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Confederate Phoenix$

Edmund L. Drago

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780823229376

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: March 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fso/9780823229376.001.0001

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Education and Nation Building

(p.50) 5 Education and Nation Building
Confederate Phoenix

Edmund L. Drago

Fordham University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the situation of education and nation building in South Carolina after the Civil War. By 1864, South Carolina educators were creating a children's literature and textbook movement designed to prepare the young to take their places in the New Republic. The task of nation building in South Carolina was made more difficult by an educational system that was premodern.

Keywords:   education, nation building, South Carolina, Civil War, educators, children's literature, New Republic, educational system

Confederate leaders in South Carolina had no master plan for education when their state abruptly seceded in December 1860. The ensuing war disrupted schools and drastically reduced the number of teachers; families scrambled to find ways to maintain local schools. Women tried to fill the gap, but their contributions did not resolve a worsening teacher shortage. Although many parents were primarily focused on their children learning the basics under trying and distracting circumstances, state educators were working with their counterparts throughout the Confederacy in a nation-building reform movement to end Yankee influence. Religious leaders played a pivotal role in this crusade.1

By 1864, South Carolina educators were on the cusp of creating a children's literature and textbook movement designed to prepare the young to take their places in the New Republic. Male academies and colleges would produce the elite cadre to serve as leaders of the New Republic, while female academies would educate the future mothers and teachers of a new generation of South Carolinians. Besides the divisions within the Confederacy, those educators had to overcome deep fissures and prejudices within their state. Religion was a central force to overcome these obstacles and to sustain the war momentum. God would save his children if they kept the faith. However, too many South Carolinians seemingly resorted to speculation, immorality, materialism, and selfish-ness, thereby tempting God's wrath. Children's literature, although mirroring societal divisions and prejudices, flourished after the war to perpetuate the Southern heritage and prepare the way for Redemption.

The task of nation building in South Carolina was made more difficult by an educational system that was premodern. In 1860 twenty thousand white pupils attended thirteen hundred schools. Only about five thousand pupils were in public schools. The early free schools in the cities were underfunded and carried a stigma. Rural parents taught their offspring a rudimentary education until they were old enough to attend school. Their labor was still needed on the farm. Three-month-long field schools were popular in rural areas. Youths went from the plow to field schools and back. According to veteran Harvey Hart of York District, schools were mostly opened by subscription and ran from two to ten months. They were decidedly traditional. Lessons in spelling and reading (p.51) were punctuated with an occasional whipping. These schools often experienced discontinuity as teachers moved on. Also, they were dependent on the financial ability of the parents to sustain them.2

The disruption of schools began almost immediately as thousands of teachers and their charges enlisted. Schools were forced to close. Brief respites brought the reopening of some schools, but disruptions continued throughout the war as a major shortage of teachers loomed over the state. The Conscription Act of April 1862 exempted teachers in colleges, academies, schools, and theological seminaries with twenty or more students. The act was tightened in October 1862 to include only those who had been teaching two years prior to its passage. Between 1862 and December 1863 only 140 men received exemptions or details as teachers in South Carolina. On February 17, 1864, the Confederacy still retained exemptions for teachers. A year later the superintendent of conscription recorded 196 exemptions for the state. That number needs to be placed in perspective. In 1860 the “free schools” in Newberry District subsidized forty-two teachers (whose 547 students paid tuition with difficulty) while Charleston's public schools employed fifty-three teachers.3

Victories at Fort Sumter and Bull Run brought a brief period of relief. In the cities some schools were reopened by December 1861. The safety of the Upcountry lured many refugees. This in turn created an educational cottage industry in Camden. In 1862 town advertisements announced the reopening of the schools in early January. Mr. L. McCandless reopened his on January the first. Sessions would be for nine and one-half months. Another Camden teacher, L. McDonald, planned to open his school on the sixth. Similarly, Charles Peck reopened the Camden Male Academy. In 1863 the plucky Sisters of Mercy reopened their day school in Charleston, a “popular seminary for young ladies,” and their boarding school in Sumter.4

Placing wounded veterans in schoolhouses seemed an ideal solution to the teaching shortage. The veterans might also have more success in handling boys hellbent on joining the army. One soldier joked that his limp helped him more than his Latin. Retooling males disabled by the war as teachers did not fully succeed; it came too late. Moreover, disabled men were already serving in the State Reserves; in rural districts they got out the crops. In 1863, Baptist Sunday schools provided “the institute of primary education” for many children. In February 1864, educators sounded the alarm. A Baptist weekly feared that education would be short-changed “amid the excitement and tumble of war” and South Carolina would “reap the bitter fruits of negligence.” Too many bread-winners were deceased or at the front. Many soldiers “from South Carolina could not write their names” on Confederate payrolls. By August 1864 neighbors of Lutheran Minister Thaddeus Boinest could no longer afford to send (p.52) their children to his school in Newberry District. Also, the minister had presided over too many funerals of his parishioners to remain unaffected. So he closed his school, left his family in God's hands, and went off to the battlefield with the state militia. After the war, educators concluded that “in many parts of the country” students had been “deprived of their teachers.”5

Most parents did not experience the kind of success that David Golightly Harris and his wife Emily had in keeping their children in school. The couple was tenacious. The Spartanburg farmer had an edge. An older man, he managed to stay out of the war for most of the period. As a small slaveowner, he had enough money to hire a substitute. Still, schooling for his children was touch and go. In June 1861 they were attending Mary Lanford's school. When the session ended in October, Harris complained how difficult it was to start a school. He worried that his younger children might grow up ignorant. In January 1862, neighborhood families attempted to organize a school for three female teachers. Harris completed the work on the schoolhouse, but his neighbors bickered with him over the staffing. The financial exigencies of the families often dictated how long these schools lasted. Their enrollments were fluid.6

