To Live and Die: Collected Stories of the Civil War, 1861-1876

To Live and Die: Collected Stories of the Civil War, 1861-1876

by Kathleen Diffley

NOOK Book(eBook)

$17.49 $30.95 Save 43% Current price is $17.49, Original price is $30.95. You Save 43%.
View All Available Formats & Editions

Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now


Even before the first cannonballs were fired at Fort Sumter, American writers were trying to make creative sense of the War Between the States. These thirty-one stories were culled from hundreds that circulated in popular magazines between 1861 and the celebration of the American centennial in 1876. Arranged to echo the sequence of the unfolding drama of the war and Reconstruction, together these short stories constitute an “inadvertent novel,” a collective narrative about a domestic crisis that was still ongoing as the stories were being written and published.
The authors, who include Louisa May Alcott and Mark Twain, depict the horrors of the battlefield, the suffering in prison camps and field hospitals, and the privations of the home front. In these pages, bushwhackers carry the war to out-of-the-way homesteads, spies work households from the inside, journeying paymasters rely on the kindness of border women, and soldiers turn out to be girls. The stories are populated with nurses, officers, speculators, preachers, slaves, and black troops, and they take place in cities, along the frontier, and on battlefields from Shiloh to Gettysburg.
The book opens with a prewar vigilante attack on the Underground Railroad and a Kansas parson in Henry King’s “The Cabin at Pharoah’s Ford” and concludes with an ex-slave recalling the loss of her remaining son in Twain’s “A True Story.” In between are stories written by both women and men that were published in magazines from the South and West as well as the culturally dominant Northeast. Wartime wood engravings highlight the text. Kathleen Diffley’s introduction provides literary and historical background, and her commentary introduces readers to magazine authors as well as the deepening disruptions of a country at war.
Just as they did for nineteenth-century readers, these stories will bring the war home to contemporary readers, giving shape to a crisis that rocked the nation then and continues to haunt it now.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822385967
Publisher: Duke University Press
Publication date: 04/24/2002
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 10 MB

About the Author

Kathleen Diffley is Associate Professor of English at the University of Iowa and the author of Where My Heart Is Turning Ever: Civil War Stories and Constitutional Reform, 1861–1876.

Read an Excerpt

To Live and Die

Collected Stories of the Civil War, 1861-1876
By Kathleen Diffley

Duke University Press

Copyright © 2002 Kathleen Diffley
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780822328872

Chapter One


The deepening crisis in the territories helped send Abraham Lincoln hundreds of miles across a divided continent to the White House. When he arrived in Washington during February 1861, after eluding an assassination attempt in Baltimore, he found a city that was as unfinished as the union was unsteady. The Capitol, where he was inaugurated in March, was covered with scaffolding, blocks of marble littered the grounds, a new iron dome was only partially built, and the crowning female statue of "Armed Freedom" had yet to be cast. With secession gathering momentum, military men abruptly relocated: Creole Pierre G. T. Beauregard left his new appointment as superintendent of West Point to command the attack on Fort Sumter, Virginian Joseph E. Johnston resigned as Quartermaster General to lead Confederate troops in the Shenandoah Valley, and Ohioan Irvin McDowell found himself in charge of the undisciplined Union volunteers assembled to defend the capital. On the cusp of war in "Job and the Bug," Washington is a miasma of questionable loyalties and thin disguises, a city whose poor boys and pawnshops quickly play a greater role than the Houses of Congress or Charleston'sheavy guns.

Chauncey Hickox


(Lippincott's, May 1871)

The old man looked like a beetle. He wore a black morning-gown tied tightly round the waist with a belt, a yard or more of black bombazine wound about his throat, a black cap set closely on his round head, and great goggles on his eyes. The round cap met the goggles from above, a grizzly beard met them from below; and it was difficult to tell what kind of face he carried beneath the cap and beard and goggles, or whether he had any real face at all. The belt and bombazine made him very small in the middle and the neck, his shoulders were full and round, and the loose gown made him large below the waist. Yes, he looked like a beetle, or some other great black bug, as he prowled among the dusty crannies under his shelves, and thrust his slender arms, like antennae, into all the doubtful corners of his desk.

