The Civil War Parlor

”The dead continue to live by way of the resurrection we give them in telling their stories” -Stories of Real Human Beings Make History Powerful, Photographs Make it Immediate. A Blog Remembering the Men and Women of the American Civil War, North & South, people, faces, and a unique culture we will never see again. Photos and stories about the people that lived it, including African American Photographs, pre civil war photos and the period in cultural history that began just after the civil war. The historical info, photos and documents in this blog reflect the attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of different times. This blog does not endorse the views expressed in some posts, which may contain materials offensive to some readers, you cannot compare the beliefs and ethical values of the people of the 1800's to the standards of today. Every effort is taken to remember the men and women of the Union and Confederacy equally with dignity and respect. The events of the war, and the men of the war, are fast fading from the public attention. Its history is growing to be an “Old, Old Story.” Public interest is weakening day by day. The memory of march, and camp, and battle-field, of the long and manly endurance, of the superb and uncomplaining courage, of the mass of sacrifice that redeemed the Nation, is fast dying out. Those who rejoice in the liberty and peace secured by the soldier’s suffering and privation, accept the benefits, but deny or forget the benefactor-1877 National Tribune.

Nature’s Civil War

Common Soldiers and the Environment in 1862 Virginia

By Kathryn Shively Meier

Awards & Distinctions

2011 Edward M. Coffman Prize, Society for Military History

In the Shenandoah Valley and Peninsula Campaigns of 1862, Union and Confederate soldiers faced unfamiliar and harsh environmental conditions—strange terrain, tainted water, swarms of flies and mosquitoes, interminable rain and snow storms, and oppressive heat—which contributed to escalating disease and diminished morale.

Using soldiers’ letters, diaries, and memoirs, plus a wealth of additional personal accounts, medical sources, newspapers, and government documents, Kathryn Shively Meier reveals how these soldiers strove to maintain their physical and mental health by combating their deadliest enemy—nature.

Meier explores how soldiers forged informal networks of health care based on prewar civilian experience and adopted a universal set of self-care habits, including boiling water, altering camp terrain, eradicating insects, supplementing their diets with fruits and vegetables, constructing protective shelters, and most controversially, straggling. In order to improve their health, soldiers periodically had to adjust their ideas of manliness, class values, and race to the circumstances at hand. While self-care often proved superior to relying upon the inchoate military medical infrastructure, commanders chastised soldiers for testing army discipline, ultimately redrawing the boundaries of informal health care.

About the Author

Kathryn Shively Meier is assistant professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University.



Her struggles to reconcile being the sister of a Confederate soldier and the wife of a Union officer.

Septima Levy Collis was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1842. She married Charles H. T. Collis of Philadelphia in 1861.  He joined the 18th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment at the start of the war and returned to Philadelphia to form a company known as the Zouaves D’ Afrique.  

"I have no hesitation in calling what I am about to write a "war record," for my life was "twice in jeopardy," as will be seen later on, and I served faithfully as a volunteer, though without compensation, during the entire war of the Rebellion. It is true I was not in the ranks, but I was at the front, and perhaps had a more continuous experience of army life during those four terribly eventful years than any other woman of the North. Born in Charleston, S. C., my sympathies were naturally with the South, but on December 9, 1861, I became a Union woman by marrying a Northern soldier in Philadelphia. The romance which resulted in this desertion to the enemy would perhaps interest the reader, yet I do not propose to tell it; for I am sure sure the very realistic life which it enabled me to experience for three winters in camp at army headquarters will interest him more. My first commander was Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks, to whom I reported on December 11, 1861, at Frederick, Md., where my bridegroom was then a captain of an independent company, which he named and equipped as "Zouaves d’Afrique."

