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The Feminized Civil War: Gender, Northern Popular Literature, and the Memory of the War, 1861-1900
by Alice Fahs
The Feminized Civil War: Gender, Northern Popular Literature, and the Memory of the War, 1861-1900
The Journal of American History
Updated: February 11th, 2013
The Feminized Civil War: Gender, Northern Popular Literature, and the ~emor-ybf the War, 1861-1900
"What do women know about war?" asked Fleta in the popular Northern story paper the Flag of Our Union in January 1865. "What do they not know," she answered: "What drop in all the bitter cup have they not tasted?-what ball strikes home on the battle-field that strikes not hearts at the hearthstone as well?" Women knew about war, she argued, "who steadily crush back the blinding tears, and whisper through white, brave lips, 'Go,"' or "who wait in vain for the letter that never comes-who search, with sinking hearts, and eyes dark with anguish, the fearful battlelists." Chastising those who would ask such a question, she concluded, "let the desolate homes, the bro- ken hearts, and the low wail of agony that God hears on his throne, make answer!"'
For the anonymous author Fleta, the Civil War occurred not just on the battle- front but also on the Northern home front, where a woman's war of sacrifice and suffering complemented a man's war of fighting. Her impassioned claim to women's knowledge of the war was part of a wide-ranging popular wartime literature that explored white women's domestic war experiences, imagining them as a source of self-knowledge, an education in patriotism, an initiation into the values of work, the occasion for romance, and, increasingly, the cause of unbearable anguish. The femi- nized Civil War of this article's title refers both to literature featuring women hero- ines on the Northern home front and to the domestic wartime concerns that such literature highlighted. Written by both men and women, and part of a wartime liter- ature that marked the gender of both men and women, feminized literature often appeared side by side with masculinized literature exploring men's experiences of the
Alice Fahs is assistant professor of history at the University of California, Irvine.
I am grateful to David Nord for his expert editorial guidance, to Drew Gilpin Faust and the anonymous reviewers for the Journal of American History for their astute and helpful comments, and to Susan Armeny, Scott Stephan, and Peter A. Kraemer for their help with preparation of this article. A version of this essay was presented at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in January 1998, and I appreciate the helpful com- ments of Stuart McConnell, Matthew Gallman, and Amy Kinsel. I would also like to thank Bob Moeller, Joan Waugh, and Charles Chubb for their thoughtful assistance on several drafts of this essay. I benefitted from the helpful comments of Lynn Mally, Judith Jackson Fossett, David Blight, Bob Bonner, Jon Wiener, Anne Walthall, and Patrick Kelly, and, on an early version of this essay, from the comments of Nina Silber, Thomas Bender, Susan Ware, Eliza McFeely, Lyde Sizer, Susan Schoelwer, and Michael O'Malley. Finally, I appreciate the generous sup- port of the American Antiquarian Society, the Duke University Library, and the Huntington Library.
Readers may contact Fahs at email@example.com.
' Fleta, "Woman and War," Flag of Our Union, Jan. 28, 1865, p. 59.
The Journal of American History March 1999
war in a popular periodical such as Harper? Weekb2 Just as battlefield reports, war sto- ries, and personal narratives concentrated on men's experiences of war, an extensive fem- inized war literature, including stories, essays, poems, articles, novels, broadsides, and cartoons, portrayed women's domestic war experiences as a vital part of the conflict.
Such literature reveals gendered dimensions of wartime culture that have often been invisible to scholars who have concentrated on elites, canonical writers, and Northern intellectuals in writing the cultural history of the war in the North. Not only did feminized war literature insist on the importance of women's contributions to the war effort, but increasingly it argued that women's homefront sufferings were equal to, or even greater than, those of men in battle. White women may have been largely shut out from the combat experience on which men later based their claims to the war's meanings and to national citizenship. Yet in popular literature women's domestic war experiences authorized a claim to participation not only in the war but also in the "imagined community" of the nati~n.~
Inspired by works that identie popular cultural forms as complex expressions of ideology and those that examine women's Civil War experiences, this article argues that popular culture was an important location for representing and exploring the gendered implications of the war. To make this argument, it draws upon nine major popular periodicals that encompass a wide spectrum of Northern wartime publishing. They include two national illustrated weeklies (Harper? Weekly and Frank Leslie? Illustrated Newspaper); three general-interest family magazines (the Athntic Monthly, Harper? New Monthly Magazine, and the ContinentalMonthly); one of the "cheap" story papers that featured weekly fiction (the Fhg of Our Union); a religious journal (the Indepen- dent); and two women's magazines (Peterson: and Arthur? Home Magazine.) Together, they provide a constellation of cultural positions from high to low in the Northern lit- erary marketplace, emphasizing the wide distribution of the feminized literary war.*
2The outpouring of popular wartime literature on martial themes also included histories, juveniles, humor, "songsters" (songbooks), poetry, and sensational novels. A few sensational novels, published as pamphlets, also portrayed female heroines. However, these heroines were almost always Unionist Southerners who lived in the border states or in the Confederacy itself, and such novels are beyond the scope of this article.
3The foremost cultural history of the war is George M. Fredrickson, The Inner Civil War: Northern Intellectu- als and the Crisis of the Union (New York, 1965). The standard literary histories of the war remain Daniel Aaron, The Unwritten War (New York, 1973); and Edmund Wilson, Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the Ameri- can Civil War (New York, 1962). Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Rejections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London, 1983).
4The best recent anthology of Civil War literature is Louis P. Masur, ed., "The Real War Will Never Get in the Books':. Selectionsjonz Writers during the Civil War (New York, 1993). New studies on popular culture include Eric Lott, Love and The@ Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (New York, 1993); and George Lipsitz, Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture (Minneapolis, 1990). For the popular culture of the war, see Kathleen Diffley, Where My Heart Is Turning Ever: Civil War Stories and Constitutional Reform, 1861 1876 (Athens, Ga., 1992); Timothy Sweet, Traces of War: Poetry, Photography, and the Crisis of the Union (Baltimore, 1990); Jim Cullen, The Civil War in Popular Culture: A Reusable Past (Washington, 1995); and Joyce Appleby, "Reconciliation and the Northern Novelist," Civil War History, 10 (June 1964), 117-29. Foremost among new studies discussing women's experiences of the war is Drew Gilpin Faust, Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholdirzg South in the American Civil War (Chapel Hill, 1997). See also LeeAnn Whites, The Civil War as a Crisis in Gender: Augusta, Georgia, 1860-1890 (Athens, Ga., 1995); Elizabeth Young, "A Wound of One's Own: Louisa May Alcott's Civil War Fiction," American Quarterly, 48 (Sept. 1996), 439-74; Catherine Clinton and Nina Silber, eds., Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War (New York, 1992); Nina Silber, The Romance of Reunion: Northerners and the South, 1865-1900 (Chapel Hill, 1993); Lyde Cullen Sizer, "'A Revolution in Woman Herself': Northern Women Writers and the American Civil War, 1850-1872" (Ph.D, diss., Brown Uni-
The Feminized Civil War
A closer look at one journal underscores the prevalence of wartime fictions pre- senting women's experiences of war. Harper? Weekly was one of the most popular publications during the war, advertising as early as June 15, 1861, that it had sold 115,000 copies of its previous number. In 1862 the Weekly published 46 war stories; of these, 30 featured Northern heroines on the home front, while the 16 remaining stories included first-person accounts of war campaigns by male narrators, stories featuring Southern heroines, and adventurous border stories set in Kentucky and Tennessee. In 1863 the Weekly published 41 war stories, with 26 of these featuring Northern heroines on the home front; in 1864 the Weekly published 59 war stories, with 34 of these feminized. In short, in this period a preponderance of the Weeklyj war fiction featured feminized themes.5
The literary marketplace did much to create this distinctive woman's war, and this article draws upon recent works in the history of print culture to connect market processes with expressions of gendered nationalism. At the outset of the war the Northern literary marketplace was strikingly feminized in several ways. The domi- nant form of fiction was the domestic novel, with its simultaneous celebration of women's domestic power and exploration of women's domestic problems and con- cerns. A substantial female readership provided an audience for such domestic novels and magazine fiction. Midcentury publishing practices, with an emphasis on per- sonal author-publisher relationships and benevolent paternalism, facilitated publica- tion by women authors. Not surprisingly, during the war the literary marketplace supported an outpouring of popular literature portraying women's domestic partici- pation in the war.6
versity, 1994); Ann Douglas Wood, "The War within a War: Women Nurses in the Union Army," Civil War His- tory, 18 (Sept. 1972), 197-212; and Elizabeth Leonard, Yankee Women: Gender Battles in the Civil War (New York, 1994). See also Sylvia G. L. Dannett, ed., Noble Women of the North (New York, 1959); Marjorie Barstow Green- bie, Lincoln; Daughters of Mercy (New York, 1944); Mary Elizabeth Massey, Bonnet Brigades (New York, 1966); and Agatha Young, The Women and the Crisis: Women of the North in the Civil War (New York, 1959). Wartime circulation figures can be approximated for several publications reviewed for this essay in addition to Harper? Weekly. Harper? New Monthly Magazine claimed an average circulation of 110,000 for the war period; Frank Leslie? Illustrated Newspaper 164,000 in 1860, but only 50,000 by 1865; the Independent 35,000 in 1861 and 75,000 in 1863; the Atlantic Monthly 32,000 in 1863. See Frank Luther Mott, A History ofAmerican Magazines (5 vols., Cambridge, 1930-1957), 11, 11, 10, 371, 372, 505.
'Harper; Weekly, June 15, 1861, p. 369.
"n its conception of the literary marketplace this study is dependent on work on the history of American print culture, including Cathy Davidson, Revolution and the Word The Rise of the Novel in America (New York, 1986); Cathy Davidson, ed., Reading in America: Literature &Social History (Baltimore, 1989); Ezra Greenspan, Walt Whit- man and the American Reader (Cambridge, Mass., 1990); Robert Gross, Printing, Politics, and the People: The 1989 James Russell Wipgins Lecture in the History of the Book in American Culture at the American Antiquarian Society (Worcester, 1989); David D. Hall, Worh of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Belief in Early New England (Cambridge, Mass., 1990); Mary Kelley, Private Woman, Public Stage: Literary Domesticity in Nineteenth-Century America (New York, 1984); Susan Coultrap-McQuin, Doing Literary Business: American Women Writers in the Nine- teenth Century (Chapel Hill, 1990); David Nord, The Evangelical Origins of Mas Media in America, 1815-1835 (Columbia, S.C., 1984); Janice Radway, Reading the Romance: Women, Pa~iarchy, and Popular Literature (Chapel Hill, 1984); Ellery Sedgwick, The Atlantic Monthly, 1857-1909 (Amherst, 1994); Michael Warner, The Letters of the Republic: Publication and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century America (Cambridge, Mass., 1990); and Christo- pher l? Wilson, The Labor of Wordj: Literary Professionalism in the Progressive Era (Athens, Ga., 1985). On the domes- tic novel, see especially Nina Baym, Woman; Fiction: A Guide to Novek by and about Women in America, 1820-1870 (Ithaca, 1978); and Jane Tompkins, Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1770-1860 (New York, 1985). On the practices of the mid-nineteenth-century literary marketplace that encouraged participation by women authors, see Coultrap-McQuin, Doing Literary Business; and Kelley, Private Woman, Public Stage.
The Journal ofAmerican History March 1999
While a study of that literature reveals much about the creation of a woman's war, it also has much to tell us about the changing postbellum memory of the war. At the close of the war, the popular literary memory of women's domestic partici- pation in it seemed secure. Indeed, in the late 1860s a stream of novels and om- nibus volumes explored Northern women's contributions to the war. Although popular literary interest in the war waned generally during the 1870s, represen- tations of a Northern women's domestic war continued to appear, though less frequently.
