Family Life During Civil War Essay

As a pivotal point in our nation’s history, the civil war holds a special fascination in the land and minds of the American people. It was a war entirely fought by Americans, often dividing families and even brothers against brothers. The American civil war was unforgettable. It was fought between the United States of America and the Southern slave states of the nearly formed confederate state of America under Jefferson Davis. The Civil War made really a tragic long lasting effect on a family unit of that period.

During Civil War, families on both sides of the war had to bear a pain of personal loss. Husbands and fathers and sons died not in hundreds but in thousands of numbers in both the North and South and many of them returned home either handicapped or wounded manner. So many men not only injured physically but due to their wartime experiences, they had suffered more emotionally also. This effected their already burdened struggling families more.

This way, the families had suffered with physical and psychological pain a lot. Also the families were divided during Civil war.

The only bread winner of any family – may be a father or husband or an elder son had to go far off the home. So in those families, especially middle class, wives and mothers had to work in the home and also out of the home. They were the only to take care about every aspects of the family including children. And for this they were not much trained. This situation for city women was much more difficult ( The painting from the article of war sprits at home by Lily Martin Spencer shows that she herself is sitting in the kitchen with her children and a servant. Lacking an adult male figure, the painting reflects the absence of men in the home during this period in American history. The painting from the article of war sprits at home by Lily Martin Spencer shows that she herself is sitting in the kitchen with her children and a servant. Lacking an adult male figure, the painting reflects the absence of men in the home during this period in American history.

Northern families lost a great many loved ones over the course of war and experienced their share of problems and grief, but southern families suffered far more. Many southern towns and cities were destroyed and the impact on the confederate civilian population was enormous in all eras ( Most people and families in the south led the pastoral life, organized around agricultural activities. Many people in south had no slaves or very few, so all the man does physical labor. Due to war, families lost their able-bodied man, which had changed the condition of family that women had to do all the work in the house and farms to keep farms functioning with the other works such as cleaning, making and fixing cloths, and raising the children ( As war went on, people also started suffering from hunger.

With confederate troops, to feed and burning all the remaining food, combined with the lack of available rail transportation which was being use by war efforts. They also suffered from the lack of goods as all the industries and factories were busy preparing the goods for civil war. As many men and sons were forced to leave their house they were not able to concentrate in the war. Handwritten letters were the main form of communication between soldiers and their relatives during civil war. Soldiers became desperate to hear from their families and for news from home. They even gladly read each other’s letters just to hear about familiar places and everyday situations; anything to take their mind off the war and their struggles. Robert T. Tallman, wrote to William Brown, with an interesting suggestion as a possible means to encourage more communication ( “I have not had a letter for two weeks what is our folks doing. tell them I am dead and maybe they will send for my bounty and wages, and I will hear from them that way if no other.”( Robert T. Tallman letter to William Brown – February 11, 1865).

Civil war had the same impact on northern families. White families in Virginia first confronted the war’s impact with the enlistments of their male kin. To provide food and protect families, men were pulled away from their loved ones to serve in the confederate army. As one Virginia solider put his duty in the war encompassed “the defense of our country, our liberty and the protection of our parent, wives, children, and all that is dear to a man” ( 50 percent of the male enlisted from Virginia tried to help both families and the confederacy. But it was of no use. Wives, daughters, sisters, and other female kin assumed much of the work normally pursued by men- managing plantation, harvesting crops, running business. This pressure took toll on women. “We felt like clinging to Walter and holding him back”, wrote one Virginia woman in reaction to a family member’s enlistment. “I was sick of war, sick of the butchery, the anguish” (

Virginia Civilians After a Battle

Often soldiers tries to maintain their role in family through home letters, but their correspondence proved an imperfect surrogate when the mail, disrupted by war, was slow in coming. Some women also tried to bring their men home by filing petition with the confederate secretary of war for a man’s exemption, or by urging a soldier to desert the army, which were often unsuccessful and so the women has to wait for her man until the war end or sometimes she never gets to see him. These lines from the letter were included in the Civil War diary of Samuel Bennett, a Daviess County native who fought for the Union Army. In it, Bennett’s mother expresses her worries about his welfare.

“Wilson I dreamed last night that you had come home you may be sure that I was sorry when I waked and found it was a dere dream Wilson the crop is in tolerable good order you father commensed mowing yesterday and Amas thought he could mow and your father concluded that he might to get it he does very well Wilson we will get your janes today and if you want a pair of everyday pants I want you to let me know and I will make them and bring them if we get to come and if not I will send them I hope we will get to come yet I must bring my broken lines to a close by saing I hope that it will not bee long till we see each others face Write as soon as this comes to hand I remain your devoted and loving mother untill death”(

Political divisions sometimes compounded the separation experienced by families. Regions with high unionist concentrations, witnessed the division of house members against each other-pitting father against son, husband against wife, and sometimes brother against brother. John fee wrote in his autobiography that “The next morning just as I was about starting back to my home, my father said to me, “Julett is here on my premises, and I will sell her before sundown if I can.” I turned to him and said, “Father, I am now that woman’s only guardian……….. yet if you sell that woman, I will prosecute you for so doing, as sure as you are a man.”(

Civil war had made a enormous effect on the family life. Many lost their loved ones and very few got their loved ones back. Thus the civil war era was very hard for every women, men, and child. To claim that the Civil War was unlike any war before or since is an argument this overlooks many of the continuities of time displayed in a history of warfare. Certainly it can be claimed to be the first type of war in several of its features, but entirely different isolates it from this history and leaves out very important aspects of it.

* “The American Civil War.” N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Feb. 2013. <>.

* Civil War Trust. “Civil War Lesson Plans: Southern Life during Civil War.” N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Feb. 2013.

* Stoddard, Brooke C., and Daniel P. Murphy. “Family Life during Civil War.” N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Feb. 2013.
< family-life.htm>.

* Slipp, Naomi, ed. “Unpacking Feminist Content in Lilly Martin Spencer’s “War Spirit at Home”.” N.p., 17 Dec. 2009. Web. 2 Feb. 2013. < unpacking-feminist-content-in-war-spirit-at-home/>.

* “Women and Children at Home.” N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Feb. 2013. <>.

* STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY of MISSOURI RESEARCH CENTER – ROLLA, ed. “Tallaman- Brown Family Papers.” N.p., n.d. Web. 2
Feb. 2013. <>.

* “Impact of the Civil War on the Tennessee Homefront.” N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Feb. 2013. <ttp:// Primary_Source_Set–Civil_War_Homefront.pdf>.

* Taylor, Amy Murrell. “Family Life During the Civil War.” Encylopedia Virginia. Ed. Brendan Wolfe. 2 February 2013 Virginia Foundation Humanities 6 feb 2012

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