Intimate Strategies of the Civil War: Military Commanders and Their Wives

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From Robert E. and Mary Lee to Ulysses S. and Julia Grant, Intimate Strategies of the Civil War examines the marriages of twelve prominent military commanders, highlighting the impact wives had on their famous husbands' careers.
Carol K. Bleser and Lesley J. Gordon assemble an impressive array of leading scholars to explore the marriages of six Confederate and six Union commanders. Contributors reveal that, for many of these men, the matrimonial bond was the most important relationship in their lives, one that shaped (and was shaped by) their military experience. In some cases, the commanders' spouses proved relentless and skillful promoters of their husbands' careers. Jessie Frémont drew on all of her connections as the daughter of former Senator Thomas Hart Benton to aid her modestly talented husband John. Others bolstered their military spouses in less direct ways. For example, Ulysses S. Grant's relationship with Julia (a Southerner and former slave owner herself) kept him anchored in stormy times. Here, too, are tense and tempestuous pairings, such William Tecumseh Sherman and his wife Ellen—his foster sister before becoming his wife—and Jefferson Davis's fascinatingly complex bond with Varina, further complicated by the hostile rumors about the two in Richmond society. Throughout, these historians paint remarkably intimate portraits of their subjects. Readers will see these famed men in a way that they perhaps never considered: not merely as famous leaders, but as lovers, husbands and fathers.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"From homefront to battlefront, from the first couple of the Confederacy to the marriages of Grant and Sherman, Intimate Strategies takes us behind the frontlines and into commanders' tents, where other battles were fought—conflicts within conflicts, ebbing and flowing during the course of the Civil War."—Catherine Clinton, author of Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom

"Civil War scholarship too often has separated the home front and the battlefield, examining each in isolation and obscuring the myriad connections between the two. This collection of essays joins a growing body of literature that refreshingly counters that trend, exploring the lives of a dozen prominent couples and underscoring the fact that, even amid momentous military and political events, relationships with spouses and families often held center stage. Readers interested in Civil War military history, the importance of gender as an analytical tool, and the ways in which personal relationships influenced postwar writings about the conflict will read this book with profit—as will anyone drawn to the often compelling stories of Robert and Mary Lee, Ulysses and Julia Grant, Fannie and Joshua Chamberlain, and the other famous couples."—Gary W. Gallagher, author of The Confederate War and Lee and His Army in Confederate History

"Intimate Strategies delivers fresh, readable material to both Civil War specialists and general readers. Original in conception and successful in execution, these twelve essays on the marriages of Union and Confederate commanders and their wives probe a neglected interaction between private affairs and public matters. Through their fascinating, sometimes surprising profiles of these marriages of well-known commanders including those of Lee, Grant, Jackson, and Sherman, the authors break down the artificial divide between battlefield and marriage bed. Intimate Strategies doesnt just personalize the larger themes of military and gender history; it also displays the significance of marriage as an historical topic."—Jean Baker, author of Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography

"The dozen essays in these pages collectively give us both a view of a too-much neglected side of Civil War America and offer insights into the lives of some of the period's prominent men and of the fascinating women who shared life with them. The editors and their colleagues have put together a fine work that will do much to aid our understanding of the era and its people."—Richard M. McMurry, author of Atlanta 1864: Last Chance for the Confederacy

"This edited collection will surely silence anyone foolish enough to think that the curtain should be brought down on Civil War historiography. Intimate Strategies moves into relatively uncharted territory and undertakes the systematic exploration of private lives and military performance. The contributing authors demonstrate that marriage, long regarded by some as a private blood sport, also affected the panoramic public bloodletting of the Blue and the Gray."—Margaret Ripley Wolfe, author of Daughters of Canaan: A Saga of Southern Women