Despite her southern sympathies, Collis supported her husband and accompanied him throughout the war.  Her memoir, A Woman’s War Record, recounts her experiences at the front lines as well as social life away from camp, including the time she met President Abraham Lincoln. Of particular note are her struggles to reconcile being the sister of a Confederate soldier and the wife of a Union officer. She wrote:

"My brother, David Cardoza Levy … was about this time killed at the battle of Murfreesborough …This was the horrible episode of the civil war to me, and although I had many relatives and hosts of friends serving under the Confederate flag all the time, I never fully realized the fratricidal character of the conflict until I lost my idolized brother Dave of the Southern army one day, and was nursing my Northern husband back to life the next."

Collis’ experiences were far from unique. During the war, families were divided from loved ones for a myriad of reasons – whether ideological disagreements, geographical separations, or the strain of war itself. Numerous accounts, both published and private, document the distress, helplessness, and emotional turmoil that families often felt as the result of these challenging circumstances.

The Civil War In Film- Gone With The Wind

Atlanta native Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel, Gone With the Wind, occupies an important place in American literature. After breaking publishing records with one million copies sold within six months, the novel was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, has been translated into over forty languages, and remains one of the best-selling novels of all time.

Gone With the Wind remains one of Hollywood’s most popular and commercially successful films, and set new standards through its use of color, set design, and cinematography. The film was nominated for thirteen Oscars and was awarded ten, including Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress, which went to Hattie McDaniel, the first African American to win an Academy Award.

Wedded To War Trailer ~ Heroines Behind The Lines~

"The research behind this shines. Green’s descriptions of the first hospitals, the horrors of battlefield medicine, and the extraordinary courage and vision of the women who took on this challenge carry the whole book. For this alone it’s worth the read."

~Historical Novel Society

The Book

It’s April 1861, and the Union Army’s Medical Department is a disaster, completely unprepared for the magnitude of war. A small group of New York City women, including 28-year-old Charlotte Waverly, decide to do something about it, and end up changing the course of the war, despite criticism, ridicule and social ostracism. Charlotte leaves a life of privilege, wealth–and confining expectations–to be one of the first female nurses for the Union Army. She quickly discovers that she’s fighting more than just the Rebellion by working in the hospitals. Corruption, harassment, and opposition from Northern doctors threaten to push her out of her new role. At the same time, her sweetheart disapproves of her shocking strength and independence, forcing her to make an impossible decision: Will she choose love and marriage, or duty to a cause that seems to be losing? An Irish immigrant named Ruby O’Flannery, who turns to the unthinkable in the face of starvation, holds the secret that will unlock the door to Charlotte’s future. But will the rich and poor confide in each other in time?

You can also visit Jocelyn Green’s author site at:

Lincoln’s 1861 Inauguration Bible

Chief Justice Roger B. Taney administered the oath of office to Abraham Lincoln on March 4, 1861, using the Bible shown here. The ceremony was witnessed by Clerk of the Supreme Court William Thomas Carroll, who recorded the occasion in the back of this Bible.

The Heart Of A Soldier, As Revealed In The Intimate Letters Of Genl. George E. Pickett C.S.A. -Mrs. LaSalle Corbell Pickett

BOOK FOREWORD~FOR half a century these letters have lain locked away from the world, the lines fading upon the yellowed pages, their every word enshrined in the heart of the noble woman to whom they were written. To her they came filled with the thunder of guns, the lightning of unsheathed swords, the tumultuous rage in the heart of the storm; but through them all the radiance of a pure devotion outshone the battle flash and the lyric of a great love rose above the cannon’s roar. 

        EARLY in life’s morning I knew and loved him, and from my first meeting with him to the end, I always called him “Soldier”—”My Soldier.” I was a wee bit of a girl at that first meeting. I had been visiting my grandmother, when whooping-cough broke out in the neighborhood, and she took me off to Old Point Comfort to visit her friend, Mrs. Boykin, the sister of John Y. Mason. I could dance and sing and play games and was made much of by the other children and their parents there, till I suddenly developed the cough, then I was shunned and isolated.