But memories of wars are far from static or permanent, and in the 1880s and 1890s major shifts in popular literary representations of the war occurred. The war was reinvented as numerous groups "reclaimed a past of their own creation," to use Tony Horwitz's phrase. Foremost among them was the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), whose dramatic growth in the 1880s and 1890s fueled publications that stressed the military experience of the war. A masculinized culture of Civil War remembrance focused on the conflict as a war of white "brotherhood," as Theodore Roosevelt put it in 1901, contributing to a nationalizing project of sectional recon- ciliation that stressed the shared heroism and bravery of white soldiers of "the blue and the gray." At the same time, interest in a woman's war moved south, as novelists and memoirists focused on southern slaveholding women's antebellum and war experiences, contributing to highly racialized "plantation" literature that bathed slav- ery in a nostalgic glow.7
Representations of Northern white women's war experiences became more and more infrequent. A study of six major late-nineteenth-century popular magazines- Century, Harper? Monthly, McClure?, Ladies' Home/ournal, Harper? Weekly, and the Atlantic Monthly-reveals few portrayals of a Northern women's war. While numer- ous articles and illustrations in popular magazines depicted military aspects of the war, the Northern women's home front war so avidly discussed during the war appeared only sporadically in articles or fiction. If the Civil War in the North had been both a man's and a woman's war in popular literature, it was now increasingly redefined as a man's war only.
This late-nineteenth-century decline of a Northern women's war in popular lit- erature forces us to reconsider the memory of the Civil War in American culture. Although it is often assumed that in the North an understanding of the war that highlighted male heroism and glory dominated popular interpretation of the war during the conflict itself, such masculinization occurred primarily in the 1880s and 1890s, when ideas of what constituted the experience of war narrowed to campaigns and battles. Ironically, the popular memory of the Civil War still fol- lows the contours of late-nineteenth-century masculinized culture. Stephen Crane's 1895 Red Badge of Courage, for instance, is still often celebrated as the first realis- tic depiction of the war. Yet it can be argued that Crane's novel was a new inven-
'Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatchesfiom the Unfinished Civil War (New York, 1998), 101. Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life (New York, 1901), 263-78. On late-nineteenth-century plantation mythology, see Eric J. Sundquist, To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature (Cambridge, Mass., 1993).
The Feminized Civil War
tion of an all-masculine world of war that said far more about the changing social, cultural, and literary climate of the 1890s than about the so-called real war of the 1860~.~
Today, as James McPherson has commented, "the huge Civil War constituency . . . outside the ranks of professional historians and the halls of academe" remains inter- ested "mainly if not exclusively in campaigns and battles." A recovery of the femi- nized Civil War teaches us that this was not always so. Literature exploring Northern women's war experiences was central to popular culture of the war during and immediately after the conflict. Such literature reveals that popular memories of the Civil War were once far wider-ranging and more inclusive than in much of the twentieth century.'
Within weeks of the start of war stories and vignettes stressing the vital role of women in the war effort began to appear in newspapers and popular magazines. Articles, illustrations, and stories commented on the importance of women's labor in preparing and packing provisions, sewing uniforms and havelocks (cloth pieces to attach to caps to protect soldiers from the sun), or knitting socks and mittens. The frontispiece of the June 29, 1861, Harper? Weekly was an engraving of women "making havelocks for the volunteers." In a poem titled "Stockings and Mittens," the Weeklyevoked "a thousand needles" that "glisten with the loving of remembering eyes." Arthur? Home Ma~zine commended an "army of the knitters" in militarized language that linked battlefront and home front.1°
Other writings praised women for supporting men's enlistment, often drawing parallels to the actions of revolutionary mothers. As Arthur: Home Magazine commented in November 1861, "our American mother has mused wonderingly over that heroism of Revolutionary times which armed the son, and sent him forth, to fight in the battles of his country. Admiration filled her heart-there was something saintly in the words, 'Our Revolutionary Mothers.' But, she did not feel strong enough for a like trial." Now women were learning to be like their revolutionary forebears: "There are few homes from which has not gone out a son, and few of these in which a reluctant heart is left behind. Our moihers are equal to their high
duty, and strong enough for any sacrifice their country, in this hour of its trial, may demand." The New York Times approvingly reported an "incident" in a New York store in which "a matronly lady," after helping her son, a "fine youth of about nine- teen years," buy his military equipment, remarked, "'This, my son, is all that I can do. I have given you up to serve your country, and may God go with you! It is all a mother can do.'" Not only was the mother's remark made with "evident emotion,"
On Crane's realism and realism more generally, see Christopher P.Wilson, "Stephen Crane and the Police," American Quarterly, 48 (June 19961, 273-315; and Amy Kaplan, The Social Construction of American Reillism (Chicago, 1988).
'James M. McPherson, "Foreword," in Divided Hoz~ses, ed. Clinton and Silber, xiv. lo "Stockings and Mittens," Harper? Weekly, Jan. 11, 1862, p. 30; "The Army of the Knitters," Arthur? Home Magazine, 19 (Jan. 1862), 61.
The Journal of American History March 1999
but "tearful eyes followed this patriotic mother and her son, as they departed from the place.""
Such emblematic portrayals revealed that at the outset of the war the ideology of republican motherhood shaped images of women's participation in the war. In early wartime feminized literature, women's appropriate role was to sacrifice their sons for the sake of country. But such literature revealed more about the culture of which it was a part than its propagandistic aims might suggest. As Mary Poovey has com- mented, texts "always produce meanings in excess of what seems to be" their "explicit design." Many of the "excess meanings" of wartime feminized literature involved a distinctive, sentimentalized patriotism.12
The "evident emotion" and "tearful eyes" mentioned in the New York Times vignette remind us that the Civil War took place within a sentimental culture that valued the expression of feeling and regarded women as the emotive center of the nation. In feminized war literature women's emotions, especially their tears, were often portrayed as giving appropriate value to men's actions, marking the transition of men from the private to the public realm-from home to the service of their country. Virginia F. Townsend's November 1861 war sketches, "Home Pictures of the Times," highlighted the tearful patriotism of women from several walks of life as they learned to sacrifice their men to the war. In one sketch, a mother, "poor and old," put her "feeble arms" around her only son, and "the sobs shook her gray hair." Yet at the son's urgings-"Come now, mother, give me a real, hearty, cheerful good byen-she "swallowed down her sobs, and drawing down the sunburnt face to her lips, she said, with a tremulous smile, 'God bless you, my precious boy!'"l3
l' "The Mothers of To-Day," Arthur? Home Magazine, 18 (Nov. 1861), 263. The New York Kmes anecdote was reprinted in "Rumors and Incidents," The Rebellion Record. A Diary ofAmerican Events, with Documents, Nar- ratives, Illustrative Incidents, Poetry etc., ed. Frank Moore (1 1 vols., New York, 1861-1868), I, 55. For antebellum women writers' views of the Revolution, see Nina Baym, American Women Writers and the Work of History, 1790- 1860 (New Brunswick, 1995); and Linda K. Kerber, "'History Can Do It No Justice': Women and the Reinter- pretation of the American Revolution," in Women in the Age of the American Revolution, ed. Ronald Hoffman and Peter J. Albert (Charlottesville, 1989), 3-42.
l2 On republican motherhood, see Linda K. Kerber, Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolution- ary America (Chapel Hill, 1980). On the antebellum culture of domesticity that supported the ideology of repub- lican motherhood, see Nancy Cott, The Bonds of Womanhood: "Womani Sphere" in New England, 1780-1835 (New Haven, 1977); Ann Douglas, The Feminization of American Culture (New York, 1977); Kelley, Private Woman, Public Stage; and Karen Halttunen, Confidence Men and Painted Women: A Study of Middle-Class Culture in America, 1830-1870 (New Haven, 1982). Mary Poovey, Uneven Developments: The Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian England (Chicago, 1988), 16.
Ii The idea that women were at the emotive center of the nation had been widely established in antebellum lit- erature, the most prominent example of sentimental literary nationhood being Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom? Cabin (New York, 1851). For emphasis on the vital role of patriotic mothers and "home-sentiment," see Elizabeth Ellet, The Women of the American Revolution (New York, 1848), 13-14. On Ellet's career, see Baym, American Women Writers and the Work of History; and Kerber, "'History Can Do It No Justice."' On nineteenth-century- sentimental culture, see Douglas, Feminization of American Culture; Halttunen, Confidence Men and Painted Women; Barton Levi St. Armand, Emily Dickinson and Her Culture: The Soul? Society (New York, 1984); and Tompkins, Sensational Designs. Virginia F. Townsend, "Home Pictures of the Times," Arthuri Home Magazine, 18 (Nov. 1861), 235, 237. See also such popular songs as Mrs. Cornelia D. Rogers, Ah! He Kissed Me When He Left Me (Chicago, 1863), Sheet Music Collection (Special Collections Library, Duke University, Durham, N.C.). Sol- diers' own accounts of partings often matched these literary versions in stressing the tears of women. See Will Colton's account of his departure in J. Matthew Gallman, Mastering Wartime: A Social History of Philadelphia dur- ingthe Civil War (Cambridge, Mass., 1990), 63.
The Feminized Civil War
Such sentimentalized patriotism highlighted the idea that women, especially mothers, personalized the nation, that they linked the private and the public realms. Indeed no sight was "more expressive," affirmed Samuel Osgood in Harper? Monthly in 1863, than
the good mother seated at the window from which floats the household flag, and watching intently the passing regiment, and waving her handkerchief to some friend or kinsman. . . . The sight of her and her daughters brings the whole coun- try nearer to us, and the great continent seems to rise before us in living personal- ity, and to speak with her voice, and to glow with our affections. The nation seems to live in the person of its queen.'*
For departing soldiers women and home were the most effective connection to the flag and nation. While there was a
reverence for our flag amounting almost to worship; yet without some human face or word to go with it, the flag is a very insufficient incentive, and the good soldier feels its power far more when he receives the silken banner at the hands of some fair woman. . . . In some way every soldier is enabled to interpret his country by some such personal association, and so give it a place in his fancy and affections, as well as in his reason and conscience.'5
Women's perceived ability to personalize the flag and therefore the nation also underlay the popularity of John Greenleaf Whittier's 1863 Atlantic Monthly ballad "Barbara Frietchie." Based on an apocryphal incident, "Barbara Frietchie" told of an old woman in Frederick, Maryland, who defied Stonewall Jackson by flying the Union flag from her window even after his troops had shot and "rent the banner with seam and gash":
She leaned far out on the window-sill,
And shook it forth with a royal will.
"Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country's flag," she said.
"Barbara Frietchie" was widely copied in newspapers throughout the North, made into a popular song, and the subject of numerous illustration^.'^
That women personalized the nation for men was affirmed in a strikingly mater- nalist literature. Popular poetry imagined mothers as having authority over their sons' enlistment in the war, as in Harper? Weekly's March 1862 "Mother, May I Go?," by Horatio Alger Jr.:
I am eager, anxious, longing to resist my country's foe: Shall I go, my dearest mother? tell me, mother, shall I go?
"Samuel Osgood, "The Home and the Flag," Harper? New Monthly Magazine, 26 (April 1863), 664.
l6 John Greenleaf Whittier initially steadfastly asserted the veracity of the story upon which his ballad was based, but after the war he backpedaled. See Samuel T. Pickard, Life and Letters of John Greenleaf Whittier (2vols., Cambridge, Mass., 1894), 11, 454-59. John Greenleaf Whittier, "Barbara Frietchie," Atlantic Monthly, 12 (Oct. 18631,435-97.
