The Dogs of War: 1861 (Book Review)

The Dogs of War: 1861, by Emory M. Thomas

New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2011. Pp. xv, 113. Notes, index. $14.95. ISBN: 0195174704.

The Dogs of War is a meditation on the out-break of the Civil War byone of the most notable scholars of the conflict, Emory Thomas, Regents Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Georgia, author of, among many other notable works, The Confederate Nation: 1861-1865 and The Confederacy as a Revolutionary Experience.   

Prof. Thomas opens by observing that few people, North or South, during the winter and spring of 1861 seem to have thought a long war likely, if any at all.  He then asks why it came.  Thomas examines the beliefs and misconceptions of the people of the two sections and of their leaders, Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis.

Thus, in the South, there was an almost racial sense of superiority over Northerners, while Northerners, although almost as arrogant about their superiority, were largely indifferent to secession, until Sumter.  Lincoln failed to realize the extent that ordinary non-slaveholding Southerners were committed to secession, while Davis shared Southern beliefs about Northerners, and thought their resolve would collapse after their first defeat.  These prejudices came to a head at First Bull Run, which, of course, proved both sides wrong.  Of course this is but an outline, for Thomas packs considerable analysis into this short work.

The Dogs of War, 1861 is indispensable for anyone studying the Civil War.


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