Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War (Fred W. Morrison Series in Southern Studies)
Drew Gilpin Faust
When Confederate men marched off to battle, southern women struggled with the new responsibilities of directing farms and plantations, providing for families, and supervising increasingly restive slaves. Drew Faust offers a compelling picture of the more than half-million women who belonged to the slaveholding families of the Confederacy during this period of acute crisis, when every part of these women's lives became vexed and uncertain.
The master's household, made those households central to the most public aspects of regional life. The direct exercise of control over slaves was the most fundamental and essential political act in the Old South. With the departure of white men, this transcendent public duty fell to Confederate women.2 Although white southerners-both male and female-might insist that politics was not, even in the changed circumstances ofwartime, an appropriate part of woman's sphere, the female slave manager.
Enough, he would run away until Will came home.30 To resolve the volatile situation and to salvage her reputation as slave mistress, Lizzie now enlisted another white man, Coleman, to talk reasonably with Sam. Coleman had been her dead father's overseer and continued to manage her mother's property. In the absence of Will and Lizzie's brothers at the front, he was an obvious family deputy, and he had undoubtedly known Sam before Lizzie had inherited him from her father's estate. Coleman agreed to.
Eloquently than most southern wives. She was after all a professional writer. But, perhaps more important, the distribution of wartime sacrifice in her marriage was particularly unbalanced. Her civilian husband went not to war but "to town"; he was not risking his life or, apparently, assuming significant responsibility on the homefront. Yet Virginia French was far from alone in her feeling that southern men were not carrying out their obligations to their wives and children because of a war that.
Expectations about marriage yielded a newly critical stance toward the institution. With a cynicism one might expect to be the fruit of long and bitter experience, teenager Lucy Buck lamented the wedding of a Virginia friend. "I feel sad to hear these young brides indulge in such bright anticipations as these-I think of the contrast between married life as they imagine it to be and married life as they will find it to be ten years hence." Jo Gillis of Alabama professed to find the idea of wedlock.
The war, asJulia Davidson observed to her husband, John, "We little knew how dear we were to each other"; they discovered both themselves and each other in their wartime correspondence. Learning to write love letters, historian Karen Lystra has argued, required exploration and thus new awareness of one's interior being and one's subjectivity. For nineteenth-century men and women, she writes, "the self" was L'brought into clearer focus through the communication process required by the conventions.