Many popular songs affirmed soldiers' continuing connections to their mothers even when on the battlefield. The popular song "Just Before the Battle, Mother," imag- ined a soldier's thoughts turning to his mother the night before a battle:
Just before the battle, Mother,
I am thinking most of you,
While upon the field we're watching,
With the enemy in view
Farewell, Mother, you may never
Press me to your heart again;
But 0,you'll not forget me, Mother,
If I'm number'd with the slain.':
From early in the war numerous popular songs imagined a soldier's dying thoughts turning to his mother, including Charles Carroll Sawyer's "Who Will Care For Mother Now?" ("Soon with angels I'll be marching,lWith bright laurels on my brow,/I have for my country fallen,lWho will care for mother now?"); and "The Dying Volun- teer." A vast home front literature gendered the war by insisting that soldiers' true value could only be made known through their personal connections to women, especially their mothers.18
Younger women, too, were important in encouraging men's patriotism, although their role was often imagined as more astringent than nurturing. Prescriptive enlist- ment fables, poems, songs, and cartoons portrayed young women renouncing and chastising men who refused to enlist, often demonstrating their own earnestness and heroism as they revealed men's cowardice. T. S. Arthur's "Blue Yarn Stockings," published in the December 1861 Harper2 Monthly, featured a heroine who "drank in with every breath the spirit of heroism and self-sacrifice." When a suitor laughed at her knitting socks for the soldiers, she showed him the door: "If you are not suffi- ciently inspired with love of country to lift an arm in her defense," Katie Maxwell told her admirer before dismissing him, "don't, I pray you, hinder, with light words even, the feeble service that a weak woman's hands may render. I am not a man, and can not, therefore, fight for liberty and good government; but what I am able to do I am doing from a state of mind that is hurt by levity." Likewise, Kate Sutherland's "The Laggard Recruit," published in Arthur? Home Magazine in January 1862, fea- tured two young heroines who shamed an admirer for not enlisting: "If we ladies
"Horatio Alger Jr., "Mother, Can I Go?," Harperi Weekly, March 22, 1862, p. 187. For his follow-up verse, see Horatio Alger Jr., "He Has Gone and I Have Sent Him," ibid., Nov. 1, 1862, p. 694. Alger "often wrote his Civil War verse from the point of view of a woman, usually a mother or a sweetheart pining for a young soldier gone to war," his biographers have noted. See Gary Scharnhorst and Jack Bales, The Lost Life of Horatio Alger Jr. (Bloomington, 1985), 56. George F. Root,Just Before the Battle, Mother (Chicago, 1863), Sheet Music Collection.
InCharles Carroll Sawyer, Who Will Care for Mother Now? (Brooklyn, 1863), Sheet Music Collection; The Dying Volunteer (New Orleans, 1865), ibid.; Edward Clark, The Dying Soldier or Kiss megood night Mother (Boston, 1861), ibid.; J. C. Johnson, Is That Mother Bending O'er Me? (Boston, 1863), ibid.; Henry C. Work, Our Captain; Last Word (Chicago, 1861), ibid.; A. B. Chandler, I've Fallen in the Battle (New Orleans, 1864), ibid.; Ednor Rossiter, I Loved That Dear Old Flag the Best (Philadelphia, 1863), ibid.;Thomas Manahan, Bear this gently to my Mother (New York, 1864), ibid.
The Feminized Civil War
"Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country's flag," she said.
John Greenleaf Whittier's 1863 poem "Barbara Frietchie," first printed
in the Atlantic Monthly, was widely popular throughout the
North as an emblematic portrayal of women's patriotism.
From L. I? Brockett and Mary C. Vaughan, Woman? Work in the Civil War:
A Record ofHeroism, Patriotism, and Patience, 1868.
cannot fight for our country, we can at least organize ourselves into a band of recruiting sergeants, and bring in the lukewarm and the laggards. The test of favor now is courage. Men who stay at home, court our smiles in vain."'"
Much feminized war literature, whether featuring republican mothers or their
ITT.S. Arthur, "Blue Yarn Stockings," Harperi New Monthly Magazine, 24 (Dec. 1861), 112; Kate Suther- land, "The Laggard Recruir," Arthuri Home Magazine, 19 (Jan. 18621, 11. Other prescriptive enlistmenr fables featuring young women include Mary E. Dodge, "Nerry's Touch-Stone," Harperi New Monthly Magazine, 28 (March 1864), 517; "The Conscript's Appeal," Harperi Weekly, Nov. 7, 1863, p. 710; and "The Narrow Escape," ibid, Ocr. 25, 1862, p. 686.
"We'll Go Down Ourselves" by Henry C. Work, 1862. Sheet music was part of an
extensive popular literature that gendered the war
for both men and women.
Couvtey Special Collections Libvary, Duke University.
daughters, thus imagined women as encouraging, expressing, and valorizing men's patriotism. Robert Westbrook has argued that during World War I1 the figure of the pinup girl personified "what men were fighting for," part of "the cultural construc- tion of women as objects of obligation" in order to persuade men to fight. Similarly, during the Civil War the figures of the patriotic mother and her daughter became a way of imagining personal obligation to the statee20
''Robert B. Westbrook, "'I Want a Girl, Just Like the Girl That Married Harry James': American Women and the Problem of Political Obligation in World War 11," American Quarterly, 42 (Dec, 1990), 587-614, esp. 588-89.
The Feminized Civil War
"Scene, Fifth Avenue," Harperi Weekly, August 30, 1862. During the war,
many pro-enlistment cartoons prescribed women's
appropriate wartime roles.
But not all Civil War literature representing the experiences of women construed women simply as vehicles for male patriotism. Differing feminized understandings of the war existed within popular literature, and some works concentrated on the wartime home front experiences of women themselves, finding in them a major drama of the war. Not that such homefront stories eschewed patriotism. Many plots revolved around women's need to learn to sacrifice their men for country, subordi- nating their own needs to the larger needs of the nation. Yet such stories focused on women's feelings and emotional struggles as a valid, indeed central, story of the war. They were sustained by a literary marketplace in which fiction exploring women's concerns had been a major form of cultural production before the war. Like that antebellum fiction, war literature representing women's experiences drew upon the intertwined languages of sentimentalism and melodrama, with their central assump- tion that both ordinary and extraordinary events were charged with Intense emo- tionality and significance. As Peter Brooks has written, the pervasive nineteenth- century "melodramatic mode" insisted on the "dramatics and excitement discovered within the real," including the emotions of everyday life.21
Certainly, magazine fiction focused intently on women's feelings and emotional struggles as an important story of the war. Harper? Weekly's October 1861 "Red, White, and Blue" featured a young heroine who reacted with bitter anger when her fiance told her he had enlisted. "You love your own glory better than you love me!" she accused. Breaking off her engagement, Caroline underwent a "wild, inward war," nursing "an insane sense of wrong, born of her defective education as a woman-of her ignorance." But after her lover's departure for the front, she began changing her reading habits: "on her table now, in place of romances," she put "newspapers and books pertaining to the various struggles for liberty in other coun- tries, and all manner of patriotic addresses." She was "learning a new lesson. It filled her soul with sorrow and perplexity, but it elevated and enlarged it." After she had a patriotic epiphany in church, then waited in agony to hear whether her beloved had survived a battle, her education was complete: when he returned to her, she simply told him, "I was wrong, and you were right; but I sinned through ignorance. Life has wider meanings to me now. This war has been my education." Indeed, she now "put mere personal ends away and flung her sympathies into the common cause."22
The idea that war was educational for women dominated numerous similar sto- ries in which women learned that they must sacrifice their personal interests for the sake of the nation. Yet this overt, didactic patriotic lesson was only one lesson of such fiction, which also taught that women's emotions and personal experiences were a central aspect of the conflict and that their sacrifices for the nation might even secure a personal love interest. Some stories depicted women's granting or with- holding of love as a life-and-death matter, representing women as having enormous power over men's well-being, whether in battle or in hospital. In "Jessie Underhill's Thanksgiving," published in the December 1862 Harper? Weekly, the hero lay "sick, wounded, dying, as I thought"-until hearing that the woman he thought had rejected him loved him. "It was like a draught of immortality, an elixir of life to me," he told her later. "I grew better under the very eyes of the surgeon, who had told me I was a doomed man." The withholding of a woman's love had the opposite effect in "A Leaf from a Summer," published in November 1862. In that story a soldier faced an amputation hopefully because he had a letter from his beloved "next to his heart"; afterward, contrary to the surgeon's expectations, he "began to rally." But after he received a letter telling him that his shallow lover had changed her mind and would not "marry a cripple," the hour quickly came "when they lowered him into the earth, and fired their volleys over him." "His enemy had struck him unarmed and
2' Melodramas and sentimental literature often involved different styles of plot, with sentimental literature more interiorized, often set within domestic spaces, while melodramas involved more dramatic exteriorized action and settings. Howevel; as Uncle Tomi Cabin shows, melodrama and sentimental literature blended into one another, drawing upon similar structures of feeling. Peter Brooks, The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, and the Mode of Excess (1976; New Haven, 1995), 13, 205.
22 "Red, White, and Blue," Harperi Weekly, Oct. 19, 1861, pp. 666-67.
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unaware." As such stories revealed, the war only intensified a long-standing literary connection between love and war: Not only was women's love vital to success in war; love itself equaled war in its power to kill men.23
By early i864 war romanies had become a staple not just of Harper? Wekly-the Weekly published 56 in 1862 and 1863-but of other monthlies and story papers. At least one magazine had had enough: In January the new journal the Round Table condemned the "so called 'Romances of the War' so much in vogue among maga- zines and 'story papers' during the two sorry years just past." Such romances, the Round Table acerbically commented, had "but one thread of a plot to hang the inci- dents upon." They began with a heroine initially objecting to a lover's enlistment, "weeping 'bitter tears' upon his coat collar and murmuring-always murmuring'I cannot spare you now!'" After his enlistment there followed news of a battle, in which the hero has "reported killed, or there would be no little wholesome agony to depict." Finally, he miraculously returned so that the plot ended "with a wedding on the part of the couple, and a yawn on the part of the reader." "This tissue of flimsy plot, dreary platitude, and sickly sentiment," the Round Table complained, "floods the market of to-day, and gives us a healthy fear of opening most of the popular magazines. "24
Wartime magazines and story papers continued to publish women's literature, which had been an important part of antebellum culture, with war romances sus- tained and even nouri;hed by ;he conflict. Such war romances indicated women's important position in the imagined war-a position far more varied and complex than the Round Table critic acknowledged. Not all feminized war stories recounted miraculous returns or hospital-bed weddings. Some began to insist that a central meaning of the war was women's domestic suffering, the price they paid for person- alizing the nation for men. In doing so, they constructed a form of citizenship for women that drew heavily upon mid-nineteenth-century American Protestantism, with its promise of salvation through suffering2j
Such suffering took several forms. Many writers made it clear that the unbearable passivity of women's role, in which the chief war work allowed them was intense feeling, itself caused enormous suffering. In an editorial titled "Soldiers' Wives," in the November 1862 New York Ledger, Fanny Fern (Sara Parton) commented on "what an immense amount of heroism among this class passes unnoticed, or is taken as a matter of course." Writing of the wife of the poor soldier, "who in giving her husband to her country, has given everything," Fern imagined her "as the lagging weeks of suspense creep on, and she stands bravely at her post, keeping want and starvation at bay; imagination busy among the heaps of dead and wounded." When
23 On the idea that war was an education for women, see also Mary C. Vaughan, "Wounded at Donelson," New York Ledger, Nov. 29, 1862, p. 2; "Recaptured," Harper? Weekly, FFeb.14, 1863, p. 103; "Blue Belle," ibid., Aug. 20, 1864, p. 542; "Leap Year," ibid., April 23, 1864, p. 266; "Devereux Dare, Private," ibid., Sept. 13, 1862,
p. 587; and "Fighting and Waiting," ibid., Jan. 10, 1863, pp. 22-23. "Jessie Underhill's Thanksgiving," ibid., Dec. 6, 1862, p. 775; Leaf from a Summer," ibid., Nov. 8, 1862, p. 718. For another example of love being treated as a life-and-death matter, see "The Blue Flowers," ibid., Sept. 5, 1863, p. 566.
