Civil War (American Indians Ready Reference)
Article abstract: A great Native American leads an Indian regiment for the Confederacy and is the last to surrender.
With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, both the Union and the Confederacy looked toward the Indian Territory for support. American Indians there, mostly members of the famed Five Civilized Tribes (the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole), had connections with the federal government through various agencies, but most also had Southern roots in the Carolinas, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, and Tennessee. In March, 1861, Confederate president Jefferson Davis commissioned Albert Pike to visit Indian Territory to seek treaties with the Five Civilized Tribes. It was hoped that a strong Confederate force in Indian Territory would prevent Union sympathizers in Kansas from raiding Texas. Pike's visit with all the tribes in Indian Territory was largely successful. Shortly afterward, General Ben McCulloch raised two American Indian regiments: one led by Colonel John Drew and the other by Colonel Stand Watie. Drew and Watie were bitter enemies, and during much of the war commanders on the western front kept the two Cherokee regiments separated as much as possible. Watie, a mixed-blood Cherokee, had been born in Georgia and was one of the signers of the New Echota Treaty, which sold Cherokee lands in Georgia to the United States government. He was also a prosperous Cherokee landowner and businessman, a brilliant warrior,...
(The entire section is 1319 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Civil War (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
Armed conflict between different political, religious, or regional factions within the same nation. Best known among the vast annals of civil war are Julius Caesar’s successful struggle against Pompeii and his supporters for control of Rome (49-45 b.c.e.); the English Civil War (1642-1651), a conflict between supporters of Parliament and the monarchy, which culminated in the beheading of King Charles I in 1649; the American Civil War (1861-1865), in which the Northern and Southern United States came to blows after many decades of sectional tension; the Russian Civil War (1918-1921), a bloody conflict in which the Red Army protected the new Bolshevik government from various “White,” or anti-Bolshevik, forces; and the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), a successful Fascist revolt against Spain’s Republican government.
(The entire section is 126 words.)
Civil War (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
Civil war exists when two or more opposing parties within a country resort to arms to settle a conflict or when a substantial portion of the population takes up arms against the legitimate government of a country. Within INTERNATIONAL LAW distinctions are drawn between minor conflicts like riots, where order is restored promptly, and full-scale insurrections finding opposing parties in political as well as military control over different areas. When an internal
conflict reaches sufficient proportions that the interests of other countries are affected, outside states may recognize a state of insurgency. A recognition of insurgency, whether formal or de facto, indicates that the recognizing state regards the insurgents as proper contestants for legitimate power. Although the precise status of insurgents under international law is not well-defined, recognized insurgents traditionally gain the protection afforded soldiers under international RULES OF LAW pertaining to war. A state may also decide to recognize...
(The entire section is 253 words.)
Civil War (American History Through Literature)
The Civil War was the greatest transforming event in American culture. Its memories continue to haunt and inspire people, and it is impossible to imagine what the United States would look like today had it never happened. With some 620,000 deaths, more Americans died in the conflict than in all other wars combined until Vietnam. More than 10 percent of the population was directly involved, and almost every American had a close friend or family member who was killed or maimed in the war. The largest expenditure in a few Southern states after the war was payment for prosthetic limbs to its veterans. The war brought a centralized nation-state, a national income tax, conscription, and the emergence of large bureaucratic and regimented organizations in both the public and private sectors.
Slavery was of course the root of the war. But from the nation's founding (when the process of gradual emancipation began in the North) until 1850, the North and South agreed on a series of compromises that prevented the powder keg of slavery from exploding. The first compromise followed the crisis in 1819 over Missouri entering the Union as a slave state, which erupted "like a firebell in the night," as Thomas Jefferson put it (Life and Selected Writings, p. 698). It was the first major crisis over slavery, and it shattered a tacit agreement between the two regions that had been in place since the Constitution. Under the terms of the agreement, the North would not interfere with slavery in Southern states, and the South would recognize slavery as an evil that should be discouraged and eventually abolished whenever it was safe and feasible to do so. The agreement reflected the belief, shared by most of the Founding Fathers and framers of the Constitution, that slavery was wrong, the equivalent of America's "original sin," according to James Madison (quoted in Mellon, p. 158).
The Missouri crisis established the basic debates over slavery that persisted until the Civil War. During the controversy, the New York congressman James Tallmadge included an amendment that provided for gradual emancipation of Missouri's slaves, much as other Northern states had done. Northerners worried that if slavery became legally entrenched in Missouri, it would spread throughout the West. Rufus King, another New Yorker, was the first politician to apply a "higher law" to slavery; he stated that any law upholding slavery was "absolutely void, because [it is] contrary to the law of nature, which is the law of God" (Ernst, p. 372). The higher-law thesis would become a central rhetorical weapon in the writings of immediate abolitionists (those advocating an immediate end to slavery), including Freedom's Journal (1827829), the nation's first black newspaper; David Walker's Walker's Appeal, in Four Articles, Together with a Preamble to the Coloured Citizens of the World (1829); William Lloyd Garrison's Liberator (1831865); and the organs of the American Anti-Slavery Society and the Liberty Party, the nation's first abolitionist party. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Beecher Stowe all based their antislavery arguments on the higher-law thesis.
