The Home Front: 1861 to 1865

Southern Diarists

Did Union soldiers feel men or women were worse in the South?

More than a trace of misogyny emerges in the letters of Northern soldiers. They tend to give Johnny Reb his due, saying he fought well for a bad cause, but they tend to be very hard on any Southern woman who assisted her menfolk. Such attitudes crop up in the letters of soldiers, but they also appear in the pages of the Atlantic Monthly and Harper’s Weekly.

Very likely, an element of truth can be found in what is expressed. Southern women did, perhaps, make the war last longer by helping their husbands, brothers, and cousins. But the question that we—the modern-day reader—wish to ask is: What else were they supposed to do? If the men of the North and the South could not come to political compromise, why was it the responsibility of the women?


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