The Civil War in the Words of Those Who Lived It
by Susannah Ural (Author)
ISBN: 9781849085908 Hardcover– October 22, 2013
First published in Great Britain in 2013 by Osprey Publishing
Review by Carolyn B. Leonard
The author is a professor in the history department at the University of Southern Mississippi, so she might have a slight prejudice toward the Confederate side of the conflict. Still, it seemed balanced, even to this Yankee descendant although I learned things about the South I hadn’t known before.
The free soilers were the Northern political party who attacked slavery. However, the election of Republican President Abraham Lincoln threatened the power of the party that protected the interests of slaveholders.
Within days of the election, states began gathering and voting to secede. South Carolina was first. Texas was the seventh state in seven weeks to secede. Over the next several weeks, one by one VA, NC, TENN, and ARK voted to leave the union. The slave states of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri remained but support was weak. Varina Davis, first lady of the Confederacy, came from the North and was accused of being a dis-unionist.
A soldier’s life was mostly marching and misery. Even the names for the battles were different in the two armies. The North called it Bull Run, but the South named it Manasses, a southern victory.
At the Battle of Shiloh, Mary Todd Lincoln’s three brothers and two brothers-in-law were in the ranks. Her brother Sam was missing and later found mortally wounded, reportedly buried in a ditch beside the road. He had been in the Confederate army only four weeks.
Lincoln proposed the DC emancipation act 16 Apr 1862 freeing 3000 African-Americans and compensating loyal slave owners up to $300 each, and $100 for each former slave who emigrated to the North. The cost came to more than one Million Dollars in 1862; the suggestion was tabled.
The battle of Antitam Creek started in Miller’s cornfield and continued for 3 days leaving thousands of fine young men from both sides dead on the field. At home they read the casualty reports, fingers falling slowly down the columns of 1, 2, and 3 pages calling out names for neighbors who could not read for themselves.
I especially enjoyed the stories about U.S. Grant and his family on pages 140-144. The author’s use of words like “stumbled,” and the “peculiar institution” of slavery, kept me turning pages.
Christmas 1862 the terrible war was far from over. Suffering filled American homes both North and South. March 1862 desertions from the Federal army topped 125,000 men.
I recommend this book to Civil War buffs and historians of the American experience.