The Imagined Civil War
Popular Literature of the North and South, 1861-1865
Publication Year: 2001
Published by: The University of North Carolina Press
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... My deepest intellectual debt is to Thomas Bender. At New York University, Tom was an exceptional adviser, just as he is an exceptional teacher, thinker, and writer. The depth, breadth, and generosity of his intellect made the experience of being a student profoundly rewarding, and for this I thank him. I would not have become a historian without his ...
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‘‘The real war will never get in the books,’’ Walt Whitman wrote in his 1882 SpecimenDays. For years, historians and literary critics alike accepted Whitman’s remark as a central truth of the CivilWar: thewarwas the ‘‘unwritten war’’—the title of Daniel Aaron’s influential 1973 study—because no masterpiece resulted from this most dramatic of conflicts in American ...
1. Popular Literary Culture in Wartime
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‘‘Men cannot think, or write, or attend to their ordinary business,’’ Oliver Wendell Holmes reported from Boston in the fall of 1861. ‘‘They stroll up and down the streets, they saunter out upon the public places.’’ War fever had produced a ‘‘nervous restlessness of a very peculiar character.’’ An ‘‘illustrious author’’ confessed that he ‘‘had laid down his pen,’’ unable to ‘‘write about the sixteenth century,’’ while the nineteenth ‘‘was in the very ...
2. The Early Spirit of War
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In the first year of war commentators in both the North and the South marveled at the outpouring of newspaper poetry inspired by the conflict. ‘‘Southern independence has struck the lyre as well as unsheathed the sword,’’ the war correspondent ‘‘Bohemian’’ (William G. Shepperson) announced in the preface to his 1862 collection War Songs of the South. ‘‘That it has inspired many a song no less truly poetical than intensely patriotic, our newspapers amply testify.’’ The Northern author Richard Grant ...
3. The Sentimental Soldier
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‘‘Oh! it is great for our country to die,’’ began a poem published in the Boston Transcript on May 28, 1861; ‘‘Bright is the wreath of our fame; glory awaits us for aye.’’ ‘‘It is well—it is well thus to die inmy youth, / A martyr to freedom and justice and truth!’’ proclaimed the narrator of the October 1861 Southern Monthly poem ‘‘The Dying Soldier.’’ At the start of the ...
4. The Feminized War
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Within weeks of the start of war a number of stories and vignettes stressing the vital role ofwomen in thewar effort began to appear in newspapers and popular magazines both north and south. Articles, illustrations, and stories emphasized the importance of women’s domestic labor for the war effort, whether in preparing and packing provisions, sewing uniforms and ...
5. Kingdom Coming: The Emancipation of Popular Literature
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In early 1865 a Southern author named Mrs. Howard reflected resentfully on the easy living she imagined to be slaves’ lot in wartime. In an essay titled ‘‘Plantation Scenes and Sounds’’ published in the Southern Field and Fireside, Howard commented on ‘‘how little’’ slaves ‘‘realize what distress and misery are pervading this land.’’ After all, ‘‘rations are served to them ...
6. The Humor of War
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Only a few minutes before Abraham Lincoln announced the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet in September 1862, he read aloud an extended passage from a popular book of war humor by Artemus Ward, the pseudonym of author Charles Farrar Browne. Secretary of War Stanton later recorded his disgust with what he saw as Lincoln’s ...
7. The Sensational War
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In May 1863 a full-page New York Times advertisement for a newwar story by the prolific author John Hovey Robinson announced ‘‘Startling News from Tennessee! Love, War, Adventure! Desperation, Devotion, Heroism!’’ Extolling The Round Pack as a ‘‘series of wonderful adventures in the very heart of the guerrilla region of Tennessee,’’ it invited ‘‘the million to a peep’’ ...
8. A Boys’ and Girls’ War
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Late in the war children became a significant part of the audience for adventurous war literature in the North. As one reader remembered of John Townsend Trowbridge’s war novel Cudjo’s Cave (discussed in chapter 5), it was ‘‘half a ‘juvenile’ and half for grown ups’’ and was ‘‘prodigiously popular with young and old.’’ Cheap literature of all kinds, including war novels, ...
9. The Market Value of Memory: Histories of the War
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In December 1864 the popular historian John S. C. Abbott, hard at work on the second volume of his History of the Civil War in America, defended writing a history of the war even as it was still being fought. As he explained to his editor and publisher, Ledyard Bill, ‘‘It is frequently supposed that a really reliable history of this war can not be written now. I think, on ...
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Just as the CivilWar was what Lincoln called ‘‘a People’s contest’’ involving an entire society, so too it was a people’s literary war. Not only did ordinary citizens create a popular literary war in countless poems during the conflict, but numerous writers and publishers, established and fledgling, produced a wide variety of literature for a diverse and widespread reading public. This popular literary war was not just a war of soldiers ...
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Page Count: 424
Illustrations: 35 illus.
Publication Year: 2001
Series Title: Civil War America