Rick Edwards's Reviews > Look Away!: A History of the Confederate States of America

Look Away! by William C. Davis
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Jul 24, 2011

really liked it

Most of the historical work one finds on the Civil War period relate to the military and naval conflicts. Davis gives us a revealing look behind the war at the politics of the Confederate States of America. Pick up this book and learn about the different factions within the Confederacy, opposition to Jefferson Davis's presidency, and problems structuring a central government in a "confederation" as against a "union" of states. Discover problems collecting taxes, managing revenues, and dealing with tax resistance, along with the problems presented by armed resistance on the part of Union sympathizers. One problem that led the Confederate government along unexpected pathways was ensuring and managing the salt supply, a basic necessity to the fighting men of the South as well as their families back home. Davis argues that the state so completely "inserted itself into the demand and supply equation, replacing both manufacturer and retailer" , as to create a regime of "salt socialism," placing the CSA in the vanguard of state socialism! "Throughout the salt story, the outward forms of traditional Americand and Southern laissez-faire capitalism draped themselves on a framework that represented something far more radical, something as remote from the intent and aspirations of the secessionist founders as emancipation itself" (p. 292). The ups and downs of Confederate diplomacy also receive attention. Most gripping among the stories told, perhaps, is Davis's account of the last days of the Confederacy -- the flight of the government away from Richmond, the plan of Davis and several other principals to escape into exile, foiled by their generals' decision to sue for peace with dignity. Most of the fleeing leaders wound up in Union captivity.
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