The Home Front: 1861 to 1865

Southern Diarists

Why don’t we hear more stories like this one? Are they unique to the Civil War?

No. Millions of men, as well as some unknown number of women, have died in circumstances like these from the beginning of human history to our current time. But there was something quite special, nearly unique, about the experiences in the Civil War hospitals. First, there were more volunteers caring for more wounded soldiers than at any previous time in our history. Second, the camera, or use of the daguerreotype, had emerged just in time so that some of these faces and moments could be caught for the future. And third, perhaps most important, the Civil War hospitals, as well as the battlefields themselves, were filled with people of an unusual level of literary skill. Public schooling had caught on, at least in the North, twenty years before the war began, and many people who might have been rendered mute by their circumstances instead arose—with their pens, pencils, and artists’ paper—to leave poignant records for us today.


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