Southerners responded to the Missouri crisis by saying that Congress had no power to exclude slavery even in unorganized territories. They worried about losing representation in Congress, and with cotton production and slave prices on the rise, they became much more belligerent in their quest for national power and their defense of slavery. Restricting slavery, they said, implied eventual emancipation and racial equality. By the 1830s most Southern writers had abandoned the beliefs of their forefathers and viewed slavery as a positive good for masters, slaves, and society at large. Implicit in their proslavery rhetoric was their assumption that blacks were subhuman, more akin to domesticated animals than to humans.
The Missouri crisis was in essence a battle over the western frontier, which each side sought to control. In the compromise, which averted disunion and war, Missouri entered the Union as a slave state; but slavery was excluded from the remaining, unsettled portions of the Louisiana Territory north of 36° 30north latitude, the same latitude as the southern border of Missouri.
The frontier became the imaginative site where the battle over slavery and the future of America got played out. It was also a site occupied by Native Americans, who in the minds of Northern and Southern whites, needed to vanish to pave the way for American expansion. Some of the most popular and critical works of American literature beginning in the 1820s took as their setting the frontier, from James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales (1823841) and Lydia Maria Child's stories and novel Hobomok: A Tale of Early Times (1824) to Caroline Kirkland's A New Homeho'll Follow? (1839) and the southerner William Gilmore Simms's fiction. The frontier became the site where writers explored the "rules of coexistence" between racially diverse groups of people, according to the cultural critic Jane Tompkins (p. 119). For many American writers, the frontier would determine the fate of America; it would also distinguish American from European literature, which had no comparable interracial frontier to draw on.
Political debates over slavery and the frontier were averted for more than twenty years after the Missouri Compromise, until 1845, when Texas entered the Union as a slave state. This period of illusory calm stemmed from two factors. First, from 1819 until 1845 there was no new territorial expansion, and under the terms of the Missouri Compromise, existing territories petitioned for statehood in pairs, with one free and one slave state entering the Union together. Second, from 1836 to 1844, the so-called gag rules automatically tabled all abolitionist petitions in Congress and effectively prevented explosive debates on the subject of slavery.
The annexation of Texas in early 1845 outraged northerners. John Quincy Adams, the last living Founding Father and a staunch antislavery congressman, described it as a "calamity" in his diary: "the day passes, and leaves scarcely a distinct trace upon the memory of anything, and precisely because . . . the heaviest calamity that ever befell myself and my country was this day consummated" (p. 574). As Adams anticipated, the annexation of Texas provoked hostilities with Mexico, which led in 1846 to the Mexican-American War. The war was perpetrated by southerners including President James K. Polk, and their sympathizers, in order to acquire more slave territory. It virtually doubled the size of the Union, bringing in California and the entire Southwest. Protests occurred throughout the North. Henry David Thoreau abandoned society for Walden Pond on 4 July 1845, partly in response to Southern belligerence. And the Free-Soil Party emerged out of the Liberty Party, offering a more conservative and inclusive alternative to the Liberty Party's radical platform. Free-Soilers sought to prohibit the further spread of slavery, which they hoped would lead to its ultimate extinction. The Liberty Party advocated an immediate end to slavery and was the party of choice among Northern blacks, including Frederick Douglass, James McCune Smith, and Henry Highland Garnet. But by the late 1840s, members also accepted violent resistance to slavery.
THE FAILURE OF COMPROMISE
In the wake of the Mexican-American War the nation was on the verge of civil war, which was averted only by the Compromise of 1850. The compromise consisted of five basic parts, the most onerous of which was a stringent fugitive slave law that denied suspected fugitives the right to a jury trial and virtually legitimated slave stealing. The Fugitive Slave Law converted countless northerners to the antislavery cause. In their eyes the law put the federal government in the business of manhunting. And since all citizens could now be required to hunt down suspected fugitives, northerners could no longer wash their hands of slavery. The Fugitive Slave law inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811896) to write Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life among the Lowly (1852); and these two pieces of writinghe legislation and the novelreatly exacerbated sectional hostilities and led to secession and war.
The Compromise of 1850 achieved the opposite of its intentions. Americans were increasingly unwilling to compromise, or to accept limits, the rule of law, and traditional boundaries. It is not coincidental that Herman Melville published one of the nation's great novels, Moby-Dick (1851), in the immediate wake of the Compromise of 1850. It highlights the costs of denying limits, ignoring rules, and seeking to vanquish all opposing, unknown forces in life. The black abolitionist James McCune Smith (1813865), who was one of the foremost intellectuals of the era, appreciated the political symbolism of the novel. Writing to his friend Frederick Douglass in Douglass's newspaper, he likened the Pequod, the whaling ship in Moby-Dick, to the ship of state in American politics. Captain Ahab, the ship's captain, like the leaders of America, were in pursuit of the wrong thing: the white whale, symbol of all evil, on the one hand; whiteness and respect for white laws on the other hand. The leaders of both settings, said McCune Smith, were thus sacrificing "the one thing needed in each societyUMAN BROTHERHOODnd the belief that all men are by nature free and equal" (quoted in Stauffer, p. 66). By ignoring the multiracial makeup of their country, American leaders were following the plight of the Pequod, in McCune Smith's estimation, and were heading toward destruction and death. His letter to Douglass, titled "Horoscope," was more accurate than he knew.
