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Rebecca Harding Davis's Stories of the Civil War Era

Selected Writings from the Borderlands

Rebecca Harding Davis Edited by Sharon M. Harris and Robin L. Cadwallader

Publication Year: 2010

The ten stories gathered here show Rebecca Harding Davis to be an acute observer of the conflicts and ambiguities of a divided nation and position her as a major transitional writer between romanticism and realism. Capturing the fluctuating cultural environment of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras, the stories explore such issues as racial prejudice and slavery, the loneliness and powerlessness of women, and the effects of postwar market capitalism on the working classes. Davis's characters include soldiers and civilians, men and women, young and old, blacks and whites. Instead of focusing (like many writers of the period) on major conflicts and leaders, Davis takes readers into the intimate battles fought on family farms and backwoods roads, delving into the minds of those who experienced the destruction on both sides of the conflict.

Davis spent the war years in the Pennsylvania and Virginia borderlands, a region she called a “vast armed camp.” Here, divided families, ravaged communities, and shifting loyalties were the norm. As the editors say, “Davis does not limit herself to writing about slavery, abolition, or reconstruction. Instead, she shows us that through the fighting, the rebuilding, and the politics, life goes on. Even during a war, people must live: they work, eat, sleep, and love.”

Published by: University of Georgia Press


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p. vii

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Notes on the Text

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p. ix

The sources for Davis's stories are their first periodical publications, which are identified after each title. Minor corrections have been made silently, such as the addition of a missing closing quotation mark. All of Davis's stylistics and the publishing distinctions (such as "is n't") have been retained. Davis wrote numerous letters to editors asking for particular spellings and ...

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Introduction: The Life and the Stories

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pp. xi-41

The publication of "Life in the Iron-Mills" in 1861 established Rebecca Harding Davis's reputation as a leading author in the movement toward literary realism. Published on the eve of the Civil War, "Life" serves as a prelude to the significant body of Davis's Civil War writings that followed. "War may be an armed angel with a mission, but she has the personal ...

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John Lamar (1862)

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pp. 1-23

... guard-house was, in fact, nothing but a shed in the middle of a stubble-field. It had been built for a cider-press last summer; but since Captain Dorr had gone into the army, his regiment had camped over half his plantation, and the shed was boarded up, with heavy wickets at either end, to hold whatever prisoners might fall into their hands from Floyd's ...

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David Gaunt (1862)

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pp. 24-84

... kind of sword, do you think, was that which old Christian had in that famous fight of his with Apollyon, long ago? He cut the fiend to the marrow with it, you remember, at last; though the battle went hardly with him, too, for a time. Some of his blood, Bunyan says, is on the stones of the valley to this day.1 That is a vague record of the combat ...

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Blind Tom (1862)

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pp. 85-94

... in the year 1850, a tobacco-planter in Southern Georgia (Perry H. Oliver by name) bought a likely negro woman with some other field-hands. She was stout, tough-muscled, willing, promised to be a remunerative servant; her baby, however, a boy a few months old, was only thrown in as a makeweight to the bargain, or rather because Mr. ...

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The Promise of the Dawn (1863)

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pp. 95-121

... evening. Do you know how that comes here among the edges of the mountains that fence in the great Mississippi valley? The sea-breath in the New-England States thins the air and bleaches the sky, sucks the vitality out of Nature, I fancy, to put it into the brains of the people: but here, the earth every day in the year pulses out through hill or ...

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Paul Blecker (1863)

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pp. 122-210

... who comprehends what America has to do, and means to help on with it, ought to choose to be born in New England, for the vitalized brain, finely-chorded nerves, steely self-control,— then to go West, for more live, muscular passion, succulent manhood, naked-handed grip of his work. But when he wants to die, by all ...

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Ellen (1863)

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pp. 211-235

... would you recommend the funeral, doctor?" Mrs. Mickle sniffed and wiped her eye. "To-morrow. If Joe comes, he can be here before that. And, I say, Mrs. Mickle," pulling the girth on his horse tighter, and straightening his saddle bags, "if the girl—you know—has the old trouble in her brain—you understand? ...

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Out of the Sea (1865)

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pp. 236-266

... gusty afternoon: one of the last dragging breaths of a nor'easter, which swept, in the beginning of November, from the Atlantic coast to the base of the Alleghanies. It lasted a week, and brought the winter,—for autumn had lingered unusually late that year; the fat bottom-lands of Pennsylvania, yet green, deadened into swamps, as it passed over them: ...

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The Harmonists (1866)

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pp. 267-284

... brother Josiah I call a successful man,—very successful, though only an attorney in a manufacturing town. But he fixed his goal, and reached it. He belongs to the ruling class,—men with slow, measuring eyes and bull-dog jaws,&$151;men who know their own capacity to an atom's weight, and who go through life with moderate, inflexible, unrepenting ...

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"In the Market" (1868)

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pp. 285-304

... a story which I would like to tell to young girls—girls, especially, who belong to that miserable border land between wealth and poverty, whose citizens struggle to meet the demands of the one state out of the necessities of the other. I hope that none but the class for whom it is written may read it. I think I remember enough of their guild language ...

General William Wirt Colby (1873)

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pp. 305-319

E-ISBN-13: 9780820336039
E-ISBN-10: 0820336033
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820332314
Print-ISBN-10: 0820332313

Page Count: 384
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 593297323
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Rebecca Harding Davis's Stories of the Civil War Era

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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Social life and customs -- 19th century -- Fiction.
  • Domestic fiction, American.
  • United States -- Social conditions -- 1865-1918 -- Fiction.
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