In March 1862, Harris's children Laura, Willie, and James went to a Mr. Henry's school. Harris carried them to the place on horseback. In August 1862 his other children were again attending Miss May's school, but the father complained that it was too crowded; it had thirty-three students. In April 1863, Harris tried to get another teacher, Mary Walker, but her terms were too steep. That December he secured the services of Miss Virginia (“Jinnie”) Moorman. Harris became the school's handyman; he hauled wood and made a “causeway” to keep the children from trekking through the mud. When it rained, Harris brought the children and teacher to the building. During the harvest in June, Miss Jinnie dismissed the children for several weeks. Near the end of December she took sick, and the school was closed.7

In March 1865 the Harris's children were no longer in school. They spent most of their time playing. Harris, who prized education as the most lasting gift he could give his children, feared that without it they would be lost in an ever-changing world. In July 1865 the children returned to school. Having the kids in school preserved their parents' sanity, especially as the war approached its catastrophic conclusion. Once when “the children [had been] confined to the house,” the harassed father wrote, “Their noise and confusion and the trials that I see in the future have made me a miserable day. I have felt crazy. I could almost feel the wrinkles coming on my face and the hair turn gray on my head.” He recalled his mother's observation that those “who raised the most children had the most trouble.”8

(p.53) Families with more modest means were equally determined to educate their children but were less successful than Harris. J. W. Reid was born no aristocrat. He worked in a cotton factory while his dad labored in a gristmill. Since Reid did not have the chance to go to school, he feared his fourteen-year-old son Irving would miss the opportunity because of the uncertainty of the war. In 1862 the soldier counseled his son to attend school and learn all he could. Despite Reid's admonition, when Irving turned seventeen, he enlisted in the same unit to be with his pa. His father anguished that the war had put his only child in harm's way. To send the youth to the battlefield was tantamount to manslaughter. When Reid was Officer of the Guard, Irving would sometimes call out, “Papa.”9

The study of twenty-four petitions to the Confederate secretary of war and the governor of South Carolina suggests that getting teachers exempt or returned to the classroom was problematic. The Upcountry was hard-hit. Some applications were simply declined. Small schools in rural areas were ignored. Established schools with twenty or more students had the best chance at getting exemptions for their faculty. The South Carolina elite placed a high premium on keeping the male principals and teachers in their academies and colleges. In October 1861 the president of Newberry College and members of the Board of Trustees sought the discharge of the Rev. W. Eichelberger from the Second Virginia Regiment. He was principal of the Preparatory Department. School authorities pleaded: “It is all important that the education of the rising generation be attended to at this time. The youth of this Confederacy will soon be called upon to discharge the grave and responsible duties that now devolve upon men of mature years.”10

As the war continued, even wounded soldiers faced obstacles in obtaining discharges or details to teach; the need for manpower at the front undermined efforts on their behalf. In early February 1863 a petition of citizens from Clarendon District, including the Trustees of Summerton Academy, asked that their former teacher, Rev. William Thomas, be detailed as their schoolmaster. He had headed an institution with nearly a hundred students until he volunteered for service. The patriotic preacher was seriously wounded at Second Bull Run. Former Wofford Professor M. C. Layton found it impossible to get discharged after he had volunteered. The entire faculty of the college supported his request. They argued that he was physically disabled and much needed at the school. Layton, a member of the Spartanburg Sharpshooters, finally gave up the effort. Soon thereafter he died of disease at Chattanooga, Tennessee.11

Female academies and their clientele were determined to keep their institutions open. It seems they were more successful, especially as the fears of the Yankees and runaway slaves increased. In February 1865, 132 persons at Due (p.54) West Female Academy signed a petition requesting that all their professors be exempt. A pencil notation suggests the teachers were detailed to guard duty. On February 3, 1865, S. W. Bookhart of Blythwood Female Academy, Fairfield District, sought to remain at his post as superintendent. He believed that without him the school would be closed and the education of the daughters of the Confederacy placed in jeopardy. Supporters praised him as a wealthy man who aided the families of the soldiers and the poor in his neighborhood. He was granted a thirty-day delay.12

Communities throughout the state tried to get teachers exempted, detailed at home, or discharged. In 1863 citizens from Barnwell District wanted J. S. Mixson exempt from conscription. He had been a teacher since 1857 but had joined the First South Carolina Regiment. When the company underwent reorganization, he retired and returned to teaching. In April 1863 citizens of Edgefield sought the discharge of a teacher who had taught thirty students. A month later “Citizens of Spartanburg” asked that James A. Dodd be discharged because he had conducted a school of twenty children before the war. The school was located in a “dense settlement of boys & girls. Some almost grown & can't get a teacher well qualified.” On May 16, 1864, Edgefield District parents asked that Hezekiah Bennett, Seventh South Carolina Volunteers (SCV) Regiment, be detailed as a teacher. He had been in charge of twenty students in a “densely populated” neighborhood. “Having a great many children to be educated,” the parents pleaded, “we find it impossible to procure a teacher.”13