I could not understand the change. I would press my face against the ball-room window-panes and watch the merry-making inside and my little heart would almost break. One morning, while playing alone on the beach, I saw an officer lying on the sand reading, under the shelter of an umbrella. I had noticed him several times, always apart from the others, and very sad. I could imagine but one reason for his desolation and in pity for him, I crept under his umbrella to ask him if he, too, had the whooping-cough. He smiled and answered no; but as I still persisted he drew me to him, telling me that he had lost someone who was dear to him and he was very lonely.

And straightway, without so much as a by-your-leave, I promised to take the place of his dear one and to comfort him in his loss. Child as I was, I believe I lost my heart to him on the spot. At all events, I crept from under the umbrella pledged to Lieutenant George E. Pickett, U. S. A., for life and death, and I still hold most sacred a little ring and locket that he gave me on that day.It is small wonder that this first picture of him is among the most vivid still; the memory of him as he lay stretched in the shade of the umbrella, not tall, and rather slender, but very graceful, and perfect in manly beauty. With childish appreciation, I particularly noticed his very small hands and feet. He had beautiful gray eyes that looked at me through sunny lights—eyes that smiled with his lips. His mustache was gallantly curled. His hair was exactly the color of mine, dark brown, and long and wavy, in the fashion of the time. The neatness of his dress attracted even a child’s admiration. His shirt-front of the finest white linen, was in soft puffs and ruffles, and the sleeves were edged with hem-stitched thread cambric ruffles. He would never, to the end of his life, wear the stiff linen collars and cuffs and stocks which came into fashion among men. While he was at West Point he paid heavily in demerits for obstinacy in refusing to wear the regulation stock. Only when the demerits reached the danger-point would he temporarily give up his soft necktie.

The Heart of a Soldier as Revealed in the Intimate Letters … by George Edward Pickett- © This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.

Ulysses S. Grant’s West Point Uniform- Featured in Smithsonian Civil War

One of the 150 items featured in Smithsonian Civil War is a West Point tunic circa 1839 that belonged to a scrawny 17-year-old plebe by the name of Ulysses Grant.

Smithsonian Civil War is a lavishly illustrated coffee-table book featuring 150 entries in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.


In The South There Were Whole Companies Made Up Of Such Boys As This

As his general watched, this boy fought to stem the Federal rush—but fell, his breast pierced by a bayonet, in the trenches of Fort Mahone. It is heart-rending to look at a picture such as this; it is sad to think of it and to write about it. Here is a boy of only fourteen years, his face innocent of a razor, his feet unshod and stockingless in the bitter April weather. It is to be hoped that the man who slew him has forgotten it, for this face would haunt him surely. Many who fought in the blue ranks were young, but in the South there were whole companies made up of such boys as this.

At the battle of Newmarket the scholars of the Virgina Military Institute, the eldest seventeen and the youngest twelve, marched from the classrooms under arms, joined the forces of General Breckinridge, and aided by their historic charge to gain a brilliant victory over the Federal General Sigel. The never-give-in spirit was implanted in the youth of the Confederacy, as well as in the hearts of the grizzled veterans. Lee had inspired them, but in addition to this inspiration, as General Gordon writes..

“Every man of them was supported by their extraordinary consecration, resulting from the conviction that he was fighting in the defense of home and the rights of his State. Hence their unfaltering faith in the justice of the cause, their fortitude in the extremest privations, their readiness to stand shoeless and shivering in the trenches at night and to face any danger at their leader’s call.”

The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Civil War Through the Camera, by Henry W. (Henry William) Elson

General Sherman’s Christmas

From the author of the bestselling Silent Night comes a close look at the embattled holiday season of 1864, when Major General W. T. Sherman gave President Lincoln the city of Savannah and paved the way for the end of the Civil War.

General Sherman’s Christmas opens on Thanksgiving Day 1864. Sherman was relentlessly pushing his troops nearly three hundred miles across Georgia in his “March to the Sea,” to reach Savannah just days before Christmas. His methodical encroachment of the city from all sides eventually convinced Confederate general W. J. Hardee, who had refused a demand for surrender of his troops, to slip away in darkness across an improvised causeway and escape to South Carolina. In freezing rain and through terrifying fog, equipment-burdened soldiers crossed a hastily built pontoon bridge spanning the mile-wide Savannah River.

