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Long Gray Lines: The Southern Military School Tradition, 1839-1915.

Long Gray Lines: The Southern Military School Tradition, 1839-1915. By Rod Andrew, Jr. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001. Pp. 169. $29.95.)

This careful examination of the historical record of the southern military-school tradition from 1839 to 1915 has resulted in a fine revisionist history. In this skillfully written and amply documented volume, the author sets out to demonstrate that traditionally southern military schools were able to reconcile militarism and republicanism and, indeed, saw little contradiction between the two traditions.

Rod Andrew, Jr. shifts the focus of southern military traditions and southern military schools from the antebellum period to the post-Civil War period. This was a time when the "Lost Cause," which celebrated the valor of Confederate soldiers, contributed to the notion that soldierly virtues were the mark of an honorable man and a worthy citizen. Southern military tradition combined elements of militarism and liberalism.

Thus, the author provides a more comprehensive account of how military schools in the South evolved in the postbellum era. No longer will historians settle for a purely militaristic explanation. Andrew marshals a clear and compelling argument that there was no incompatibility in the southern mind between the qualities of a solid citizen and those of a soldier.

In fact, Andrew points out that southern military schools could not survive by promoting only the ideals of a militaristic society. These institutions promoted the ideals of nineteenth-century republicanism, at least for white males. African American southern military schools also promoted these ideals, but, because of the nature of the society, they were denied equality.

The author explains that, prior to the Civil War, southern military school leaders sought financial support from politicians by emphasizing the egalitarian nature of their institutions and pointing out the large number of poor boys enrolled, who were provided with the opportunity for a worthwhile education. Indeed, these institutions emphasized leadership positions based on merit and on class standing--not on socioeconomic class. Andrew points out that during the post-Civil War period these schools were not isolated islands of militarism. Instead, he explains that these schools existed within the larger context of nineteenth-century republicanism.

In the author's treatment of the Morrill Land Act, he elaborates on how this law specified the inclusion of military instruction in the curriculum of land-grant schools. Northern and western colleges met this requirement by instituting a few weekly drills. The post-Civil War southern, white, land-grant colleges drew on the traditions of the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and The Citadel as well as on the traditions of the "Lost Cause" and the valorous Confederate soldier. These traditions "provided energy, vitality, and legitimacy for southern military education. At the same time and certainly with equal emphasis the virtues of good citizenship were promoted as well" (6).

The author's account of how land-grant schools for African Americans faced formidable obstacles in the struggle to create their own military traditions is particularly well told. Educational leaders instituted military programs for African Americans to provide the discipline to overcome their perceived inherent laziness. Between Reconstruction and the First World War, African Americans faced the challenges of a relative shortage of trained black military officer-instructors, limited opportunities, as well as fearful whites reluctant to allow real weapons for use in military drill. They were faced with overcoming obstacles to citizenship as well as creating a black military tradition. Their suffering of these inequalities, Andrew maintains, occurred "not because they were members of a military organization, but because they lived in a republic that had yet to recognize the full citizenship of their race" (116). This aspect of the study goes a long way toward providing a more comprehensive history of African Americans from Reconstruction to the First World War.

In conclusion, the author points out that The Citadel and VMI remain today vigorous southern military schools, as do other military preparatory schools. He maintains that "Southerners have not abandoned the idea that military service instills in youth the values necessary for the moral health and vigor of a democracy" (116).

This excellent study merits the attention of scholars and others who are interested in well-written history, especially students of the Civil War, military history, and the South in general. In addition, those interested in African American history, as well as aspects of this region's socioeconomic history, will find this book of interest.

Long Gray Lines is well written, carefully documented, and amply and interestingly illustrated. It includes an exhaustive bibliography of primary and secondary sources. The author has provided notes, an appendix of past and present educational institutions, and an index.

William H. Barnes

Sewickley Academy
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Author:Barnes, William H.
Publication:The Historian
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 2003
Words:765
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