24 "Romances of the War," Round Table, Jan. 9, 1864, p. 59.
l5St. Armand, Emily Dickinson and Her Culture, esp. 1 11.
"the history of this war shall be written," Fern concluded, "let the historian, what else soever he may forget, forget not to chronicle this sublime valor of the hearth- stone all over our struggling land."26
Many Northern women agreed that women's agonized waiting was a form of war- time valor. Indeed, there was a striking congruence on this point between feminized war stories and some Northern women's letters, which shared a similar sensibility and even style of language. As Elizabeth Boynton of Crawfordsville, Indiana, wrote to her soldier lover in August 1862, "I sometimes think it must seem almost like
mockery to you when we talk of appreciating the sacrifices you make-We, who are sitting quietly at home."
True, dear Will, we may not know of, no, not even dream of the horrors of war, but-oh, we do know what weary waiting is we do know what it is to say to our loved ones, "go," and with calm brow & cheerful voice, cheer them on to victory, then return to our lonely, desolate homes to wait-and when I see the pale faces around me I think that perhaps Columbia's sons know not what gifts we lay at the altar of freedoms2'
Feminized war literature consciously highlighted the "gifts" that women laid on the "altar of freedom." Many stories set up a moral economy in which women's suf- fering was seen as at least equal to, if not greater than, that of men. The narrator of Louise Chandler Moulton's 1863 "One of Many" claimed that women's domestic suffering, related to the passivity of their wartime role, was greater than the wartime suffering of men: "Honor to the brave who fight and conquer, or fight and fall! But is theirs the hardest fate? Do not those suffer more who can not lose in action their fear and anguish?-who must count slow hours, shudder at tidings of onward movements, live on fragments of newspaper^?"^^
Other writers set up explicit reciprocities of suffering, between soldiers and those they left behind. If war demanded the ultimate sacrifice-life-from men, then much popular literature argued that it also demanded the same sacrifice from women. A much-repeated trope during the war was that every bullet killed or wounded twice, once on the battlefront and once on the home front. As the narrator of "One of Many" commented, "is it not true that every bullet shoots double, and
2Vanny Fern, "Soldiers' Wives," New York Ledger, Nov. 8, 1862, p. 4. Literature sympathetic to the economic plight of soldiers' families drew upon a long literary tradition in which the only working-class women imagined positively were pale, genteel, passive victims; they were sharply distinguished from their "disorderly" sisters. See Christine Stansell, City of Women (New York, 1986).
27 Elizabeth Boynton to Will Harberr, Aug. 11, 1862, Elizabeth Boynton Harbert Papers (Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif.).
28 Louise Chandler Moulton, "One of Many," Atlantic Monthly, 27 (July 1863), 120. For stories concentrating on women's equal or greater suffering and sacrifice, see "Milly Graham's Rose Bush," Harper? Weekly, May 14, 1864, p. 31 1; "May Flowers," ibid., May 28, 1864, p. 343; and "My Contribution," ibid.,June 14, 1862, p. 374. Many women writers made a point of quoting the following stanzas from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's 1861 poem "Parting Lovers": "Heroic males the country bears; / Bur daughters give up more than sons; / Flags wave, drums beat, and unawares / You flash your souls out with the guns / And take your heaven at once! I But we- we empty heart and home / Of life's life, love!" Poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (4 vols., New York, 1862), IV, 181. For a sampling of quotations of this poem in wartime fiction, see "One of Our Heroes," Harper: Weekly, July 5, 1862, p. 427; Catherine Earnshaw, "Loyal," Flag of Our Union, Jan. 28, 1865, p. 58; and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, '?I
Sacrifice Consumed," Harper? Nezu Monthly Magazine, 27 (Jan. 1864), 240.
The Feminized Civil War
the shot which flies farthest makes the sorest wound?" In the anonymous "My Absent Soldier," which appeared in Harper? Weekly in May 1862, the narrator imag- ined that if her husband were killed,
I could not bear such anguish, love,
For all that I could do;
I know my widowed heart would break,
And Ishould perish too!
Likewise in Julia Eugenia Mott's poem "Within a Year," when "the fatal tidings came" of a lover's death, the heroine also died: "she heard it, mutely, and fell forward pronelupon the floor-so white and deathly still, /With features rigid as the sculp- tured stone."29
The ideas that a soldier's death (or even the possibility of his death) also killed a woman and that a soldier's wound also wounded a woman were treated, not as met- aphors, but as literal truths in much popular literature during the war. If, as Elaine Scarry has argued, the wounding and destruction of bodies is a central goal of war, it is also central to claims of participation in war. Certainly, during the Civil War many writers claimed that wounds and their accompanying suffering connected the sufferer to the higher meanings of the war, whether political or religious. The poem "Our Wounded," published in the October 1862 Contintentdl Monthly, invoked the "sublimity of suffering":
Wounded! 0 sweet-lipped word! for on the page
Of this strange history, all these scars shall be
The hieroglyphics of a valiant age,
Deep writ in freedom's blood-red mystery.
For men it was through wounds, with blood as ink, that the history of the war would be written.30
A feminized war literature reversed this formula: Through writing about the war women's own wartime wounds could be claimed. And war killed and wounded women on the home front, this literature argued, even if the injuries were invisible or the causes of death misunderstood. The July 1862 Harper? Weekly story "Wounded" presented a husband and wife's discussion of this point. Reading from the newspaper, the husband reported "six hundred and forty-three wounded" in the latest battle; his wife responded, "If that were all!" and when her husband expressed puzzlement, explained, "A great many more were wounded-a great many more." From "every battle-field," she continued, "go swift-winged messengers that kill or
29Moulron, "One of Many," 120, 121. For a variation on this theme, see "Women and War," Flag of' Our Union, Jan. 28, 1865, p. 59. "My Absent Soldier," Harper? Weekly, May 31, 1862, p. 343; Julia Eugenia Mott, "Within a Year," Peterson? Magazine, 41 (July 1862), 29. See also Almena C. S. Allard, "The Soldier's Dying Wife," Arthur? Home Magazine, 20 (Sept. 1862), 174; and "The Soldier's Mother," Frank Leslie? Illustrated News- paper, April 26, 1862, p. 414.
'OElaine Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking oJ' the World (New York, 1985); "Our Wounded," Continental Monthly, 2 (Oct. 1862), 465. On the popular embrace of violence during the war, see Charles Royster, The Destructive War: William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, and the Amencans (New York, 1991), esp. 232-95.
wound at a thousand miles instead of a thousand paces; bullets invisible to mortal eyes, that pierce loving hearts. Of the dead and wounded from these we have no
report. They are casualties not spoken of by our commanding generals."31
A male character in the story elaborated on the gendered difference in wounds, saying that men's "wounds, so ghastly to the eyes, often get no deeper than the flesh and bone. The pain is short, and nature comes quickly to the work of cure with all her healing energies. We suffer for awhile, and then it is over." Women's wounds were more-serious and longer lasting, with only a slow healing, and "often through abscess and ulceration. The larger number never entirely recover."32
"Our wounded!" the story concluded. "If you would find them all you must look beyond the hospitals."
They are not every one bearded and in male attire. There sat beside you, in the car just now, a woman. You scarcely noticed her. She left at the corner below. There was not much life in her face; her steps, as they rested on the pavement, were slow. She has been wounded, and is dying. . . .Do you see a face at the window? "In the marblefront house." Yes. "It is sad enough, what in-looking eyes!" Wounded!
Here was a different sort of face than that of the patriotic mother at the window portrayed by Samuel Osgood. Yet that sad face too personalized the nation, the story concluded, and must not be forgotten.33
That women's wounds-represented as deeper than those of men-were at the emotional center of the nation was a point made pictorially by Winslow Homer in his June 14, 1862, illustration for Harper: Weekly "News from the War." Homer pic- tured war news in a variety of settings, including soldiers communally reading Harper: Weekly; soldiers eagerly reaching for the Herald as it was tossed from a news- paper train; a "special artist" from a paper sketching two soldiers; and a soldier deliv- ering news for the staff on horseback. At the still center of all this activity, the point
of repose that drew and kept the eye's attention, was a solitary woman seated at her parlor table, bent in agony over a le-tter held in her left hand. This illustration, simply titled "Wounded," told two stories: not only had she received news of the wounding of a beloved, but she too was now wounded. The icons of domesticity surrounding
her-her workbasket on the parlor table, a birdcage in a corner, an ivy vine-only underlined the message that war had invaded ~orthern h0mes.3~
In late 1862 and 1863, as the war became more brutal, more harrowing, An- tietam and Fredericksburg began to figure in feminized war stories, registering upon women's consciousness in the dreaded word "killed" in a newspaper. At the same
time, some stories began to suggest solutions to a desperate new dilemma: as women did not in fact die when their men died, what should they do with the rest of their lives? In the next few years, solutions emerged in feminized literature involving both an embrace of work outside the home and a newly expansive view of domesticity.
""Wounded," Harperi Weekly, July 12, 1862, p. 442. On the idea of claiming the wounds of war, see Young, "Wound of One's Own."
j2 "Wounded," 442.
"Winslow Homer, "News from the War," Harper: Weekly, June 14, 1862, pp. 376-77.
The Feminized Civil War
P e, 'a
A turn to work concluded Louise Chandler Moulton's July 1863 "One of Many," in which the heroine's beloved died of wounds received at Antietam. After his death, "Margery Dane found her work," the narrator commented. "She is a nurse in a hos- pital." "I think she will live while her country has need of her, and then she will not be sorry to go to her love and her rest." Striking about this conclusion was that it imagined Margery's life after the loss of a lover, after the loss of domesticity as she had known it. Indeed, it was the death of her lover, and therefore of home as she had imagined it, that triggered her finding "her work."35
The connection between the death of a beloved and the turn to work by a mid- dle-class woman also underlay Rose Terry's "A Woman," published in the Atlantic Monthly in December 1862. In that story a childish bride, criticized by another character in the story as a "giggling, silly little creature" and a "perfect gosling!" learned to be a "true woman" after the death of her husband in battle. She reassured the narrator that she was not going to die: "If I could, I wouldn't, Sue; for poor father and mother want me, and so will the soldiers by-and-by." Soon "she got admission to the hospitals" and "worked here like a sprite; nothing daunted or dis- gusted her." By the end of the story she was recognized as a "true heroine" as well as a "true woman."36 War had allowed her to fulfill her womanhood, even while deci- mating her home.
