Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Women Shamed Men into Fighting in the Civil and Revolutionary Wars

Many of you have probably heard about how men were handed white feathers of cowardice by some women during WWI(including by feminist leaders) but something that is rarely mentioned is that some women also shamed men into fighting in both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. For some odd reason, this is a subject that historians have not been very interested in examining much or at least in elaborating much of the information to the public after discovering it.

Certainly men heavily pressured each other into fighting in war throughout history and I am more than pleased with the amount of information available on that particular element of war but there has been almost a complete blackout in mainstream history about how women were also cheerleaders supporting war.

My first source for women shaming men into fighting in the Civil War is a book titled "A People at War: Civilians and Soldiers in America's Civil War" it states:

"Soldiers' letters and diaries suggest that soldiers hoped to win the respect of their family
members, particularly their fathers, or to appear manly in the eyes of their wives
or would-be wives. Some Southern women sent petticoats to men reluctant to
volunteer, and one Northern recruit wrote in his diary, "If a fellow wants to go
with a girl now he had better enlist. The girls sing 'I am bound to be a Soldier's
Wife or Die an Old Maid."

My second source, "Fighting Men of the Civil War" also corroborates that information. It stated:

"Worst of all were the sweethearts. "If a fellow wants to go with a girl, now he had better enlist" wrote an Indiana boy. The song on the young belles' lips was "I am bound to be a Soldier's Wife or Die an Old Maid". When an Alabama youth showed reluctance to rally to the colors, his sweetheart, angry at his behavior, broke off their engagement and sent him a skirt and petticoat with the note; "Wear these or enlist" 

A third source confirming this historical reality is a book titled, "Women in the American Civil War, Volume 1":

"Women could use the romantic sentiments of
the period as a form of intimidation to encourage
men to enlist. Some women proclaimed that they
would marry only soldiers. not cowards; they would
marry a soldier or be an old maid. According to one
popular Confederate song, "None but the brave
deserve the fair."

Others postponed engagements
until after enlistments. Married women declared
similar sentiments, asserting that they would not
keep a husband who clid not join the army. In other
cases, some of which are perhaps apocryphal,
women sent petticoats, bonnets. and hoopskirts to
men who declined to serve their nation."
And my final source is titled "Undoing Glory: Constructions of Gender and Patriotism in Post War US Society", this book also mentions women shaming men into the Revolutionary War:

"The Revolutionary War saw women boycott British goods, shun British loyalists, and coerce their men to fight. Similar activities occurred during the American Civil War. Here, a poignant story relates to women in Texas presenting local men with petticoats and bonnets as an effort to shame them into fighting for the Confederacy."

All of this information is of paramount importance for understanding the full scope of the tremendous pressures these young men were hit with pushing them into a uniform. Without this piece of the puzzle their decision join the bloodiest war in the nation's history makes much less sense. Sex sells and even back then it was sometimes utilized to sell the legitimacy of war. 

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