His shop, or store, or office-bazaar, depot, emporium, repository, as an accomplished tradesman would call such a place of business-was an antiquarian bookstore, a pawnbroker's office and a junkshop generally. The establishment stood between Pennsylvania Avenue and that triumph of engineering and statesmanship, the great Washington Canal. Probably the old Bug's predecessor was in the "ring," and lobbied for the digging of this public work, on account of the junk business it would foster. This is certainly a more plausible reason for digging it than was ever made to appear to those who paid for it. For not all the judges in the departments round about-a clerk who has no other title is a judge in Washington-could compute the number of lame Negroes and unfortunate women and scrub-headed boys who have earned their daily tobacco by gleaning tin, bones, iron, glass, rags, paper, old boots and Congressional speeches from the bottom of this ditch. Neither could all the government judges have taken an inventory of the Beetle's stock. He had all the secondhand school-books in use during the last sixty years; and if there was ever a book in the Greek or Hebrew line, in the Annual line, in the flash-novel line, in the theological line-if there was ever a book printed in these, or any lines at all, which could be found nowhere else, the Beetle had a dusty, mouse-eaten copy of it. If one wanted a flint for an ancient musket, a pod-auger, a coffin plate, a dirty Masonic apron, a rusty Mexican spur, a leaky glue-pot, the long black antennae would go diving among the dark holes until they found it.

Among the oddities of this collection was the white surplice of a clergyman; and over it, on the same nail, hung a sword-belt and crimson sash. These had been wetted through the imperfect roof, until the coloring matter of the warlike trappings had run down and left a black mark, and a red stain like a blood-spot, on the bosom of the holy robe.

The accumulation of this stock must have been the work of a lifetime, and the "shebang," as Job called the establishment, was no doubt older than the canal. But the old black Bug did not appear until late in the winter of the year one thousand eight hundred and sixty. The original proprietor was a German Jew, who obtained, in consideration of the stock and good-will, a sum only twice as great as he would have asked had he not soon discovered that the Beetle, in spite of his mouldy and forbidding appearance, was not familiar with the sale of such trumpery. "Mine plessed fadders, sir! so sheap, so sheap, sir!" and the original proprietor gave a sigh to this successor and a chuckle to himself as he clinked the gold in his hand and surrendered the place to the old black Bug. And taking this transaction as evidence of his successor's commercial ability, the original proprietor muttered, "In von year I will puy pack der place mit von 'alf dermonish vot I now gits for him. Mine plessed fadders! Dat vill pe goot!"

Job was a hungry-looking boy, whose business it was to sweep the shebang, bring fuel, keep the Beetle's water-pitcher filled, brush the old man's desk and chair, wait on customers and make himself generally useful. He might have been anywhere from eight to fourteen years of age, for hunger will make small boys old and old boys small. His chief garment was a pair of green trowsers, upheld by one twisted suspender of cotton cloth, the trowsers being very liberal in the seat and very conservative elsewhere; so that Job's legs, in color as well as shape, were like two cork-screws covered with verdigris. His legs were evidently made to accommodate those trowsers, and in doing it they resembled two little poles which had been overgrown by hop vines, and which had followed all the twistings and turnings of their spiral covers. His eyeswere round, with yellow centres and pink borders, reminding one of china-asters; his face had the rich tint of a turkey's egg; and his hair was not unlike the husk of a cocoanut. He had great ability in making remarks entirely unsuited to his muscle. For instance, when he differed in opinion from the Beetle, that old gentleman-whose elegant diction and flowing periods assorted strangely with his dress and calling-would frequently call Job's statement a hollow falsehood, whereupon Job would unhesitatingly pronounce the statement of the Bug a solid lie. Strange to say, this ability was developed-where muscle was the standard by which the propriety of all remarks was judged.

He was a Virginian by birth. And, to prevent any possible misapprehension, it may be well to add that his family was not one of the first in that State. His mother, at the close of her honey-moon of four days-if any moon can be so brief-became cook and washeron the new boat Josephine, which transported coal over the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. The bridegroom, and subsequent father of our hero, was helmsman on the same vessel, which discharged her cargo at the port of Alexandria. Whisky being a slower poison then than it is now, Job's father continued for years to steer the Josephine successfully, until his family so increased that the small quarters of the boat could no longer accommodate the children.

The captain delicately stated the case to the helmsman thus: "Th' young uns ken go an' I'll keep you, er you mus' all go."