As these stories revealed, by late 1862 and 1863 an increasing number of popular articles, illustrations, and stories approved women's nursing, which had been contro- versial earlier in the war. A two-page illustration titled "Our Women and the War" in the September 6, 1862, issue of Harper) Weekly exemplified this shift in opinion: The Weekly explained that its picture, featuring two vignettes of nurses, showed "what women may do toward relieving the sorrows and pains of the soldier": "This war of ours has developed scores of Florence Nightingales, whose names no one knows, but whose reward, in the soldier's gratitude and Heaven's approval, is the highest guerdon woman can ever win." Though approving of nursing-indeed, an October 1862 Harper2 Weekly cartoon now made fun of women too frivolous to nurse-the Weekly also suggested that women nurses should be anonymous, with names "no one knows." In contrast, much feminized popular war literature-including, most famously, Louisa May Alcott's 1863 Hospital Sketches-placed nurses center stage in the war. Many of these writings made clear that nursing allowed women to be as heroic as soldiers. As the protagonist of Virginia F. Townsend's August 1862 "Hospital Nurse" said, "if I die in this work-why, I shall only follow the noble company of men and women who have sacrificed their lives for their country." The nurse in Bella Z. Spencer's July 1864 "One of the Noble" had just heard of the death of her husband in battle, yet "with a heroism worthy of immortality she carried relief to the suffering, ignoring the suffering in her own
35 Moulton, "One of Many," 12 1.
3"o~e Terry, X Wornan," Atlantic Monthly, 10 (Dec. 1862), 696, 706, 707. See also Louisa May Alcott, "Love and Loyalty," United States Service Magazine, 2 (July, Aug., Sept., Nov., Dec., 1864), 58-64, 166-72, 273-80, 469-75, 543-51; and "Love's Sacrifice and Its Recon~pense," Harperi Weekly, March 5, 1864, p.
The Feminized Civil War
heart." When she died, the narrator commented that 'Xmerica has received no purer or nobler sacrifice than that of her young, unselfish life."37
Much popular war literature connected women's wartime suffering, especially the "darkening" of their homes, and their turn to work in order to reconstitute a shat- tered domesticity. Harriet Beecher Stowe addressed that connection in "The Chim- ney Corner," published in the AtLantic Monthly in January 1865. She "had planned," she wrote to a friend in November 1864, "an article gay & sprightly wholly domestic but as I began & sketched the pleasant home & quiet fireside an irresistable impulse wrotefor me what followed an offering of sympathy to the suffering & agonized, whose homes have forever been darkened."38
Stowe passionately addressed the women whose husbands, sons, or lovers had been killed in the war:
What can we say to you, in those many, many homes where the light has gone out forever? . . . The battle-cry goes on, but for you it is passed by! the victory comes, but, oh, never more to bring him back to you! your offering to this great cause has been made, and been taken; you have thrown into it all your living, even all that you had, and from henceforth your house is left unto you desolate!
"But is there no consolation?" Stowe asked. In answer, she offered the twin consola- tions of patriotism and Christianity. "There remains to you a treasure," she told the bereaved mother, "the power to say, 'He died for his country.' In all the good that comes of this anguish you shall have a right and share by virtue of this sacrifice." Equally she offered the consolation of a Christianity that affirmed the "treasures" that "come through sorrow, and sorrow alone."31
Recognizing, however, that such consolation did not tell women what to do with the rest of their lives, Stowe urged bereaved women, after a period of suffering she recognized as "natural and inevitable," to seek out benevolent work: "We need but name the service of hospitals, the care and education of the freedmen," and, espe- cially, work among the soldiers. "Ah, we have known mothers bereft of sons in this war, who have seemed at once to open wide their hearts, and to become mothers to every brave soldier in the field. They have lived only to work,-and in place of one lost, their sons have been counted by th~usands.''~~
Women had been extensively involved in benevolent work before the war, but it had been imagined as an addition to domesticity, not a substitute for it. Now Stowe made clear that through benevolent work women might construct a new domesticity
37 On Civil War nursing, see Jane E. Schultz, "The Inhospitable Hospital: Gender and Professionalism in Civil War Medicine," Signs, 17 (Winter 1992), 363-92; Kristie Ross, 'Rrranging a Doll's House: Refined Women as Union Nurses," in Divided Houses, ed. Clinton and Silber, 97- 113; Leonard, Yankee Women; Sizes, "'Revolution in Woman Herself"'; and Wood, "War Within a War;" "Our Women and the War," Harper? Weekly, Sept. 6, 1862, p. 570. For a fascinating analysis of Hospital Sketches, see Young, "Wound of One's Own." Virginia F. Townsend, "Hospital Nurse," Arthur? Home Magazine, 20 (Aug. 1862), 122; Bella Z. Spencer, "One of the Noble," Harper: New Monthly Magazine, 29 (July 1864), 205, 206. See also "Missing," Harper: Weekly, Oct. 18, 1862, pp. 662-63.
"Harriet Beecher Stowe to Annie Adams Fields, Nov. 29, 1864, in Fields of the Atlantic Monthly, ed. James C. Austin (San Marino, 1953), 281.
39Mrs. H. B. Stowe, "The Chimney-Corner,"AtlanticMonthly, 15 (Jan. 1865), 109-10, 112.
"Ibid., 113, 114.
The Journal of American History March 1999
to replace family homes shattered by war: "In such associations . . .how many of the stricken and bereaved women of our country might find at once a home and an object in life!" If in the wake of war women could no longer be republican mothers in their own homes, they could transfer their domestic concerns to the larger sphere of national benevolence.*'
As the home became increasingly associated with grief, loss, and the absence of men, several authors offered new religious versions of home that abandoned the project of domesticity in this world but promised the comforts of home in the next. The young writer Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, whose own fianct was killed in the war, began late in the war to write a novel that imagined a new "heavenly home" as a solace to mourning women. In her 1896 memoirs, Phelps remembered that during the two years when she wrote the 1868 The Gates Ajar, "the country was dark with sorrowing women. The regiments came home, but the mourners went about the streets." The "drawn faces of bereaved wife, mother, sister, and widowed girl showed piteously everywhere." It was these bereaved women who inspired Phelps: She did not think "so much about the suffering of men" but instead "would have spoken" to the women-"the helpless, outnumbering, unconsulted women; they whom war trampled down, without a choice or protest; the patient, limited, domestic women, who thought little, but loved much, and loving, had lost all."42
It seemed to Phelps that "even the best and kindest forms of our prevailing beliefs had nothing to say to an afflicted woman that could help her much." After all, "creeds and commentaries and sermons were made by men," and "what tenderest of men knows how to comfort his own daughter when her heart is broken?" Doctrines were "chains of rusty iron, eating into raw hearts," while "the prayer of the preacher was not much better; it sounded like the language of an unknown race to a despair- ing
Reacting against what she perceived as an unfeeling, masculinist religion, Phelps created a new feminized theology in which she imagined a new heavenly domestic- ity. Phelps rejected the idea that heaven was "indefinite," a place "where the glory of God was to crowd out all individuality and all human joy from His most individual and human creatures." She instead sketched a domestic heaven where human loves "could outlive the shock of death and the beloved forms of home could be re- created in spiritual form. A young woman whose brother Roy had been killed in bat- tle was comforted by her aunt Phoebe, herself widowed: "Do I think you will see him again? You might as well ask me if I thought God made you and made Roy, and gave you to each other. See him! Why of course you will see him as you saw him
"' On women's antebellum benevolence, see Lori D. Ginzberg, Women and the Work of Benevolence (New Haven, 1990), esp., 16. Stowe, "Chimney-Corner," 113, 114. On the idea of transferring domestic concerns to the larger sphere of the nation, see Paula Baker, "The Domestication of Politics: Women and American Political Society, 1780-1920," American Historical Review, 89 (June 1984), 620-47.
"2 Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Chapters/+om a Life (Boston, 1896), 96-98. See Christine Stansell, "Elizabeth Stu- art Phelps: A Study in Female Rebellion," Massachusetts Review, 13 (Winter-Spring 1972), 239-56. For stories and novels asking readers to remember women's war sacrifices, see also A. W. Crocker, "Part of the Price," Harper? New Monthly Magazine, 28 (March 1864), 553; Ruth: A Song in the Desert (Boston, 1864); and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, "A Sacrifice Consumed," Harper? New Monthly Magazine, 27 (Jan. 1864), 236.
43 Phelps, Chaptersfiom n Lifp, 98.
The Feminized Civil War
The War Spirit at Home: Celebrating the Kctory at Vicksburg by Lilly M. Spencer, oil,
1866.The giddy children in Spencer's painting provide a sharp contrast
to the still figure of the woman reading about Vicksburg.
Courtesy The Newark MuseumlArt Resource, N. Y
here." By the end of the novel Phoebe, dying, looked forward to the comforts of heaven, including the home that her husband, John, might "be making ready for her coming." Indeed, Phoebe's last words made clear to readers that her vision of heaven had been realized: "It was quite dark when she turned her face at last towards the window. 'John!' she said,-'why, John!'" A major best seller, The Gates Ajar attested to the suffering that was an agonizing legacy of the war for many Northern women.44
The Gates Ajar was part of a postwar "literature of memory" that reinterpreted Northern women's imagined relationship to the Civil War. Between 1865 and 1900 the relationship shifted dramatically. Between 1865 and 1873, remembering and
"Ibid, 47; Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, The Gates Ajar (1868; Cambridge, Mass., 1964), 130, 134-35, 38, 155,
161. The Gates Ajar reportedly sold 81,000 copies by the turn of the century. See Carol Farley Kessler, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (Boston, 1982), 30.
celebrating Northern women's war experiences and contributions to the war effort continued to be an important cultural project, with feminized war poems, stories, novels, and paintings produced. In 1866, for instance, the foremost female genre painter of the nineteenth century, Lilly Martin Spencer, codified the impact of the war on women in her War Spirit at Home. Spencer's painting portrayed a mother, with a baby on her lap, reading news of the July 4, 1863, victory at Vicksburg in the New York Times. While her other children made a game of war by parading gleefully around her, she was absorbed in scanning the newspaper, her intent stillness empha- sizing that war was no child's play for ~omen.~5
Two 1867 omnibus volumes, Mary C. Vaughan's and Linus I? Brockett's Womani Work in the Civil War: A Record of Heroism, Patriotism and Patience and Frank Moore's Women of the War; Their Heroism and Self-SacriJice, celebrated women's con- tributions to the war effort with profiles of women who had been nurses, Sanitary Commission or aid society workers, and even soldiers. "The histories of wars are records of the achievements of men, for the most part," Moore commented, but "it has been different in our Conflict for the Union." Asking a correspondent for contribu- tions to his compendium, Moore observed that the "labors, sacrifices, self denial and in some instances the sufferings and the Death even of women" in the war effort were "quite as worthy of grateful and perpetual memorial as the gallantry of our soldier^."^"
In the immediate postwar period novels, too, portrayed Northern women's expe- riences of the war. Most famously, Louisa May Alcott's 1868 Little Women created a feminized world of war on the home front, focusing on the privations and emo- tional struggles of women. A nostalgic paean to domesticity written for girls, Little Women contrasted with Alcott's self-consciously "adult" novel of the same period, the 1873 Work:A Story of Experience, which featured a heroine whose husband died in the war. Rather than looking toward a "heavenly home," Christie Devon devoted herself to the cause of working women, creating a loving community of women that reconstituted the sense of domesticity shattered by the war. Underlining a theme articulated in feminized literature late in the war, Work celebrated work as the foun- dation of value in Christie's life: "in labor, and the efforts and experiences that grew out of it, I have found independence, education, happiness, and religion," she affirmed at the end of the noveL47
45 The phrase "literature of memory" is Eric Sundquist's. See Eric Sundquist, "Realism and Regionalism," in Columbia Literary History of the United States, ed. Emory Elliott (New York, 1988), 508. See Robin-Bolton Smith, The Joys of Sentiment: Lilly Martin Spencer, 1822-1902 (Washington, 1973). My thanks to Joan Waugh for point- ing out this painting. For examples of poshvat' literature that reiterated the theme that war destroyed lives on the home front, see Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "llled at the Ford," Atlantic Monthly, 17 (April 1866), 479. Sarah Emma Edmonds, Nurse and Spy in the Union Army: Comprising the Adventures andExperiences of a Woman in Hos- pitals, Camps, and Battle-jelds (Hartford, 1865); and Bella Z. Spencer, Triedand True (Springfield, Mass., 1866). In 1868 several novels appeared in addition to The Gates Ajar, including Louisa May Alcott, Little Women, or, Meg, Jo, Beth, andAmy (Boston, 1868); and Mary J. Holmes, Rose Mather, a Tale of the War (New York, 1868). Several nurses also published accounts of their experiences in the war, including Anna Morris Ellis Holstein, Three Bars in the Field Hospitals of the Army of the Potomac (Philadelphia, 1867); Jane Hoge, The Boys in Blue (New York, 1867); and Sophronia Bucklin, In Hospital and Camp (Philadelphia, 1868).
