The Divided Family in Civil War America

The Divided Family in Civil War America

Amy Murrell Taylor
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    The Divided Family in Civil War America
    Book Description:

    The Civil War has long been described as a war pitting "brother against brother." The divided family is an enduring metaphor for the divided nation, but it also accurately reflects the reality of America's bloodiest war. Connecting the metaphor to the real experiences of families whose households were split by conflicting opinions about the war, Amy Murrell Taylor provides a social and cultural history of the divided family in Civil War America.In hundreds of border state households, brothers--and sisters--really did fight one another, while fathers and sons argued over secession and husbands and wives struggled with opposing national loyalties. Even enslaved men and women found themselves divided over how to respond to the war. Taylor studies letters, diaries, newspapers, and government documents to understand how families coped with the unprecedented intrusion of war into their private lives. Family divisions inflamed the national crisis while simultaneously embodying it on a small scale--something noticed by writers of popular fiction and political rhetoric, who drew explicit connections between the ordeal of divided families and that of the nation. Weaving together an analysis of this popular imagery with the experiences of real families, Taylor demonstrates how the effects of the Civil War went far beyond the battlefield to penetrate many facets of everyday life.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0526-5
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    ABRAHAM LINCOLN WARNED in 1858 that a “house divided against itself cannot stand.” His words, prophetic of the war that was to come three years later, continue to resonate today. That phrase — just one part of a much larger address — has become one of Lincoln’s most recognizable contributions to our American political vocabulary. But those words were not unique to the nineteenth-century president. The image of a “house divided,” or a family in conflict, was a timeless one that drew on a long tradition in literature and political thought. From the Bible to Greek tragedies to Shakespeare’s works to the...

  5. 1 Union Father, Rebel Son
    (pp. 13-34)

    WHEN NINETEEN-YEAR-OLD Henry Lane Stone joined the Confederate army, he did not just turn against the Union, or what he called the “cursed dominion of Yankeedom.” He also defied his family, especially his father. Stone’s parents were natives of Kentucky, but by 1861 they were living in southern Indiana with Henry and his four brothers. They were staunch Unionists, and at least one of Henry’s brothers volunteered for the Union army. But in August 1862 Henry, a middle child, felt drawn to fight for the Confederacy. Knowing that his family would try to stop him, he kept his decision secret...

  6. 2 Marriage and Courtship
    (pp. 35-62)

    THE CIVIL WAR represented a marital crisis for Catherine Brown Hopkins. By the time the first shots were fired on Fort Sumter, her year-old marriage was showing strains despite the recent birth of her first child. Looking back on her relationship with her husband Henry, she began to wonder if their union had been doomed from the start. Catherine was a native of Philadelphia, whereas Henry was born and raised in Virginia. The marriage seemed like a good one at the beginning, but it quickly disintegrated into conflict. Their mixed backgrounds proved troublesome just months after their wedding, when the...

  7. 3 Brothers and Sisters
    (pp. 63-90)

    SOMETIME DURING A BATTLE at Perryville, Kentucky, in October 1862, two opposing regiments from that state exchanged gunfire. Among them was a soldier with the last name of Hopkins. Hopkins stood only twenty feet away from a group of enemy soldiers when he aimed, fired, and mortally wounded a soldier who, it turned out, was his own brother. It was no tragic coincidence. According to theLouisville Daily Journal, immediately after shooting him Hopkins approached his brother and told him that “he had done it on purpose”; then he gave him water and a blanket and left soon after. Later...

  8. 4 Border Crossing and the Treason of Family Ties
    (pp. 91-122)

    THIRTY-YEAR-OLD Martha Clay Davenport of Charlestown, Virginia, discovered by 1862 that having a divided family carried certain risks. A secessionist married to a Confederate soldier, Davenport did not like but accepted her Kentucky family’s Union loyalties and continued to write regularly to the Clays, just as she had done before the war. Yet by March 1862 she came to realize that not everyone around her viewed her correspondence as innocently as she did, and so she decided to send shorter, less frequent letters in the future. “I am afraid to send a letter,” Martha explained to her stepmother, “as I...

  9. 5 Border Dramas and the Divided Family in the Popular Imagination
    (pp. 123-152)

    THE PRIVATE ORDEALS of divided families captured the attention of popular fiction writers almost as soon as the Civil War erupted. In 1862 Delphine P. Baker, a Union woman living in Illinois, publishedSolon; or, The Rebellion of’ 61: A Domestic and Political Tragedy, the tale of two fictional characters — one a daughter of Abraham Lincoln, the other a son of Jefferson Davis. The two are in love and want to marry but are thwarted temporarily while their fathers confront one another in war. This leads to both “domestic” and “political” tragedy, as the domestic bliss of the lovers becomes...

  10. 6 Reconciliations Lived and Imagined
    (pp. 153-190)

    THE CLOSING YEARS of the war tested the strength of family ties, both metaphoric and real, to reach across the nation’s borders and restore national unity. As the death toll rose, Confederate losses multiplied, and the end of slavery seemed imminent, Americans began to talk about the reconciliation of the two sections. But what did “reconciliation” mean? What result could reasonably be expected, how quickly could it occur, and just how reconciled could the nation ever become? These questions, which provoked heated debate in the halls of Congress, state legislatures, and the press, also troubled divided families in their private...

  11. 7 Reconciliation and Emancipation
    (pp. 191-208)

    CENTRAL TO Herrick Johnstone’s intersectional romance,Sergeant Slasher; or, The Border Feud(1865), is a man named only “Moonshine.” A slave working as a spy for the rebels, Moonshine rescues Jasper Slasher, a white East Tennessee Unionist held captive by Confederate guerrillas. Moonshine assures Slasher that his loyalties are really with the Union and its fight against slavery, vowing to “never leabe your flag!” Little else is revealed about Moonshine, except that slavery separated him from his mother in Virginia; his ability to serve the Union is most important to the story. A little reconnaissance work enables Moonshine to assist...

  12. Epilogue
    (pp. 209-214)

    DIVIDED FAMILIES had evolved in the popular imagination since Abraham Lincoln’s dire prediction in 1858 that a “house divided” could not stand. No longer seen as tragic, they emerged from the war and immediate postwar period as something to be celebrated, models of reunion and enduring loyalty rather than hatred and division. With each passing year, it seemed, Americans maintained their attachment to this image with vigor, as other voices joined fiction writers in embracing divided families. Among them were Southerners claiming to have been Union sympathizers during the war in an effort to win compensation for destroyed property from...

    (pp. 215-216)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 217-278)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 279-308)
  16. Index
    (pp. 309-319)