As collected here, letters received by Emma Barbour from family, fiance and friends during 14 years before her 1868 marriage offer homely, often spirited insights into the everyday lives of Civil War women. In their wartime role, women were limited in the services they could render: sewing, knitting and bandage-rolling were commonly their contributions to the cause, and only in a few cases, apparently, did they attend sick or wounded soldiers. Emma, who lived in Cambridge, Mass., seems to have saved all the letters she received--her correspondents lived in all parts of the country, from the Confederacy to the Union--giving the volume depth. But the historical and social background offered by Moskow ( Hunan Hand and Other Ailments ) is at times of greater interest than the letters themselves. At their most parochial, these ramble into schoolgirlish gossip and domestic matters of limited scope, with only brief mentions of war-connected news--mostly concerning shortages, the draft and casualties. (July)
Emma Sargent Barbour Whitney was an ordinary Massachusetts citizen during an extraordinary period in U.S. history. This collection of letters gives us a clear portrait of life during that turbulent time. Unlike other reminiscences penned during the same era, notably Mary Chesnut incomparable work ( Mary Chesnut's Civil War, LJ 3/1/81), there is not one word written by Emma herself. Instead her sister, parents, cousins, and friends from both North and South comment on their customs, styles, hardships, and politics. They provide an intimate portrait of life just prior to and during the Civil War. A unique contribution to the growing body of women's letters and diaries; recommended for public and academic libraries alike.-- Florence Scarinci, Nassau Community Coll. Lib., Garden City, N . Y.