In effect civil war broke out even before the explosions shook Fort Sumter in April 1861. Small battles erupted when slave catchers attempted to arrest fugitives, and there were casualties at Boston and Christiana, Pennsylvania. In 1854 Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which opened the northern territories of Kansas and Nebraska and repealed the Missouri Compromise, creating a battleground in Kansas. The Kansas Territory erupted in guerrilla-style civil war from 1855 to 1858 and led to the founding of the Republican Party, the demise of the Whig Party, and the destabilization of the two-party system. In 1857 the Supreme Court declared the Republican Party unconstitutional in the infamous Dred Scott v. Sandford case. In his opinion Chief Justice Roger Taney, a Southern slave owner, argued that Congress had no power to legislate slavery in territories or states; that blacks were "beings of an inferior order . . . so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit" (quoted in Finkelman, p. 61). In the wake of the Dred Scott decision, numerous black writers abandoned their faith in American ideals and advocated emigration.
The last spark leading to disunion was John Brown's raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in October 1859, shortly before the 1860 presidential election. Brown's small army of sixteen whites and five blacks, and his "provisional constitution" that would govern those areas he hoped to liberate from slavery, terrified the South. The insurgents were captured, convicted of treason and murder, and Brown was sentenced to hang on 2 November. Although Abraham Lincoln and other Republicans sought to distance themselves from Brown, most southerners believed that he symbolized the spirit of the Republican Party and the North in general. While northerners considered Brown a madman and murderer, they also called him a martyr and respected his principled actions. During his imprisonment and trial, his prison writings (among the most powerful of the genre) were distributed throughout the North. The sympathetic outpouring for him, led by Lydia Maria Child, Thoreau, and Emerson, who said that Brown would "make the gallows like the cross" (quoted in Stauffer, p. 37), possibly helped Lincoln get elected. And in the immediate wake of Lincoln's election, Southern states began seceding.
The road to disunion contained some of America's most memorable literature: the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller; the autobiographical writings of Henry David Thoreau, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and John Quincy Adams; the poetry of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; the speeches of Douglass, Lincoln, Charles Sumner, Theodore Parker, and Daniel Webster; the journalism of William Lloyd Garrison, Horace Greeley, and Douglass; and the fiction of Stowe, Child, Fanny Fern, Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Not all of these writers responded directly to sectional tensions; they often wrote in symbolic language, addressing the irreconcilable hopes and utopian ideals, as well as the costs, of American dreaming.
THE WAR AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
As Lincoln famously said in his second inaugural in March 1865, each side "read[s] the same bible, and pray[s] to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other" (p. 450). Well before the war, each side believed in a vision, sanctioned by God, of what the good society looked like. And each side fought and was willing to sacrifice everything to preserve its respective vision. For the South, this vision was the agrarian way of life, supported and upheld by slavery and governed by "natural aristocrats" who would create an eventual empire of slavery. Southern leaders borrowed from Aristotle, who articulated a natural slave ideal based on the premise that some men were born to rule and others to do the basic work of society. The North's vision of the good society was the free labor ideal, premised on the assumption that one could begin a career as an employee or apprentice and through hard work and the acquisition of a craft eventually become an independent artisan or entrepreneur and employ the next generation. Each vision threatened the other: northerners believed that southerners sought to extend slavery into every territory and state. And southerners thought that the North sought to abolish slavery throughout the nation.
What neither side understood was that the economic and industrial forces unleashed by the war not only helped to destroy slavery (through the manufacture of weapons, equipment, and railroads); they hastened the end of the free labor ideal. By waging total war to defend an older America, the North assured the demise of its own society as well as that of the agrarian and aristocratic South. Thus, one of the tragic ironies of the war, as the historian Eric Foner has noted, was that "each side fought to defend a distinct vision of the good society, but each vision was destroyed by the very struggle to preserve it" (p. 33).
Herman Melville (1819891) was one of the few Northern writers who understood such transforming effects of the war. In his poem from Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War (1866), "The Conflict of Convictions," he points to the transformation of the nation:
Power unanointed may comebr />Dominion (unsought by the free)
And the Iron Dome,
Stronger for stress and strain,
Fling her huge shadow athwart the main;
But the Founders' dream shall flee.
The power of the federal government, here symbolized by the "Iron Dome," would fling her shadow across the Main Streets of America and impose unprecedented dominion on communities and towns, thus destroying the founders' dream of a loose confederation of states and a decentralized government.
