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Women during the Civil War: An Encyclopedia

By Judith E. Harper | Go to book overview

P

Patriotism

I devote all my red, white, and blue silk to the manufacture of Confederate flags. As soon as one is confiscated, I make another, until my ribbon is exhausted…. Henceforth, I wear one [a miniature flag] pinned to my bosom…the man who says take it off will have to pull it off for himself; the man who dare attempt it—well! a pistol in my pocket fills up the gap. I am capable, too.

—Sarah Morgan, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, May 9, 1862 (Dawson 1991, 64-65)

During the weeks and months following the firing on FORT SUMTER in April 1861, white men and women of the North and South revelled in effusive public displays of patriotism. As men of military age rushed to form regiments, women and men organized parades, flag presentations, dances, and parties to support and fortify the troops. Women composed patriotic songs, prose, and poetry, which newspapers and magazines eagerly published. In SOLDIERS’ AID SOCIETIES and local sewing circles, Northern and Southern women manufactured clothing for their respective militaries. As time passed, many women found that the hardships created by war forced them to redefine their patriotic obligations. For most women, fulfilling the needs of their families superseded their duty to their government. In the North, many women found that they had to reduce or eliminate the hours and resources spent on soldiers’ aid so that they could give their all to their children, their farms, and their livelihoods. Women faced a greater challenge in the Confederacy as they waged a grim daily battle to feed their families. Many Southern women found that the struggle to keep their children alive demanded that they openly protest the Confederate government’s expectations of them.

In the first flush of war, in the spring and summer of 1861, men and women of the North and South staged lavish ceremonies to celebrate the departure of soldiers from their

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