'The land of my birth and the home of my heart': Enlistment Motivations for Confederate Soldiers in Montgomery County, Virginia, 1861-1862

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Virginia Tech

There is a gap in existing literature in regards to the role of community in understanding the motivations of Civil War soldiers. Current historiographical studies try to apply the same motivational factors to entire states, armies, or to all Union or Confederate soldiers in general. Some historians even attempt to show that regardless of Union or Confederate, soldiers' motivations were similar due to a shared American identity. This thesis explores a community in the mountain valleys of present-day Southwest Virginia, which stayed loyal to Richmond and the Confederacy. This case study of Montgomery County illustrates that enlistment motivations varied based on a mixture of internal and external factors distinctive to a soldier's community; therefore, there cannot be a representative sample of the Confederate Army that covers all the nuances that makes each community unique.

Enlistment was both a personal decision and one influenced by the environment. Montgomery County soldiers were the product of their community that included external factors such as slavery, occupation, and class, and internal ideological themes such as honor, masculinity, and patriotism, that compelled them to enlist in the Confederate Army in the first year of the war, April 1861 through April 1862. These men enlisted to protect their status quo when it was convenient for them to leave their home and occupation, and if they had fewer family obligations.

Civil War, Confederate Soldiers, Enlistment Motivation, Community, Montgomery County, Local History, Military History