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Heroes and Cowards

Heroes and Cowards: The Social Face of War

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Heroes and Cowards
    Book Description:

    When are people willing to sacrifice for the common good? What are the benefits of friendship? How do communities deal with betrayal? And what are the costs and benefits of being in a diverse community? Using the life histories of more than forty thousand Civil War soldiers, Dora Costa and Matthew Kahn answer these questions and uncover the vivid stories, social influences, and crucial networks that influenced soldiers' lives both during and after the war.

    Drawing information from government documents, soldiers' journals, and one of the most extensive research projects about Union Army soldiers ever undertaken,Heroes and Cowardsdemonstrates the role that social capital plays in people's decisions. The makeup of various companies--whether soldiers were of the same ethnicity, age, and occupation--influenced whether soldiers remained loyal or whether they deserted. Costa and Kahn discuss how the soldiers benefited from friendships, what social factors allowed some to survive the POW camps while others died, and how punishments meted out for breaking codes of conduct affected men after the war. The book also examines the experience of African-American soldiers and makes important observations about how their comrades shaped their lives.

    Heroes and Cowardshighlights the inherent tensions between the costs and benefits of community diversity, shedding light on how groups and societies behave and providing valuable lessons for the present day.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2975-0
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-xii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xxii)
    (pp. xxiii-xxviii)
  6. Chapter 1 Loyalty and Sacrifice
    (pp. 1-25)

    James Monroe Rich left his wife and his trade for the low and irregular pay of a Union army soldier in the Civil War. He marched through heat and dust, through torrential thunderstorms and deep mud. He marched with gear weighing 45 to 50 pounds—guns, cartridges and cartridges boxes, woolen and rubber blankets, two shirts and two pairs of drawers, canteens full of water, rations, and trinkets from home. He marched with his comrades even when they “were falling on every side” in a failed frontal assault where “the lead and iron filled the air as the snowflakes in...

  7. Chapter 2 Why the U.S. Civil War?
    (pp. 26-45)

    Pulitzer prize–winning journalist and writer Tony Horowitz remembers his great-grandfather, who had fled Czarist Russia in 1882 as a teenage draft dodger, poring over a book on the Civil War that he had purchased shortly after his arrival in the United States. Many years later, inConfederates in the Attic, Tony Horowitz wrote of Civil War enthusiasts leading the lives of Civil War soldiers.¹ He described men who wore filthy and scratchy homespun clothing, soaked their buttons in urine to give them a more authentic patina, ate a diet of hardtack and salt pork while in the field, talked...

  8. Chapter 3 Building the Armies
    (pp. 46-79)

    Patrick Tillman turned down a $3.6 million, three-year contract to play football for the Arizona Cardinals in order to become an Army Ranger, earning a salary of about $18,000 a year. He joined the army with his brother Kevin, a minor league baseball player, shortly after marrying his high school sweetheart. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he noted in an interview, “My great-grandfather was at Pearl Harbor and a lot of my family has gone and fought in wars. And I really haven’t done a damn thing.”¹

    Patrick Tillman died in the line of duty in Afghanistan...

  9. Chapter 4 Heroes and Cowards
    (pp. 80-119)

    Abraham Lincoln replaced George McClellan with Ulysses S. Grant because “he fights.” Jefferson Davis replaced the cautious Joseph E. Johnston with John Bell Hood, who promptly destroyed his army attacking Sherman. Both the U.S. president and the president of the Confederacy sought decisive battle, in which two opposing forces meet face to face until one is annihilated or surrenders.

    Decisive battle has long dominated Western warfare strategy.¹ During the Peloponnesian Wars, the Spartan general Brasidas told his men about the barbarian tribes of Illyria and Macedonia: “when it comes to real fighting with an opponent who stands his ground, they...

  10. Chapter 5 POW Camp Survivors
    (pp. 120-159)

    In antiquity, soldiers captured by the enemy were either killed or enslaved, most likely to die quickly in a mine or galley ship or other lethal place.¹ Medieval writers advocated more humane treatment, echoing Gratian’s treatise on canon law, “pity is due to the vanquished or captured.”² Nobles who could produce a ransom were often treated courteously, but Froissart lamented that the Germans would place even a knight in “chains of iron and throw him into the smallest prison cell they have to extort a greater ransom.”³ The Flemings and Swiss took no prisoners at all. Chivalrous behavior was abandoned...

  11. Chapter 6 The Homecoming of Heroes and Cowards
    (pp. 160-186)

    Few families emerged from the Civil War without a father, husband, son, brother, or cousin dead or wounded. Of the two million white men who served the Union, almost 325,000 died in the war. Roughly 450,000 of the survivors had been wounded in the war. Thirteen percent of all white men of military age (ages 13 to 43 in 1860) were casualties.

    How did soldiers and civilians make sense of so much suffering? Essays from an 1866 penmanship competition for men whose right arms had been amputated emphasized that the writers’ “honorable scars” were necessary sacrifices for preserving a self-governing...

  12. Chapter 7 Slaves Become Freemen
    (pp. 187-214)

    Wartime experience can radically alter the course of a person’s life. For example, service in World War II and the Vietnam War lowered later earnings because of lost labor market experience,¹ whereas employment during mobilization for World War II permanently raised women’s labor force participation rates² and lowered both men’s and women’s wages because of the increase in women’s labor supply.

    Less is known about the effects of previous wars. Brevet Major General Alving C. Voris wrote that the Civil War “has greatly interrupted my line of business.”³ A white officer of the colored troops wrote,

    Entering the army at...

  13. Chapter 8 Learning from the Past
    (pp. 215-226)

    “I myself am as big a coward as eny could be,” wrote a survivor of the Battle of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg, “but me the ball [bullet] before the coward when all my friends and comrades are going forward. Once and once only was I behind when the regt was under fire, and I cant describe my feelings at that time none can tell them only a soldier. I was not able to walk . . . but as soon as the rattle of musketry was heard and I knew my Regt was engaged I hobbled on...

  14. Appendix Records and Collection Methods
    (pp. 227-242)
    (pp. 243-272)
    (pp. 273-290)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 291-315)
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