The Impact of the Civil War on
Megan J. McClintock
MUCH OF THE recent scholarship on the Civil War explores the social and cultural dimensions of America's bloodiest conflict, particularly the connections between the battlefield and the home front. In their studies of Civil War soldiers, for example, James McPherson and Reid Mitchell explore the influence of home, family, and community on the wartime experiences of the men who fought for the North and the South.1 Because regiments were locally raised and trained, men often served alongside neighbors and family members. Letters and the more immediate communication brought by returning soldiers and visitors to friends and family in camp sustained the links between community and the military. Newspaper coverage kept civilians apprised of their native sons in uniform.2
This interaction between the home front and the battlefield shaped how soldiers perceived the war. In their correspondence and diaries, soldiers described the war as a defense of home and family and the
For their helpful comments and assistance, I wish to thank Peggy Pascoe and Julie
Shapiro. An earlier version of this essay was presented at the 1998 Annual Meeting
of the American Society for Legal History.
1 James M. McPherson, For Cause & Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil
War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); and Reid Mitchell, Civil War Sol-
diers (New York: Viking Penguin, 1988).
2 Michael H. Frisch, Town Into City: Springfield, Massachusetts, and the Meaning
of Community, 1840–1880 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972),
56–61; Emily J. Harris, "Sons and Soldiers: Deerfield, Massachusetts and the Civil
War," Civil War History 30 (June 1984): 160; Thomas R. Kemp, "Community and
War: The Civil War Experience of Two New Hampshire Towns," in Toward a Social
History of the American Civil War: Exploratory Essays, ed. by Maris A. Vinovskis
(Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 40–43; and Reid Mitchell,
The Vacant Chair: The Northern Soldier Leaves Home (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1993), 24–30.