Union Soldiers and the Northern Home Front: Wartime Experiences, Postwar Adjustments. Edited by Paul A. Cimbala and Randall M. Miller. Bronx, N.Y.: Fordham University Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8232-2146-7. Tables. Notes. Index. Pp. xvi, 508. $25.00.
This volume, unusually large for a book of essays by various authors, explores topics within the currently popular area of Civil War social history. Its purpose is to explore the relationship between the soldiers in the armies and the families and communities they left behind.
The book's fifteen chapters are divided into three parts. In the first section of the book, three chapters deal with problems of recruitment. Though relatively few men were drafted, conscription was an important tool in recruitment, serving as a threat to drive men to volunteer. Bounties offered another inducement, while commutation payments and the hiring of substitutes were means by which unwilling men could keep themselves out of the ranks. Not surprisingly, wealthy men were more successful in staying out of uniform than were their poorer contemporaries.
The second section, with six chapters, contains several outstanding pieces. To mention them all in a short review would amount to a recitation of the table of contents. Especially interesting are Earl J. Hess's discussion of northern civilians' desire to know what battle was like and David A. Raney's study of the United States Christian Commission. Other topics include the Veteran Reserve Corps and its work in rear areas, religion among Union sailors, and the Union soldiers' longing for female companionship. The last named essay, by Patricia L. Richard, is a fascinating study based largely on newspaper advertisements placed by soldiers and civilians, seeking pen pals of the opposite sex.
The third part of the book deals with postwar adjustments. Among several [End Page 248] unusually good essays in this section, Frances Clarke's chapter on northern amputees stands out as perhaps the best in the entire volume. This refreshingly innovative study focuses on the postwar writings of men who had lost their right arms in the war. Clarke uses these writings to gauge the attitudes of these badly scarred veterans toward the war, civilian society, patriotism, and the values for which they had fought. Eschewing presentism, Clarke brilliantly differentiates between the reactions of Civil War soldiers and those of some of the veterans of the wars of the twentieth century. Through their Christian faith, commitment to the Union cause, and belief that true manhood lay in self-discipline rather than in physical wholeness, most Civil War amputees retained a positive outlook after the war.
All students of the Civil War will find much of interest and value within
Steven E. Woodworth
Texas Christian University
Fort Worth, Texas