46MaryC. Vaughan and Linus Brockett, Woman1 Work in the Civil War: A Record of Heroism, Patriotism and Patience (Philadelphia, 1867); Frank Moore, Women of the War; Their Heroism and SeFSacrifce (Hartford, 1867), iii. Frank Moore to John A. Andrew, Jan. 18, 1866, Frank Moore Papers (Special Collections Library, Duke Universiry).
47 Louisa May Alcott, Work: A Story of Experience, ed. Joy S. Kasson (1873; New York, 1994), 343.
The Feminized Civil War
In contrast to the the late 1860s and early 1870s, when a continuing stream of war-related publications appeared in the literary marketplace, in the mid- to late- 1870s, interest in all aspects of the war waned dramatically. Harper? Weekly, which had published well over 100 Civil War stories during and immediately after the war, and which continued to advertise a readership of over 100,000, published only 2 Civil War stories in the 1870s, a sentimental story of a North- ern veteran and a romance involving a Northern officer and a Confederate girl. As the Sanitary Commission leader Mary Livermore remembered, in the postwar period people "turned with relief to the employments of peaceful life, eager to forget the fearful years of battle and carnage." James Henry Harper of Harper and Brothers noted that "the public was tired of reading about the war, which had been the all-absorbing subject for four years, and other important topics now demanded their attention." Indeed, the pages of Harper? Weekly were filled with articles about war in Europe, Tammany Hall scandals, and the reconstruction of black life in the
Still, a vestigial woman's war persisted in Harper? Weekly in occasional illustrations for Decoration Day (later Memorial Day) during the 1870s. In 1870, 1872, 1878, and 1879, full-page illustrations portrayed women putting flowers on soldiers' graves, hanging a wreath on a soldier's portrait, and reliving "sad memories" in an ornate parlor scene reminiscent of Winslow Homer's wartime "Wounded." Such illustrations linked women to the Decoration Day commemoration of the war, even if they made women static icons for the remembrance of men rather than exploring women's war experience^.^^
The postwar Harper: Weekly provided a direct link with the popular culture that held sway during the war, but in the 1880s and 1890s new popular magazines not only achieved greater circulation than the Weekly but also signaled significant shifts in popular interest in, and memories of, the war. Foremost among them was the Century magazine, begun in 188 1, which published its famous Battles and Leaders of the Civil War series from November 1884 until November 1887. The series, envisioned as articles "by the men who directed the battles of the Civil War," including generals Ulysses S. Grant, George McClellan, Pierre G. T. Beauregard, and James Longstreet, was an immediate hit with readers. By the second year of the series, monthly circulation of the magazine "had increased from 127,000 to 225,000," almost double the circulation of Harper? Weekly. The series soon expanded to cover a wide range of topics related to the war, including several reminiscences by Southern white women. But only Julia Ward Howe's series
48 See Justin M'Carthy, "'The Divine Emilye,'" Harper's Weekly, May 17, 1873; and "An Old Soldier," ibid, July 3, 1875. On the waning of war-related fiction in Harper? Weekly, see Diffley, WhereMy Heart Is TurningEve6
xxvi. Mary Livermore, My Story of the War: A Woman's Narrative of Four Years Personal Experience As Nurse in the Union Army, and in Relief Work at Home, in Hospitals, Camps, and at the Front, during the War of the Rebellion (Hartford, 1887), 7; James Henry Harper, The House of Harper: A Century of Publishing in Franklin Square (New York, 1912), 243.
""In Memory of Our Dead Heroes, the Floral Tribute to the Nation's Dead," Harper; Weekly, June 4, 1870,
p. 364; "In Memoriam-Decoration Day, 1872," ibid., June 8, 1872, p. 441; "Decoration Day," ibid., June 8, 1878, p. 449; "Sad Memories-Decoration Day," ibid,June 7, 1879, p. 437.
"Sad Memories," Harper? Weekly, June 7, 1879. In the 1870s, Northern women were still widely associated with the remembrance of the war.
Songs of the War might have been expected to jog readers' memories that North- ern women's war experiences had once been richly represented in the popular liter- ature of war.50
50The Century was a continuation of Scribneri Monthly. For publishing details of the Century, see Motr, History of American Magazines, 111, 457-80. L. Frank Tooker, The Joys and Tribulations of an Editor (New York, 19231,45, 46.
The Feminized Civil War
The popularity of the Century series both resulted from and contributed to revived interest in the war in the mid-1880s, as the series helped redefine the war as one of "battles and leaders." A resurgence of interest was also indicated by the stun- ning growth of the GAR. Membership in this Civil War veterans' organization rose dramatically: from 30,000 in 1878 to 146,000 in 1883, 233,000 in 1884, and 320,000 in 1887. It reached a high-water mark at 428,000 members in 1890. Increasingly, the GAR dominated memorialization of the war throughout the North, especially in parades of veterans in annual Decoration Day or, later, Memorial Day ceremonies. Local posts of the GAR also sponsored the publication of numerous reg- imental histories in this period. Organizing itself on a military model with camping, drilling, and parading in uniforms as major activities, the GAR signaled a military revival that also addressed the generational concerns of veterans: It "licensed veterans to employ their positive memories of the war in compensation for the insufficiencies of their civilian lives."5l
Under the influence of this emphasis on veterans, the iconography of Decoration Day in popular magazine literature began to shift. In the late 1880s Harper; Weekly's Decoration Day illustrations no longer represented women as the bearers of the war's memory. Its full-page 1891 Decoration Day illustration instead reflected the realities of GAR ceremonies by showing aged veterans decorating the graves of their fallen comrades. Sentimental illustrations and poems depicting aging veterans also charac- terized the Weekly's portrayal of Decoration Day in 1892 and 1893. Especially in the late 1880s and the 1890s, a new veteran-oriented war literature contributed to the political and cultural project of national reconciliation and reunion by asserting that the central meaning of the war was the shared bravery of Union and Confeder- ate veterans. As the Century magazine commented in an 1889 article "Soldiers' Memorial Services," "upon the common ground of honoring the brave, the Union and Confederate veterans unite to offer tribute to departed valor." Likewise, Harper: Weekly's 1888 Decoration Day illustration portayed a wounded Yankee and Confed- erate, both ordinary soldiers, embracing on a monument inscribed "To the Nation's Dead Heroes"; the Weekly's 1896 Decoration Day illustration showed "The Blue and the Gray" chatting amicably "at Appomattox after General Lee's Surrender." The cul- mination of this Memorial Day emphasis on reunion among veterans came in the Weekly's poem "Memorial Day: May 30, 1899," which linked the Civil War and Spanish-American War by claiming that
51 Gerald Linderman, Embattled Courage: The Experience of Combat in the American Civil War (New York, 1987), 275-76, 280. On the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) see Stuart McConnell, Glorious Contentment: The Grand Army of the Republic, 1865-1900 (Chapel Hill, 1992). Older histories of the GAR include Robert Beath, History of the GrandArmy of the Republic (New York, 1889); and Mary R. Dearing, Wteiizns in Politics: The Story of the G.A.R. (Baton Rouge, 1952). In the North, women organized on the local level to aid veterans but had difficulty being accepted by the national GAR. See proceedings from the annual conventions of the Woman's Relief Corps, an auxiliary to the GAR, for example: Report of the National Organization, Womani Relief Corps. . . 1883, and Proceedings of the Second Annual National Convention, Woman? Relief Corps, . . . I884 (Boston, 1903); and
Jotlrnal of the Seventh Annual Convention of the Womani. Relief Corps, Auxiliary to the GrandArmy of the Repub- lic. . . 1889(Boston, 1889).
"Decoration Day," Havperi Weekly, May 30, 1891. By the 1890s, Northern veterans had replaced women in the popular culture ofwar remembrance.
The Feminized Civil War
On Santiago summits we unite
The grizzled foes of Chickamauga's day;
The hatreds of a Shiloh sink from sight
Beneath the waters of Manila Bay.
Theodore Roosevelt elaborated on this theme in a 1901 address, "Brotherhood and the Heroic Virtues," delivered before a Vermont veterans' reunion. "At the opening of this new century," Roosevelt said, "all of us, the children of a reunited country, have a right to glory in the countless deeds of valor done alike by the men of the North and the men of the South." Such tribute was hardly racially innocent, as David Blight and Kirk Savage, among others, have pointed out. The memory of the Civil War as shared bravery was used to undenvrite ideas of the nation as a whites-only brotherhood, ideas that received stunning fictional expression in Thomas Dixon's 1905 novel, The Clansman, and in D. W. Griffith's 191 5 film based on the novel, Birth of u
The idea of the war as a whites-only brotherhood masculinized the memory of the war in popular literature. During the war and the immediate postwar period, sacrifice for the nation as a central meaning of the war had been available to both men and women, as feminized war literature revealed. In the 1880s and 1890s, how- ever, commentators and writers increasingly attached the idea of Civil War sacrifice for the nation to men only, gendering the memory of the war in a new way.
In major popular magazines during the 1880s and 1890s, sentimental stories of vet- erans clearly outnumbered stories of a woman's war. In addition to its many Civil War articles and reminiscences of battle experience, the Century published 5 sentimental stories of veterans from 1887 to 1900. Contributions by Thomas Nelson Page and Joel Chandler Harris revealed that stories of Confederate veterans had now found a place within a literary marketplace that stressed reunion and reconciliation. In the same period, Northern women's experiences of the war were represented in the magazine by 2 stories, and no articles. Likewise, from its founding in 1893 until 1900, the popular general-interest magazine McClurei published, in addition to many articles on the mil- itary aspects of the Civil War, 9 war stories, including works by Stephen Crane and Harris. Only one of these, the 1897 'XRecent Confederate Victory," focused on a Northern &man, portraying a Kansas woman who, having lost her lover in the war, later adopted the orphaned son of a despised Confederate sol die^.^"
The rise in popularity of McClure? during the 1890s reveals a crucial change in
j2 See "Camp Echoes," Harper; Weekly, May 28, 1892, pp. 51 1, 512; 24 Ballad of May," ibid., May 27, 1893,
p. 498; "Soldiers' Memorial Services," Century, 38 (May 1889), 156; "Decoration Day," Harper: Weekly, June 2, 1888, pp. 400-401; "The Blue and the Gray at Appomattox, After General Lee's Surrender, April 9, 1865," ibid., May 30, 1896, 540-41; and "Memorial Day: May 30, 1899," ibid., May 27, 1899, p. 528. Roosevelt, Strenuous LZ~,
266; David W. Blight, "Frederick Douglass and the Memory of the Civil War," Journal ofAmerican History, 75 (March 1989), 1162. See also David W. Blight, Frederick Douglass' Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee (Baton Rouge, 1989). Kirk Savage, Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America (Princeton, 1997).