Teacher-starved communities turned to the governor for help in late 1864 and early 1865, when the state legislature gave him the power to grant exemptions and details. The war had played such unforeseen havoc on their families; the governor was sympathetic to the parents' circumstances and fears. On December 23, 1864, D. R. Shannon was teaching at Bull Swamp in Orangeburg District. He had begun teaching in 1860. He taught all grades. His pupils numbered twenty-six. His request for exemption was approved. On December 31, 1864, a petition signed by twenty-seven parents from Laurens District wanted their teacher, a shoemaker named Lemuel T. H. Daniel, retained. His school served between thirty and forty students; there was no other school in the vicinity for miles. The governor granted him a thirty-day detail. On January 27, 1865, W. H. Witherton, a teacher at Marion Academy in Mars Bluff, asked for exemption. He taught some forty scholars; he was the only teacher in the village. These appeals to the governor revealed the desperation of parents and their communities. Although the long war appeared to be nearly over, parents did not want the education of their children to stop, too. On February 2, 1865, a group requested the exemption of T. J. Wells, the principal of the prestigious Mt. Zion Institute, originally chartered in 1777. His school of forty students was the only (p.55) one of its kind in Fairfield District. Appealing to the governor, the petitioners lamented, “[Our] sons will probably be deprived of all benefits of education as they attain sixteen years of age.” Soon thereafter, Sherman occupied the institute, located in Winnsboro, as his headquarters. According to folklore, he had the building burned down on his departure.14

Chartered in 1785 as a college, Mt. Zion represented some of the revered educational institutions that existed in South Carolina before the war. Despite its premodern educational system and increasing teacher shortage, the state had a variety of public institutions of higher learning such as the College of Charleston, which served the Lowcountry, and South Carolina College in Columbia. Both concentrated on the humanities and the sciences. For those interested in a military career, there were the State Arsenal in Columbia and the Citadel in Charleston; both formed the South Carolina Military Academy. In addition, there were private colleges such as Baptist-oriented Furman in the Upcountry. A plethora of male academies also dotted the state's landscape. York District alone boasted three: Union Military Academy, the Yorkville Male Academy, and King's Mountain. Military academies became prep schools for the South Carolina Military Academy. Such schools instilled in their charges a warrior ethos reinforced by service on slave patrols and in the state militia. In 1861 the South possessed a superior military culture as manifested by the numerous military academies and schools in the region. This warrior ethos imbued the mind-set of South Carolinians and abetted educators in their nation-building efforts.15

When the patriotic fever hit South Carolina, impatient young men abandoned their books and enlisted in the army. The senior class at the College of Charleston asked for a leave of absence to join the cause. The college limped along until the evacuation of the city became imminent. It closed its doors on December 19, 1864. South Carolina College traversed a briefer course. In 1861 the students successfully organized a company of a hundred officers and soldiers out of an enrollment of 143. They left for Charleston without the permission of college authorities. Arriving after the fall of Fort Sumter, they served three weeks on Sullivan's Island. Most returned to the college. The trustees tried to keep it open, but by June 1862 the buildings were needed as hospitals for the increasing war casualties. Efforts to reopen the college in 1863 failed with the Union's twin victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg. The turmoil fermented by the closing of these institutions came to light in early April 1865 when the governor considered a program to “gather all the youths of the State, and establish a military camp for their discipline and education.”16

Very early in the war, women recognized the opportunity opening up to them by the growing shortage of male teachers. In July 1861 Emma Holmes (p.56) noted that many ministers, doctors, and schoolteachers had to join the state militia when the upper age limit was extended to sixty. Young women, who needed to support their families, looked for a “situation” or opened up their own schools. Thoughtful parents recognized that their girls would face a changed world after the war; their education became more critical. It enabled them to earn a living as teachers, with luck at a female academy.17

Such academies were founded before the war: Greenville (1819), Barhamville (1828), Fuller Institute in Greenwood (1848), Edgefield (1850), and Spartanburg (1851). Emanating from modern Europe, these academies provided a haven for girls of elite families when they were no longer expected to marry at an early age. These institutions were to turn out “graceful, highly educated and thoroughly accomplished girls” ready to perform their roles in a patriarchal society. Preparing them for courtship, marriage, and motherhood was a means of preserving the patriarchy. In 1859, William F. Nance of Newberry told his two sisters that they should study hard in order to do their duty and “move in your own spheres.” However, these academies were more like finishing schools. Extended schooling led to prolonged childhood and dependency. Some of these institutions like the [Baptist] Greenville Female Academy took modern reform seriously by attempting to adapt it to fit their agenda; young women's faculties especially needed to be trained, disciplined, and developed to preserve a way of life in a changing world.18

Schools in the Upcountry offered a refuge from threatening Yankee invaders. When the Ursuline convent in Columbia was set on fire by Sherman's troops, South Carolinians perceived this atrocity as particularly sacrilegious since the holy place was the ultimate refuge for women and children. With such an impending threat more a reality, the education of women took on paramount importance as a vehicle to purify a morally complacent nation. Judicious women teachers would fill the depleted ranks and morally reform the society by educating the young in the right direction. In February 1865 a Yorkville newspaper, reporting on the latest meeting of the Confederate Educational Association, noted: “This cruel and unfortunate war has so sadly interrupted the education of our sons, that it becomes doubly important to educate our daughters.… [Let our] fair daughters cleanse the social and moral escutcheon of public sentiment and character, with the intelligence of mind and purity of character.” One of the last acts of the association was in May 1865 when it called on women to fill “the vacant post” of teaching. This call appealed to women to bolster the weakened patriarchy by declaring, “Their fathers, husbands, lovers and other natural protectors have fallen by disease or in battle.”19