Genuine tears Job'smother shed when she bade the Josephine good-bye, for she knew the restraining influence of the domestic circle, and predicted the consequences of her husband being cut off from the elevating society of his family. "I know my ole man'll go bad," said she, "when me an' the young uns ain't with 'im."

But he could be induced to lead no other life, steer no other boat, and, unlike Napoleon, preferred his Josephine to a dozen children.

"I ken wash," said the appealing wife, "an' I's a-goin' to take in washin'; but what ken I do wi' 'em all?" pointing to her ragged multitude, of whom Job was the eldest and raggedest.

"Use 'em fer clo'es-pins, I reckon," was the father's answer as he hitched his trowsers, straddled the rudder and bore away for Alexandria.

And the theory that she did set little Job astride the line to hold unruly shirts in the wind is the only one that can explain the wonderful character of his legs.

So his mother occupied a whitewashed cabin under the steep bluffs above Georgetown and close to the bank of the canal. During the icy season her husband was with her at such odd hours as he was not hunting rabbits and opossums or lounging in the Georgetown grogshops. She was industrious, laboring hard to clothe her little ones and to fill her lord and protector twice a day with buckwheat cakes and bacon.

Every spring the Josephine and her helmsman came out of winter-quarters as good as new; and every summer day, before the white washed cabin, a line of sun burnt children gave the butterflies upon the roadside thistles and the chipmunks in the hollow rails a moment's peace, and ranged themselves along the bank of the canal to ask the mule-driver of some passing boat when and where he had met the Josephine. Every pleasant summer evening, after a day of hard work, the mother sat on her inverted washing-tub before her door, to smoke a pipe and watch the joy of her poor children as they played in the road and filled each other's hair with crowns of dust. Whenever a mule appeared around the curve she would tell the nearest child what boat was coming next, for she knew all the boats, and the men who manned them, and the mules that drew them.

Job, who desired to follow the occupation of his father, studied navigation about the Georgetown flumes and bridges and locks until he drifted into business with theBeetle. Having endeavored to deceive him as to weight in a certain transaction in the old-iron line, and the old black Bug having apparently endeavored to deceive Job in the same way during the same transaction, and each having failed in his endeavor, great confidence sprang up between them.

After ridding himself of the original proprietor, the Bug made some changes in the building which he occupied, and which was but a tumbledown shanty, wedged so closely between other shanties that it could not tumble down. It would have puzzled a looker-on to understand in what way the changes improved the Beetle's business facilities. Instead of enlarging his show-windows for a better display of the pawned trinkets, or his shelves for a better arrangement of the books, and instead of admitting more light into the gloomy hole, he had a dark and useless doorway made at the rear, leading out into the lumberyards, negro-quarters and dumping-grounds, and toward a blind alley near the canal. It seemed to be a whim of the old man's-who apparently did business for the sole benefit of his customers-that some lame chiffonier, gathering his load along the canal, might be accommodated by this short cut to market. But a practical and less benevolent person would have smiled at the thought of a customer-especially a lame one-risking his legs and neck by attempting such an entrance.

Job was not reduced to the necessity of living in a Washington boardinghouse, and continued to pass his nights comfortably in his mother's cabin by the canal in Georgetown. For the first three months he had but little to do. The Bug seldom asked a customer to buy, was not particular about prices, and made few sales. He busied himself very much, however, among the accounts and papers at his desk, and spent more time in writing than his dull trade seemed to require.

Job could not satisfy himself as to the reason why he was paid liberally for doing so little, and by an employer to whom he frequently gave the solid lie; for the youngster showed about the same respect toward his aged benefactor as he would have shown a mule-driver on the towing-path-or less, perhaps, if the mule-driver were larger than he. Yet the old Bug took little notice of the boy's impudence. The latter even fancied that he saw a twinkle of satisfaction through the old man's goggles, and a smile trying to get a foothold in the corner of his mouth, whenever the shebang became the scene of any new and very original exhibition of boyish deviltry. But the Beetle's face never really lost its gravity, nor betrayed that its possessor was other than the kind-hearted, simple-minded old creature he appeared to be, who might be easily imposed upon, and was altogether too slow to make a living in the junk business. When Job compared the treatment and pay he received with the treatment and pay he deserved, he was at times inclined to believe the old man a trifle insane. In fact, he regarded all disinterestedness as a mild form of insanity.