Three days before Christmas, the mayor, Richard Arnold, surrendered the city, now populated mostly by women, children, and the slaves who had not fled. General Sherman then telegraphed to Abraham Lincoln, “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah with 150 heavy guns & plenty of ammunition & also about 25.000 bales of cotton.”

The fight for Savannah took place as its inhabitants were anxiously preparing for Christmas. Weintraub explores how Christmas was traditionally fêted in the South and what remained of the holiday to celebrate during the waning last full year of the war. Illustrated with striking period prints, General Sherman’s Christmas captures the voices of soldiers and civilians on both sides of the conflict, as they neared the end of a long war.

In The 20 Years After The Civil War, The National Divorce Rate Increased 150%

Letter writers and diary keepers commented frequently on wartime marriage, but after the war many of them stopped writing; the resulting silence created a gap in evidence about postwar marriage patterns. During the war, many Americans sensed that they were living through exciting, unique times. In order to record their experiences and reactions, they started keeping personal diaries, only to stop writing when the conflict ended. Many southerners stopped confiding to diaries because the humiliation and pain of defeat left them unable or unwilling to express themselves in writing. Furthermore, letter writing decreased from wartime levels as soldiers and refugees returned home. Women, especially, avoided recording events and sentiments that could be perceived as dishonoring Confederate veterans and their military service, and imbalanced sex ratios and the marriage squeeze may have served to remind southerners of their loss.

Despite  the growing interest in the social history of the war and its aftermath, there are almost no studies of postwar southern widowhood. How these women and their families coped with the dire economic environment of the postbellum South deserves the attention of social historians.

Sources:  For a discussion of southern women’s postwar writings and politics, see Hilde Libra. Ph.D. dissertation. Harvard University; 2003. ‘Worth a Dozen Men’: Women. Nursing, and Medical Care during the American Civil War. chaps. 12–15.

The Widow of the South was a New York Times bestseller:

Ashes Of Soldiers By Walt Whitman

List of synonyms and notes for “Ashes of Heroes”  first published as “Hymn of Dead Soldiers”

Whitman worked out lists of expressions for grief, suffering, and compassion to help formulate his poems of the Civil War. His Drum-Taps, the most important book of poetry to emerge from the war period, included accounts of calls to arms and of the personal heroism and comradeship of battlefields and encampments. At the book’s core was “The Wound-Dresser,” Whitman’s somber testament to the terrible afflictions of men in army hospitals and the quiet courage of those who daily cared for them. In his elegiac “Ashes of Soldiers,” shown in Whitman’s hand, the poet mourned the dead from all regions of the country and captured the high cost in sorrow paid to preserve unity.

ASHES of soldiers! As I muse, retrospective, murmuring a chant in thought, Lo! the war resumes—again to my sense your shapes, And again the advance of armies.   Noiseless as mists and vapors,  From their graves in the trenches ascending, From the cemeteries all through Virginia and Tennessee, From every point of the compass, out of the countless unnamed graves, In wafted clouds, in myraids large, or squads of twos or threes, or single ones, they come, And silently gather round me.   Now sound no note, O trumpeters! Not at the head of my cavalry, parading on spirited horses, With sabres drawn and glist’ning, and carbines by their thighs—(ah, my brave horsemen! My handsome, tan-faced horsemen! what life, what joy and pride, With all the perils, were yours!)   Nor you drummers—neither at reveille, at dawn, Nor the long roll alarming the camp—nor even the muffled beat for a burial; Nothing from you, this time, O drummers, bearing my warlike drums.   But aside from these, and the marts of wealth, and the crowded promenade, Admitting around me comrades close, unseen by the rest, and voiceless,  The slain elate and alive again—the dust and debris alive, I chant this chant of my silent soul, in the name of all dead soldiers.   Faces so pale, with wondrous eyes, very dear, gather closer yet; Draw close, but speak not. Phantoms of countless lostInvisible to the rest, henceforth become my companions! Follow me ever! desert me not, while I live.   Sweet are the blooming cheeks of the living! sweet are the musical voices sounding! But sweet, ah sweet, are the dead, with their silent eyes.   Dearest comrades! all is over and long gone;  But love is not over—and what love, O comrades! Perfume from battle-fields rising—up from foetor arising.   Perfume therefore my chant, O love! immortal Love! Give me to bathe the memories of all dead soldiers, Shroud them, embalm them, cover them all over with tender pride!  Perfume all! make all wholesome! Make these ashes to nourish and blossom, O love! O chant! solve all, fructify all with the last chemistry.   Give me exhaustless—make me a fountain, That I exhale love from me wherever I go, like a moist perennial dew,  For the ashes of all dead soldiers.

