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A MIDDLE-CLASS, BORDER-STATE FAMILY DURING THE CIVIL WAR Alden B. Pearson, Jr. An unusual inSicht into the impact of the Civil War on the South emerges from the diaries of George Eagleton and his wife Ethie. Neither wealthy planters nor poor whites, the Eagletons were examples of the solid, middle-class citizens of the South. George, a preacher's son and a preacher himself, numbered among his brothers three merchants and a doctor. Both he and Ethie came out of family backgrounds rooted in the early settlers and farmers of East Tennessee. They were part of that substantial, comfortably situated group which provided community leadership in the towns and rural areas of the South. Yet, they were not exactly a typical couple; for they were better educated than most of the people among whom they lived and worked and, unlike most of their contemporaries, they kept diaries. Despite the turmoil of the war years they somehow found the time and energy to record the terrible experiences, the anguish and loneliness of separation, the fear and the hatred, as well as the love and fleeting joys of this time when their country, their institutions, their communities and their families were being torn apart. This essay presents a grass-roots view of the war as George and Ethie saw it and as it affected them; it is an attempt to convey a feeling for the war, a sense of what the struggle meant to the people whose lives it transformed.1 George Ewing Eagleton was a Presbyterian preacher and teacher in Middle Tennessee when the war began. Born in 1831 in Murfreesboro , where his father spent thirty-seven years as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, educated at Union University there, at Maryville Theological Seminary in East Tennessee and at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, George had imbibed strong anti-slavery and pro-Union sentiments from his family and his educational contacts. Although he was unable to accept the abolitionist program and resented the arrogant self-righteousness of abolitionist speakers (many of whom he heard in person in New York in 1853-54), he vigorously opposed secession. But he sadly went with his state when it refused to yield to the threat of Federal coercion ' George's Day Book and Ethie's Stray Thoughts are in the possession of their granddaughter, Elvie Eagleton (Mrs. Ottis C.) Skipper, Huntsville, Alabama. 318 in 1861. Ethelinda Foute Eagleton, bom in 1835 in Maryville, was the daughter of Daniel Davis Foute, one of the early settlers and at one time a large landowner in the Montvale Springs and Cades Cove regions of East Tennessee. She had attended schools in Greeneville and Maryville, where she met George while he was studying at the seminary there.2 George's and Ethie's records of his enlistment and first few weeks in the 44th Tennessee Infantry reveal the confusion and lack of organization in the Army of Tennessee while disclosing their own reactions to the crisis. In 1861 George was pastor of three country churches and principal of a rural school in Lincoln County (directly south of Nashville on the Alabama state line). In November, in response to Governor Isham G. Harris' call for more militia to defend the state, George "volunteered as a private soldier to aid in driving the invader from Southern soil." Immediately problems arose, for there was still confusion about the relationship of the state militia to the Confederate States Army. Harris then instructed the militia to stay at home and the army volunteers to leave for their training camps. When the volunteers met to elect officers before proceeding to camp, many naturally decided that they would prefer to be considered militia. George was one of several men whose speeches prevented the dissolution of the company, at least for the moment.3 Under the impact of difficult conditions in Camp Trousdale (on the Kentucky line north of Nashville) the original doubts and fears of many were multiplied. George described the problems and his own actions in some detail. On arriving at the camp, the volunteers were put into a frame building large enough to afford sleeping room for about 100 men...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 318-336
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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