These female academies were not the peaceful havens of learning that parents envisioned. While the younger girls were often homesick, the older ones (p.57) became jaded and rebellious. In October 1863, Emma Holmes taught at the McCandless School in Camden. She remained until December 1864. Emma felt like a nun. The girls were divided into six classes. Emma taught fifth class, which included seven-, eight-, and eleven-year-old girls. She had fifty students. Her classes began with a prayer at 8:30 a.m. Until 11:00 a.m. she taught them history, vocabulary, grammar, and geography. Another teacher helped the girls with their arithmetic and composition. Emma then taught a class of twenty other students. They read Paradise Lost and translated Racine.20

In November 1863 Emma's probationary period ended. She was offered a yearly salary of $200. In January 1864 she dropped the fifth and sixth classes and took over a course devoted to the works of the noted British historian and statesman Thomas B. Macaulay. Such a course was a perfect vehicle to instill the aristocratic ethos of nation building. By February Emma was disillusioned. In March her pupils staged a revolt against Macaulay, whom they found boring. The twenty-one girls were defiant. They played every trick in the book to undermine her authority. The underlying causes might have been grades; the girls felt that Emma was too demanding. Most preferred spending their leisure time reading novels. Resentful of this intrusion on their extended girlhood, these independent-minded and pampered young ladies took their hostility out on their teacher of classical education.21

In contrast to these finishing schools, evangelical academies became centers of reform. The Confederate Baptist was the official organ for South Carolina Baptists. On August 31, 1864 a correspondent for the Christian weekly wrote an article entitled “Is Woman Equal to Man in Mental Power?” The answer was a resounding yes. The author refuted notions that women were “weak minded, that they [could not] go deep.” Before the war, “dandies about towns were as plentiful as blackberries in June.” The article suggested that women had the same mental capacity as men and should have the same opportunity for mental and physical improvement that boys had: “Let them drink deep at the spring of knowledge; teach them not to live for mere pleasure; for she that giveth for pleasure is dead while she liveth. They should be taught to recognize the exalted destiny assigned them by Heaven, that the mission of women is very important.” They should not be taught “to dress and fish for admiration and…the attention of brainless fools.”22

The reformers refused to assault the ultimate firewall of the patriarchy: the prohibition against women soldiers. Everyone had a prescribed place in a patriarchal society. The idea of women in uniform threatened the patriarchal concept of natural protectors just as emancipation given to blacks as a reward undermined the foundation of slavery. In 1863 a Columbia newspaper reported rumors that a woman intended to enter the city fair dressed in a military uniform. (p.58) The paper predicted that she would be arrested for violating a statute prohibiting “the interchange of costumes, between the sexes.” Holding such beliefs, South Carolinians took a voyeuristic interest in Northern women officers. In May 1864, state newspapers featured the story of Dr. Mary E. Walker, a surgeon with the Fifty-third Regiment, Ohio Volunteers. She was captured on horseback “on a man's saddle one foot in each stirrup” near a Confederate picket line and taken to Richmond. A newspaper predicted that people would turn out to see such a rara avis on horseback. Walker's example convinced Southerners that the North had lost its moral mooring.23

Educators saw education as a prerequisite for nation building. Prewar divisions plaguing the Confederacy and South Carolina compounded the difficulty of their task. Some South Carolinians saw the war through the perspective of localism and states' rights. In 1861 the ladies of Spartanburg were upset when the clothes they collected went to units from other states. C. G. Memminger, the secretary of the treasury, took time out of his busy schedule to answer their complaint. That same year, a member of Hampton's Legion compared Virginians to Yankees. Both, he claimed, did not hesitate to become wealthy on some-one else's funds. They were not true gentlemen. The idea of being sent off to Virginia while Beaufort and Port Royal were invaded did not sit well with soldiers from the area. For them, patriotism began at home.24

Class divisions and antagonism evolved from prewar politics. Secession initially muffled the historical division between the Upcountry and the Lowcountry. Fiercely independent yeoman farmers in the Upcountry saw secession as the best way to preserve white independence and equality against Black Republicanism. But resentment of Lowcountry domination in state politics bubbled below the surface. In August 1861 a Unionville man argued that the upper part of the state was not represented at the recent convention that passed the tax law.25

Lowcountry aristocratic women bridled at the manners and ignorant pretensions of their less cultured sisters in the Upcountry. In December 1864, Emma Holmes became a governess in the country. She was hired by Mrs. John Mickles to teach her six boys and two girls. The children ranged in age from an infant to a seventeen-year-old. Emma was chagrined that none of them had read Gulliver's Travels and Jack the Giant Killer, her childhood favorites. She also foundtheir manners appalling. They wiped their noses and faces on the tablecloth; dogs and cats were allowed to eat under the table, and the kids joined in with the pets. The older boy was misnamed Patrick Henry, an insult to the revolutionary leader. In the governess's opinion, they should all be wearing dunce caps.26

(p.59) The flood of refugees from the Lowcountry to the Upcountry sparked serious contention. The urbane refugees looked down on the more rural Upcountry people. The Lowcountry display of entitlement and the aristocratic ethos were downright aggravating. Upcountry people thought they were “full of airs,” and decided these newcomers were “ostentatious” and “purse-proud” persons bent on transforming the yeoman way of life into the more secular style of the coast. The Upcountry people felt free to take advantage of them.27