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“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change (as the poet said), windows on the world and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.― Barbara W. Tuchman

The Memoirs Of General Ulysses S. Grant

Mark Twain approached Grant about publishing the war hero’s memoirs with a plum deal that would give Grant 75 percent of the profits as royalties.

Cash-strapped Grant had little choice but to accept Twain’s offer, and the Civil War-focused “Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant” hit stores in 1885.

Grant’s memoirs were an instant runaway hit. Twain’s company made the clever choice of employing former Union soldiers in full uniform as salesmen, and the book became one of the best sellers of the 19th century.

Today, the book is considered by many to be the best presidential memoir ever written, but there’s some controversy over who actually did the bulk of the writing. Twain always claimed that he had only made slight edits to Grant’s text, but the prose was so strong that many suspected Twain himself had ghostwritten the book.

Sadly, Grant didn’t get to see the success of his book; he died shortly after its completion. But his widow Julia banked over $400,000 in royalties from the memoir.

Photo By Alexander Gardner , Mammoth-Plate Albumen Print Circa 1865,_c1865.jpg

Confederate Envoys Reached London, And Many Englishmen Remained Susceptible To The Southern Claim.

English politicians, like the radical John Bright and the Whig Duke of Argyll, ardently supported the North, plenty sided with the Confederacy. They even included W. E. Gladstone, on his long journey from youthful Tory to “the people’s William,” adored by the masses in his later years. Apart from sympathy with the underdog, many Englishmen believed that the South had a just claim of national self-determination.

The American population claims ancestry from British immigrants, great numbers of them arriving throughout the 19th century. Plenty of those took part in the war, and they were joined by more volunteers who came just for the fight, on one side or the other. The extraordinary cast portrayed in “A World on Fire,” by Amanda Foreman — who is also the author of “Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire” — extends from men who fled England to escape poverty to aristocratic Union officers like Major John Fitzroy de Courcy, later Lord Kingsale, a veteran of the Crimea, not to mention Colonel Sir Percy Wyndham, a soldier of fortune whose knighthood was actually Italian. Some, like the Welshman Henry Morton Stanley, even managed to fight for both sides.

“A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War,” by Amanda Foreman,

Civil War Films: Gods And Generals (2003)

  • Summary: Gods and Generals, the screen adaptation of Jeff Shaara’s heralded best-selling novel and prequel to the acclaimed drama “Gettysburg,” is and epic and sweeping portrayal of a nation divided at the start of the Civil War. (Warner Bros.)

WITH: Jeff Daniels (Lt. Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain), Stephen Lang (Gen. Stonewall Jackson), Robert Duvall (Gen. Robert E. Lee), Mira Sorvino (Fanny Chamberlain), Kevin Conway (Sgt. Buster Kilrain), C. Thomas Howell (Sgt. Thomas Chamberlain) and Frankie Faison (Jim Lewis). 

Shaara captures the disillusionment of both Lee and Hancock early in their careers, Lee’s conflict with loyalty, Jackson’s overwhelming Christian ethic and Chamberlain’s total lack of experience, while illustrating how each compensated for shortcomings and failures when put to the test. 

The perspectives of the four men, particularly concerning the battles at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, make vivid the realities of war..