The Midwestern Home Front during the Civil War
Publication Year: 2013
The Civil War has historically been viewed somewhat simplistically as a battle between the North and the South. Southern historians have broadened this viewpoint by revealing the “many Souths” that made up the Confederacy, but the “North” has remained largely undifferentiated as a geopolitical term. In this welcome collection, seven Civil War scholars offer a unique regional perspective on the Civil War by examining how a specific group of Northerners—Midwesterners, known as Westerners and Middle Westerners during the 1860s—experienced the war on the home front.
Much of the intensifying political and ideological turmoil of the 1850s played out in the Midwest and instilled in its people a powerful sense of connection to this important drama. The 1850 federal Fugitive Slave Law and highly visible efforts to recapture former bondsmen and women who had escaped; underground railroad “stations” and supporters throughout the region; publication of Ohioan Harriet Beecher Stowe’s widely-influential and best-selling Uncle Tom’s Cabin; the controversial Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854; the murderous abolitionist John Brown, who gained notoriety and hero status attacking proslavery advocates in Kansas; the emergence of the Republican Party and Illinoisan Abraham Lincoln—all placed the Midwest at the center of the rising sectional tensions.
From the exploitation of Confederate prisoners in Ohio to wartime college enrollment in Michigan, these essays reveal how Midwestern men, women, families, and communities became engaged in myriad war-related activities and support. Agriculture figures prominently in the collection, with several scholars examining the agricultural power of the region and the impact of the war on farming, farm families, and farm women. Contributors also consider student debates and reactions to questions of patriotism, the effect of the war on military families’ relationships, issues of women’s loyalty and deference to male authority, as well as the treatment of political dissent and dissenters.
Bringing together an assortment of home front topics from a variety of fresh perspectives, this collection offers a view of the Civil War that is unabashedly Midwestern.
Published by: Southern Illinois University Press
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Foreword: Civil War History Plows a New Field, by William C. Davis
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There was a time when “American Civil War history” meant in the minds of all but academics nothing except campaigns and battles, generals and regiments. Much has happened in the past half century to change that perception. Historians, and later the popular writers working in the field, turned their eyes backward from the battle line and began to look more and more at the host of issues that sent those armies to ...
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We, the editors, are grateful to the many people who made this book possible. In particular, Sylvia Frank Rodrigue, our editor at Southern Illinois University Press, has provided excellent guidance, congeniality, and a much-welcomed nurturing and collaborative spirit. William C. (“Jack”) Davis suggested that SIUP would be a good home for this project and he was more than correct. J. Matthew Gallman ...
The Great National Struggle in the Heart of the Union, An Introduction, by Ginette Aley and J. L. Anderson
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In the momentous spring of 1861, Galena, Illinois, was “throbbing with patriotism,” according to Julia Dent Grant, wife of future U.S. General Ulysses S. Grant. The rhetoric of secession and war followed by the attack on Fort Sumter sparked a fury of activity across the heart-land that was typified by events in Galena. Almost instantly, the daily transacting of business ceased. Julia later recalled that men held meet-...
Captivating Captives, An Excursion to Johnson's Island Civil War Prison, by Michael P. Gray
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In the vast historiography of the Civil War, scholars have especially concentrated on the battlefield, from strategy and tactics to the leaders that put their plans into motion. Eventually, there was a filtering down to the common soldier, and while historians continue to evolve beyond battlegrounds with much fresh social and cultural input—this natural progression from a “behind the lines” perspective can be further devel-...
“Ours Is the Harder Lot”: Student Patriotism at the University of Michigan during the Civil War, by Julie A. Mujic
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According to the Peninsular Courier, a local newspaper of Ann Arbor, Michigan, students on the University of Michigan campus reacted excitedly in February 1862 to the news of General Ulysses S. Grant’s capture of Fort Donelson. All but one student, that is. When confronted by an appointed committee of his peers who demanded an explanation, the law student defended his lack of spirited celebration. The newspaper ...
The Agricultural Power of the Midwest during the Civil War, by R. Douglas Hurt
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It sounded like distant thunder in the mid-October twilight. As the moments passed, Elvira Badger heard the rumble growing louder, far faster than an approaching storm. She looked at the clock. The hands held at 7 p.m.sc. Then, in the street before her window, “a very large drove of horses went by.” Unable to count them, she wrote, “I think there must have been more than a thousand.” This Charleston, South Carolina, ...
Gallery of Illustrations
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No Fit Wife: Soldiers’ Wives and Their In-Laws on the Indiana Home Front, by Nicole Etcheson
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When her husband joined the Union army, Alice Chapin was a young wife with two small children. Both she and her baby son were sick in early 1862 when Lucius Chapin enlisted. Unlike most enlistees’ wives, who accepted their husbands’ decisions, Alice’s reaction was anguished: “now my dear husband let me tell you I do not verily believe I could live & bid you good bye to go in the Army how can you ...
Inescapable Realities: Rural Midwestern Women and Families during the Civil War, by Ginette Aley
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Come up from the fields father, here’s a letter from our Pete,And come to the front door mother, here’s a letter from thy dear son. . . .Cool and sweeten Ohio’s villages with leaves fluttering in the moderate wind, . . .(Smell you the buckwheat where the bees were lately buzzing?) . . .Fast as she can she hurries, something ominous, her steps trembling. . . ....
The Vacant Chair on the Farm: Soldier Husbands, Farm Wives, and the Iowa Home Front, 1861–65, by J. L. Anderson
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In late May 1865, Ann Larimer wrote to her absent husband, Union soldier John Larimer, about the state of their family farm in Adams County, Iowa. She reported that the two sheep she had purchased the previous fall had increased to four. It was important news; keeping twin lambs alive can be demanding work. The prospect of raising more lambs meant more fleeces, which promised more income. During the ...
Limiting Dissent in the Midwest: Ohio Republicans’ Attacks on the Democratic Press, by Brett Barker
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In the early months of 1863, the Union war effort teetered near collapse —or so many Northern Republicans feared. For the first time since the conflict erupted, it had become unclear whether a majority of ci-vilians on the Northern home front supported the war. As the struggle entered its third year, Democrats had begun to openly and consistently condemn the Republican conduct of the war. Some dared publicly ques-...
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Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2013