November 6, 2007

"Gray is Always More Popular..."

…than blue,” according to Virginia bookseller Rick Stoutamyer, while discussing the Civil War book buying habits of his customers in this interview. His shop is in Middleburg, which also happens to be Virginia Hunt Country, allowing him to understand that some inventory will sell quicker than others. “In this area, anything equestrian is interesting, and books about the Civil War are good, but they have to be about the South," said Stoutamyer.” This preference for Confederate titles ties in with what Tom Broadfoot told me earlier. I can’t quite put my finger on why that is exactly, but part of me thinks some of it has to do with the romanticized imagery of the Confederacy.


Michael C. Hardy said...


Your thoughts about preferences to Confederate titles goes beyond the printed word. Having been a reenactor and interpreter since the early 1980s, I’ve always found it amazing that more folks don’t do Federal. Even real, northern born yankees want to be Confederates on the field. It is not uncommon to go to an event and find men from New York or Pennsylvania in the Confederate camp, while we “true Southerners” half to done the blue to even out the numbers.

Michael C. Hardy

Paul Taylor said...


Good point. I lived in Florida for many years and as you illustrate, I remember reading about reenactments where they could not seem to find enough "Yankees" while having to freeze the number of Confederate participants. But why do you think that is? Why the apparently overwhelmingly emotional attachment to the gray, even amongst some northerners?


Michael C. Hardy said...

I think part of it is the romance of the time period. We in the South
have the plumed JEB Stuart, the knightly R.E. Lee, the Gray Ghost (John Mosby). Who do you have in the North? The whiskey drinking Grant? "War is Hell" Sherman? "I lost my nerve" Hooker? That's not to say that the South did not have its fair share of incompetent commanders; we just seem to better idolize our good commanders.

Another part of it might be our universal attachment to the underdog. The Southern armies performed remarkable feats for four years. We produced generals whose battlefield tactics are utill studied today. We won battles against superior numbers. We defied the "laws" of war by
dividing our armies in the face of the enemy and beating our foes.

Maybe, just maybe, it could have something to do with the political
persuasion of the person (reenactor). Maybe the individual identifies with the "less governmental intrusion into our lives" that was the main driving force behind the secession of Souther states in the 1860s.

Maybe it is something as simple as the individuality of the Confederate soldier. Federal soldiers have the blue suit. Confederates can wear jeans or wool, in a huge variety of shades of gray and brown. If doing early war, or militia, or home guard, a reenactor's kit can be more civilian in nature.

I'm sure other reasons abound. Maybe the idea of a person of
Northern descent wanting to portray a Southern soldier would make good fodder for a psychology major.

Paul Taylor said...

I always think back to Shelby Foote's remarks during the Burns' series where he attempted to explain why the war still resonates in the South but is, for the most part, just another historical event in the North. Using personal experience, he explained how as a young man, he grew up in a rough part of town and was involved in many fights, most of which he won. But as an older man, the ones he remembered most were the handful he lost. I'm no psychologist, but I think there's something in there as to why Southerners still romanticize "The Late Unpleasantness" to this very day.