Academic journal article American Studies

NORTHERNERS AT WAR: Reflections on the Civil War Home Front

Academic journal article American Studies

NORTHERNERS AT WAR: Reflections on the Civil War Home Front

Article excerpt

NORTHERNERS AT WAR: Reflections on the Civil War Home Front. By J. Matthew Gallman. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press. 2010.

In this intelligent and instructive collection, distinguished Civil War historian J. Matthew Gallman brings together eleven previously published essays, from 1988 to 2009, that simultaneously provide an autobiographical journey of Gallman's development as a historian and a layered argument on the limits of the war in effecting significant social, economic, or political change in the North. In his introduction and in the headnotes to each chapter, Gallman charts his own reason for taking up each subject and places his work in the historiography of the northern home front, a field that he concludes still invites further inquiry to match the rich literature on the war in the South.

Much of Gallman's focus is on Philadelphia. The chapters complement each other nicely, as Gallman essays such subjects as the Great Central Fair in Philadelphia, peace and disorder (really the lack thereof) in wartime Philadelphia, entrepreneurship in the city, the doings of antislavery, Republican, and women's rights orator Anna Dickinson, the effects of the battle of Gettysburg on the townspeople there, and more broadly the character and dynamics of the Civil War economy, urban history and the war, and the uses of memory. A concluding chapter on black soldiers and the battle of Olustee in Florida does not so neatly fit the pattern, though it makes reference to black Philadelphians' efforts to enlist and stand as men in battle. Throughout Gallman measures the extent of wartime change, as, for example, in the ways Philadelphia mobilized for war in forming soldiers' aid societies, setting up hospitals, and getting contracts for all manner of manufacturing to supply the army, to name several examples. What Gallman finds is that such activity drew upon already established habits of voluntarism, charity work, and production for a rapid adjustment to wartime demands and opportunities. The war enlarged the scale of such operations but did not fundamentally alter the structure of reform or industry. And the establishment of a "modern" police force and more effective government before the war kept the city from exploding in riot due to ethnic and racial tensions and conscription, as occurred elsewhere. …

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