Battle Scars: Gender and Sexuality in the American Civil War

By Catherine Clinton; Nina Silber | Go to book overview

1
INTRODUCTION:
Colliding and Collaborating:
Gender and Civil War Scholarship

Nina Silber

In the past fifteen years, since the initial appearance of Divided Houses, our original volume of essays on gender and the Civil War, scholarship on the sectional conflict has, in its own way, been nudged in new directions. Of course, a quick tour through the bookstore, or a glance at most television documentaries, will reveal that the dominant picture of the Civil War still revolves largely around leading generals, great battles, and famous political leaders. But, even if only occasionally, subtle hints emerge documenting a different kind of Civil War experience: news articles on women who cross-dressed as men and fought like soldiers; an occasional book exploring the exploits of a Civil War heroine; even a Hollywood film that devotes considerable screen time to the trials of women trying to survive on the homefront. And while Hollywood directors may not have always been the most assiduous readers of the latest historical writing, their future artistic creations might be enhanced by turning to the work of a growing number of scholars who have begun to complicate the traditional story-line of the U.S. Civil War by reminding us that significant numbers of Civil War–era Americans were not men. We can now read more carefully about the problems and contributions of a diverse corps of female nurses, the work done by women spies and soldiers in advancing the war's agenda, and the way that women writers crafted their own critical interpretations of wartime events. The study of emancipation, a pivotal development of the Civil War years, has also moved forward by leaps and bounds, again with far greater attention paid to the ways the

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