Family life in the south before the civil war

Few households, whether slave or free, or located in the Tidewater, Piedmont, or mountainous Southwest, could remain insulated from a war fought on their lands and in their towns. Many families were uprooted as they witnessed the destruction of their homes and landholdings.

Most profoundly, all families dealt with the ordeal of separation. The war pulled white families apart in unprecedented ways, as a large proportion of men enlisted and fully one in five white men who fought for the Confederacy died. And while the chaos of war similarly dispersed the state's large population of African Americans, it also offered a chance for those families to overcome the longstanding separations wrought by slavery.

White families in Virginia first confronted the war's impact with the enlistments of their male kin. Service in the Confederate Army pulled men away from their homes for years at a time and appeared to threaten their culturally prescribed duty to protect and provide for their families. Yet many soldiers reasoned that army service could still fulfill that duty by allowing a man to fight against the Union's threats to his family's livelihood and privilege.

Slave Life in the South pre-Civil War

As one Virginia soldier put it, his duty in the war encompassed "the defense of our country, our liberty and the protection of our parents, wives, and children, and all that is dear to a man. No matter how these white Virginians justified the absence of men, the separation took a toll on those left behind. Wives, daughters, sisters, and other female kin assumed much of the work normally pursued by men—managing plantations, harvesting crops, running businesses—while confronting the new strains of war on their own, such as inflation and slave resistance. These mounting pressures took a toll on women.

Soldiers tried to sustain their role in family affairs through frequent letters home, but their correspondence proved an imperfect surrogate when the mail, disrupted by war, was slow in coming.

Other women searched for ways of bringing their men home, either by filing a petition with the Confederate secretary of war for a man's exemption, or by urging a soldier to desert the army. Such efforts were often unsuccessful, however, leaving most white families to wait until the war's end to rebuild their lives—something made even more difficult when death intervened and rendered a family's separation permanent. Political divisions sometimes compounded the separations experienced by white families.

Regions with high Unionist concentrations, such as western Virginia, witnessed the division of households on opposing sides of the war's divide—pitting father against son, husband against wife, and even the oft-cited brother against brother.

As one Virginian noted of his own family's division, "There are thousands of families in the same situation. Stuart , the famed Confederate cavalryman, urged his wife, Flora Stuart , to change their son's name so that he no longer bore the moniker of his Unionist father-in-law, Philip St. Louis to marry Julia. Unbeknownst to the groom, all three of his Southern attendants, including James Longstreet, would fight against him during the Civil War.

The Differences Between the North and South Before the Civil War

The Army then transferred the young lieutenant to Detroit and New York. At first, Julia was able to travel with him, but the Army then sent Grant to the Pacific Northwest, first to the Oregon Territory and then to California. He could not take his family to these distant locations and he hated being separated from them.

He also ran into financial problems, became depressed, and, according to some accounts, began to drink to excess. In , Grant resigned suddenly from the Army. It is still unclear what precipitated his resignation. After leaving the Army, Grant returned to his wife and children in Missouri.

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Julia's father had given her some land, and Grant tried to farm it, building a log house he dubbed "Hardscrabble. When extra labor was needed, he hired free blacks. He could have made money from selling the one slave that his father-in-law gave him but instead freed the slave. The painful reality was that Ulysses could not support his family, which eventually grew to four children.

He also attempted a half-dozen other lines of work over the next several years. By , Grant was forced appeal to his father for help, and he went to work for his younger brother in a leather shop in Galena, Illinois. The governor of Illinois appointed the former captain to lead a volunteer regiment that no one else had been able to train. Grant instituted badly needed discipline, focusing on the regiment's main goals and overlooking minor details.

He gradually won the men's respect and allegiance and was subsequently appointed to brigadier general. From the outset of the war, the Confederacy had the advantage of fighting on its own territory, as well as fighting a limited war for independence; in contrast, the United States needed to conquer vast territory and subdue a large population.

The Confederates also enjoyed strong support from their citizens and, initially, had superior commanders.

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But over the years, the industrial capacity of the North proved consequential. The North had the advantage in factories, money, and manpower to fill the battleground with better weapons and more soldiers. The U. Navy also imposed an increasingly successful blockade that prevented the South from importing materiel equipment and supplies. But the Northern advantage did not translate into victories, and the war dragged on.

Incompetent Northern military leadership and strong Southern fighting ability continued to fan the flames for four long years. During the early phases of the conflict, the North lacked a commander with the nerve and logistical skills to take the offensive against the outgunned Rebels.

President Lincoln grew frustrated with his ineffective, overcautious commanders, especially General George B.


McClellan was the first of many generals who fought not to win but to avoid losing. In time, Lincoln would select Grant as the man to lead the North to victory. Grant displayed his military prowess early in the conflict. In , he led 3, troops into his first major engagement.


Family Separation and Reunion |

The clash at Belmont, Missouri, was a draw, but he showed a rare Union trait at the time—a willingness to fight. More than that in this early period Grant learned something about the enemy, and about himself. The lesson was valuable. At Fort Donelson, he accepted the surrender of an entire Confederate force, earning a nickname, "Unconditional Surrender" Grant.

Family Separation and Reunion

Fort Donelson was the first real Union victory of the war, and Grant became known nationally overnight, earning a promotion to major general. But the good press did not last long. That April of , the press blamed Grant for massive losses at the Battle of Shiloh, also in Tennessee. He had been surprised by an early morning Confederate attack that pushed the Union line back, resulting in the capture of many Union soldiers.

Family Life during the Civil War

At the end of the day, however, Grant had managed to hold his position. Supported by reinforcements, he launched a counterattack on the second day that led to a Southern retreat. Although the battle was a strategic success for the Union, it came at great cost, and many held Grant responsible. You learned to run the farm, as it would eventually be yours. If you were a girl, you would be helping your mother and would not go around the farm often, only men would own them. If you were black, you were a slave doing most of the work on the plantation.

You were helpless, in the sun all the time, and lived in poor conditions, usually separated from your family. Other lifestyles would include traders, hunters, etc. Although these jobs had their benefits, they were not as common. How was life in the South before the Civil War? Nov 25, Related questions Lincoln helped to permanently end slavery in America by pushing Congress to pass what Amendment? What was the South's economy based on before and during the Civil War?