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The Gentlemen and the Roughs

The Gentlemen and the Roughs: Violence, Honor, and Manhood in the Union Army

Lorien Foote
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 252
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  • Book Info
    The Gentlemen and the Roughs
    Book Description:

    During the Civil War, the Union army - like the society from which it sprang - appeared cohesive enough to withstand four years of grueling war against the Confederates and to claim victory in 1865. But fractiousness bubbled below the surface of the North's presumably united front. Internal fissures were rife within the Union army: class divisions, regional antagonisms, ideological differences, and conflicting personalities all distracted the army from quelling the Southern rebellion.In this highly original contribution to Civil War and gender history, Lorien Foote reveals that these internal battles were fought against the backdrop of manhood. Clashing ideals of manliness produced myriad conflicts when educated, refined, and wealthy officers (gentlemen) found themselves commanding a hard-drinking group of fighters (roughs) - a dynamic that often resulted in violence and even death. Challenges, fights, and duels were common. Based on extensive research into heretofore ignored primary sources - courts-martial records and regimental order books - The Gentlemen and the Roughs uncovers holes in our understanding of the men who fought the Civil War and the society that produced them.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2858-1
    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: The Contested Terms of Manhood
    (pp. 1-16)

    Abraham Lincoln once termed the American Civil War “a people’s contest.” In contrast to European wars of empire waged by kings and aristocrats, Lincoln believed, it was the northern people who fought the war through democratic institutions to save the world’s only true republic. The most important institution that fought Lincoln’s “people’s contest” was the Union Army, a citizen army composed of millions of volunteers and draftees whose numbers dwarfed the small band of regular soldiers and West Point–trained officers. The Union Army in the Civil War was northern society in miniature, reflecting its culture and values and imbued...

  5. 1 “A Good Moral Regiment”: Conduct Unbecoming a Gentleman
    (pp. 17-40)

    John Hartwell was by no means a rich man when he enlisted as a private in Company C of the 121st New York Volunteers. It would be a stretch to label him as middle class. He was a thirty-three-year-old carpenter who lived on a small subsistence farm outside the town of Herkimer, New York. He served most of the war as a corporal and never attained the rank of a commissioned officer. Despite his rather lowly status in civilian life and in the army, Hartwell conceived of himself as a gentleman. He strove to attain gentlemanly attributes and judged other...

  6. 2 “The Model of the Gentleman”: Gentility and Self-Control
    (pp. 41-66)

    Francis Lieber, émigré professor of political philosophy and author of General Order 100, the code that governed the conduct of Union armies, was also the north’s expert on gentlemanly behavior. His book on that subject,The Character of the Gentleman, was in its third edition by 1864. Lieber believed that a gentleman was “distinguished by strict honor, self-possession, forbearance . . . essential truthfulness, courage, both moral and physical, dignity, self-respect, a studious avoidance of giving offense to others . . . and loftiness of conduct to the rigid dictates of morality.” A gentleman possessed “calmness of mind” that led...

  7. 3 “A Regular Old-Fashioned Free Fight”: Physical Prowess and Honor
    (pp. 67-92)

    Even a cursory reading of Union Army records and the letters and diaries of Civil War soldiers and officers uncovers the rampant minor tussles and even brutal fighting that made up every day life in the army. Moral and self-controlled Union soldiers generally avoided physical confrontations with their comrades, but others regularly engaged in fights and bouts of heavy drinking. These men participated in a culture of male camaraderie centered on boisterous noise, unruly behavior, and feats of prowess. They tested the strength of other men and expected newcomers to prove their manhood in physical contests. They had particular trouble...

  8. 4 “If You Will Go with Me outside the Lines”: Dueling and the Degenerate Affair of Honor
    (pp. 93-118)

    In June 1863, Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside was in command of the Department of the Ohio and his headquarters were located in Cincinnati. Several captains who served on his staff shared an office in departmental headquarters. On June 18, Capt. Charles Gordon Hutton was seated at a desk in the front of the room when Capt. J. M. Cutts entered.

    “You have no right to any desk in this office. You are not on duty,” Cutts told Hutton in an abrupt manner. “I beg your pardon, Capt. Cutts,” Hutton replied. “I have a right to any desk which is unoccupied.”...

  9. 5 “The Thick-Fingered Clowns”: Social Status and Discipline
    (pp. 119-144)

    Northern men pieced together their manly identities in a bewildering variety of ways. Some men adhered to a strict moral character while maintaining a sense of honor that required violent retaliation. Other men defined honor in terms of virtue and viewed traditional honor as a loss of self-control. Some men who acquired genteel manners drank and boxed for sport; for others, true refinement required a temperate self-control and an avoidance of rough play. Some men participated in a culture of male camaraderie centered on drink and fighting that many of their comrades witnessed with disgust.

    A man’s social status intersected...

  10. 6 “The Shoulder-Strap Gentry”: Officers, Privates, and Equal Manhood
    (pp. 145-170)

    Capt. Daniel Link of the First Maryland Cavalry had posted his guards over a store near a railroad depot in West Virginia in late December 1864. Carloads of Union soldiers, often drunk or rambunctious, passed through the depot on their way to the fighting in Virginia. To maintain order and protect the store, Link gave his guards orders that only three men could enter the store at a time. Later in the day, a train arrived carrying the men of the 36th Ohio, who disembarked and all tried to enter the store. When the guards stopped John Clute and prevented...

  11. Conclusion: The War for Manhood
    (pp. 171-180)

    A regiment that exemplified the war for manhood in the Union Army was the 58th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. The officers and enlisted men of this unit present a portrait of the different types of men that contended against one another during the Civil War. Its colonel, George P. Buell, was a temperance man who sought to suppress drinking in his command. On one occasion he knocked open the regiment’s ration of whiskey, and as chaplain John J. Hight noted approvingly, “the vile poison gurgled and splattered upon the soil.” The Methodist Hight, who valued gentility as well as moral character,...

  12. Appendix: Note on Method and Sources
    (pp. 181-184)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 185-212)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 213-224)
  15. Index
    (pp. 225-236)
  16. About the Author
    (pp. 237-237)