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The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy

Preview this item Preview this item. The Life of Johnny Reb is not about the battles and skirmishes fought by the Confederate foot soldier. Rather, it is an intimate history of the soldier's daily life--the songs he sang, the foods he ate, the hopes and fears he experienced, the reasons he fought. The author has examined countless letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, and official records in constructing this frequently poignant, sometimes humorous account.

Read more Allow this favorite library to be seen by others Keep this favorite library private. Find a copy in the library Finding libraries that hold this item Life of Johnny Reb, the common soldier of the Confederacy. This book is regarded as one of the best available accounts of the ordinary citizens who made up the Confederate army. Reviews User-contributed reviews Add a review and share your thoughts with other readers.

Be the first. Add a review and share your thoughts with other readers. Confederate States of America. Armed Forces -- Military life. United States. Linked Data More info about Linked Data. Some struck up innocent dalliances and some even married local women where they were fighting.

Confederate soldiers lived their rebellion to the fullest. They endured hardship for many reasons, but at their core, they continued to fight not just for the Confederacy, but also ultimately for each other. The Confederate soldiers were just ordinary people. Wiley concludes that they did great things; ordinary people doing great things ultimately elevated them to greatness. By Bell Irving Wiley.

The life of Johnny Reb : the common soldier of the Confederacy

Indianaplis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Many books, concerning the Civil War, have appeared since the ending of hostilities. Most deal with military tactics, commanders or battles in general. In this work, Wiley attempts to capture the essence of the Confederate soldier, along with his motivations and concerns. In the seventeen chapters of his book, he does an outstanding job of what he has set out to accomplish. In the initial chapters of his work, Wiley investigates what factors provoked young southerners to take up arms against their northern brothers. He comes to several conclusions, the most important, in his opinion, being the hatred of the northerner.

Wiley explains that the young southerner held a constructed view of the Yankee; which he perceived to be threatening his very way of life. Most felt that the northerner would destroy his family, friends and his community. This contrived fear forced many to join the fight. Secondly, Wiley concludes that many young men went to war for the experience and adventure. The last reason so many went to war, in the opinion of Wiley, was the pressure exerted by the community. Their fellow community members often ostracized those that did not rush to join up for the cause. Many joined in order to escape the shame that would have been thrust upon them.

Wiley also suggest that to understand the rebel soldier you must look at the entire picture. Most southern men were illiterate and understood very little about the true nature of the war. They knew only what they had been told or what they gained through personal experience. After the soldiers reached the actual war, they only could see what was happening in their particular area of the war. Wiley explains that everything the soldiers learned about the war arrived with letters from home. These letters became an important lifeline to the Confederate soldier, who always wished to protect his home and family.

In the remaining chapters of his work, Wiley investigates the daily life of the Confederate soldier.


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He demonstrates the difficulties faced by the common soldier including lack of supplies, and the shear hardship of living and fighting in the field. Wiley also spends some time looking at the diversions in which the rebels took up to pass their free time.

The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy | American Civil War Museum

Often, according to Wiley, gambling and drinking captured the interest of the rebel soldier. According to Wiley, at the very first of the conflict the typical rebel soldier felt invisible and unstoppable, but by the end of the war he had lost hope for the cause and wished to return home. Above all, the protection of family and home always accompanied the rebel soldier.

Wiley has done an excellent job with this work. It is apparent the extensive amount of research compiled by Wiley. He has spent countless hours sorting through personal letters, contemporary newspaper articles, and other assorted sources. By using personal letters to construct his work, Wiley enables the reader to obtain a picture of what life was like for the typical confederate infantryman.

Wiley also constructs his work with little bias and gives a balanced account of the Rebel infantryman. This book has been incredibly helpful to the Civil War student since its first publication and it should remain important for years to come. By Bell Irvin Wiley. In as the Southern states seceded from the Union, thousands of men flocked to the colors to defend their states and their new country.

Confederate Soldier Song "Johnny Reb" Johnny Horton

Many of them saw war as a game, a welcome respite from farm life or a chance for adventure. They were wrong. The American Civil War turned into a bloody four-year conflict that ended up costing over , Southern lives alone. In The Life of Johnny Reb , Bell Wiley attempts to paint a picture of the life and mentality of Johnny Reb as an aggregate based on their journals, letters and diaries. In the process he created one of the seminal works in Civil War history.

The Life of Johnny Reb

In the first chapter, Off To War , Wiley gives a glance at the motives of Southerners for volunteering and then the process by which the volunteers became disciplined soldiers. Many of them were motivated by a deep-seeded hatred for the North and Northerners.

They felt as if Yankee attitudes toward slavery were entirely unreasonable, and they were prepared to fight for their peculiar institution. But most of the volunteers, Wiley points out, were motivated by a desire for adventure, to escape the doldrums of farm life. Meanwhile they organized into companies and began to drill. Women helped by sewing uniforms and other necessities, and often presented local companies with flags amidst community celebrations.

Universities closed down as all of their students went to war and the South in general prepared for war. Companies were allowed the tradition of electing their own officers, and this sometimes led to problems with popular but incompetent leaders for the new companies and regiments. Southerners were particularly anxious to come to blows with the enemy. Excitement was felt by most who had not yet seen combat. When they did finally see battle, they found it revolting.