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A Confederate officer from Pennsylvania, and His Ties to the South

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The American Civil War was a very traumatic time for this country. The idea of Americans purposefully killing other Americans in battle just sends chills up most of our spines. This was true for the ordinary combat soldiers, the officers executing battle plans, or for those fortunate officers who were of administrative importance to the war. Everyone involved was fighting for a cause, the South was highly effective at converting this cause into a determination to fight and win the war. It is possible that those individuals involved in the fighting had a much stronger belief in the cause, since they risked life and limb everyday and every battle. This is found not to be true. Even though the non-combat Confederates did not engage the enemy first hand they too had a direct emotional response to the cause and for defense of the South.

Josiah Gorgas was the Chief Ordinance officer for the Confederacy. Josiah Gorgas was born into a Poor Pennsylvania family on July, 1st, 1818. Once of age Josiah Gorgas enrolled at West Point, where he graduated 6th in his class. His focus was on military ordinance and logistics. He was commissioned to the U.S. Army Ordinance department, where he remained until the Civil War broke out. Gorgas married his wife Amelia Gayle Gorgas while he was stationed in Alabama in 1853. Mrs. Gorgas was the daughter of a prominent Alabama politician and ex-governor named John Gayle. This highly influential family that Josiah Gorgas connects himself too casually persuades him to identify with Southerners and the Southern Cause. Josiah Gorgas feels more at home with his wife’s family than with his own. This may have been in part because Josiah was not home much after going to West Point. He felt disenfranchised from his family once the War broke out.

It is interesting to see how an educated man from the North can just simply change to the Southern vantage point. The transition Josiah Gorgas made from a Northerner to a Southerner is not covered in his journal. He avoids the issue and it is difficult to see why. I believe Josiah Gorgas resented the fact that his family was poor. When Josiah Gorgas was stationed in the South he was a white officer, which put him in the upper class of this highly aristocratic society. I believe Josiah Gorgas enjoyed his social standing in the South as well as the hospitality that came with it. These are characteristics he was not used too in Pennsylvania. It is, however, important to note that Josiah was not an advocate of slavery. Josiah did not view slaves from a pro-slave or abolitionist, he simply went with the status quoi. This simple fact should suggest that he is not a whole hearted Southerner. It is apparent to me that Josiah Gorgas is doing his best to fit in with his wife’s family. Josiah Gorgas was a Confederate volunteer, who left the Union army for the opportunity to be apart of a new nation. It is amazing to see a Northerner become a Southerner in such a short time span. It was only eight years from the time Josiah Gorgas met his wife to the start of the War. There must have been a very close relation for Josiah Gorgas to his wife’s family; therefore he felt a part of their family rather than his own in Pennsylvania.

When the War broke out Josiah Gorgas was torn between his true family and his new found one in the South. Mrs. Gorgas and her family had a strong connection to Josiah and their purpose must have called out to him. Amelia Gayle Gorgas’s father, the Alabama politician, was highly influential in this decision. In order to keep his daughter in the South he contacted Jefferson Davis, whom he knew well through his political channels. Jefferson Davis contacted Josiah Gorgas and offered Josiah a position on the Ordinance staff for the newly forming Confederacy. Gorgas first declined the offer. Shortly after the Confederacy offered him the Chief Ordinance officer job and he took the position. He was not excited about his decision; however Josiah Gorgas was on poor terms with his commanding officers in the Union and wanted to get away from them.

Josiah Gorgas felt a call of duty from the South, and his wife’s family. Since Josiah Gorgas is now a Southerner he feels that it is important to defend his honor by joining the Confederacy. Gorgas knows that he is destined to fight for the Confederacy and in doing so will sever all ties with his family. The severance is clear when he writes, “Days appear like weeks, and the last day above entered confounds itself with my early life” (Gorgas 1). This is stated by McPherson, “Among Confederates the emphasis on honor occurred most often in the letters of upper-class soldiers and officers” (24). It is difficult to convert many of McPherson’s arguments to accommodate Josiah Gorgas because he is an Ordinance Officer and not involved in the actual fighting. Josiah Gorgas does not present first hand battle experiences,

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