There was an old bedstead-of course-in the Beetle's stock, and some blankets that had been pawned; and on these it was supposed he slept after a late dinner at a neighboring restaurant. The shebang was opened late in the morning and closed early in the evening, and the proprietor never went to dinner nor to bed until after Job had left it for the night. Before he returned in the morning the Bug had breakfasted and was at his post.


Excerpted from To Live and Die by Kathleen Diffley Copyright © 2002 by Kathleen Diffley. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Daily Emergency: Civil War Stories of the War Generation

Time Line



“The Cabin at Pharaoh’s Ford”, Overland Monthly (December 1874) / Henry King

“Job and the Bug” Lippincott’s (May 1871) / Chauncey Hickox

“A True and Simple Tale of ‘61,” Southern Monthly (December 1861) / Izilda

“Ellen,” Atlantic Monthly (July 1865) / Rebecca Harding Davis


“Hopeful Tackett—His Mark,” Continental Monthly (September 1862) / Richmond Wolcott

“Thomas Elliott’s Speculations,” Harper’s Monthly (February 1863) / Fred B. Perkins

“Mrs. F.’s Waiting Maid,” Harper’s Monthly (June 1867) / Nora Perry

“Believe in Ghosts!” New National Era (November 1870)

“The Sergeant’s Little Story”, Southern Magazine (October 1873) / William H. Kemper

“On the Antietam,” Harper’s Weekly (3 January 1863)

“A Letter from the Country,” Harper’s Weekly (8 November 1862) / Charity Grimes

“T. J.’s Cavalry Charge,” New Eclectic Monthly (April 1870) / Confederate Gray


“Colonel Charley’s Wife,” Harper’s Weekly (8 October 1864)

“The Fourteenth at Gettysburg,” Harper’s Weekly (21 November 1863)

“Lee at Gettysburg,” Galaxy (April 1871) / J. D. Imboden

“Three Days of Terror,” Harper’s Monthly (January 1867) / Ellen D. Larned (Ellen Leonard)

“The Brothers,” Atlantic Monthly (November 1863) / Louisa May Alcott

“The Case of George Dedlow,” Atlantic Monthly (July 1866) / Silas Weir Mitchell

“Robbed of Half a Million,” Harper’s Monthly (October 1866) / J. O. Culver

“In the ‘Libey’,” Harper’s Weekly (20 February 1864)

“Mr. Williamson Slippey and His Salt,” New Eclectic Monthly (October 1870) / Richard Malcolm Johnston (Philemon Perch)


“A Night on the Mississippi,” Putnam’s (April 1870) / Ross Guffin

“Mrs. Spriggins, the Neutral,” Southern Magazine (February 1871) / G. J. A. Coulson (Alcibiades Jones)

“Buried Alive,” Harper’s Weekly (7 May 1864)

“A Night in the Wilderness,” Galaxy (May 1871)

“The Freedman’s Story,” Harper’s Monthly (October 1866) / M. Shele de Vere

“Road-Side Story,” Land We Love (August 1866)


“The Skeleton in the Closet,” Galaxy (June 1866) / Edward Everett Hale (J. Thomas Darragh)

“Sentenced and Shot,” Lakeside Monthly (November 1870) / Richard M. Sheppard

“Wilhelmina,” Atlantic Monthly (January 1875) / Constance Fenimore Woolson


“A True Story, Repeated Word for Word As I Heard It,” Atlantic Monthly (November 1874) / Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)

Author Sketches

Illustration Sources

Civil War Glossary

Bibliographic Essay


What People are Saying About This

James A. McPherson

This anthology of short stories offers fascinating glimpses of the Civil War as most Americans at the time experienced it-by reading about incidents on the battlefront and elsewhere in popular magazines. Modern readers can project themselves back to that heroic and sentimental time more effectively through this medium of popular literature than in any other way.
author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

Gary W. Gallagher

This splendid collection reveals a great deal about the 'real war' that Walt Whitman predicted would never get into the books. Written between 1861 and 1876, the stories illuminate myriad facets of our defining national crisis. The range of scenes and voices from the battlefield and the homefront, from men and women, from North and South, remind us of the almost infinite variety of ways in which the war touched Americans."
author of Lee and His Army in Confederate History

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews