Confederate Women and Union Soldiers in Sherman’s March to the Sea

frank-1By Ashley Whitehead Luskey

Over the course of this year, we’ll be interviewing some of the speakers from the upcoming 2017 CWI conference about their talks. Today we are speaking with Dr. Lisa Tendrich Frank, an independent historian, editor, and writer on issues related to the American Civil War and American women.  She received her PhD from the University of Florida and has taught at universities and colleges across the U.S.  Dr. Frank is the author and editor of several books and articles on women’s and American military history, including The Civilian War: Confederate Women and Union Soldiers During Sherman’s March (LSU Press, 2015); The World of the Civil War: A Daily Life Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2015); and “Bedrooms as Battlefields: The Role of Gender Politics in Sherman’s March,” (in Alecia P. Long’s and LeeAnn Whites’s edited collection, Occupied Women: Gender, Military Occupation, and the American Civil War, LSU Press, 2009).  She has also worked as a consultant for various non-profits and as a public lecturer.

CWI:  What was the nature of the interactions between General Sherman’s army and Confederate women during the infamous March to the Sea?

FRANK:  The interactions between Union men and Confederate women were incredibly gendered throughout the march through Georgia and the Carolinas. As a result, physical confrontations were rare. Instead, Union soldiers and Confederate women traded verbal barbs and largely fought over feminine material possessions. Union soldiers frequently entered and ransacked homes occupied by the region’s most privileged women, entered their bedrooms and parlors, and then seized various domestic treasures. Soldiers destroyed and stole an endless list of items that had no military value but instead struck at the heart of femininity and included wedding gowns, lingerie, sheet music, personal diaries, artwork, jewelry, and pianos. Continue reading “Confederate Women and Union Soldiers in Sherman’s March to the Sea”

The End is Near: The Civil War in 1864

By Brianna Kirk ’15

In the minds of most Civil War lovers, the year 1864 marks the noticeable shift from a conciliatory war to a hard war. Most view it through the lens of Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign, through William Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea, through the successes of the Union Army. After all, the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863 is seen as the ‘high tide of the Confederacy,’ marking the falling action point in the war when total Union victory became inevitable. But in actuality, 1864 was just as—if not more—critical to the outcome of the war than the prior three years. The changing character of the war in that year muddled who was actually succeeding, making clear winners and losers unknown. Additionally, Abraham Lincoln’s reelection hung in the balance; a presidential change-up would alter the nature of war, especially if George B. McClellan were victorious.

The Crater at Petersburg National Battlefield. Photo credit to the author.
The Crater at Petersburg National Battlefield. Photo credit to the author.

For the Union and Confederate armies, 1864 was the year that everything became ambiguous. Victory was not in sight for either army, and fears of fighting a war with an unknown ending seeped through society. No one had anticipated the war would stretch into 1862, much less continue on into 1863 and then 1864. The penultimate year of the war as we now know it became defined by unparalleled engagements—the burning forests of the Wilderness, the battle at Spotsylvania, the fighting at the Mule Shoe, the entrenchments at Petersburg, the Crater, the slaughter at Cold Harbor. The months of 1864 saw fighting nearly every day, as soldiers in both armies, desperate for that grand victory, fought even harder. Continue reading “The End is Near: The Civil War in 1864”