The War for the Common Soldier: How Men Thought, Fought, and Survived in Civil War Armies

The War for the Common Soldier: How Men Thought, Fought, and Survived in Civil War Armies

by Peter S. Carmichael

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Overview

How did Civil War soldiers endure the brutal and unpredictable existence of army life during the conflict? This question is at the heart of Peter S. Carmichael's sweeping new study of men at war. Based on close examination of the letters and records left behind by individual soldiers from both the North and the South, Carmichael explores the totality of the Civil War experience--the marching, the fighting, the boredom, the idealism, the exhaustion, the punishments, and the frustrations of being away from families who often faced their own dire circumstances. Carmichael focuses not on what soldiers thought but rather how they thought. In doing so, he reveals how, to the shock of most men, well-established notions of duty or disobedience, morality or immorality, loyalty or disloyalty, and bravery or cowardice were blurred by war.

Digging deeply into his soldiers' writing, Carmichael resists the idea that there was "a common soldier" but looks into their own words to find common threads in soldiers' experiences and ways of understanding what was happening around them. In the end, he argues that a pragmatic philosophy of soldiering emerged, guiding members of the rank and file as they struggled to live with the contradictory elements of their violent and volatile world. Soldiering in the Civil War, as Carmichael argues, was never a state of being but a process of becoming.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781469643106
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 11/02/2018
Series: Littlefield History of the Civil War Era
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 408
Sales rank: 822,849
File size: 9 MB

About the Author

Peter S. Carmichael is the Robert C. Fluhrer Professor of Civil War Studies, director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, and author of previous books, including The Last Generation.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Carmichael's deep focus on individual stories brings to life the complexity of the soldier experience better than any existing book in the field.—Lorien Foote, author of The Yankee Plague



The question of why men fought has long engaged students and scholars of the Civil War. Extending his attention to many untapped, unexplored aspects of the military experience—from the glorious to the ghastly—Carmichael has done a masterful job in painting a complex, and vivid portrait of the common soldier North and South. His characters test their courage on the battlefield, keep faith with the home front, test their belief in country, family, and God, and develop new communities among their brother soldiers. Carmichael has combined exhaustive research, deep analysis, and graceful writing to assemble one of the best such accounts ever produced.—Harold Holzer, author of Lincoln and the Power of the Press

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