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

By van Tuyll, Debra Reddin | Journalism History, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

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


van Tuyll, Debra Reddin, Journalism History


Diffley, Kathleen, ed. To Live and Die: Collected Stories of the Civil War, 1861-1876. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2002. 429 pp. $32.95.

University of Iowa English professor Kathleen Diffley's latest work is a collection of thirty-one short stories published in American magazines during and after the Civil War. The book is written both for those with an interest in the fiction of the period and for Civil War scholars who are interested in what that fiction reveals about what Americans thought about issues and events connected to the country's bloodiest war.

Selections are written by some of the nine teenth century's best known writers, such a Louisa May Alcott and Samuel Clemens, as well as more obscure authors, and are taker from some of the most prominent periodic cats, such as Atlantic Monthly, Lippincott's, and Harper's Monthly. The stories are chosen not only for their quality but also for the insights they offer into what Americans, both on the homefront and at the battlefront, were thinking and feeling during the war. The stories written after the war reflect how the major events of the war were being remembered. Most stories are illustrated with engravings from period periodicals, though they are not necessarily pictures that appeared with the stories in the original publications.

Diffley includes a one-paragraph introduction to each story that explains the historical context of the piece. These introductions will be particularly helpful for general readers who are not familiar with the period. For example, the first story in the book, "The Cabi at Pharaoh's Ford" by Henry King (which ap peared in Overland Monthly in December 1874) was about a Kansas minister who was lynch& for his work on the Underground Railroad The introductory commentary document: well known facts about"bleeding Kansas" than a general reader would need to fully under stand and appreciate the events in the story While Diffley's introductory comments pro vide necessary historical context, they perhaps also should do more to justify why particular pieces are included in the book. …

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