more this time around. I started looking at the way Jensen cited his sources, where those sources came from, the details that I had forgotten since I had read this article last, and so on. I started noting many more secondary sources, as before I had been focused on the primary accounts, etc. My article is now a marked up, highlighted, underlined, note laden research tool in itself.

I wanted to start recording my notes, or at least vital information in such a way t hat I could recall where they came from, but I began to notice myself wanting to use almost all of the article(s), especially the portions dealing directly with my research interest, (specifically on the Army of Northern Virginia) as there were too many valuable details to get left behind. This dilemma is one that I wish to bring up in class this week, as I am looking for ideas and suggestions on how to help sort the massive amounts of information found in such a resource wealthy source. I find myself trying to make heads or tails from the citeable sources readings, as I have many more questions about the research I am finding now. This week’s assignment has opened my eyes to a new way of researching and taking note of valuable information, yet, I feel that I now have a whole new source, although I have been aware of the article(s) since 1989.

Dr. Quigley also gave me a secondary source, which has been very helpful; it is a book written by Harold S. Wilson called Confederate Industry. After reading through it, (at least at a first cursory read), I found evidence that also begins to solidify my argument, which Wilson goes into great detail describing in painstakingly well researched information from original sources. (Confederate Industry, Wilson, 2002, ppg. 178-179, – uniforms issued, shoes, material, etc. run through the blockade on 84 steamers, from April – December.) 1864.




A Great Adviser Indeed

With the research of “Dispelling the Myth of the Ragged Rebel” a long time interest of mine, I naturally gravitated to the director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, Dr. Paul Quigley. This topic has been the source of many very helpful conversations with Dr. Quigley and it seemed only logical to speak with him about becoming my adviser for my thesis. I have had the desire to attempt to dispel the long standing premise of Confederate soldiers in the American Civil War being “ragged,” wearing only rags and fighting barefooted, with no equipment for months on end. This idea was promoted extensively during the infancy of the “Lost Cause” myth and has gained a major foothold in American history.  However, upon close look at photographs, quartermaster reports, company requisitions, and surviving Confederate material culture, a different story seems to be the case.

I met with Dr. Quigley and we discussed the idea for my thesis project and he had some very insightful thoughts and ideas for me to pursue. He was also able to give me some very good secondary resources, as well as a site to “mine” for ideas, sources, and and leads: America: History and Life: EBSCOhost , which I will write about in my next blog.

This was a very helpful meeting and he was able to help me focus on the overall significance of my argument, as it would be important to show the “so what” aspect of this idea. He said that it would hold much credence and significance, if I could start to dismantle the long standing case of the “ragged” rebel, which has been in existence for almost 150 years. The sources that I mentioned, i.e. the photographs, quartermaster reports, etc. along with the secondary sources that he pointed me in the direction of, begin to do just that.

In the end, Dr. Quigley graciously agreed to be my adviser on this undertaking and I could not have been more pleased. We discussed the possible other people that I would like to ask about being on my committee, to which I answered that I would like to talk to Dr. Milteer, Dr. Wallenstein, and possibly Dr. Thorpe, as their research interests are in my primary area of interest as well.  I am in the highest hopes that I can also speak with them in regards to my research on my thesis and that they can also be of assistance in guidance towards other untapped resources.

After the meeting with Dr. Quigley, I sat in my office to try to soak up all of the information that we talked about. It seemed like there was just such a lot of ideas and information shared in such a seemingly short amount of time, that I was left trying to take it all in. The direction that I have on this project now has taken a slightly different path, one which I am excited to explore. Overall, I am very excited and pleased that Dr. Quigley agreed to be my adviser on my thesis.


Thoughts and Ideas from Faculty Members

As I mentioned in a previous post, I wish to research the topic of dispelling the myth of the “ragged Rebel.” I have spoken to several faculty members on this topic and they have been quite receptive and supportive of this idea. I spoke with Dr. Quigley, who as you know, is the director for the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies. He was very interested in the topic and was able to provide some very insightful ideas, as well as the titles of some books to further my research. I brought this to his attention when I was working with him on one of our upcoming projects and we have had several discussion regarding the way in which I can go about getting the most out of this project.

The second person that I have talked with about this idea was Dr. Wallenstein, although he is “not here” in an official capacity this semester, he was able to provide some very useful ideas and constructive criticism when he and I talked about the idea for my research. He was trying to help me focus on a more detailed/specific research question to help narrow my research, which I am finding to be probably the most difficult thing to do.

I also spoke with Professors Dufour and Kutz, both of whom have had some great tips for writing. I am looking to make this research something that can be drawn upon to help reinterpret many of the common misconceptions about the Confederate soldier. This research will be invaluable in many aspects of the history field, from classrooms to museums. Professor Dufour was very helpful in pointing out different ways to pose questions to help guide my research, whereas Professor Kutz was able to point out many different eras of the research over the past 150 years and was able to combine this with some suggestions on  several books that may be of great help in my research if this is the direction that I head, or this is the final project that I decide to research.

