Cultures in Conflict: The American Civil War

Cultures in Conflict: The American Civil War

Cultures in Conflict: The American Civil War

Cultures in Conflict: The American Civil War

Synopsis

The American Civil War was primarily a conflict of cultures, and slavery was the largest single cultural factor separating North and South. This collection of carefully selected memoirs, diaries, letters, and reminiscences of ordinary Northerners and Southerners who experienced the war as soldiers or civilians brings to life the conflict in culture, principles, attitudes, hopes, courage, and suffering of both sides. Woodworth, a Civil War historian, has selected a wide variety of moving first person accounts, each of which tells a story of a life as well as the attitudes of ordinary people and the real conditions of war and homefront. Woodworth presents the war in the words of those who lived it.

Excerpt

The term "Culture Wars" came into prominence in the 1990s after presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan aptly used it at the 1992 Republican National Convention. Yet the reality of conflicting cultures and views of culture was not new then nor was it the first occurrence of such conflict in America's history. The profoundly deep divisions that ultimately motivate men and women to drastic action and fundamental change are always at least partly cultural. The swirling maelstrom of political conflict, important though it may be, is often merely the surface manifestation of deep cultural currents.

Such was the case in the conflict of the 1860s. Over the preceding decades North and South, free society and slave society, had grown farther and farther apart in many of the areas of culture that ought to bind a people together and make them one nation. What Abraham Lincoln called in March 1861 "the mystic cords of Union," springing from every "hearth and heart-string" in the nation, had by that time been strained to the breaking point by the two-generation-long conflict over slavery. Though Lincoln was ultimately proven correct in his assessment that the ties that bound the nation would at last prove stronger than the forces tearing it apart, four years of America's bloodiest conflict were required to resolve the "culture war" of that era.

My purpose in this book is to help readers understand that conflict better by showing them some of the cultural currents that caused and shaped it. My method for accomplishing that is to present excerpts . . .

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