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Across the Divide

Union Soldiers View the Northern Home Front

Steven J. Ramold

Publication Year: 2013

"Ramold disputes the old argument that citizen-soldiers in the Union Army differed little from civilians. He shows how a chasm of mutual distrust grew between soldiers and civilians during four years of fighting that led many Democratic soldiers to…build the groundwork for the postwar Republican Party. Filled with gripping anecdotes, this book makes for fascinating reading."
—Scott Reynolds Nelson, College of William & Mary
Union soldiers left home in 1861 with expectations that the conflict would be short, the purpose of the war was clear, and public support back home was universal. As the war continued, however, Union soldiers noticed growing disparities between their own expectations and those of their families at home with growing concern and alarm. Instead of support for the war, an extensive and oft-violent anti-war movement emerged.
In this first study of the gulf between Union soldiers and northern civilians, Steven J. Ramold reveals the wide array of factors that prevented the Union Army and the civilians on whose behalf they were fighting from becoming a united front during the Civil War. In Across the Divide, Ramold illustrates how the divided spheres of Civil War experience created social and political conflict far removed from the better-known battlefields of the war.
Steven J. Ramold, Associate Professor of American History at Eastern Michigan University, is the author of two previous books, Slaves, Sailors, Citizens: African Americans in the Union Navy and Baring the Iron Hand: Discipline in the Union Army. He and his wife reside in Ypsilanti, Michigan. 

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-6

“The people up North do not know what war is,” John Brobst, a Union Army private from Wisconsin, wrote a friend. “If they were to come down here, they would soon find out the horror of war.”1 Brobst spoke for many Union soldiers during the Civil War who held views of their own families, communities...

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1. “Such a Dirty Set of Creatures”: The Divide between Union Soldiers and Civilians

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pp. 7-32

Most of the Union soldiers who went off to war in 1861 had no concept of what they were about to experience. There were certainly military conflicts in the recent past, but nothing that involved large numbers of inexperienced volunteers. Clashes with Native Americans and the recent war with Mexico...

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2. “A Land of All Men and No Women”: Soldiers and the Gender Divide

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pp. 33-54

The Civil War created any number of divides between soldiers and the civilians they left behind. The most personal one, however, was the gender divide between Union soldiers and Northern women. Northern men went off to war with a well-defined concept of gender roles. Changes in the..

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3. “This Is an Abolition War”: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Purpose of War

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pp. 55-86

In the first months of the Civil War, there were few more frightening terms than “abolition war.” Such a war to end slavery threatened to change the country in unforeseeable ways. Whether the Civil War was an abolition war was thus a critical question in itself, and the debate over this question plunged to...

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4. “A Sin to Join the Army”: The Debate over Conscription

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pp. 87-114

Citizen-soldiers, civilians temporarily acting as soldiers in response to their respective nation’s call, fought the battles of the Civil War. The standing Regular Army played its part, but the mass of the Union Army came from civilians who donned a uniform and shouldered a weapon in the nation’s service...

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5. “The Ranting of the Black-Hearted Villains”: Soldiers and the Anti-War Movement

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pp. 115-142

In March 1863, Henry Haven, a former Captain in the 23rd Ohio and resident of Bedford, Ohio, wrote to the local Provost Marshal: “Sir, I have the honor to inform you that an organization for the purpose of resisting the Conscription has recently been formed in this place.” Describing meetings where residents...

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6. “The Sky of Our Political Horizon”: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln

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pp. 143-168

There were few ”real” soldiers in the Union Army during the Civil War. “Real” soldiers meant the Regular Army, with the standing army numbering only a few thousand at the start of the conflict, led by their largely West Point–educated officers. The majority of soldiers were, instead, citizen/soldiers, volunteers in...

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pp. 169-172

Although wartime divides isolated soldiers from civilian communities, differences of opinion soon vanished, making the soldier/civilian divide a lost narrative of the Civil War. Wartime debates caused major divisions between Union soldiers and the civilian communities around them, but the divisions...


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pp. 173-198


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pp. 199-216


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pp. 217-222

About the Author

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pp. 223-234

E-ISBN-13: 9780814760178
E-ISBN-10: 0814729193
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814729199
Print-ISBN-10: 0814729193

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 830324486
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Across the Divide

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Northeastern States -- Social conditions -- 19th century.
  • Civil-military relations -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Soldiers -- United States -- Social conditions -- 19th century
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Social aspects
  • United States. Army -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865.
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