Rebecca Harding Davis's Stories of the Civil War Era: Selected Writings from the Borderlands

Rebecca Harding Davis's Stories of the Civil War Era: Selected Writings from the Borderlands

Rebecca Harding Davis's Stories of the Civil War Era: Selected Writings from the Borderlands

Rebecca Harding Davis's Stories of the Civil War Era: Selected Writings from the Borderlands

Excerpt

The publication of “Life in the Iron-Mills” in 1861 established Rebecca Harding Davis’s reputation as a leading author in the movement toward literary realism. Published on the eve of the Civil War, “Life” serves as a prelude to the significant body of Davis’s Civil War writings that followed. “War may be an armed angel with a mission, but she has the personal habits of the slums,” she wrote in her 1904 reminiscences, reflecting on the realities of combat rather than the popular romanticized depictions of war. During the Civil War, Davis gained firsthand experience of the conflict between the North and South in the borderlands of West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. While her critiques were unflinching, she maintained a love and understanding of the unique peoples and cultures of both regions for the remainder of her life. With the publication of this collection—encompassing the era of the war and its aftermath, as the marketplace became the new borderland between capitalists and reformers, who both sought to define the values of post-war America—readers are introduced to the stories that cemented Davis’s literary reputation as one of the foremost US writers in the nineteenth century.

THE LIFE

Rebecca Blaine Harding was born on 24 June 1831, in the Washington, Pennsylvania, home of her maternal aunt and uncle. Within weeks, her mother took her home to Florence, Alabama. The eldest of the Harding children, Rebecca spent her early childhood happily in this southern town. In 1836, the Hardings moved to the bustling town of Wheeling, Virginia, which would be Rebecca’s home until marriage took her back to Pennsylvania.

Rebecca’s parents, Rachel Leet Wilson (1808–1884) and Richard W. Harding (1796–1864) encouraged all five of their children to pursue an education. Rebecca resided with her aunt and uncle during the 1845–1848 . . .

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