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Across the Divide

Across the Divide: Union Soldiers View the Northern Home Front

Steven J. Ramold
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Across the Divide
    Book Description:

    "Ramold disputes the old argument that citizen-soldiers in the Union Army differed little from civilians. He shows how a chasm of mutual distrust grew between soldiers and civilians during four years of fighting that led many Democratic soldiers the groundwork for the postwar Republican Party. Filled with gripping anecdotes, this book makes for fascinating reading." - Scott Reynolds Nelson, College of William and Mary Union soldiers left home in 1861 with expectations that the conflict would be short, the purpose of the war was clear, and public support back home was universal. As the war continued, however, Union soldiers noticed growing disparities between their own expectations and those of their families at home with growing concern and alarm. Instead of support for the war, an extensive and oft-violent anti-war movement emerged. In this first study of the gulf between Union soldiers and northern civilians, Steven J. Ramold reveals the wide array of factors that prevented the Union Army and the civilians on whose behalf they were fighting from becoming a united front during the Civil War. In Across the Divide, Ramold illustrates how the divided spheres of Civil War experience created social and political conflict far removed from the better-known battlefields of the war.Steven J. Ramold, Associate Professor of American History at Eastern Michigan University, is the author of two previous books,Slaves, Sailors, Citizens: African Americans in the Union NavyandBaring the Iron Hand: Discipline in the Union Army. He and his wife reside in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6017-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    “The people up North do not know what war is,” John Brobst, a Union Army private from Wisconsin, wrote a friend. “If they were to come down here, they would soon find out the horror of war.”¹ Brobst spoke for many Union soldiers during the Civil War who held views of their own families, communities, and home states that defy the traditional picture of national unity based on their perception that civilians did not comprehend what it meant to be a Union soldier. Stressed by the demands of combat, often frustrated by the lack of success, and burdened by the...

  5. 1 “Such a Dirty Set of Creatures”: The Divide between Union Soldiers and Civilians
    (pp. 7-32)

    Most of the Union soldiers who went off to war in 1861 had no concept of what they were about to experience. There were certainly military conflicts in the recent past, but nothing that involved large numbers of inexperienced volunteers. Clashes with Native Americans and the recent war with Mexico from 1846 to 1848 required only the efforts of the professional Regular Army and a number of state volunteer regiments. For a large-scale national war that demanded significant sacrifices from the people, one had to look back through nearly half a century of peaceful history to the War of 1812....

  6. 2 “A Land of All Men and No Women”: Soldiers and the Gender Divide
    (pp. 33-54)

    The Civil War created any number of divides between soldiers and the civilians they left behind. The most personal one, however, was the gender divide between Union soldiers and Northern women. Northern men went off to war with a well-defined concept of gender roles. Changes in the antebellum economy, especially for the middle class, had established clear social and economic roles for both genders, defining women as the centers of religious and moral purity and men as economic providers and family protectors. The Civil War, however, shattered that conception and placed both men and women in roles unfathomable before the...

  7. 3 “This Is an Abolition War”: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Purpose of the War
    (pp. 55-86)

    In the first months of the Civil War, there were few more frightening terms than “abolition war.” Such a war to end slavery threatened to change the country in unforeseeable ways. Whether the Civil War was an abolition war was thus a critical question in itself, and the debate over this question plunged to the very heart of why soldiers fought, what they represented, and what they wanted the war to achieve. Civilians, both as private citizens and through their representatives in government, also debated the abolition issue, creating a spectrum of opinions on the virtue of abolitionism. Like the...

  8. 4 “A Sin to Join the Army”: The Debate over Conscription
    (pp. 87-114)

    Citizen-soldiers, civilians temporarily acting as soldiers in response to their respective nation’s call, fought the battles of the Civil War. The standing Regular Army played its part, but the mass of the Union Army came from civilians who donned a uniform and shouldered a weapon in the nation’s service. Not all did so willingly. A significant number of Union soldiers entered the service under the terms of the Enrollment Act, the 1863 legislation that introduced the first large-scale mandatory conscription of military forces instead of relying entirely upon volunteers. Conscription (better known as the “draft,” because the system employed a...

  9. 5 “The Ranting of the Black-Hearted Villains”: Soldiers and the Anti-War Movement
    (pp. 115-142)

    In March 1863, Henry Haven, a former Captain in the 23rd Ohio and resident of Bedford, Ohio, wrote to the local Provost Marshal: “Sir, I have the honor to inform you that an organization for the purpose of resisting the Conscription has recently been formed in this place.” Describing meetings where residents announced their support for the Confederacy and determination to resist federal law, Haven inquired “Cannot such men be arrested and punished?” Responding to Haven’s letter, the Provost Marshal’s office in Cincinnati shared his concern, but admitted “there is no act . . . providing for the suppression of...

  10. 6 “The Sky of Our Political Horizon”: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln
    (pp. 143-168)

    There were few “real” soldiers in the Union Army during the Civil War. “Real” soldiers meant the Regular Army, with the standing army numbering only a few thousand at the start of the conflict, led by their largely West Point–educated officers. The majority of soldiers were, instead, citizen/soldiers, volunteers in state-organized regiments who served their country temporarily, in new incarnations of Minute Men. These volunteers went off to war expecting to fight as soldiers, but they also retained their expectations and traditions as civilians. Volunteer soldiers demanded to come and go as they pleased, criticize their superiors, and speak...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 169-172)

    Although wartime divides isolated soldiers from civilian communities, differences of opinion soon vanished, making the soldier/civilian divide a lost narrative of the Civil War. Wartime debates caused major divisions between Union soldiers and the civilian communities around them, but the divisions lasted only as long as the war. When peace came in 1865, the divisions between soldiers and civilians closed as the pressures of wartime existence disappeared and citizen-soldiers became just citizens again. Soldiers who only a short time before had risked death in battle, criticized Northern civilians, and viewed Southern civilians as potential enemies now faced the long-desired transition...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 173-198)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 199-216)
  14. Index
    (pp. 217-222)
  15. About the Author
    (pp. 223-223)