Civil War the Period Surrounding Research Proposal

Excerpt from Research Proposal :



The first article in the Rep. is condemned by the two colours, White Brown, but I can't see why. We are in fearful times, but the Lord reigneth & I have no serious fears for the issue. I feel like Gen. Jackson-"the Union must & shall be preserved" and "their object is disunion; but be not deceived, disunion, by armed force, is treason." I hope no one will be hung, tho' a few deserve it. I have no confidence in man's wisdom; but as I said in my last baccalaureate, God made this government & he will not let man destroy it. (Augusta County: George Junkin to Francis McFarland, January 19, 1861)

While in comparison to these heated ideologies, only the last of which holds out hope to the end that unity will be restored, the letters and documents from Franklin county express the idea that their chosen voices will preserve the union, it would seem with sheer intent.

We are passing along in the Even tenor of our way, and enjoying life as our circumstances allow, and experience little of the agitation which is now felt at Washington. We are not at all alarmed about the Union going down. Having read the Speeches in Congress about dossolution & c., we can sleep very calmly. (Franklin County: P. Bergstressen to Edward McPherson, December 24, 1859)

This idea brings to mind the early responses to the war, that are evident when one sees the ladies in sunbonnets out in carriages, watching the battle of Gettysburg. Many were blindsided by the brutality of the war and in this case there is some evidence that the North, being of the opinion that their cause was right assumed that this would play out well, just as so many other heated national formation issues had.

However impracticable may be the Southern leader at Washington & in the discontented States, it is manifest that the righteous, [illeg.] & temperate position of the Republicans generally in telling upon the Southern people. I do not see myself how the matter is to be compromised. The difficulty may be adjusted & the adjustment termed a compromise; but it must in fact be a surrender on one side or the other. How is the right to hold slaves in [illeg.] to be [unclear: compromised] ? How is a Slave [unclear: Cide] to be [unclear: compromised] ? The North can never consent to the universal dominion of Slavery in this nation and nothing less will satisfy the South; and indeed nothing less will ensure the perpetuation of Slavery. The restoration of the Missouri Compromise line & its extension to the Pacific, would grate very harshly upon the connections of the Northern people. It would be no concession to the North, for it would make no territory free that could by any possibility be slave; while it would inevitably force Slavery into Southern California, New Mexico, & would be followed by the annexation of [unclear: Baha] & the absorption of another slice of Mexico. Rest assured that if the North concedes its present forces, the South will ever here after have the preponderance in the Senate & practically the supreme [unclear: pres] of the government. Our present victory would be fruitless save to disgrace us as a party in one our establishment & in the eyes of the civilized world. What is to be done I can scarcely suggest. I know what should be done. The North should enforce the laws at home and also enforce the supremacy of the laws with all insurgent States; but as a party we are divided, & I am not hopeful of a happy & creditable solution of the difficulty. (Franklin County: Alexander K. McClure to Edward McPherson, December 14, 1860.)

Though it is clear that McClure notes many irreconcilable differences, again he notes confidence in the administration to manage a compromise, another example of the northern idealism just before the war. McClure makes clear that he is invested in the ideas but that the foundation of the "moderate" northern hand will likely hold the union together.

Did motivations change over time or remain consistent?

Though ideology of duty seemed to remain consistent, even early in the fighting northern soldiers suffered bitterly, slow or absent pay, and deplorable conditions, while stationed on the southern fronts led some to express that their duty should be handed to others. "I would Sooner be at home I feel now that I have done my duty and would like to See Some others do theirs." (Franklin County: James A. Harman to Martin W. Carman, December 17, 1862) Again as early as December 1862 many concerns about the logistics of fighting were raised but duty was still at the head of decision making. Though it is also interesting to note that in a letter written by the same man a few months earlier he notes the difficulty associated with conducting a war, where rebels run loose and pass information to the enemy.

This war must be conducted on different principals than what it has been or our cause will be in danger, the abolitionists must be put down Slave holders must not look for their property or negroes to be protected they must either be for us or against us, that is they who are loyal must come out. And them who are rebels must Swear Allegiance to the country or be taken as prisoners of war. (Franklin County: James A. Harman to Martin W. Carman, July 18, 1862)

Though the message is largely of logistics and safety and it assaults both sides rebels as a danger to the cause, which could give one pause to believe that the reality of the war and the principles with which it is intended changed, for some as a result of actual combat experience. This soldier is Union but stationed in Virginia.

Returning to Augusta county and the diary of Addison, there is a sense that southern individuals, even those apposed to war, supported the cause as it raged around them, quite frankly because they were witness to the devastation it caused, and cared deeply about the real concerns of the situation.

The vicissitudes of the war are very strange -- Just two months ago (May 7th) we thought the Yankees were advancing upon Staunton -- now the war is raging a way off in Pennsylvania. Two months hence the Yankees may be around us again. When I read of wars in my boyhood, I thought of them as belonging to the dark ages of the world, and never expected to witness horrors of the kind. -- The thousands now lying slaughtered in Pennsylvania, and the thousands mangled by wounds, the thousands who are anticipating evil tiding! Such is war -- to say nothing of the destruction of property, fields laid waste, and all the innumerable outrages and griefs which follow in its train. (July 7, 1863)

Addison supported the war only in deed, as his diary is clear that a compromise should have been made and that the issues are not really worth the cost. His ideology changed only in that he witnesses many atrocities, and watches as men are carried off the field in embattled and weak condition. For the most part the ideologies and motivations of the reason for the war are less frequently mentioned as people are living within it, in both the north and south, They discuss duty and honor in general but in reflection of the real situation, how to live through and live dutifully in trying times.

What role did the idea of community play in people's motivations? Were people motivated primarily by local or national concerns?

One issue I have always found interesting with regard to the primary and secondary literature of the civil war is just how interested and involved people were in national politics. It must be remembered that often people of importance are those most likely to have their memoirs recorded, yet it is also clear that the period marked one where a good many people were actively involved in governance and cared deeply about national issues. Yet, one must also look at the question of gender when framing the answer to this question. Men clearly expressed concern for community and individuals within it but the lives of women seemed remarkably insular, and they are most often committed to community issues and focused on the people who they care for. In a letter from Augusta County Virginia to a cousin in the north is a clear example of the gender divide as those left behind struggle to endure without the ones they love and the community they once loved torn to shreds:

Dear Mollie, there has been many sad changes since last I wrote you, my heart aches as I think of them, but I try…

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