I have such a wide field of interests, which presents a problem for me, as I do not have just one area to focus on. This week, I chose to read the thesis on the role of WWII era women and the use of cookbooks to make them “kitchen citizens.” This thesis was extremely well written and thoroughly researched and footnoted extensively. I found the information both engaging and not too dry to make the reader feel bored. I thought that she was able to examine both gender studies and the culinary fields in such a way that it didn’t seem to sound like that was the case; things just flowed very smoothly. The examination of women’s roles both in and out of the kitchen and household was really well researched and the research into the roles of the OWI and OPA in the lives of women on the homefront was quite enlightening. I also found the section on how commercial companies were supporting the war effort by creating names for certain recipes, or the ingredients themselves quite interesting. I always like reading more about these often overlooked segments of history. I have several of the war ration tokens and ration booklets, as well as several of the “Cooking for Victory” cookbooks and I find that reading through these recipes, I don’t even recognize some of the ingredients, or they have changed drastically. It is true that the homefront was undergoing a transformation, although not on the scale that the front line soldiers were, it was still a transformation all the same.

One thing that I found to be a little of a problem, at least in my eyes, was the use of the illustrations, first of all, I felt that there could have been more. The ones that she did use, were off center, and very small, and somewhat dark. I think that the use of more of them would be helpful to break up the reading and help to illustrate her arguments. I would also recommend the use of a larger illustration and a lighter tint to make them easier to see. Overall I was very impressed with the topic and I hope that mine turns out half as good. Thanks for posting the link to read this, it was quite good.


“Boots and Saddles” has Sounded…Second Semester is Upon Us

“Boots and Saddles” was the bugle call which was sounded to tell  cavalrymen during the American Civil War that it was time to saddle up and get ready to move out. I find this to be quite appropriate for our situation in Research Methods, as we are saddling up for another semester.

My name is Kevin Dawson, but my friends call me “Tiny.” I am a first year MA student at Virginia Tech. I have been a student of history for as long as I can remember. It actually started around the time I was four years old, with my discovery of a photograph of my great uncle who had been killed in World War II. I was hooked on history from then on. I became a Civil War reenactor/living historian when I was ten years old,  to experience some of the same things that I read about in many of the Civil War books that I kept my nose buried in.  From that time forward, I have been a student of history and have had a lot of interest in the American Civil War, the “Great War”, and World War II. I also have a great interest in the United States Life Saving Service, the forerunners to the modern day United States Coast Guard. I have a wide variety of interests, that it is very difficult to decide on a particular one to write about, however, my first experience with learning about history was with my dad and our passion for the American Civil War.

For this reason, I am interested in researching the probable myth of the “ragged Rebel.” This research would be on the Confederate Quartermaster Supply System, (Post “Commutation Period,”) 1862-1865. This would include a survey of uniforms and equipment used in the field by the Army of Northern Virginia. The research will openly examine the present historiography, as well as build upon it to perhaps dispel the myth of the “Ragged Rebel.” The established popular memory is one that soldiers who fought for the Confederacy were clothed in tattered uniforms, went barefoot, and faced the problem of a dwindling supply of uniforms, arms, and equipment, as the war drug out, is something that scholars, historians, and history buffs alike, have been led to believe over the last century and a half.

Some of the sources I plan to utilize are surviving Quartermaster depot records which help to paint a picture of what the average Confederate soldier was wearing and fighting with throughout the four years of conflict, in which over 750,000 died. This research will use original photographs, period sketches, and various first – person, eyewitness accounts, as well as post war “remembrances” of the veterans themselves.

This topic is oft overlooked as it deals with studying photographs of Confederate soldiers killed in action. This is not meant to be morbid, yet this project is meant to glean as much information on the subject. For many years, I have been staring at the same pictures that everybody sees in the thousands of books on the Civil War. I used these photos to continuously try to improve my overall knowledge of the common Confederate soldier. However, through many years of reading diaries, letters, quartermaster reports and any number of other primary sources, I came to realize that the generic “Johnny Reb” fighting in the ANV, had a different appearance which changed throughout the war. Another factor to consider is the time of year, and specifically which year, and or battle that they were fighting in, (i.e. Longstreet’s ANV men fighting in the western theater in the fall/winter of 1863.)

I began noticing the little details in various photographs, from the way that the canteens were worn, whether they were wearing a bedroll or a knapsack, how they wore their accoutrements, etc. I also have read, like many others, that the Confederate army became more ragged as the war drew to a close. If you look closely at these primary source photographs, period paintings, and period sketches, I find that you begin to see a pattern emerge, which shows Confederate soldiers (in many cases,) actually looking better uniformed and more well-equipped later in the war. I began to question how this was possible and upon further investigation, discovered that the Confederate States of America were successfully establishing quartermaster depots throughout the South. The Confederacy was receiving uniforms, wool broadcloth, arms, equipment, and ammunition through the Union blockade, even as late as early spring of 1865. The blockade became more effective as the war progressed, but it was not foolproof, which allowed many Confederate blockade-runners to bring supplies in and take raw materials and goods out.

