A People at War: Civilians and Soldiers in America's Civil War / Edition 1

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A People at War refutes the popular belief that during the American Civil War the citizenry bent to the will of the nation's great military and political leaders. Capturing how the war rocked the lives of all segments of society, it argues that conflicts off the battlefield splintered society in the North and South, creating widespread chaos, guerrilla warfare, urban riots, and unprecedented public outcry, which in turn drove the actions of the leaders who now define the era: Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, and Robert E. Lee.

The book also brings to life the full humanity of the war's participants-from women behind their plows to their husbands in army camps; from refugees from slavery to their former masters; from Mayflower descendants to freshly recruited Irish sailors. It describes how people confronted their own feelings about the war itself, and how they coped with emotional challenges (uncertainty, exhaustion, fear, guilt, betrayal, grief) as well as physical ones (displacement, poverty, illness, disfigurement). In addition, the authors examine how the West-and the dreams the Easterners attached to it-played a crucial role in a supposedly North-South conflict. A People at War stresses the war years, but also casts an eye at the tumultuous decades that preceded and followed. It is an ideal resource for American history courses focusing on the Civil War and Reconstruction.

About the Author:
Scott Nelson is Legum Professor of History at the College of William and Mary

About the Author:
Carol Sheriff is Associate Professor of History at the College of William and Mary

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Nelson and Sheriff offer a good social history of the US Civil War.... Overall, very well researched and nicely written. Highly recommended."—E.M. Thomas, CHOICE

"A People at War is especially welcome because its subject cannot be overstudied and this particular examination is beautifully executed. The authors are comprehensive, wide-ranging and sensitive. The book is informative and pleasurable to read."—Ray B. Browne, Journal of American Cultures

"A People at War stands out as one of the best comprehensive overviews because of its focus on the lives and experiences of ordinary civilians and soldiers. Relying upon recent social histories and extensive primary sources, the book provides a new perspective on an otherwise well-studied subject. Scholars, the public, and especially students will benefit greatly from this highly readable and fascinating volume."—Maris Vinovskis, Bentley Professor of History, University of Michigan

"In 1861 Abraham Lincoln described the Civil War as "a people's contest." A People at War chronicles in encyclopedic detail just what that phrase meant to the millions of soldiers and their families and friends back home who experienced that bloodiest of American wars. Drawing on hundreds of books and articles that have made social history the most dynamic field of Civil War historiography in recent years, the authors bring alive the impact of the war on ordinary as well as extraordinary people."—James M. McPherson, Princeton University

"I am very pleased to see someone generally succeed at a book that covers vital themes in the history of the Civil War, seamlessly integrates and builds on the best of recent scholarship—and does so with such economy and, at times, stylistic flair."—Michael Mason, Brigham Young University

"An excellent, well-written, broad overview of important yet often muted facets of Civil War history. Scholars, teachers, and buffs should all enjoy this inspired work."—William Feis, The Annals of Iowa

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195146554
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 1/3/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 1,555,516
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Scott Nelson is Associate Professor of History at the College of William and Mary. He is the author of Iron Confederacies: Southern Railways, Klan Violence, and Reconstruction and Steel Drivin' Man: The Untold Story of John Henry and the Birth of an American Legend. Carol Sheriff is Associate Professor of History at the College of William and Mary. She is the author of The Artificial River: The Erie Canal and the Paradox of Progress, 1817-1862.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: A People at War     VIII
From Compromise to Chaos: 1854-1861
The Road to Bleeding Kansas     3
From Wigwam to War     38
The Changing Faces of War: 1861-1863
Friends and Foes: Early Recruits and Freedom's Cause, 1861-1862     61
Union Occupation and Guerrilla Warfare     85
Facing Death     105
Political, Military, and Diplomatic Remedies: 1862-1865
Two Governments Go to War: Southern Democracy and Northern Republicanism     129
Redefining the Rules of War: The Lieber Code     148
Diplomacy in the Shadows: Cannons, Sailors, and Spies     162
The War Hits Home: 1861-1865
We Need Men: Union Struggles over Manpower and Emancipation, 1863-1865     187
The Male World of the Camp: Domesticity and Discipline     214
"Cair, Anxiety, & Tryals": Life in the Wartime Union     231
War's Miseries: The Confederate Home Front     260
Rebuilding the Nation: 1865-1877
A Region Reconstructed and Unreconstructed: The Postwar South     295
A Nation Stitched Together: Westward Expansion and the Peace Treaty of 1877     315
Acknowledgments     333
Political Chronology     337
Military Chronology     343
Suggestions for Further Reading     349
Index     358
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