The Most Popular Women’s Novel of the Civil War Period

“Good came out of evil, as it often does…” Thus writes Susan Warner at the end of her novel The Wide, Wide World, a work often considered America’s first best seller. It was certainly a literary sensation. Published by Putnam in 1851 Warner’s novel was widely acclaimed. Henry James, for example, compared it to the... Continue Reading →

New Year’s Eve Civil War Style

The turn of the year from old to new has long been celebrated in a variety of ways sometimes with frivolity and sometimes with spirituality, and sadly, sometimes on the battlefield. This is true of the Civil War period also. Celebrating with Frivolity According to Alexis McCrossen, writing for We’re History, men and women belonging... Continue Reading →

A Coat of Shoddy

I Wish I Had a Fat Contract to the tune of Barbara Allen But if I had a fat contract To make clothes for de solders De army coats and striped pants, I wouldn't use no shoddy Nor no oder stuff that's rotten; But I'd use the very best of cloth, Widout a bit of... Continue Reading →

Valentine’s Day Civil War Style

"...this is the day on which those charming little missives, ycelped* Valentines, cross and inter-cross at every street and turning. The weary and all forespent twopenny postman sinks below a load of delicate embarrassments, not his own." Valentine's Day in Essays of Elia by Charles Lamb 1860 (*called) Valentine's Day was a well-established holiday by the... Continue Reading →

Mailing a Letter Civil War Style

During wartime communicating with loved ones becomes an overwhelming concern. In the Civil War period many soldiers and families wrote letters to each other almost daily. Postage was cheap by our standards 3 cents per half ounce which was lowered to 2 cents in October of 1863. But for people who earned an average salary of $20 a month... Continue Reading →

The Christmas Tree Civil War Style

When we think of magic, probably one of the most magical things of the Christmas season are brilliantly lit Christmas trees. Although decking the house with boughs of pine was a traditional Christmas practice [the pine scent was believed to clean the air and prevent disease], Christmas trees were uncommon in early America. The custom,... Continue Reading →

Turkey Civil War Style

While soldiers in the field were waiting for their turkeys to arrive packed in crates filled with straw and kept cold, hopefully, by winter weather, at home women were preparing to roast their turkeys. Roasting a turkey in the 1800s meant cooking it on a spit inside a tin oven. Catherine Esther Beecher in her 1859... Continue Reading →

Henry Ward Beecher on Pumpkins

As much as the pumpkin is used as a term of ridicule, who ever saw a pumpkin that seemed to quail or look sheepish? Henry Ward BeecherHenry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) was minister of the Plymouth Congregational Church in Brooklyn. He is best known for his break with his father's hell and brimstone Calvinism to a belief in... Continue Reading →

A Civil War Boy’s Diary

In my last post I referred to the diary of Lucy James Stoughton of Castle Creek. I came across another local diary in my files. This one by a boy of about the same age as Lucy. Diary of a Binghamton Boy of the 1860s was edited and explained by Marjory Barnun Hinman and published in... Continue Reading →

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