The Divided Family in Civil War America

By Barnes, Kenneth C. | The Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

The Divided Family in Civil War America


Barnes, Kenneth C., The Arkansas Historical Quarterly


The Divided Family in Civil War America. By Amy Murrell Taylor. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005. Pp. xiv, 319. Acknowledgments, illustrations, table, appendix, notes, bibliography, index. $39.95.)

In this interesting book, Amy Murrell Taylor looks at how differing loyalties in the Civil War played out between parents and children, husbands and wives, and brothers and sisters. Taylor weaves two themes throughout the book: 1) the power of the divided family as a metaphor for a divided nation; and 2) the interplay within the nuclear family between public political and private lives. Using sources such as diaries, letters, newspapers, and literary texts, the author examines a number of divided families, particularly in the border states of Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware, as well as Washington, D.C.

The book begins with a discussion of the dialogue between Union fathers and Rebel sons, without explaining the absence of cases in which the loyalties of dads and lads went the other way. A second chapter examines divisions between husbands and wives and engaged couples, while another explores the debate between siblings whose loyalties diverged. One of the most interesting sections of the book, a chapter entitled "Border Crossings," describes the procedures necessary for family visitation involving travel between the U.S. and C.S.A. Taylor also describes the difficulties of sending mail between North and South that led eventually to family members' use of personal ads in New York and Richmond newspapers to communicate.

Taylor also describes literary images of divided families that appeared during and shortly after the war. One book of 1862 offered a fictional daughter of Abraham Lincoln falling in love with Jefferson Davis's son. …

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