The transformation of culture by the war was reflected in the very language that Americans used to define themselves: before the war they referred to themselves in the plural case ("the United States of America are . . ."); after the war they used the singular ("the United States of America is . . ."). The change of case reflected a much greater cultural transformation, from a weak to powerful central government, from small shops to big business, and unrestricted capitalist expansion at levels that were previously unimaginable.
During the four years of war, few of the nation's prominent white male writers were productive. Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804864) captured the war's relationship to established male writers in a letter to a friend in 1862: "I feel as if the great convulsion were going to make an epoch in our literature as in everything else (if it does not annihilate all), and that when we emerge from the war-cloud, there will be another and better . . . class of writers than the one I belong to" (quoted in Masur, p. 177). He worked in vain to complete three novels during the war, but they remained unfinished when he died in 1864. "War continues to interrupt my literary industry," he wrote a year before his death; "and I am afraid it will be long before Romances are in request again, even if I could write one" (Letters, p. 427). Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803882) likewise published little during the war. Walt Whitman (1819892), who worked as a nurse during the war, captured a sense of the futility of representing it in prose, as he wrote in his 1875 memoir, Memoranda during the War: "The real war will never get in the books" (quoted in Masur, p. 281). The normally prolific output of William Gilmore Simms (1806870) dwindled to one short novel during the four years of conflict. "I am literally doing nothing in letters," he confided to a friend. "It will need a year of peace to bring me back to that calm mood which Literature demands. . . . Literature, poetry especially, is effectually overwhelmed by the drums, & the cavalry, and the shouting" (quoted in Masur, pp. 213, 218).
Some scholars, especially the critics Edmund Wilson and Daniel Aaron, have taken these comments and the paucity of writings by white literary men as emblematic of all literature during the war. "The period of the American Civil War was not one in which belles lettres flourished," Wilson argued (p. ix). For Aaron, the war remained "unwritten": although "one would expect writers, the 'antennae of the race,' to say something revealing about the meaning, if not the causes, of the War," with "a few notable exceptions, they did not" (p. xviii).
There was, however, an enormous outpouring of popular literature during the four years of war, as the historian Alice Fahs has emphasized. Additionally, African American writers, from black soldiers to Frederick Douglass and Martin Delany, were enormously productive during the conflict, especially in essays and speeches; and Harriet Jacobs published her brilliant slave narrative, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, in 1861. Women writers from Stowe and Child to Louisa May Alcott and Rebecca Harding Davis produced significant work, including Davis's masterpiece, Life in the Iron Mills (1861), and Alcott's Little Women (1868869), which became, after Uncle Tom's Cabin, the most successful novel of the nineteenth century and remained influential through the twentieth century.
From the end of the war until the 1880s, however, there was a dwindling of war-related publications. African American literary works published in the 1850s greatly exceeded the works published between 1867 and 1876, a period of legal freedom in which only two novels were published and slave narratives dwindled to a trickle. While black writers grappled with the problem of how to understand and represent freedom, many whites simply wanted to forget the conflict. As early as 1866, a subscription book publisher argued that people were "tired of being importuned to buy various Histories of the War" (quoted in Fahs, p. 313). Harper's Weekly, which had published hundreds of Civil War stories during the war, virtually abandoned the war as a topic or setting in the entire decade of the 1870s. As the publisher James Henry Harper noted, "the public was tired of reading about the war" (quoted in Fahs, p. 313).
The desirendeed the needo forget the conflict manifested itself in a disdain for professional soldiers. The Army and Navy Journal complained in 1883 that since the war, the designation of "soldier" seemed "to be a synonym for all that is degrading and low, and whenever" people meet someone "bearing it they cannot forbear showing their contempt" (quoted in Linderman, p. 272). Veterans themselves sought to forget, and a widespread disillusionment, or "void of disorientation," set in after the war. The Civil War historian Bruce Catton explained the collective feeling of veterans in these terms: they "lost something; if not life itself, then the dreams or illusions of youth which once seemed to give life its meaning. . . . Like Adam, they had been cast out of the enchanted garden, leaving innocence behind" (p. 159). This sense of loss affected the entire generation that lived through the war. The resurgence of interest in the war in the 1880s and 1890s came from a younger generation, which understood the war through memories and stories rather than experience. Yet the ways in which they understood and represented reality had been profoundly changed by the war.
Thus, the transformation of American literature after the war did not occur suddenly; it happened gradually, and did not become prominent until the 1880s, during the resurgence of interest in the war. A shift in the zeitgeist, or collective identity of America, had demanded a reconceptualization of what American literature should be, what forms it took, and what was deemed acceptable. The changes can be summarized in four broad categories: (1) the ascendancy of fiction; (2) the rise of realism; (3) the displacement of God; and (4) the masculinization of society.