When sent to defend Charleston, Upcountry soldiers sometimes showed contempt for these Lowcountry aristocrats by mistreating their property. In 1862 Theodore Honour was horrified to see that country soldiers had destroyed a $400 billiard table on James Island. At least the Yankee officers would have saved it to play on, the Charlestonian surmised. “Don't let the Upcountry people boast any more of sending their men down to near the city to protect our property.” But even small slaveholders in the Lowcountry were cautious and uncomfortable with the aristocratic elite, especially their ladies. While recuperating in the Ladies Hospital in Columbia, John Cumming of Colleton District was thankful for the help he received from these women but described them as “Big fish.” Traveling to serve in the Lowcountry, William Pursley of York felt the haughtiness of the hospitality ladies on his stop in Columbia. As in all wars, humor was a vehicle for the soldiers to let off steam. In 1863 a Yorkville newspaper reprinted an account describing a young lady's visit to a hospital. She asked “a regular hospital rat” if he was keeping a diary. He replied: “Yes'um, I've had the diree [diarrhea] right…about six months.”28

Upcountry soldiers, many of them experiencing the Lowcountry for the first time, had trouble adjusting and underwent patriotic disillusionment. They had a class and cultural ax to grind, especially against the aristocratic elite. They came to fight but at times were ordered to clean up the city trash while local dandies paraded the streets in their finery. After the great fire of Charleston in the fall of 1861, a Chester soldier stationed nearby had no sympathy for that city full of “scoundrels.” Even the evangelicals of the Upcountry, who were devoted to promoting national unity, clashed with the seemingly more secular and aristocratic culture of Virginia and the Lowcountry. In 1863 the Richmond correspondent of the Confederate Baptist railed against the “military popinjays” with “enormous gold lace on their coat sleeves.” When the Palmetto State was completed in 1862, it sunk at Marsh's Wharf in Charleston. The Baptist newspaper attributed its tragic sinking to God's displeasure at a woman's christening the new ironclad with “a bottle of choice old wine.” This “travesty of the Sacrament of Christian profession” was prayed over by two prominent Charleston Divines. Three months later, the Confederate Baptist condemned “secular” obituaries with “the Romanish application requiescat in pace.” Despite its (p.60) assiduity, the weekly was criticized by “brethren,” who thought it was being insufficiently “Baptist.”29

The towing of the line by the Confederate Baptist was important to many South Carolinians who believed that religion played a pivotal role in the education of their children for the New Republic. Parents feared that their young soldiers, “torn from their mothers,” would confront “temptations often too great even for men” and succumb without the underpinning of religion. Baptists hoped that older men would continue to give younger men in the army religious instruction and guidance. Bible reading in their spare time was highly encouraged. Sunday schools became a bulwark for patriotism. The Charleston Daily Courier praised Sunday schools and their teachers for their “sense of dutyto the young; and their love and patriotism to their state…determined…to risk their all for their independence and freedom.” As the Confederate Educational Association proclaimed in early 1865, “freedom and religion are the fundamental principles of nationality.”30

Religion initially bolstered Confederate nationalism and lifted morale, but the war also spawned great moral greed and materialism. “Mammon” became a serious obstacle to Southern victory. The chaplain of the Seventh Regiment, SCV, noted that people grew complacent after the victory at Bull Run in July 1861. “Many people at home quit praying,” he continued, “and went to speculating in the necessaries of life, coning money out of the sufferings of soldiers and people, and the demoralization soon extended to the camps.” In June 1862 the Charleston Daily Courier claimed the evils of the war were caused by the people's transgressions. If the faithful kept God's will, he would deliver them, but the nation had to be purified to obtain God's deliverance. In November 1862 the Confederate Baptist counseled patience; the road to the Promised Land was long and weary. The people's sins brought God's chastisement. The tone became more frenetic after the twin defeats at Vicksburg and Gettysburg. The soldiers themselves echoed the message. Private Theodore Honour argued that if God had turned against South Carolina, it was because the people sinned. Similarly, James Barr told his wife how wicked the people were; they were obsessed with money. During the Gettysburg campaign, a reader asked the Baptist weekly what churches should do with members engaged in distilling when soldiers' families were paying as much as five dollars for a bushel of corn. Kick them out, one minister advised. Better yet, let the wives of our fighting men run these sinners out of the district with their broomsticks. By January 25, 1865, this religious organ of Confederate nationalism was near despair. Days of fasting were turned into bacchanalian excesses. Impurity was epidemic. Women, once the blessing of the Confederacy, were becoming its “bane.” The cast of (p.61) evildoers described in the pages of the religious weekly included duelers, speculators, hoarders, extortionists, rich men getting out of the war, and croakers.31

Another obstacle to Confederate nationalism was Southern dependency on Yankee schoolbooks, deemed “Yankee trash.” Educators believed that Northern books were like the proverbial Trojan horse; they could ultimately bring down the Confederacy. By late 1862 the North Carolina Educational Association had organized a committee to foster a Confederate textbook movement. In March 1863 a Teacher's Convention, held in Columbia, was seeking “proper Southern schoolbooks.” Women played a key role in the movement. Mary Ford, the wife of a wealthy Georgetown planter, was so distressed about the situation that she wrote schoolbooks for her own boys. Teacher Harriet Palmer was excited about this educational reform movement. Writing from Columbia in 1863, she promised to send her sympathetic friend a copy of the minutes of the recent meeting of the state association. The inaccuracies of the Yankee books had dire consequences for young minds (“as the twig is bent, so the tree is inclined”). Northerners intervened with their “intrusions and dictation to occupy and control our school books, our school room, and all our formative institutions and resources of education.” The once highly touted Webster's Speller was condemned. A commentator wanted a Confederate equivalent to replace the “Defunct Yankee book.” He hoped to “make a bonfire of the obnoxious stuff,” so children could “sing over the flames their songs of independence.” In 1864 the Confederate Baptist, discussing “Sunday School Books,” trumpeted the “emancipation from the intellectual thralldom of our Northern foes.”32

