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The Civilian War

Confederate Women and Union Soldiers during Sherman's March

Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War

256 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / no illustrations

ebook available

Civil War

  Hardcover / 9780807159965 / April 2015
The Civilian War explores home front encounters between elite Confederate women and Union soldiers during Sherman’s March, a campaign that put women at the center of a Union army operation for the first time. Ordered to crush the morale as well as the military infrastructure of the Confederacy, Sherman and his army increasingly targeted wealthy civilians in their progress through Georgia and the Carolinas. To drive home the full extent of northern domination over the South, Sherman’s soldiers besieged the female domain—going into bedrooms and parlors, seizing correspondence and personal treasures—with the aim of insulting and humiliating upper-class southern women. These efforts blurred the distinction between home front and warfront, creating confrontations in the domestic sphere as a part of the war itself.
Historian Lisa Tendrich Frank argues that ideas about women and their roles in war shaped the expectations of both Union soldiers and Confederate civilians. Sherman recognized that slaveholding Confederate women played a vital part in sustaining the Rebel efforts, and accordingly he treated them as wartime opponents, targeting their markers of respectability and privilege. Although Sherman intended his efforts to demoralize the civilian population, Frank suggests that his strategies frequently had the opposite effect. Confederate women accepted the plunder of food and munitions as an inevitable part of the conflict, but they considered Union invasion of their private spaces an unforgivable and unreasonable transgression. These intrusions strengthened the resolve of many southern women to continue the fight against the Union and its most despised general.
Seamlessly merging gender studies and military history, The Civilian War illuminates the distinction between the damage inflicted on the battlefield and the offenses that occurred in the domestic realm during the Civil War. Ultimately, Frank’s research demonstrates why many women in the Lower South remained steadfastly committed to the Confederate cause even when their prospects seemed most dim.

Lisa Tendrich Frank received her Ph.D. in history from the University of Florida. She is the author and editor of numerous works relating to the Civil War, including Women in the American Civil War and the forthcoming The World of the Civil War: A Daily Life Encyclopedia.

Praise for The Civilian War

The Civilian War focuses on slaveholding women and draws effectively from a rich source base of their diaries and letters as well as those of William T. Sherman, his men, and Confederate soldiers. . . . Frank achieves her goal of demonstrating that we cannot understand Sherman’s March, or the Civil War more generally, without gender.”—Civil War History

“Powerfully written and cogently argued, The Civilian War is an easy read and was clearly a labor of love for its author. Frank uses primarily sources written at the time and relies heavily on such gems as the journal of North Carolinian Catherine Edmondston. . . . By asking historians to focus less on the quantity of destruction and more on the specific cultural effects of Union invasion, this work pushes the dialogue forward in new and interesting ways.”—North Carolina Historical Review

“Lisa Frank is one of the history profession’s rising stars on the role of women in the Civil War. . . . Frank has provided a thought-provoking book using the lens of gender to examine the impact of Sherman’s marches on Southern society.”—Civil War News

“The strength of Frank’s work really emerges as she demonstrates the gendered and class-based approach Sherman took as his troops made their way through the area and interacted with the local women. . . . In developing The Civilian War, Frank painstakingly examined hundreds of sources for her argument and carefully crafts the parameters of her study. . . . Lisa Tendrich Frank’s The Civilian War adds a needed perspective to the fields of gender studies and military history. Her meticulous work demonstrates Sherman’s campaign targeted the wealthy as well as the ideals of white womanhood, bringing war into the domestic realm.”—Civil War Book Review

“Frank, in her sparkling presentation about the gendered nature of Sherman’s march and the reactions it provoked among elite southern women, has shown yet another important facet of the Civil War. It is essential reading about the southern homefront in the last years of the war.”—American Historical Review

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