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Abstract

The women left at home during the American Civil War are often left out of historical research; this work considers this forgotten group by examining women’s wartime letters and diaries. Patriotism and religious devotion, both in the Union and the Confederacy, played a major role in women’s attitudes in the face of war. The evidence studied herein illustrates how the sense of duty to the cause either faltered or grew stronger as women waited at home for the war to take its toll. Young women refused to marry men until they enlisted, mothers insisted that their sons continue fighting until the war was won, and a woman’s patriotism often remained whole even after her family had been torn apart. Ultimately, though, what these emotional reports of personal tragedy reveal is the natural strength of Civil War women to both remain strong and loyal in a time of crisis, and to acknowledge their vulnerability and confront their grief.

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