Charles E. Leverett's The Southern Confederacy Arithmetic for Common Schools (1864) was highly acclaimed as one success of the reform movement. The author capitalized on the fascination Fort Sumter held for children: “The United States commander in Fort Sumter has 2 lb of bread per day for each soldier, for ten days; but by private dispatches, learning that his government would relieve him soon, he wishes to stave off surrender 15 days, to do that what must be the daily allowance?” The book prepared youngsters for an economy plagued by inflation. Under “Barter,” the question was asked: “How many pounds of butter, at 22 cents per lb must be given for a chest of tea, containing 75 lbs, at 80 cents per lb?”33

It took time for textbooks to be written and published. Newspapers and religious periodicals filled the breach. The Confederate Baptist was a precursor of Leverett's textbook in capitalizing on war to capture children's interest in arithmetic. On October 29, 1862 it used Yankee plunderers and extortionists to make a point. “Two Yankees plundering the farmers of Virginia steal 6 turkeys and two chickens, which they sold for $2 apiece. A Yankee stole from the other all except 75 cents. How much did he steal?” The Yorkville Enquirer, which had (p.62) begun a progressive Children's Department in February 1861, used a softer approach. The column created patriotic puzzles for children:

  • My first is what all the young ladies like
  • My second is what they all are entitled to
  • My whole is the name of a distinguished military commander,
  • Whom all the ladies admire. [Answer: General Beauregard]

By May 1861 its writer had enlisted in the Fifth South Carolina Cavalry. “Our corporal” reported from Camp Beauregard on Sullivan's Island outside of Charleston. He promised that although he could not answer the children's letters individually, he would respond collectively. During his time on the island, he told the youngsters about the seashells, porpoises, and sharks he saw. In June 1861 he described Richmond's statues and monuments to heroes such as George Washington and Henry Clay. The column continued to educate children and give advice to parents throughout the war even after the death of the corporal.34

Children's literature, however, sometimes undermined the very unity the educators were seeking when the authors could not rise above regional divisions and prejudices. Mrs. M. B. Moore chaffed at the haughtiness of the South Carolina elite. Her Geographical Reader for Dixie's Children reflected a North Carolinian's disdain toward South Carolina: “Many persons blamed the South Carolinians for leaving the Union too soon.” The “upper classes” of that state are educated, but “the poor are generally ignorant.” They are “hardly so well treated as in North Carolina and Virginia.”35

Confederate literature for juveniles espoused deeply held religious values at odds with undesirable practices generated by the war. The best example of such morality genre appeared under “Family Circle” in the Columbia Confederate Baptist. “Uncle Fabian” was the fictional authority who wrote stories dealingwith young people and their problems in this turbulent world. The series began in late 1862 and was reprinted in several other newspapers, including the Atlanta Intelligencer. Tom Brown and little Nell were the central characters of his stories. Poor but proud, they faced spiritual snares generated by the war, including selfishness and materialism. The exemption of overseers and the Conscription Act of 1862 were prime targets for Uncle Fabian's pen. They revealed his class and regional bias. He was critical of wealthy planters who used exemptions of overseers to keep their sons safe at home. His brash young hero, Tom Brown, “thumbs” his nose at “one of the laggards or cowards, who are escaping military duty by acting as an overseer.” Too many “skulkers” are getting out of harm's way “while old gray haired men” are called to camp. Tom wonders whether such young men will describe themselves as overseers at parties (p.63) after the war. Negative public reaction to Tom's “plain talk” caused Uncle Fabian to clarify the boy's remarks. Tom was not referring to young men who had to take care of their “old mothers or their wives and children.”36

Extortion lent itself to the moral wrath of Uncle Fabian. A little girl, Ella Lee, wrote to him that she shared the newspaper with one of her cousins, who commented on Tom Brown's dealings with extortionists. She had asked her mamma: Is “that the reason sister and brother and I have to go in the cold without any shoes, and I wonder if dear papa is away in Virginia in frost and snow without any shoes.” Younger brother Johnnie chimed in: If papa knew this was going on, he would come home and let the Yankees take the extortionists. The little boy declared that if he lived in Columbia, he “would help Tom Brown brickbat their houses and head, too.”37

Uncle Fabian sent Tom off to camp when the boy turned seventeen. The elder blessed the boy for his willingness to give up his life for his country. He also lectured the youth on swearing and liquor. He encouraged Tom to read the Bible and “strive to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” The boy's mother gave him a pocket catechism. His sister made a Palmetto State cockade as a gift. His journey to his company brought the young man closer to Jesus. At camp Tom received guidance from Uncle William, who preached to the company. He received the older man's approval to go defend Charleston and asked the preacher to baptize him. “If I fall in battle,” the youth declared, “I want to die a good soldier in our blessed Lord.” The born-again Tom expressed sorrow for a young soldier who wanted to kill as many Yankees as he could after the Northerners had mistreated his mother and sister. Tom was not unsympathetic; under the same circumstances he might not have “any Christian feelings for them.”38

Tom never fully reconciled himself to the insensitive rich and spoiled youngsters he met, including a girl who looked down on poor wounded soldiers on a train. By their clothes, she considered them “no account.” Tom was furious because such men were the ones who were defending the girl and her home. Not the young dandy he saw when he took the train down to defend Charleston. In contrast to the behavior of the Arsenal cadets and other boy soldiers from Columbia, the skulker took up five seats on the car with his bags.39

