Reluctant Rebels

The Confederates Who Joined the Army after 1861

By Kenneth W. Noe

336 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 6 illus., appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2656-7
    Published: August 2015
  • Large Print ISBN: 978-0-8078-7910-8
    Published: June 2011
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-9563-4
    Published: May 2010
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8504-3
    Published: May 2010

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After the feverish mobilization of secession had faded, why did Southern men join the Confederate army? Kenneth Noe examines the motives and subsequent performance of "later enlisters." He offers a nuanced view of men who have often been cast as less patriotic and less committed to the cause, rekindling the debate over who these later enlistees were, why they joined, and why they stayed and fought.

Noe refutes the claim that later enlisters were more likely to desert or perform poorly in battle and reassesses the argument that they were less ideologically savvy than their counterparts who enlisted early in the conflict. He argues that kinship and neighborhood, not conscription, compelled these men to fight: they were determined to protect their families and property and were fueled by resentment over emancipation and pillaging and destruction by Union forces. But their age often combined with their duties to wear them down more quickly than younger men, making them less effective soldiers for a Confederate nation that desperately needed every able-bodied man it could muster.

Reluctant Rebels places the stories of individual soldiers in the larger context of the Confederate war effort and follows them from the initial optimism of enlistment through the weariness of battle and defeat.

About the Author

Kenneth W. Noe is Draughon Professor of History at Auburn University. He is author or editor of five books, including Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle.
For more information about Kenneth W. Noe, visit the Author Page.


"An enjoyable and informative read. Noe provides outstanding historiographical commentary. . . . Also weaves in some acute insights. . . . An excellent book that both expands the debate over wartime motivation and adds further nuance to the complexity of the Confederate mindset."--American Historical Review

"Absorbing and thought-provoking. . . . Such impressive scholarly analysis and writing, coupled with quality design and materials, make this a captivating volume that all students of the Civil War in general and the Confederacy in particular will want to read."--Civil War News

"Compelling. . . . This superb study effectively engages previous scholarship and fills a neat niche in the literature."--America's Civil War

"An absorbing study. . . . Thought provoking. . . . This excellent book provides a more complete portrait of Johnny Reb. . . Highly recommended."--Choice

"With insight and skill, Noe hands down some provocative judgments."--Civil War Book Review

"This fine study . . . answers questions about motivation and enlistment that have hovered over the field for generations. . . . The strengths of Noe's book lie in his clear prose, deep research, and persuasive analysis."--Virginia Magazine of History and Biography