51See Joel Chandler Harris, "A Conscript's Christmas," Century, 41 (Dec. 1890), 284-99; George Parsons Lathrop, "Marthy Virginia's Hand," ibid., 282-83; Thomas Nelson Page, 'Y. Gray Jacket," ibid., 44 (May 1892), 27-33; William Henry Shelton, "Uncle Obadiah's Uncle Billy," ibid., 46 (June 1893), 307-12; and Harry Still- well Edwards, "Captain Jerry," ibid., 47 (Jan. 1894), 478-80. The two Century stories of a woman's war were Edward Bellamy, "An Echo of Antietam," ibtd., 38 (July 1889), 374-81; and Frank Pope Humphrey, 'Y. Comedy of War," ibid., 52 (July 1896), 454-60. For McClurek, see Joel Chandler Harris, "A Comedy of War," McClurej;
representations of the war, as the popular literary emphasis on officers and generals common in the 1880s gave way to an emphasis on common soldiers. The circulation of McClurei, begun in 1893, eclipsed that of the Century during the 1890s, reaching 250,000 by 1896 and 370,000 by 1900, which put it "in the forefront of American magazines" of the period. Between 1893 and 1900 McClurei published some 60 articles and reminiscences on the Civil War, including series on Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant as well as Charles A. Dana's "Reminiscences of Men and Events of the Civil War." Among the articles was a striking collection of veterans' memoirs, such as James B. Wilson's "An Actual Experience under Fire," and Ira Sey- mour's "The Song of the Rappahannock. The Real Experience in Battle of a Young Soldier in the Army of the Potomac."j4
As the titles suggested, a new emphasis on the "real" or "actual" experience of battle marked the evolving Civil War literature of the 1890s, part of a new cult of experi- ence that permeated American culture and that was marked as a masculinist ethos, most often excluding women. As Gerald Linderman has written, "participation in war became an important mark of merit. Honor attached itself less to courageous or cowardly conduct, battles won or lost, causes preserved or destroyed than to one's simple presence in the war." Thus it is no accident that Stephen Crane's best-selling 1895 novel The Red Badge of Courage, which traced the horrific and confusing battle experiences of Henry Fleming at Chancellorsville, was widely embraced as a realistic account of the war. Ironically, Crane himself, born in 1871, not only had not experi- enced the war firsthand, but drew on the Century's Battles and Leaders of the Civil War series for the historical underpinnings of his work.j5
Significantly, Crane's novel ended with the assertion that his protagonist had drawn from his battle experiences, "a quiet manhood, non-assertive but of sturdy and strong blood." Henry Fleming "was a man," the novel repeated within the same paragraph. Numerous writers in the 1890s returned to the Civil War to find the underpinnings of a robust new masculine identity, one that often abandoned earlier
1 (June 1893), 69-82; Stephen Crane, "The Little Regiment," ibid., 7 (June 1896), 12-22; Stephen Crane, "The Veteran," ibid., (Aug. 1896), 222-24; Robert W. Chambers, "The Pickets," ibid., (Oct. 1896), 437-40; Octave Thanet, "An Old Grand Army Man," ibid., 11 (June 1898), 162-69; Ray Stannard Baker, "Uncle Luther Dowell's Wooden Leg," ibid., 11 (May 1898), 40-46; Marshall Putnam Thompson, "The Disbandment of the Army of Northern Virginia," ibid., 12 (Nov. 1898), 79-81; and Henri Bronson and Viola Roseboro', "In Mis- souri," ibid., 13 (May 1899), 68-73. The sole McClurei story with a Northern (or at least Union-affiliated) hero- ine was William Allen White, "A Recent Confederate Victory," ibid., 9 (June 1897), 701 -8.
54 Mott, Hirtovy of American Magazines, IV, 591, 596. James B. Wilson, "An Actual Experience Under Fire," McClure?, 2 (April 18941, 486-88; Ira Seymour, "The Song of the Rappahannock. The Real Experience in Battle of a Young Soldier in the Army of the Potomac," ibid., 8 (Feb. 1897), 314-20; Captain Musgrove Davis, "Some Personal Experiences in the War," ibid., 9 (June 1897), 661-62.
55 On the new emphasis on battle experience, see John Pettegrew, "'The Soldier's Faith': Turn-of-the-Century Memory of the Civil War and the Emergence of Modern American Nationalisn~," Journal of Contemporary His- toqi 31 (Jan. 1996), 49-73. For a useful distinction between the rhetoric in Memorial Day addresses, with its emphasis on moral duty to country, and popular literature, with its emphasis on "real" experience, see ibid., 55
56. Linderman, Embattled Courage, 277. On the new "cult of experience," see Wilson, Labor of Words, 92, 93. Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage (1895; New York, 1983). On Crane's use of the 1880s Century series "Battles and Leaders of the Civil War" rather than accounts published during the war for the factual underpin- nings of The Red Badge of Courage, see Eric J. Sundquist, "The Country of the Blue," in Americaiz Realism: New Essays, ed. Eric J. Sundquist (Baltimore, 1982), 4.
The Feminized Civil War
attributes of manhood such as self-restraint and "civilized cultivation" in favor of "unrestrained nature" and "athletic virility.'' At the end of the decade, writers appealed to such interpretations of the Civil War to justify and glorify participation in the Spanish-American War. In his 1899 essay "The Strenuous Life," for instance, Theodore Roosevelt defended American imperialism by invoking an imagined Civil War past, including the "iron in the blood of our fathers, the men who upheld the wisdom of Lincoln, and bore the sword or rifle in the armies of Grant!"56
The new masculinization of the memory of the war dovetailed with the rise of lit- erary realism, reflecting and reinforcing a newly masculinized literary marketplace. The cult of experience and of a strenuous life permeated realist literature at the turn of the century, from the works of Crane to those of Jack London and Frank Norris. Such writings often deliberately repudiated Victorian "feminized" writing. Many writers and editors, including some New Women writers, affirmed the new mascu- linist ethos of realism, sometimes explicitly disavowing earlier sentimental and domestic norms. Willa Cather, for instance, expressed disgust with women who had "scorn for the healthy commonplace." "I have not much faith in women in fiction," she wrote in 1895. "When a woman writes a story of adventure, a stout sea tale, a manly battle yarn, then I will begin to hope for something great from them, not before."5'
Popular women's literature of the 1890s did not, however, turn to the production of "manly battle yarns." Nor did domestic, sentimental popular literature disappear from the literary marketplace, despite the critical ascendancy of realism. One of the most popular magazines of the 1880s and 1890s was the intensely domestic Ladies' Home Journal, begun in 1883. Subscriptions rose from 25,000 in 1884 to some 700,000 in 1892, remaining "in that neighborhood" for the rest of the decade. Yet though the Journal included sentimental stories of women's lives in every issue, only once between 1883 and 1900 did it publish a short story, the 1889 "Leshia," that mentioned the Civil War. In contrast, in the late 1890s the Journal ran numerous features on the Revolution, often glamorizing it through articles on fancy dress balls, George and Martha Washington's marriage, and other topics that imagined a distant, romantic, and fashionable past. The Northern women's Civil War, with its legacy of suffering, apparently did not inspire such romance.58
In the late 1890s the Journal, like other publications of the era, turned to the
jTrane, Red Badge of Courage, 130; Wilson, Labor of Words, 92, 93; Theodore Roosevelt, "The Strenuous Life," in Fredrickson, Inner Civil War, 225. Fredrickson's chapter "The Moral Equivalent of War" remains a com- pelling discussion of the changing uses of the memory of the Civil War in the late nineteenth century. Theodore Roosevelt, An Az~tobiographj~
(New York, 19 13), 275.
5- On the newly masculinized literary marketplace, see especially Wilson, Labor of Words. On the discomfort of some older "sentimental" writers, including Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, in that marketplace, see Coultrap- McQuin, Doing Literary Business. Willa Cather quoted in Sharon O'Brien, "Combat Envy and Survivor Guilt: Willa Cather's 'Manly Battle Yarn,' " in Arms and the Woman: War, Gender, and Litemry Representation, ed. Helen
M. Cooper et al. (Chapel Hill, 1989), 184. On the New Women writers, including Kate Chopin, Charlotte Per- kins Gilman, and Willa Cather, see Cecelia Tichi, "Women Writers and the New Woman," in Columbia Literary History of the United States, ed. Elliott, 589-606.
j8Mott, Historj~ of American Magazines, 111, 537-39; Kate Tanner Wood, "Leshia," Ladies'Home Joz~mal, 6 (June, July 1889), 1-2, 1-2. For examples of the romanticization of the Revolution and early national period, see Mrs. Burton Harrison, "With Washington in the Minuet," ibid., 15 (Feb. 1898), 1-2; and William Perrine, "When Washington Was Married," ibid., 16 (July 1899), 2.
romance of the antebellum and Civil War South in nostalgic plantation poems and a reminiscence of Robert E. Lee. The imagined place of the South in the war literature of the 1880s and 1890s underlines how the new Civil War literature was racialized around ideas of whiteness. As literary representations of Northern women's domes- tic experiences of the war became rare, many Southern white women found in their domestic experiences of the war a powerful expression of a new sense of identity, and many published reminiscences of antebellum and wartime life. At the same time, as Nina Silber has pointed out, "countless novels and plays" contributed to the project of national reconciliation by portraying a "southern bride's submission to her northern husband," codifying an image of southern subservience to the conquering North.j9
Writers both male and female expressed an increasing nostalgia for slaveholding society and slavery itself. During the 1880s and 1890s, plantation stories by Page, Harris, Maurice Thompson, and others became a staple of national magazines, inventing a world in which the relations between slave and master, or ex-slave and planter, were affectionate and untroubled. New war fictions by Thompson, Page, Constance Fenimore Woolson, Constance Cary Harrison, and Virginia Boyle Frazer, among others, featured white Southern heroines-an imaginative process that would ultimately culminate in Margaret Mitchell's creation of Scarlett O'Hara, still seen by many as the consummate Civil War heroine. There is great irony here: If Southern white women lost the war, as Drew Faust has argued, at the turn of the century they won the popular battle for its memory.60
The Northern women's war did not disappear entirely from the literary marketplace in the 1880s and 1890s. Several women who had been nurses and aid workers dur- ing the war published reminiscences, most prominent among them being Mary
>"or examples of the romanticization of the "Old South in Ladies'Home Journal, see Francis Lynde, "The Graves in the Old Breastworks: A Memorial Day Story of Old Alabama," Ladies'Home Journal, 15 (June 1898), 8; Paul Laurence Dunbar, "Dat Christmas on de 01' Plantation," ibid., 16 (Dec. 1898), 9; and "The Anecdotal Side of Robert E. Lee," ibid. (Nov. 1899), 3. A partial listing of Southern white women's diaries and reminiscences includes Eliza Frances Andrews, The War-Time Journal of a Georgia Girl (New York, 1908); Myrta Lockeet Avary, A Virginia Girl in the Civil War (New York, 1903); Fannie A. Beers, Memories: A Record of Personal Experience and Adventure during Four Years of War (Philadelphia, 1888); Virginia Clay-Clopton, A Belle of the Fz$ies: Memoirs of Mrs. Claj of Alabama (New York, 1905); Mary Ann Harris Gay, Life in Dixie during the War (Atlanta, 1892); Parthenia Antoinette Hague, A Blockaded Family: Life in Southern Alabama during the Civil War (Boston, 1888); Mrs. Burton Harrison, Recollections Grave and Gay (New York, 191 1); Mrs. Irby Morgan, How It Was; Four krs among the Rebels (Nashville, 1892); Mrs. Roger A. Pryor, Reminiscences of Peace and War (New York, 1905); Eliza- beth Saxon, A Southern Woman? War Time Reminiscences (Memphis, 1905); and Louise Wigfall Wright, A South- ern Girl in '61 (New York, 1905). See also omnibus volumes such as Mrs. Thomas Taylor et al., eds., South Carolina Women in the Confideracy (2 vols., Columbia, S.C., 1903); and News and Cou~ier, "Our Women in the War': The Lives They Lived, the Deaths The]! Died (Charleston, S.C., 1885). Nina Silber, "The Northern Myth of the Rebel Girl," in Women of the American South: A Multicultural Reader, ed. Christie Anne Farnham (New York, 1997), 130; and Silber, Romance of Reunion.
