The book, “The Fire-Eaters” by Eric H Walther, was quite an interesting read. The book goes into the lives of nine of the leading Southern secessionists during the Antebellum South. These Dixie secessionists were called “Fire eaters”, thus the title of the book. The men in the book are: Nathaniel Beverley Tucker, William Lowndes Yancey, John Anthony Quitman, Robert Barnewll Rhett, Laurence M. Keitt, Louis T. Wigfall, James D. B. DeBow, Edmund Ruffin, and William Porcher Miles. These 9 men were the forefathers of Southern Nationalism. They were the first Southern Nationalist, and like us were considered extremist in their time. The nine Fire-Eaters varied in their thoughts and upbringing, yet they all helped caused the eventual secession of the South in 1861. Some of these men were Southern warriors like Laurence Kiett and Louis Wigfall, others were masters of the pen like James DeBow. These men were all characterized by their courage and dedication to their homeland, the South.
The book breaks up each man’s life in one chapter and it shows their various political ideals. Many of them had diverse takes on how to exactly achieve secession and Southern independence. This isn’t exactly your book for “Rainbow Confederates” as each of the fire-eaters strongly either defended or advocated for expansion of slavery. That is another interesting aspect of the book. We get to see the other side of the slavery debate that is rarely talked about in revisionist history classes of the public education system. I found it quite thought-provoking to see the various fire eaters’ arguments on slavery. Walther did a decent job keeping his personal views out of the book which really helps add to the overall quality of the book. I didn’t buy the book to hear some modernist whine about “muh human rights” but to hear the thoughts of the Fire-Eaters. For the most part the Fire-Eaters arguments are very intelligent and logical unlike the abolitionist’s dogmatic grievances. This book really reveals, contrary to the narrative, that the pro-slavery side were humans too. These Southern men weren’t brutal monsters as they were wrongly portrayed in egalitarian humanist propaganda. Edmund Ruffin, the Fire-Eater who fire the first shot of the war, even went out of his way to defend innocent slave during the aftermath of the Nat Turner slave uprising which created hysteria in Virginia. These weren’t backwoods hicks but instead the Fire-Eaters were men of education and culture.
The book also gives insight to the antebellum political climate in general, something that many southerners need to read up on. Many of the men were talented in other areas than just politics and while alive they help forge the Southern Identity itself. The Fire-Eaters were men of honor and resolve, that’s something inspiring to us especially when we are living in the age of nihilism and hedonism. The Fire-Eaters were visionaries of their time, they deserve respect and honor just like the generals of Confederacy. Sadly, many of these men have been neglected by the history books and even pro-confederate history buffs. This book should certainly be on the shelf of any Southern Nationalist’s collection.