THE ASCENDANCY OF FICTION
From the Revolution to the Civil War, American statesmen and leaders were fearful of fiction. They accurately understood its subversive power: fiction empowered individuals; it catered to people's passions, fancies, and whims, which threatened republican ideas of order and rationality. At least through President Andrew Jackson's administration, politicians were quite vocal in their belief that fiction threatened the very fabric of society and led to chaos, licentiousness, destruction, and revolution. Jefferson captured the prevailing sentiment in 1818 when he referred to the novel as "poison":
When this poison infects the mind, it destroys its tone and revolts it against wholesome reading. Reason and fact, plain and unadorned, are rejected. Nothing can engage attention unless dressed in all the figments of fancy, and nothing so bedecked comes amiss. The result is a bloated imagination, sickly judgment, and disgust towards all the real business of life. (Writings, pp. 1411412)
The nation's cultural gatekeepers were correct in fearing that fiction would fuel ambition, the bane of republican government, and threaten to subvert the existing hierarchy. Fiction offered people a way to imagine themselves anew. It gave them new visions, hopes, and dreams for transforming themselves as they read in books about everyday people who resembled them.
As a result of this attack, writers claimed that their prose was truthful in spirit if not in fact. They passed their novels off as nonfiction, referring to them as "narratives," "true" stories, or travelogues. From the Revolution until the Civil War, most of the nation's prominent writersrom Hector St. John Crevecoeur and Susanna Rowson to Charlotte Temple, Hannah Foster, Washington Irving, Cooper, Melville, and Stoweuggested that their fiction was history or truthful representations of how things really were. (Melville, by beginning the narrative of Moby-Dick with the suggestion, "Call me Ishmael," raised questions about the veracity of the narrator; from a marketing point of view, it was a bad strategy, for his novel did not sell well.)
Early critics of the novel were in one sense prophetic in their fears that the novel would tear the nation asunder by unleashing passions that would be ungovernable. When Stowe met Lincoln at the White House in 1862, the president is said to have greeted her with the words: "So you're the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war!" Lincoln was not the only one who believed that Stowe's novel was one of the causes of the Civil War. The social forces that led to war also brought the art of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Mark Twain (1835910) went so far as to blame the war on Sir Walter Scott, whose romances southerners had devoured throughout the antebellum era. Scott, Twain argued in Life on the Mississippi (1883),
sets the world in love with dreams and phantoms; with decayed and swinish forms of religion; with decayed and degraded systems of government; with the sillinesses and emptinesses, sham grandeurs, sham gauds, and sham chivalries of a brainless and worthless long-vanished society. He did measureless harm. . . . Sir Walter had so large a hand in making Southern character, as it existed before the war, that he is in great measure responsible for the war. (P. 327)
After the Civil War, writers no longer apologized for their fiction or tried to pass it off as nonfiction. And cultural gatekeepers no longer had a moral problem with fiction per se. In a sense one could say that before the war, writers aspired to the condition of history and wrote "people's history" history of their new nation focusing on the little people. After the war, writers aspired to the condition of fiction; they dispensed with material facts in order to get at psychological truths and to understand the surreal apocalypse of war. Louisa May Alcott (1832888), one of the most popular writers after the war, marks the transition; Little Women is a war novel focusing on the home front, and it does not apologize for its fictional form. By contrast, before the war, one of the nation's most popular writers, James Fenimore Cooper (1789851), defined himself as a historian and was generally read as such. And Stowe, in the last chapter of Uncle Tom's Cabin, sought to add legitimacy to her novel by asserting that "the separate incidents that compose the narrative are, to a very great extent, authentic, occurring, many of them, either under [Stowe's] own observation, or that of her personal friends" (p. 618). Soon after Uncle Tom's Cabin was published, Stowe published A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin: Presenting the Original Facts and Documents upon Which the Story Is Founded, Together with Corroborative Statements Verifying the Truth of the Work (1853), which corroborated with "facts and documents" her fictional story.
The ascendancy of fiction, and the commercial success of writers like Alcott, whose royalties far outstripped those of Cooper, related as well to the rise of a literary hierarchy during and after the war. The liter-ary marketplace was divided into three forms of fiction: sensational fiction, which was published in story papers and dime novels (that cost a dime to purchase); domestic fiction, which resembled the narratives published before the war; and "high" or "highbrow" literature, which was published, often serially, in such prestigious magazines as the Atlantic Monthly. The emergence of a rigid literary hierarchy was part of a larger cultural hierarchy brought on by the war. The new marketplace also provided many more outlets for writers to make a living from their work than had existed in the antebellum era.
THE RISE OF REALISM
The effects of the war also helped to destroy romantic and sentimental modes of writing, whereby writers sought to ennoble their readers, offer ideal visions of society, and avoid the seamy side of life. Realism, which first emerged in France in the 1830s as a term signifying a general rejection in the visual arts of academic models and "studio" work, emphasized firsthand experience and direct observation in a material world. Realism coincided with the rise of a regimented, corporate society; it sought to depict life in its daily, unheroic, and unsentimental rhythms. Realism rejected the bourgeois emphasis on stability, security, and middle-class values and focused on working-class or morally problematic protagonists.