Publishers Weekly
In Intimate Strategies of the Civil War: Military Commanders and Their Wives, editors Carol K. Bleser (In Joy and in Sorrow) and Lesley J. Gordon (General George E. Pickett in Life and Legend) present essays on the domestic lives of six Union and six Confederate leaders, by an array of historians. Sarah Gardner looks at Mary Anna Jackson's self-appointed role as style counsel to the reluctant Stonewall; he begged her to stop sending him pants decorated with gold braiding, and shied away from her efforts to make the most of his wartime glory. John F. Marszalek examines the unharmonious relationship between General "Cump" Sherman and Ellen Boyle Sherman, beset by insurmountable, lifelong religious and lifestyle differences after the war. A limited audience of Civil War and pop culture scholars will appreciate this narrow but engaging collection. (Nov.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Readers are not as likely to recognize the names of Varina Howell Davis and Julia Dent Grant as those of their husbands, Jefferson and Ulysses, but these wives of Civil War leaders also contributed to the war's outcome and to their husbands' careers. Long neglected in traditional military treatments of the conflict, the family life and very different wives of 12 of the Union's and Confederate's most significant leaders are the topic of this fascinating collection of essays. Editors Bleser (emerita, history, Clemson; In Joy and Sorrow: Women, Family, and Marriage in the Victorian South) and Gordon (history, Univ. of Akron; General George E. Pickett) are well qualified to compile and contribute to such a volume. Other respected historians, editors, and biographers provide well-written, thoroughly documented essays to this first volume to provide such an extensive examination of the Civil War commanders' wives. Highly recommended for any academic or public library. Theresa McDevitt, Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195115093
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/1/2001
  • Pages: 328
  • Lexile: 1400L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Carol K. Bleser is Kathryn and Calhoun Lemon Distinguished Professor of History Emerita at Clemson University and former president of the Southern Historical Association and the Southern Association of Women Historians. Her books include The Hammonds of Redcliffe, Tokens of Affection, Secret and Sacred, and In Joy and In Sorrow. Lesley J. Gordon is Associate Professor of History at the University of Akron, and is the author of General George E. Pickett in Life and Legend.

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Table of Contents

Editors' Introduction
1 The Marriage of Varina Howell and Jefferson Davis: A Portrait of the President and the First Lady of the Confederacy 3
2 The Lee Marriage 32
3 "A Sweet Solace to My Lonely Heart": "Stonewall" and Mary Anna Jackson and the Civil War 49
4 "Cupid Does Not Readily Give Way to Mars": The Marriage of LaSalle Corbell and George E. Pickett 69
5 "All Say They Are under Petticoat Government": Lizinka Campbell Brown and Richard S. Ewell 87
6 The Marriage of Amelia Gayle and Josiah Gorgas 104
7 A Marriage Tested by War: Ulysses and Julia Grant 123
8 General and Mrs. William T. Sherman, a Contentious Union 138
9 The Reconstruction of "Home": The Civil War and the Marriage of Lawrence and Fannie Chamberlain 157
10 The Civil War Partnership of Elizabeth and George A. Custer 178
11 Permutations of a Marriage: John Charles and Jessie Benton Fremont's Civil War Alliance 199
12 "A Good Wife, the Best Friend in the World": The Marriage of Elizabeth Blair and S. Phillips Lee 225
Notes 243
Authors' Biographies 291
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2001

    Fascinating essays about the personal lives of Civil War commanders

    This collection of twelve essays explores the personal lives of prominent Civil War military commanders and their wives. The writers paint vivid pictures of how family life and the war were interwoven. The most striking thing to me is the great variation between the relationships of the various commanders and their wives, all within the Victorian societal structure. I think this book makes great reading for everyone, regardless of a person's interest in history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2001

    Sensational insight into Military Commanders.

    Lesley Gordon and Carol K. Bleser writes an insightfull perspective into military leaders and their wives, by bring these two issues together, they were able not only to tell you about the Military Commanders but add to the already exisiting sources of information and knowledge. I would recomended this book to anyone with an interest in the American Civil War...

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