For the study of period photographs and sketches, I will examine the Library of Congress’ collection of photographs and prints. The selection of pictures located there is very clear and have been digitized for easy access, as well as clarity through a high-resolution process. One can find these pictures in books and such, but the clarity is not the same as in the digitized pictures. Many of the photographs contain very graphic, gruesome images of death, and this research is in no way any attempt to glorify war, or to show any disrespect towards those men that laid down their lives for their beliefs. This source will help research, analyze, and document the progression of uniforms, equipment and gear worn by the common Confederate soldier from the ANV, 1861-1865.

I firmly believe that the scholarly contribution of this research, will allow current and future generations of historians to get a better, and truer picture of what the average Confederate soldier looked like during the war years from 1861 – 1865. If my findings prove this to be the case, that Confederate soldiers were better equipped later in the war, then the myth of the “Ragged Rebel” can be confirmed as part of the post – war perpetuation of the “Lost cause.”

I hope to use this blog to record my thoughts, ideas, and drafts along my path towards my research project or thesis. I also welcome any input or suggestions from people who read this blog, so that I may have a source of information from which to draw along the way. It is always good to get suggestions from others, from a different point of view, as I firmly believe that one can get too close to the writing and therefore can lose focus on the end project, I hope not to do that and again, welcome any ideas. Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing from many of you.



Animals Equal Agency

In this week’s readings, I was upset by the many different memories that came to mind as I read. I have had many different animals in my life from dogs, cats, hamsters, horses, cows, goats, pigs, bulls, chickens, and even a hermit crab, each of who had a great impact on my life. I find myself agreeing that animals have agency in humans lives because I believe that we have an impact in their lives. I feel that since we are part of the animal kingdom ourselves then we are all interconnected in a way.

Animals are not just beings to be dominated, they are intelligent in their own sense. I look at famous animals in history, some of them more famous than others, and see human events that could not have been possible without the help of animals. Look at the space race of the 1950’s and 1960’s; America’s sending astronauts into space would not have been possible without there first being a test flight with a chimpanzee.

The United States Navy uses bottle nose dolphins to search underwater for a variety of threats and even lost items.  Law enforcement agencies use dogs to prevent threats to humans from other humans, be it searching for explosives, guns, drugs, and a variety of other purposes. I feel that animals are so important to humans in many ways other than pure companionship that there is no way that we, as humans could not keep our need for them unchecked.

Animals absolutely have agency in history, right from the outset. I mean, even a serpent/snake used language to trick Eve into eating the apple in the Garden of Eden. Many different cultures have a creation story that includes animals in them, therefore, animals equal agency.

Thoughts on Pre-History

I too, completely overlooked the posting/blogging for the readings, since I was so engrossed in the research aspect of my historiography, so I too, must beg forgiveness for the delay in my blog this week. I apologize for this oversight on my part.

I have often wondered when I came across the term pre-history exactly what that meant. I mean history is history, right? Whether it be what modern historians have tended to call it, be it pre-history, ancient, dark, etc. Pre-history was a time in the past that happened and that’s just fact. Why are there labels for periods, when these periods are what comprise mankind’s history? Smail does a good job bringing that point to light and he also makes me start to see that there is a reason why historians have  possibly done this in the past. He also was able to effectively convey the argument of the need for interdisciplinary study and working together. I remember Dr. Jones saying in a conversation that “there is a reason why we are historians”, when talking about the frustration that she and I have with math. If we can find a way to start to connect the various fields to get a better grasp on the past, or on science, math, or (fill in the discipline) then we can begin to pull pre-history into the realm of what we now know as history. I know all of this seems to be confusing, but I believe that everything can all be part one big picture instead of several different smaller pictures.

Smail explains how this history big picture has not been presented before, by talking of biology giving way to culture on page 4, when he says “In these and other ways, works of general history explained why there could be no narrative continuity between prehistory and history.” However, now that we are starting to connect the disciplines, this is no longer the case. I find it intriguing when Smail talks about how biologists start to explain Darwinian thinking in reference to “cultural evolution.” (page 95) Smail does create a case for this conection between science and history in many cases, but I found that when he talked about being scared of the dark, he was able to tie it together, or seemingly so, by saying “…at least, the findings of evolutionary psychology seem to dovetail with the archeological evidence.” This connection between science and history is a fascinating one and can only draw the disciplines together and thus allow for our fields to grow closer together, and make the world a much smaller place. By this I mean that individual fields will not each have their own ideas and be so far apart on research and connections. By bringing the fields closer, people invovled with one field, can then also find connectivity and be able to share that information, much like we share ideas and research now via the internet. Information is spreading and the distance between those that are looking for that information or connection grows much smaller day by day.