Uncle Fabian followed gender conventions. If nineteenth-century boys were encouraged to embrace the world outside the home, girls were socialized to concern themselves with spiritual relationships. Little Nell illustrated the lack of familial guidance. A “gay mother who did not teach her anything about religion, or the dangers of whiskey” raised her playmate Kate. Despite such friends, Nell gradually groped toward conversion. The heroine had to witness the overseer Mr. Carter's being bitten by a snake before she seriously considered changing (p.64) her ways. His brush with death shocked the girl, who became aware of her own mortality. Mr. Carter's wife shamed her into getting baptized. Whenever Nell faced death, she wanted to die in the arms of the blessed Lord.40

The “Uncle Fabian” stories reveal the problems the new nation was facing by relating how young people could overcome them through their religion. This religious framework provided a way for white South Carolinians to come to grips with a losing war and its heavy casualties. Although the writer could not control his dislike for the cultural pretensions of the Lowcountry elite, whom he considered part of the problem, his stories contributed to a Southern legacy of storytelling that kept a way of life from being forgotten. Such literature for children flourished after the war. Sallie Chapin used the war and Reconstruction as a vehicle for teaching Southern children about their heritage as well as reconciling them to a changed world. Her fictional teenage hero Fitzhugh St. Clair has to postpone marriage until he could find a situation or career. Needless to say, he stays true to his morals and succeeds.


(1.) Mary Elizabeth Massey, Bonnet Brigades: American Women and the Civil War (New York: Knopf, 1966), chapter 6.

(2.) John Thackston, “Primary and Secondary Education in South Carolina from 1780 to 1860” (PhD dissertation, New York University Graduate Schools, 1908), chapter 5; Jane Turner Censer, North Carolina Planters and Their Children, 1800–1860 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990), 56; Colleen Morse Elliott and Louise Armstrong Moxley, The Tennessee Civil War Veterans Questionnaires (Easley, S.C.: Silas Emmett Lucas Jr., 1985), 3:1033–1035, 1160; UDC Recollections, 8: 32–33; Thomas H. Pope, The History of Newberry County, South Carolina (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1992), 2:173; Laylon Wayne Jordan, “Education for Community: C. G. Memminger and the Origination of Common Schools in Antebellum Charleston,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 83 (1982): 99–115.

(3.) OR, ser. 2, vol. 2: 161–162, ser. 4, vol. 1 [125]: 1081, vol. 3 [137]: 179, 1102; Yorkville Enquirer, January 6, 1864; Pope, History of Newberry County, 2: 173; Jordan, “Education for Community,” 108.

(4.) Camden Confederate, December 20, 1861; January 3, 1862; Charleston Daily Courier, November 16, 1863.

(5.) Hull, Boy Soldiers of the Confederacy, 170–171; Yorkville Enquirer, May 20, 1863; March 2, 1864; Confederate Baptist, Columbia, December 9, 1863; February 3, 1864; Boinest Journals, September 7, 1864; Charleston Daily Courier, July 4, 1865.

(6.) Harris Journals, June 14, 1861; October 12, 1861; January 14, 26, and 30, 1862; February 3, 1862.

(7.) Harris Journals, March 10 and 21, 1862; August 6, 1862; April 25, 1862; December 28 and 30, 1863; January 18, 1864; March 10, 1864; June 23, 1864; November 25, 1864.

(8.) Harris Journals, November 21, 1864; March 24, 1865; July 24, 1865.

(9.) Reid, History of the Fourth Regiment, 65, 72–73, 120–123, 131, 134.

(10.) Between October 1861 and May 1864, sixteen South Carolina petitions reached the various Confederate secretaries of war. Most came from the Upcountry. On December 23, 1864, the South Carolina legislature gave the governor the right to grant exemptions and details. Eight teachers sought relief. Six came from the Lowcountry. Of the (p.155) eight, six received details, exemptions, or delays. See CSW, Reel No. 132, L-84–1864, Reel 13, No. 6838 and No. 7070.

(11.) CSW, Reel No. 113, T-51–1863, Reel No. 91, F-103–1863, F-117, 1863; Kirkland, Broken Fortunes, 205.

(12.) Due West Female College, February 1, 1865, Blythwood Female Academy, Fairfield District, February 3, 1865, Petitions for Exemption, 1864–1865, Administrative Records, Adjutant General, SCDAH.

(13.) CSW, Reel No. 89, D-197–1863, Reel No. 108, R-171–1863, Reel No. 101, M-11, 1863, Petition dated 24 December 1862, Reel No. 120, B-409, 1864, Reel No. 132, L-84–1864.

(14.) Petitions for Exemption; South Carolina: The WPA Guide to the Palmetto State (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988), 316–317.

(15.) Yorkville Enquirer, February 21, 1861; July 4, 1861; June 3, 1863; Schivelbusch, Culture of Defeat, 54–55.

(16.) J[ames] H[arold] Easterby, A History of the College of Charleston (Charleston, S.C.: College of Charleston, 1935), 146–149; Daniel W. Hollis, University of South Carolina (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1951), 1:212–224; Yorkville Enquirer, April 5, 1865.

(17.) Holmes, Diary, 72; Letter of Reference, signed by John R. Watts and E. G. Simpson, September 5, 1862, W. W. Parker [?] to Miss Pelot, August 29, 1862, Lalla Pelot Papers, SCWRPL; J. L. Kennedy to Mrs. J. E. Hagood, January 12, 1863, James Earle Hagood Papers, SCL; Charleston Daily Courier, December 8, 1862.