60A partial listing of the extensive fiction of the war by Southern white women includes Emma Lyon Bryan, 1860-1865; A Romance of the klley of Virginia (Harrisonburg, 1892); Mollie E. Moore Davis, In War Times at La Rose Blanche (Boston, 1888); Virginia Boyle Frazer, Brokenburne. A Southern Auntie: War Tale (New York, 1897); Mrs. Burton Harrison, Flower de Hundred; The Story of a Virginia Plantation (New York, 1890); Mrs. Burton Har- rison, The Carbjles: A Story of the Fall of the ConjGdemcj (New York, 1905); Mrs. Burton Harrison, Belhaven Tales; Crow? Nest; Una and King David (New York, 1892); Mary Johnston, The Long Roll (Boston, 191 1); Grace King, Tales of a Time and Place (New York, 1892); Mary Noailles Murfree, The Storm Centre (New York, 1905); and
The Feminized Civil War
Livermore, who had been head of the Western Sanitary Commission during the war. Yet in her 1887 My Story of the Wac Livermore criticized the new direction Civil War reminiscences were taking. "The public has listened eagerly to the stories of the great battles of the war of the rebellion," she said. But two important stories of the war had not been told, in her view. There was "a paucity of histories of the private sol- dier." And the story of Northern women was missing. "Who has fully narrated the consecrated and organized work of women?" she asked rhetorically Women had "strengthened the sinews of the nation with their unflagging enthusiasm, and bridged over the chasm between civil and military life." Despite this stated need for women's war stories, Livermore's publisher was apparently nervous enough about publishing a woman's war memoirs to include "numerous illustrations of Northern and Southern battle flags in order to enhance sales."61
In the 1880s and 1890s Northern women's war experiences became marginal in the literary marketplace. Between 1880 and 1890, for instance, Harper? Weekly published 8 Civil War stories with Southern heroines, but only 2 with Northern hero- ines. Between 1880 and 1900, Harper? Monthly published 9 man's war stories, 11 nostalgic plantation stories, and 4 reconciliation stories featuring Northern men and Southern women, but only 2 war stories-set during the war or considering its legacy-with Northern heroines. Between 1893 and 1900 McClurei published 9 war stories and some 60 war articles, but only 1 story with a Northern heroine. Between the end of its Battles and Leaders series in 1887 and 1900, the Century published over 60 articles on the war, 9 plantation stories, 5 man's war stories, an article titled "Southern Womanhood As Affected by the War" as well as "A Woman's Reminiscences during the Siege of Vicksburg," but only 2 stories-and no articles- featuring Northern heroines. The Ladies' Home Journal published only 1 Northern woman's war story between 1885 and 1 900.62
Molly Elliott Seawell, The Victory (1906). For helpful listings of Civil War fiction in the late nineteenth century, see Rebecca Washington Smith, "The Civil War and Its Aftermath in American Fiction, 1861-1899" (P11.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1937); Robert A. Lively, Fiction Fights the Civil War: An Unjnished Chapter in the Literary History of the American People (Chapel Hill, 1957); and Albert J. Menendez, Civil War Novels: An Anno- tated Bibliographj~ (New York, 1986). On Southern-oriented war literature, see Silber, Romance of Reunion; and Jay B. Hubbell, The South in American Literature, 1607-1900 (Durham, 1954), esp. 695-740. For a partial bib- liography of postwar war novels, see Menendez, Civil War Novels. Several African American writers published reminiscences and fiction about the Civil War in this period, including Susie King Taylor and Frances Ellen Wat- kins Harper. On Harper's Iola Leroy and African American writing in the late nineteenth century, see Dickson D. Bruce Jr., Bhck American Writingfrom the Nadir: The Evolution of a Literary Tradition, 1877-1915 (Baton Rouge, 1989). Drew Gilpin Faust, "Altars of Sacrifice: Confederate Women and the Narratives of War," Journal ofAmer- ican History, 76 (March 1990), 1200-28. There are many similarities between Northern and Southern wartime literature representing a women's war, especially an insistence on the value of women's sacrifice for the nation. Representations of Northern women's war experiences, however, rarely expressed the loss of faith in the ideology of sacrifice that Faust has found in those of Southern women's experiences late in the war.
61 Livermore, My Story of the War, 8-9. For other memoirs by Northern nurses published in this period, see Amanda Akin Stearns, The Lady Nurse of Ward E (New York, 1909); Annie Wittenmayer, Under the Guns: A Woman? Reminiscences of the Civzl War (Boston, 1895); Katherine Prescott Wormeley, The Other Side of the War (Boston, 1889); and Mary G. Holland, OurArmy Nurses (Boston, 1895). A few Northern women published rem- iniscences of the war, including Septima M. Collis, A Woman? War Record (New York, 1889). Nina Silber, "Intro- duction," in Mary Livermore, MJIStorj~ of the War (1887; New York, 1995), xii.
"Wilbur FiskTillett, "Southern Womanhood as Affected by the War," Century, 43 (Nov. 1891), 9-16; and Lida Lord Reed, "A Woman's Experiences during the Siege of Vicksburg," ibid., 61 (April 1901), 922-28.
Significantly, several stories featuring Northern heroines protested against the rewriting of the war to exclude Northern women's experiences. In his 1889 "An Echo of Antietam," a Century story concentrating on the sufferings of a woman on the home front that might have been written during the conflict itself, Edward Bel- lamy commented that "many pictures of battles have been painted, but no true one yet, for the pictures contain only men. The women are unaccountably left out."
We ought to see not alone the opposing lines of battle writhing and twisting in a death embrace, the batteries smoking and flaming, the hurricanes of cavalry, but innumerable women also, spectral forms of mothers, wives, sweethearts clinging about the necks of the advancing soldiers, vainly trying to shield them with their bosoms, extending supplicating hands to the foe, raising eyes of anguish to heaven.63
Elizabeth Stuart Phelps not only asked that her readers remember women's suffer- ing and sacrifice in the war but also made special claims for women's memories of the conflict. Her 1887 Harper? Monthly story "Annie Laurie" portrayed a heroine who for twenty-one years had remained faithful to a lover who "fell in the terrible charge at Chancellorsville, and was not seen by comrade or friend again." She had "often prayed for a man's power of forgetting," but "knew that she would not have felt she was half a woman if she could forget." "Her story was the story of her coun- try. Twenty-one, almost twenty-two years ago, Annie Laurie was one of those who 'gave their happiness instead.' He gave his life; she knew it was the easier portion; she never said so, lest she should seem to undervalue his share of their sacrifice or over- value hers."" Here Phelps offered a gendered theory of memory, arguing that women's memories of the war were both more harrowing and longer lasting than those of men.
Phelps did more than offer a gendered plea for the memory of the war in her late war fictions: She undermined heroic stereotypes of veterans and ultimately chal-
lenged the veteran-dominated culture of remembrance itself, The lost hero eventu- ally returned to Annie Laurie, but he was a "pitiful figure, wan with misery, ragged, with a scared face," "shattered," a "wreck." After the "wounds, fever, and hardships" he had suffered, he had experienced a "loss of identity" and had spent the years since the war in hospitals. In tGs story it was the Civil ~'ar veteran who lost his memory of the war, while a woman steadfastly maintained hersS65
But it was Phelps's story Comrades, published in the year of her death, 191 1, that presented the most compelling arguments both for a gendered memory of the war and for Northern women's right publicly to commemorate that memory. In this story Patience, the tellingly named wife of an aging and infirm veteran, initially "did not join" the annual Decoration Day procession in which he was the sole remaining marcher. She chose instead "to walk abreast of it, at the side, as near as possible,
63 Edward Bellamy, "An Echo of Antietam," ibid., 38 (July 1889), 379. The most concerted protests against the rewriting of the war in the 1880s and 1890s came from African Americans. See Blight, Frederick Douglass' Civil War.
64Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, "Annie Laurie," Harper: New Monthly Magazine, 76 (Dec. 1887), 127, 126. See also Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, "The Oath of Allegiance," Atlantic Monthly, 73 (April 1894), 465-76. Phelps, "Annie Laurie," 135-37.
The Feminized Civil War
without offense to the ceremonies, to the solitary figure of her husband." But the story made clear that it was her moment, not her husband's: "everything blossomed for her, and rested in her, and yearned toward her. The emotion of the day and of the hour seemed incarnate in her. She embodied in her strong and sweet personality all that blundering man has wrought on tormented woman by the savagery of war." She "remembered what she had suffered," the "slow news after slaughtering battles," "the rack of the imagination," and "inquisition of the nerve-pangs that no man- soldier of them all could understand. 'It comes on women-war,' she thought." And when her husband staggered, she went to him, "quietly grasped him by the arm, and fell into step beside him."
"'What'll folks say?' cried the old soldier, in real anguish."
"'They'll say I'm where I belong. Reuben! Reuben! I've earned the right to.'" 66
Though Northern women had "earned the right" to the memory of the war, that memory was rarely expressed in the popular literary marketplace of the late nine- teenth century. The memory of Northern women's war-borne suffering did not prove a lasting legacy of the conflict. The gendered popular literary nationalism that had held sway during and immediately after the war, which had included Northern women in the imagined community of the nation, gave way to a more exclusionary and restrictive nationalism defined not only by race but also by gender. Thus it is no accident that no ideological legacy comparable to republican motherhood emerged from the Civil War to represent the experiences of Northern women, for popular memory took a different path after the Civil War than in the wake of the Revolu- tion. If the emergent women's culture of the antebellum period had encouraged an author such as Elizabeth Ellet to celebrate revolutionary women, the emergent mas- culinized and racialized culture of the late nineteenth century increasingly foreclosed the association of Northern women and African Americans with participation in the war.
That foreclosure is important, for just as the Civil War was a defining event in our national history, so too have memories of the Civil War helped define membership in the nation. The popular culture of memory that has surrounded the war has tended to remember it primarily as a white masculinist conflict, rather than a cata- clysmic event that rent and remade the fabric of life for all Americans. The popular Civil War that emerged in the 1880s and 1890s belonged primarily to white men and to Southern white women, a late-nineteenth-century reinvention of the war. In the twentieth century the masculinization of the war's memory that was filtered through the new precepts of literary realism achieved not just ascendancy but an astonishing longevity when realism became a canonical part of American literary culture. "There was no real literature of our Civil War," Ernest Hemingway said in 1942, "until Stephen Crane wrote 'The Red Badge of Courage."' Today, Crane's novel continues to be taught in high schools as a means of understanding the "real"
66Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Commdes (New York, 191 I), 38, 39-40,43.
Civil War. The great irony is that the most popular literary treatments of the North- ern war were crystallized in the 1 89Oss6'
A larger point here is that our memories of the Civil War have been profoundly shaped by the literary marketplace, including those cultural and social processes that have reified racialized and masculinized literary memories of the war. In the 1880s and 1890s, popular literary versions of the war co-existed with "unpopular" versions, those apparently supported by only a small audience. As Natalie Zemon Davis has pointed out, "mainstreams have their margins," and an examination of "unpopular" forms of culture may well lead us to recover voices that have been submerged or masked.68
In Northern memories of the Civil War, the "unpopular" has been the feminized Civil War. Indeed, it is ironic that in the wealth of new studies on women and the war, relatively little attention has been paid to Northern women. Rather than being an accidental phenomenon, this may well be a development sustained by a mode of thought set in motion over a century ago.
6-Hemingway quoted in Aaron, Unwritten W~I;
210. Natalie Zemon Davis, "Toward Mixtures and Margins," American Hirtorical Review, 97 (Dec. 1992), 1415.