Rebecca Harding Davis's (1831910) novella Life in the Iron Mills coincided with the firing on Fort Sumter and is sometimes referred to as one of the first works of American realism. Her novella highlights the exploitation of laborers that would only get worse after the war. The name of her protagonist, Hugh Wolfe, suggests his identity. He seems more like an animal, a beast of burden, than a human. Despite his poverty and lack of education, he creates beautiful sculpture out of the waste in the iron mill where he works. Yet he is no moralist in the traditional sense: he drinks and steals, and commits suicide while in jail. Yet these crimes are not considered moral transgressions: "But was there right or wrong for such as he?" the narrator asks of Hugh Wolfe. "What was right? And who had ever taught him?" (p. 68).
The popular and critical success of Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885),written in the vernacular voice of a poor uneducated boy, would have been unthinkable before the war. While many antebellum writers experimented with dialect, their narrators were educated moralists. Stowe uses dialect throughout Uncle Tom's Cabin; but her narrator is a sentimental moralist. After the war such sentimentalism and overt moralism was increasingly treated with disdain by writers ranging from Davis and Twain to Henry James, William Dean Howells, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Edith Wharton.
With so many people having needlessly died in the conflict, irony and the abridgment of hope, moral certainty, and illusion became an acceptable, even desirable, mode of telling stories. Melville's line in Battle-Pieces, "what like a bullet can undeceive," fore-shadows the shattering of illusion and the rise of irony as a way to understand the world (p. 63). Irony replaced the loss of moral certainty. After the war, reformers increasingly concluded that "moral certainty" was something they "should sacrifice a little of in exchange for order," as Louis Menand has noted (p. 59). It is no coincidence that Melville and Hawthorne, the great ironists of the 1840s and 1850s, were also opposed to war and the moral certainties on which it was based. Hawthorne longed for peace
. . . something of a strange remorse
Rebelled against the sanctioned sin of blood,
And Christian wars of natural brotherhood.
DISPLACEMENT OF GOD
The war created a profound crisis of faith in the collective consciousness of Americans. This crisis can be seen in the shift of soldiers' attitudes from the beginning to the end of the war. As the historian Gerald Linderman has shown in his 1987 book, Embattled Courage: The Experience of Combat in the American Civil War, Northern and Southern soldiers believed at the beginning of the war that with faith in God, coupled with courage, they would survive and conquer the enemy. But as the war dragged on, soldiers became disillusioned and no longer believed that God would protect them. They increasingly felt like objects rather than actors in events; and by war's end many had become fatalists. Soldiers on both sides reenlisted in the last year of the war in order to gain a thirty-day furlough, in which they could see loved ones before returning to battle and probable death. This displacement of God is understandable when one recognizes that most Americans in both the North and South defined the war in apocalyptic terms. With the end of the war, it was as though the apocalypse had come, but the new age was nowhere in sight.
In antebellum writings as diverse as Uncle Tom's Cabin, Moby-Dick, The Scarlet Letter, and the Leatherstocking Tales, God interferes with and affects the affairs of the world. He is everywhere in Uncle Tom's Cabin, which sold more copies than any other book in the nineteenth century save the Bible. Uncle Tom is a Christlike hero whose death will, the narrator predicts, redeem the sins of the nation. Even in works by Melville, in which the narrator has a much more nuanced attitude toward God, central characters such as Ahab in Moby-Dick see themselves as prophets fulfilling providential destiny.
After the war, writers increasingly began to secularize religious language rather than dispense with religious tropes altogether. The opening lines of Davis's Life in the Iron Mills offers a good example. The narrator describes a town filled with smoke, rolling "sullenly in slow folds from the great chimneys of the iron-foundries," settling in "slimy pools on the muddy streets" and seeping into the homes. "Here, inside," the narrator continues, "is a little broken figure of an angel pointing upward from the mantel-shelf; but even its wings are covered with smoke and black" (pp. 390). In iron mills, she suggests, the wings of angels get broken, much as the hopes of men are destroyed; the emblems of God have been cloaked with the smoke and grit by an indifferent world.
The opening pages of Huckleberry Finn similarly invert antebellum conceptions of God and spirituality. Huck hates being "sivilized" and rejects Christian morality. When Miss Watson tells him that Tom Sawyer will go to hell, Huck responds that he wants to go there as well. And in the climactic scene in the novel, Huck vows, "All right, then, I'll go to hell," after tearing up the letter he has written that upholds the law and reveals the whereabouts of the fugitive Jim (p. 223).