(18.) Sara Gossett Crigler (Mrs. Henry Towles), “Education for Girls and Women in South Carolina prior to 1890 with Related Miscellanea,” SCL; Edgefield Female Institute, Circular Letter, SCL; William F. Nance to his sisters, January 20, 1859, James Drayton Nance Letters, SCL; Yorkville Enquirer, May 3, 1865; Steven M. Stowe, “The Not-So-Cloistered Academy: Elite Women's Education and Family Feeling in the Old South,” in Walter J. Fraser, R. Frank Saunders Jr., and Jon L. Wakelyn, The Web of Southern Social Relations: Women, Family, and Education (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985), 90–106; Judith T. Bainbridge, “‘A Nursery of Knowledge’: The Greenville Female Academy, 1819–1854,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 99 (1998): 6–33. The concept of the metaphorical garden comes from Maynes, Soland, and Benninghaus, Secret Gardens; see the excellent introduction.

(19.) Poole, South Carolina's Civil War, 152–153; David B. Chesebrough, “‘There Goes Your Damned Gospel Shop!’ The Churches and Clergy as Victims of Sherman's March Through South Carolina,” South Carolina Historical Magazine 92 (January 1991): 15–33; Yorkville Enquirer, February 1, 1865; May 3, 1865.

(20.) Holmes, Diary, 315–317, 349.

(21.) Ibid. 332–333, 336–337, 340–341, 378.

(22.) Confederate Baptist, Columbia, August, 31, 1864.

(23.) Ibid., July 22, 1863; December 7, 1864; Yorkville Enquirer, May 11, 1864.

(24.) C. G. Memminger to Rev. Whitefoord Smith, October 5, 1861, Whitefoord Smith Papers, SCWRPL; Henry Woodbury Moore and James Washington Moore, “Chained to Virginia While Carolina Bleeds”: The Civil War Correspondence of Henry Woodbury Moore and James Washington Moore, ed. Henry Woodbury Moore (Walterboro, S.C.: Henry Woodbury Moore, 1996), 2, 66–68; James R. Hagood, “Memoirs of the First S.C. Regiment of Volunteer Infantry in the Confederate War for Independence,” foreword, 31, James R. Hagood Papers, SCL; Rubin, Shattered Nation, 101. In making a case for a viable Confederate nationalism, Rubin argued that “slavery and white supremacy tied the disparate strands of Confederate identity—race, honor, religion—together.”

(25.) CSW, Reel No. 8, ₃3744, and the introduction to this book, particularly endnote 9. Ford's critique of the Upcountry and secession is compelling.

(26.) Holmes, Diary, 388, 390–392, 400–412, 417–419.

(27.) Ibid., 186–187; Chesnut, Mary Chesnut's Civil War, 394; Charleston Daily Courier, December 6, 1862.

(28.) Theodore Honour to wife, Becky, August 27, 1862, Honour Papers; John Cumming to Carrie, September 8, 1863, Cumming Papers; William Pursley to wife, September 14, 1862, Pursley Papers; Yorkville Enquirer, March 18, 1863.

(29.) William Wylie to his sister, January 2, 1862, Gaston-Strait, Wylie-Baskin Families Papers; Confederate Baptist, Columbia, November 5 and 12, 1862; February 26, 1863; May 20, 1863; December 2, 1863.

(30.) Charleston Daily Courier, May 15, 1861; December 7, 1861; Confederate Baptist, Columbia, December 14, 1864; Yorkville Enquirer, February 1, 1865.

(31.) Kenneth Moore Startup, Root of All Evil: The Protestant Clergy and the Economic Mind of the Old South (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1997), particularly the epilogue; J. William Jones, Christ in the Camp, or Religion in the Confederate Army (Atlanta: Martin and Hoyt Co., 1887), 267; Charleston Daily Courier, June 7, 1862; Confederate Baptist, Columbia, November 18, 1862; April 8, 1863; July 1, 1863; August 5 and 12, 1863; July 6 and 20, 1864; January 25, 1865; Theodore Honour to Becky, July 26, 1863, Honour Papers; Barr and Barr, Confederate War Correspondence, 131.

(32.) Charleston Daily Courier, November 2, 1862; April 20, 1863; February 19, 1864; Yorkville Enquirer, March 11, 1863; Chesnut, Mary Chesnut's Civil War, 615; Louis P. Towles, ed., A World Turned Upside Down: The Palmers of South Santee, 1818–1881 (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996), 364–367; Confederate Baptist, Columbia, September 7, 1864; October 5, 1864.

(33.) Charles E. Leverett, The Southern Confederacy Arithmetic for Common Schools and Academies with a Practical System of Book-keeping by Single Entry (Augusta, Ga.: J. T. Patterson and Co., 1864), 122, 151, 193. For the books used in South Carolina, see Snowden, South Carolina School Books, 14–15.

(34.) Yorkville Enquirer, February 28, 1861; March 21 and 28, 1861; May 21, 1861; June 27, 1861.

(35.) M. B. Moore, The Geographical Reader for the Dixie Children (Raleigh, N.C.: Branson, Farrar and Co., 1863), 20–21.

(36.) Confederate Baptist, Columbia, October 1, 1862; December 10, 1862; January 14, 1863; July 1, 1863; December 16, 1863.

(37.) Ibid. January 7, 1863.

(38.) Ibid., May 6, 1863; June 3 and 10, 1863.

(39.) Ibid., June 3, 1863; July 22, 1863.

(40.) Ibid., November 11, 1863; April 13, 1864. For Victorian culture and gender, see Peter Bardaglio, “The Children of Jubilee: African American Childhood in Wartime,” in Clinton and Sibler, Divided Houses, 228, and Carol Bleser, ed., In Joy and in Sorrow: Women, Family, and Marriage in the Victorian South, 1830–1900 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991).