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Confederate Cities

The Urban South during the Civil War Era

With a Foreword by David Goldfield

Confederate Cities

The Urban South during the Civil War Era

With a Foreword by David Goldfield
When we talk about the Civil War, we often describe it in terms of battles that took place in small towns or in the countryside: Antietam, Gettysburg, Bull Run, and, most tellingly, the Battle of the Wilderness. One reason this picture has persisted is that few urban historians have studied the war, even though cities hosted, enabled, and shaped Southern society as much as they did in the North.

Confederate Cities, edited by Andrew L. Slap and Frank Towers, shifts the focus from the agrarian economy that undergirded the South to the cities that served as its political and administrative hubs. The contributors use the lens of the city to examine now-familiar Civil War–era themes, including the scope of the war, secession, gender, emancipation, and war’s destruction. This more integrative approach dramatically revises our understanding of slavery’s relationship to capitalist economics and cultural modernity. By enabling a more holistic reading of the South, the book speaks to contemporary Civil War scholars and students alike—not least in providing fresh perspectives on a well-studied war.

336 pages | 1 line drawing | 6 x 9 | © 2015

Historical Studies of Urban America

History: American History, Urban History


“As the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War draws to an end, Slap and Towers have given us a wonderful collection of incisive and provocative essays by some of the best historians in the field. Southern cities were vital crucibles of mobilization, information, and contestation during the Old South’s last stand, and they later became dynamic catalysts for change in the New South.”

Don H. Doyle, author of The Cause of All Nations: An International History of the American Civil War

“The image of an agrarian Confederacy engaged in a massive war against a more urban, industrial United States remains popular and influential. The essays in this impressive collection highlight the centrality of Confederate cities during the conflict. As a group, the authors illuminate questions relating to governmental reach, the structure of slavery, military affairs, refugees, industrialization, gender, and other important topics—while also demonstrating how wartime changes carried over into the postwar years.”

Gary W. Gallagher, author of The Union War

“For too long historians have gazed at the South from the veranda of the plantation, rarely looking beyond the fields of cotton and tobacco to see the urban South. The essays in Confederate Cities strip away the veneer of a pastoral South to find a dynamic and diversified region imbedded within a world of transatlantic capitalism. The Civil War disrupted global connections and strained relations between town and country, but with the destruction of slavery and transportation expanded, urban spaces became enclaves of freedom for African Americans. Editors Slap and Towers have assembled a cast of superb historians who show a multitude of perspectives on the urban South as it endured the revolutionary consequences of Confederate defeat.”

Peter S. Carmichael, director, Civil War Institute, Gettysburg College

“This collection of eleven essays is wide ranging in its treatment of the urban South during and immediately after the Civil War. Essays explore urban communication, the role of cities in the war, the impact of emancipation on urban life, the development of African American schools, and the promotion of Southern cities such as Norfolk and Hampton Roads. Although not given to the quantitative analyses of the new urban history of the 1970s and 1980s, the essays do reflect another ongoing tension within urban history—that between those who write about events that happened in cities (a case study approach) and those who describe historical patterns that are helpful to understanding the city as city. . . . Recommended.”


Confederate Cities shows that cities afford a sharp lens for examining the South in the Civil War era, revealing a picture of vigorous urban development, wartime upheaval, and dramatic transition. Among the many volumes of scholarly essays on particular aspects of American history published during the last couple of decades, this is one of the best. Comprising a dozen forcefully argued essays—including the editors’ superb introduction—the book also features a fiery foreword by David Goldfield (the dean of urban South historians), along with a welcome conclusion and a real index.”

Civil War Book Review

Table of Contents

David Goldfield
Introduction: Historians and the Urban South’s Civil War
Andrew L. Slap and Frank Towers
Part One: The Big Picture
1. Regionalism and Urbanism as Problems in Confederate Urban History
J. Matthew Gallman
2. Urban Processes in the Confederacy’s Development, Experience, and Consequences
David Moltke-Hansen
Part Two: Secession
3. To Be the “New York of the South”: Urban Boosterism and the Secession Movement 77
Frank towers
4. Gender and Household Metaphors in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Nation-Building Cities
T. Lloyd Benson
Part Three: Gender
5. Stephen Spalding’s Fourth of July in New Orleans
Michael Pierson
6. “More like Amazons than starving people”: Women’s Urban Riots in Georgia in 1863
Keith S. Bohannon
Part Four: Emancipation
7. African American Veterans, the Memphis Region, and the Urbanization of the Postwar South
Andrew L. Slap
8. Black Political Mobilization and the Spatial Transformation of Natchez
Justin Behrend
9. African Americans’ Struggle for Education, Citizenship, and Freedom, in Mobile, Alabama, 1865–1868
Hilary N. Green
Part Five: A New Urban South
10. Invasion, Destruction, and the Remaking of Civil War Atlanta
William A. Link
11. Freeing the Lavish Hand of Nature: Environment and Economy in Nineteenth-Century Hampton Roads
John Majewski
Conclusion: Cities and the History of the Civil War South
Andrew L. Slap and Frank Towers

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