Though civilians constituted the majority of the nation's population and were intimately involved with almost every aspect of the war, we know little about the civilian experience of the Civil War. That experience was inherently dramatic. Southerners lived through the breakup of basic social and economic institutions, including, of course, slavery. Northerners witnessed the reorganization of society to fight the war. And citizens of the border regions grappled with elemental questions of loyalty that reached into the family itself.
These original essays--all commissioned from established scholars, based on archival research, and written for a wide readership--recover the stories of civilians from Natchez to New England. They address the experiences of men, women, and children; of whites, slaves, and free blacks; and of civilians from numerous classes. Not least of these stories are the on-the-ground experiences of slaves seeking emancipation and the actions of white Northerners who resisted the draft. Many of the authors present brand new material, such as the war's effect on the sounds of daily life and on reading culture. Others examine the war's premiere events, including the battle of Gettysburg and the Lincoln assassination, from fresh perspectives. Several consider the passionate debate that broke out over how to remember the war, a debate that has persisted into our own time.
In addition to the editor, the contributors are Peter W. Bardaglio, William Blair, W. Fitzhugh Brundage, Margaret S. Creighton, J. Matthew Gallman, Joseph T. Glatthaar, Anthony E. Kaye, Robert Kenzer, Elizabeth D. Leonard, Amy E. Murrell, George C. Rable, Nina Silber, Mark M. Smith, Mary Saracino Zboray, and Ronald J. Zboray. Together they describe the profound transformations in community relations, gender roles, race relations, and culture wrought by the central event in American history.
"A fresh and intriguing text."--Library Journal "These are fresh topics, written in an engaging style by solid historians, and based on primary sources... Highly recommended."--Choice "Overall, every essay in this volume is an excellent scholarly contribution to our understanding of the Civil War. Additionally, the volume points the way to new scholarship on the Civil War era, both North and South."--Angela Boswell, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography "This is a dense and rich tapestry of Civil War civilian life, one that will enrich reigning narratives in the field. Readable, rigorously researched, with ample and diverse articles, this is a must for Civil War scholars and biffs alike."--Lyde Cullen Sizer, H-Net Reviews "This collection will be of great interest to scholars for its breadth of coverage as well as for the notable strength of the essays' research, writing, and interpretation."--Margaret M. Storey, Journal of Southern History "An exceptional collection of original essays that focus on the connections between the front line and the home front... Taken as a whole, they remind readers that the majority of Americans experienced the war out of uniform. Home-front experiences demand our attention if we are to come to a better understanding of the United States' great drama."--Paul A. Cimbala, Journal of American History "[This book] not only makes a considerable contribution to the field, but it also suggests new ways of approaching wartime social and cultural history... Every essay is well written, admirably researched, and provides not only vital new insights into the civilian home front but also suggests new interdisciplinary boundaries for historical writing on the Civil War."--Silvana R. Siddall, Civil War History