Robert Franklin Bunting was a Princeton-educated chaplain who served in the Confederate 8th Texas Cavalry, popularly known as Terry's Texas Rangers, which saw combat at Shiloh, Murfreesboro, and Chickamauga. The manuscript consists primarily of ninety-five letters that Bunting wrote to a variety of Texas newspapers. Designed primarily to describe the unit's movements and actions in detail, the letters also strove to maintain morale as the Confederates' prospects dimmed. Unlike most Civil War soldiers, Bunting wrote with the explicit purpose of publishing his correspondence, seeking to influence congregations of civilians on the home front just as he had done when he lectured them from the pulpit before the Civil War. Bunting's letters cover military actions in great detail, yet they were also like sermons, filled with inspiring rhetoric that turned fallen soldiers into Christian martyrs, Yankees into godless abolitionist hordes, and Southern women into innocent defenders of home and hearth. As such, the public nature of Bunting's writings gives the reader an exceptional opportunity to see how Confederates constructed the ideal of a Southern soldier. Taken as a whole, the letters provice a glimpse into a little-understood aspect of Civil War historiography: the war in which religion influenced the ideology of soldiers and civilians. They also provide a rare first-person perspective on the role of the chaplains in the Confederate Army. Finally, Bunting's letters display an example of successful wartime propaganda: the consistent optimism maintained in the letters doubtless encouraged soldiers in the ill-fated Army of the Tennessee to remain in the ranks for four long years.
Thomas W. Cutrer is professor of American studies at Arizona State University West. He is the author of Ben McCulloch and the Frontier Military Tradition and Parnassus on the Mississippi: The Southern Review and the Baton Rouge Literary Community, 1935-1942.
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