Richmond during the War: Four Years of Personal Observation

Richmond during the War: Four Years of Personal Observation

Richmond during the War: Four Years of Personal Observation

Richmond during the War: Four Years of Personal Observation

Synopsis

The Civil War turned the genteel world of Virginia society upside-down for Sallie Brock Putnam. She lived in the Confederate capital of Richmond throughout the war and saw it transformed from a quiet town of culture to a swollen refugee camp, black-market center, prison venue, and hospital complex. Putnam describes the excitement of secession giving way to sacrifice and grim determination, the women of Richmond aiding the war effort, the funerals and hasty weddings, the reduced circumstances of even the "best" families, and the despicable profiteering. Asserting that "every woman was to some extent a politician", she offers keen analyses of military engagements, criticizes political decisions, and provides accounts of the Richmond Bread Riot of 1863 and the inauguration of Jefferson Davis that have been praised by historians.

Excerpt

Virginia Scharff

The American Civil War was an unusually literary war. Those who endured the calamity left countless diaries, memoirs, and reminiscences. Foot soldiers and generals, cabinet officers, and army surgeons wrote their versions of what it was like to live through the era of American fratricide. Most of those memoirs were written by men, Northerners in the main. and most concerned themselves more with the course of battles than the price of bread.

Sallie Brock Putnam's account of the war is something else again. a woman, a Southerner, and a civilian, Sallie Brock was a resident of the Confederate capital throughout the war. She saw her city transformed from a rather quiet town, where everybody pretty much knew everybody else, into a swollen refugee camp, black market center, prison venue, and hospital complex. She watched as the young men went into uniform, as the city flooded with healthy, swaggering young soldiers, as the smoke from nearby battlefields drifted into town, as the ambulance trains thronged the streets with their burden of wounded and dead.

Reared to gentility in a Virginia family of some means, Sallie Brock grew up in a society in which everyone understood that both the sexes, and the races, had their proper places. She learned early that society would reward purity, piety, domesticity, and submissiveness in women, and obedience in slaves. White women could rely . . .

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