Frederick Douglass (1818895), often referred to as a "representative American" because he transformed himself from the poorest of the poor (a slave) to an independent entrepreneur (newspaperman and orator), was representative in his attitudes toward God as well. From his first speeches in 1841 through the Civil War, he frequently called on God to help him and his nation, even though he rejected conventional doctrines and denominations. Like other black and white abolitionists, Douglass drew from scripture and sought to "come out" from corrupt institutions and churches. Throughout the 1850s he defined himself as a prophet and millennialist and treated the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bible as sacred texts. The principles of the Declaration of Independence, if fulfilled, "would release every slave in the world and prepare the earth for a millennium of righteousness and peace," he argued, adding, "I believe in the millennium" (Frederick Douglass Papers, pp. 529, 553). He likened the war to Revelations 12, where Michael and his angels battle against Satan. But after the war he gradually abandoned his faith in God as immanent or indwelling. A heaven on earth increasingly seemed to him a dangerous illusion. He became more secular in his worldview and no longer believed that God could change the world or affect the laws of nature. In his third autobiography, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881, revised in 1892), he castigated blacks for believing that they could procure "help from the Almighty." By remaining true to their faith, blacks were "false to fact" and thus to history, he argued. Material facts and the laws of nature now trumped "all the prayers of Christendom" (p. 480).
THE MASCULINIZATION OF SOCIETY
The Civil War was the nation's first "total war," and it penetrated the home as well as the battlefield. The mentality of war destroyed the status of the domestic sphere as a sacred site that would ennoble and nurture its inhabitants. Women increasingly sought to participate in the battles of life along with men, in part as a means to gain power and basic rights.
As a result of the war, a crisis of manhood occurred among Northern white men from 1860 to 1870, which coincided with the dwindling output among New England men who had been prominent and prolific writers before the war. During the same decade, especially during the war years, women's writings burgeoned. "Woman has now taken to her pen . . . and is flourishing it with a vengeance," wrote a journalist in Frank Leslie's Illustrated on 10 October 1863 (quoted in Young, p. 7).
The crisis came to a head in 1869, when Stowe published "The True Story of Lady Byron's Life" in the Atlantic Monthly, followed by Lady Byron Vindicated: A History of the Byron Controversy in 1870. In these works Stowe attacked Lord Byron, accusing him of incest with his half sister, among other sins, and championing her friend Lady Byron as one of Europe's great intellectuals and literary figures. The male backlash was virtually unprecedented in American literature. The Atlantic, which catered primarily to literary men, lost fifteen thousand subscribers in the immediate wake of Stowe's article. Throughout the country, newspaper and magazine editors excoriated Stowe. Lord Byron had long been viewed as a symbol of the male liberator and freedom fighter par excellence. For numerous male readers, to attack Byron was tantamount to attacking the mass of Northern men who had fought in the war to save their nation.
The male backlash against Stowe reflected changes in literature and culture. The backlash was "a symptom of the polarization of literature along gender lines" that became especially prominent after the war, according to Stowe's biographer Joan Hedrick (p. 370). Stowe's attack on Lord Byron occurred at the end of a decade in which concepts of manhood were in a state of flux and would ultimately become codified in the 1880s by proponents of American realism and an embrace of masculine virtue.
John William De Forest's (1826906) Civil War novel, Miss Ravenel's Conversion from Secession to Loyalty (1867), a loosely autobiographical book based on his wartime experience, explored these new meanings of manhood. In the novel De Forest distinguished between Northern and Southern manhood; while the former is superior, it is not without its genteel, feminine qualities, which he viewed as problematic. But fortunately the war accelerated Northern combativeness and martial vigor, resulting in a healthier mixture of physical strength and moral fortitude, coupled with virtue, that constituted the essential ingredients of the "redeemed" nation's manhood. "The old innocence of the peaceable New England farmer and mechanic had disappeared from these war-seared visages and had been succeeded by an expression of hardened combativeness, not a little brutal," the narrator says happily (p. 248). And the novel's protagonist, Edward Colburne, has similarly been transformed: "He is a better and stronger man for having fought three years, out-facing death and suffering. Like the nation, he has developed and learned his powers" (p. 468).
Alcott brilliantly captured the emerging masculinization of culture in her two war novels, Hospital Sketches (1863) and Little Women (1868). In each book, her female protagonists become, in effect, men. More than virtually any other writer of her era, Alcott understood the crisis of manhood caused by the war; and she transformed herself and her leading characters into masculine women for profit, opportunity, and the good of society. While Lillie Ravenel, the female protagonist of Miss Ravenel's Conversion, learns to love and appreciate Northern manhood, Alcott and her characters become like men in order to vanquish their enemies, redeem their nation, and assert their independence. And she acknowledges that sentimentality can be dangerous, even fatal, in war. In effect, a war mentality had invaded her domestic sphere, and Alcott responded as a man.
This new masculinist ethos, which became widespread in the 1880s, is one of the defining aspects of realism. But affirmations of a martial ideal and the attack on sentimentalism were already in place in 1870, especially by a new generation of writers. Emerson and Hawthorne understood that the Civil War would create a new, realistic, and masculine form of representation. De Forest partly attributed the war to a crisis of gender, while also lauding its effects on Northern men. Alcott saw the war as a means to reconcile men and women, North and South. She attacked the corrupt influences of masculinity, especially men's efforts to control, govern, and exploit women, by creating masculine men. In a sense, she borrowed from her war experiences and affirmed a battlefield code, becoming like the enemy in order to subdue him. With the vast economic transformation after the Civil War and the ever-increasing exploitation of labor, war had become an apt metaphor for life.
