The Civil War Soldier: A Historical Reader

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In 1943, Bell Wiley's groundbreaking book Johnny Reb launched a new area of study: the history of the common soldier in the U.S. Civil War. This anthology brings together landmark scholarship on the subject, from a 19th century account of life as a soldier to contemporary work on women who, disguised as men, joined the army.

One of the only available compilations on the subject, The Civil War Soldier answers a wide range of provocative questions: What were the differences between Union and Confederate soldiers? What were soldiers' motivations for joining the army—their "will to combat"? How can we evaluate the psychological impact of military service on individual morale? Is there a basis for comparison between the experiences of Civil War soldiers and those who fought in World War II or Vietnam? How did the experiences of black soldiers in the Union army differ from those of their white comrades? And why were southern soldiers especially drawn to evangelical preaching?

Offering a host of diverse perspectives on these issues, The Civil War Soldier is the perfect introduction to the topic, for the student and the Civil War enthusiast alike.

Contributors: Michael Barton, Eric T. Dean, David Donald, Drew Gilpin Faust, Joseph Allen Frank, James W. Geary, Joseph T. Glaatthaar, Paddy Griffith, Earl J. Hess, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Perry D. Jamieson, Elizabeth D. Leonard, Gerald F. Linderman, Larry Logue, Pete Maslowski, Carlton McCarthy, James M. McPherson, Grady McWhiney, Reid Mitchell, George A. Reaves, Jr., James I. Robertson, Fred A. Shannon, Maris A. Vinovskis, and Bell Irvin Wiley.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Presenting a variety of viewpoints, the book will be of interest to all Civil War devotees."

-Booklist,August 2002

”This is a fine collection which lends itself to classroom use and to the edification of non-specialists.”

-Indiana Magazine of History,

“Understanding what convinced Civil War soldiers to lay down their lives for “the cause,” North AND South, is perhaps the hardest part of teaching about making sense of the war. This excellent collection of selections from leading scholars on who the soldiers were, how they lived, and why they fought is a fine introduction to years of research that seeks to answer that question.”

-Janet Coryell,Western Michigan University

"This type of work would be especially valuable for assignment in the classroom.”

-North & South,

“Presenting a variety of viewpoints, the book will be of interest to all Civil War devotees.”


Publishers Weekly
From armaments to slang expressions to the religious revivals that periodically converted tens of thousands of fighters, Civil War Soldier: A Historical Reader probes the daily lives of the men in blue and gray. An anthology of landmark scholarly essays (most of them contemporary, but some from as far back as the 19th century), the book covers such subjects as morale and patriotism, methods of warfare and the composition of the armies. Editors Michael Barton, an American studies professor at Pennsylvania State University, and Larry Logue, history and political science professor at Mississippi College, include several pieces on the experiences of black soldiers and an article about women who fought disguised as men. (Aug.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This Civil War sampler combines 19th-century battlefield accounts with past and contemporary scholarship to offer a broad perspective on the historiographical issues scholars have raised concerning the soldiers' total experience: who the combatants were, how they survived, how they waged war, how they felt about their role in the conflict, the nature and depth of their convictions regarding the struggle, and how their ordeals contrasted with those of soldiers who fought in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Although editors Barton (Pennsylvania State Univ.; An Illustrated History of Greater Harrisburg) and Logue (Mississippi Coll.; To Appomattox and Beyond) are interested in such specific issues as the influence of the South's military tradition on its fighting men and the still raging debate as to whether both sides fought for ideals or their comrades, the overarching question of the study remains the basic social, cultural, and psychological differences between Johnny Reb and Billy Yank. Additional essays on the participation of African American and female troopers and the soldiers' concept of a "good death" round out this provocative anthology. Recommended for upper-level Civil War courses, military collections, and most libraries. John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Cleveland Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814798805
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 515
  • Product dimensions: 5.92 (w) x 8.88 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Barton is professor of American studies and social science at Pennsylvania State University at Harrisburg and author of Goodmen: The Character of Civil War Soldiers. Logue and Barton are co-editors of The Civil War Soldier: A Historical Reader (NYU Press, 2002).

Larry Logue is Professor of History and Political Science at Mississippi College.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Soldiers and the Scholars 1
Pt. I Who Soldiers Were 7
1 What Manner of Men 9
2 Have Social Historians Lost the Civil War? Some Preliminary Demographic Speculations 33
3 Who Joined the Confederate Army? Soldiers, Civilians, and Communities in Mississippi 44
4 Yankee Recruits, Conscripts, and Illegal Evaders 57
5 To "Don the Breeches, and Slay Them with a Will!" A Host of Women Soldiers 69
Pt. II How Soldiers Lived 83
6 On the March 85
7 The Life of the Common Soldier in the Union Army, 1861-1865 92
8 From Finery to Tatters 108
9 Fun, Frolics, and Firewater 122
Pt. III How Soldiers Fought 141
10 The Negro as a Soldier 143
11 Heroes and Cowards 155
12 The Confederate as a Fighting Man 176
13 The Rebels Are Barbarians 190
14 The Infantry Firefight 199
15 Leaving Their Mark on the Battlefield 228
16 The Nature of Battle 260
Pt. IV How Soldiers Felt 281
17 Trials of Soul 283
18 A Study of Morale in Civil War Soldiers 312
19 Christian Soldiers: The Meaning of Revivalism in the Confederate Army 327
20 From Volunteer to Soldier: The Psychology of Service 354
21 Emotional Responses to Combat 386
22 "Dangled over Hell": The Trauma of the Civil War 396
Pt. V What Soldiers Believed 423
23 The Values of Civil War Soldiers 425
24 Embattled Courage 436
25 On the Altar of My Country 456
26 Holding On 472
27 The Civil War Soldier and the Art of Dying 485
Index 513
About the Editors 516
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