The View from the Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers (New Directions In Southern History)
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Civil War scholars have long used soldiers' diaries and correspondence to flesh out their studies of the conflict's great officers, regiments, and battles. However, historians have only recently begun to treat the common Civil War soldier's daily life as a worthwhile topic of discussion in its own right. The View from the Ground reveals the beliefs of ordinary men and women on topics ranging from slavery and racism to faith and identity and represents a significant development in historical scholarship―the use of Civil War soldiers' personal accounts to address larger questions about America's past. Aaron Sheehan-Dean opens The View from the Ground by surveying the landscape of research on Union and Confederate soldiers, examining not only the wealth of scholarly inquiry in the 1980s and 1990s but also the numerous questions that remain unexplored. Chandra Manning analyzes the views of white Union soldiers on slavery and their enthusiastic support for emancipation. Jason Phillips uncovers the deep antipathy of Confederate soldiers toward their Union adversaries, and Lisa Laskin explores tensions between soldiers and civilians in the Confederacy that represented a serious threat to the fledgling nation's survival. Essays by David Rolfs and Kent Dollar examine the nature of religious faith among Civil War combatants. The grim and gruesome realities of warfare―and the horror of killing one's enemy at close range―profoundly tested the spiritual convictions of the fighting men. Timothy J. Orr, Charles E. Brooks, and Kevin Levin demonstrate that Union and Confederate soldiers maintained their political beliefs both on the battlefield and in the war's aftermath. Orr details the conflict between Union soldiers and Northern antiwar activists in Pennsylvania, and Brooks examines a struggle between officers and the Fourth Texas Regiment. Levin contextualizes political struggles among Southerners in the 1880s and 1890s as a continuing battle kept alive by memories of, and identities associated with, their wartime experiences. The View from the Ground goes beyond standard histories that discuss soldiers primarily in terms of campaigns and casualties. These essays show that soldiers on both sides were authentic historical actors who willfully steered the course of the Civil War and shaped subsequent public memory of the event.
that was intended to bring public shame. And in a society like the antebellum South, where honor operated as a fundamental organizing principle, shaming a person, especially someone in authority, was a powerful rebuke.43 The First and Fifth Texas regiments also resisted the appointment of regimental officers in October 1861. Originally organized as an “over-strength Battalion” in June 1861, companies A through H of this unit, which were later reorganized as the First Texas Regiment, elected
were raised to establish the Normal and Collegiate Institute (later Virginia State University).17 Black Virginians were rewarded for their support on both the state and federal levels. The number of black employees in various federal agencies increased sharply; at the Post Office, blacks accounted for just under 40 percent of the workforce at the height of Readjuster control. In addition, African Americans served as jurors and clerks, town police officers, and guards at state penitentiaries.
Press, 1993). 3. James A. Marten, “Fatherhood in the Confederacy: Southern Soldiers and Their Children,” Journal of Southern History 63 (May 1997): 269–92; James A. Marten, The Children’s Civil War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998). 4. Donald R. Shaffer, After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004). 5. Edward L. Ayers, In the Presence of Mine Enemies: War in the Heart of America, 1859–1863 (New York: W. W. Norton,
burden of a soldier’s life is enough without the burden which sin imposes.”20 Their wartime writings suggest that many religious soldiers were successful in their efforts to walk the straight and narrow. Talbert Holt, a private in the Thirty-eighth Alabama garrisoned at Fort Morgan near Mobile, expressed his determination to remain unblemished and reported confidently to his wife, Carrie, in 1861 that “others . . . will return to their families as infidels having thrown off religious restraint,
conduct of federal authority, and aversion to armistice. Union soldiers, especially those from Pennsylvania, saw themselves as guardians of the Republic, leading the nation down the path of wholesale support of Republican policy. Another factor that makes Pennsylvania a good case study is its 1863 gubernatorial race. Following the military disasters in the eastern theater in 1862, Democratic candidates swept the off-year congressional elections that autumn. Their success proved so widespread