See also Abolitionist Writing; Battle-Pieces; The Liberator; Proslavery Writing; Slave Narratives; Slave Rebellions; Slavery; Uncle Tom's Cabin
Adams, John Quincy. The Diary of John Quincy Adams, 1794845. New York: Longmans, Green, 1928.
Alcott, Louisa May. Hospital Sketches. 1863. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2004.
Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. 1868869. Edited by Elaine Showalter. New York: Penguin, 1989.
Davis, Rebecca Harding. Life in the Iron Mills. 1861. Edited by Cecelia Tichi. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1998.
De Forest, John William. Miss Ravenel's Conversion from Secession to Loyalty. 1867. Edited by Gary Scharnhorst. New York: Penguin, 2000.
Douglass, Frederick. The Frederick Douglass Papers. Series 1, vol. 3. Edited by John Blassingame. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1985.
Douglass, Frederick. Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. 1881. Rev. ed. 1892. New York: Collier, 1962.
Finkelman, Paul. Dred Scott v. Sandford: A Brief History with Documents. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 1997.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Letters, 1857864. Edited by Thomas Woodson et al. Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, volume 18. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1987.
Jefferson, Thomas. The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson. Edited by Adrienne Koch and William Peden. New York: Modern Library, 1944.
Jefferson, Thomas. Writings. Edited by Merrill Peterson. New York: Library of America, 1984.
Lincoln, Abraham. Selected Speeches and Writings. New York: Library of America, 1992.
Masur, Louis P., ed. The Real War Will Never Get in the Books: Selections from Writers during the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
Melville, Herman. Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War. 1866. New York: Da Capo Press, 1995.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher. A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin: Presenting the Original Facts and Documents upon Which the Story Is Founded, Together with Corroborative Statements Verifying the Truth of the Work. 1853. Bedford, Mass.: Applewood, 1998.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Lady Byron Vindicated: A History of the Byron Controversy. Boston: Fields, Osgood, 1870.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher. "The True Story of Lady Byron's Life." Atlantic Monthly, September 1869.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life among the Lowly. 1852. Edited by Ann Douglas. New York: Penguin, 1986.
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden and Civil Disobedience. 1854, 1849. New York: Penguin, 1983.
Twain, Mark. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. 1885. Edited by Thomas Cooley. New York: Norton, 1999.
Twain, Mark. Life on the Mississippi. 1883. New York: Penguin, 1986.
Walker, David. David Walker's Appeal, in Four Articles, Together with a Preamble to the Coloured Citizens of the World, but in Particular, and Very Expressly, to Those of the United States of America. 1829. New York: Hill and Wang, 1994.
Whitman, Walt. The Portable Walt Whitman. Edited by Mark Van Doren. New York: Penguin, 1973.
Aaron, Daniel. The Unwritten War: American Writers and the Civil War. New York: Knopf, 1973.
Blight, David W. Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001.
Brodhead, Richard H. Cultures of Letters: Scenes of Reading and Writing in Nineteenth-Century America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.
Catton, Bruce. Reflections on the Civil War. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1981.
Crane, Gregg D. Race, Citizenship, and Law in American Literature. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Davis, David Brion. Challenging the Boundaries of Slavery. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003.
Donald, David Herbert. Lincoln. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.
Ernst, Robert. Rufus King: American Federalist. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1968.
Fahs, Alice. The Imagined Civil War: Popular Literature of the North and South, 1861865. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.
Foner, Eric. Politics and Ideology in the Age of the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.
Freehling, William W. The Road to Disunion: Secessionists at Bay, 1776854. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.
Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. "The Trope of a New Negro and the Reconstruction of the Image of the Black." In The New American Studies: Essays from Representations, edited by Philip Fisher, pp. 31945. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.
Hedrick, Joan D. Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
Linderman, Gerald F. Embattled Courage: The Experience of Combat in the American Civil War. New York: Free Press, 1987.
McPherson, James M. Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1992.
Mellon, Matthew T. Early American Views on Negro Slavery. Boston: Meador, 1934.
Menand, Louis. "John Brown's Body." Raritan 22, no. 2 (2002): 59.
Potter, David M. The Impending Crisis, 1848861. New York: Harper and Row, 1976.
Rohrbach, Augusta. Truth Stranger Than Fiction: Race, Realism, and the U.S. Literary Marketplace. New York: Palgrave, 2002.
Samuels, Shirley. Facing America: Iconography and the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Silber, Nina. The Romance of Reunion: Northerners and the South, 1865900. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993.
Sizer, Lyde Cullen. The Political Work of Northern Women Writers and the Civil War, 1850872. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.
Slotkin, Richard. The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800890. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1986.
Stauffer, John. The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2002.
Tompkins, Jane. Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790860. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.
Trachtenberg, Alan. The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age. New York: Hill and Wang, 1982.
Wilson, Edmund. Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War. 1962. New York: Norton, 1994.
Young, Elizabeth. Disarming the Nation: Women's Writing and the American Civil War. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.