Book Review–The Capitals of the Confederacy

Capitals of the Confederacy by Michael C. Hardy
Capitals of the Confederacy by Michael C. Hardy

Hardy, Michael C. The Capitals of the Confederacy: A History (Civil War Series). Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2015. 127 pages, notes, index, b/w photos, ISBN 9781626198876, $19.99.

When it comes to the Civil War in North Carolina the name Michael C. Hardy will come to mind for many readers. He is the author of more than twenty books and dozens of articles. He was the recipient of the 2010 North Carolina Historian of the Year award and is a prolific speaker on North Carolina and in particular Civil War history.

When it comes to capitals of the Confederacy many casual Civil War enthusiasts will only know of Richmond. In fact, many with extensive knowledge of the war might have to think hard in order to come up with the five cities included in this book. The five included are Montgomery, Richmond, Danville, Greensboro, and Charlotte. In order to have been considered a capital Hardy says a city must “…have been the scene of official business: meetings of the Confederate cabinet, issuance of official proclamations or other activities of the various branches of the government” (p. 7-8). The cities of Montgomery and Richmond were chosen while the other three were determined by the course of the war.

Each of the cities included receives adequate coverage with Richmond encompassing the lions share as would be expected. In each city we see how the residents lived and were effected by war. We see the economies, health conditions, social aspects and more of the cities and residents. It is often times not pleasant.

As the end draws near for the Confederacy the government, led by president Jefferson Davis, leaves the chosen capital in an attempt to keep ahead of Union forces but also to try to find a way to keep the fledgling government and country going. As Hardy effectively shows this became more and more difficult and the stays in cities became shorter as they moved further south. While in Greensboro Davis ignores the advice of his generals to try to negotiate peace and instead continues on to Charlotte. The narrative wraps up with the escape and ultimate capture of Jefferson Davis.

The final chapter, “Looking for the Capitals of the Confederacy” is one of my favorites. This gives us a look at the cities in modern-day and what remains of the Confederate government. For some, such as Montgomery there is little left while Richmond is home to many sites despite the tremendous fires that accompanied the leaving of the government. Also included are other cities that have markers to the Confederate government. These are most often associated with the fleeing Davis.

As the author points out each of the cities included has had at least one book written about their part in the war (see the introduction for solid discussion of other sources). No book however has attempted to do what this one has successfully done which is bring all the cities together under one cover.

This is not a long book, with just over 100 pages of text. It can easily be digested in a sitting or two. The photographs are both vintage and modern and help bring the text into further focus. There are full end notes for those wishing to do further research. There is no bibliography but oftentimes in History Press/Arcadia titles there is no space for such. The notes however are complete enough for most any reader.

Strongly recommended.

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