"But for the Women our Civil War would Long Ago have Been Ended."

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869) was an American concert pianist and composer. Born in New Orleans, the son of a English/Jewish father and Creole mother, all of his half-siblings were mulatto, as had been his mother's first husband. Early recognized as a piano prodigy, at the age of 13, he was sent to Europe to study, and spent most of the next 15 years of his life there. After some initial difficulty (the Paris Conservatoire rejected him as a student without a hearing ... "America is a land of steam machines, not pianists. Go home and become a mechanic!") ... he eventually became an immensely popular concert artist ("rock-star celebrity" some have said), praised for his virtuosity by the likes of Chopin, Liszt, and Berlioz. Many of his own compositions were influenced by American negro and creole themes. He, in turn would be a major influence on many early jazz artists.​

Returning to New Orleans briefly in 1856, to settle his uncle's estate, he freed the few slaves he found he had inherited. He always proudly introduced himself as a native of New Orleans, though he remained loyal to the Union. After further triumphant tours in Europe and South America, Gottschalk arrived in New York in February 1862. There followed a long tour of the U.S. and Canada, which included many benefit performances for soldiers’ aid. His first journal (published in 1881, as Notes of a Pianist) contains this assessment of the baleful influence of the women of both sides upon the Civil War.

Be forewarned, his attitude towards women is decidedly Victorian, untouched by the slightest hint of feminism!
1612729142193.png

Louis Gottschalk
[Brady Photo, LoC]​

"Stuart, the general of cavalry of Lee's army, is young, handsome, brave, and generous. The last information having been given me by a Baltimore belle, strongly attached to the Secessionists, as are almost all the ladies of Maryland, I cannot guarantee its exactitude. A woman's imagination is a deceitful prism through which she sees everything rose colour or everything black, according as loves or hates the object which is reflected. This would furnish, if I knew how to write, matter for a very long chapter, in which, acknowledging that it is the privilege of woman to inspire in us our noblest actions, and to be the source of all our poesy, I would deplore the influence which they so fatally exert over our conduct. But for the women our civil war would long ago have been ended. Through their imprudent zeal, and the intemperance of their opinions, which, in politics as in other things, carry them beyond their mark, they have on both sides contributed to foment the discord and to envenom the strife. Indeed, women are found at the bottom of every social revolution, and in all the little accidents of social life.

"Imbued with prejudices, they execrate or adore a principle, a law, a race, as their rancour or their personal affections drive them in this or that direction; nervous and irritable they become heroic, without suspecting it; ... passionate and unreflecting, they commit with innocent frankness monstrous cruelties, at which their tender natures would revolt if the blindness of their passion did not almost always prevent them from seeing rationally and soberly. Without giving entire faith to the stories of jewels made from bones gathered on the battle-fields, I will cite that woman of the South, who burst into laughter on seeing the funeral procession pass by of a young Federal officer, killed near Baton-Rouge and that young madwoman of the North, unfortunately endowed with eloquence, who, for some time has gone about 'lecturing,' preaching with ferocious simplicity the massacre of all classes in the South; and the ‘strong-minded women' of New England, who demand the annihilation of the McClellan party, because it is too moderate towards the rebels.

"What do I say? The ladies of Baltimore, of Nashville, and St. Louis, crying as loud as they can bawl, ‘Hurrah for Jefferson Davis!’ in the presence of wounded Federals; wrapping up their children in Confederate flags, and making them sing every time an officer of the United States passes by, 'My Maryland' or 'Dixie,' for the purpose of drawing on themselves the prosecution of the government, or of rendering plausible the reproaches which the enemies of the latter make, that it attacks women and children; and my beautiful female fellow-citizens in New Orleans, provoking the officers of Butler so far as to render indispensable the regrettable measures which that general thought it his duty to take, seeing a conflict becoming imminent on account of their incessant hostile manifestations. Here is what a young officer, a friend of mine, wrote to me on this subject:


‘On arriving at New Orleans, I flattered myself that I was above such little annoyances; I had made up my mind to consider them as childish behaviour; but soon, I admit, the contortions, the grimaces, the sneers of the women that I met, the insulting care with which they placed their handkerchiefs on their nose when they met me, or wiped their dress if they had touched me in passing, the affectation with which they walked in the mud in the middle of the street, rather than to walk on the pavement where I happened to be; — all these little, pin-prick annoyances, to a man well educated, who was disposed to accord them his protection, and to respect them, triumphed over my philosophy, and caused me a sort of painful humiliation that you cannot imagine and nevertheless these insults are nothing in comparison with those which many of my companions have suffered!’
"However, without undertaking to make an apology for all the acts of Butler, I do not easily understand the indignation caused in Europe by his famous order of the day, which says that 'every woman who shall insult an officer or soldier in the streets will be considered as a common woman.' I have no need of Butler to arrive at the same conclusion, and the proof of it is in the answer of Beauregard's sister, whose opinion was asked respecting this 'infamous edict.' I have none, said she, seeing it does not concern me. Is it difficult to judge by this answer that she was a lady, and consequently had nothing to fear, as the order of Butler did not justify the insults of an officer or soldier to her?

"Strong-minded women are ridiculous, and they become odious as soon as their mission ceases to be that of tenderness, of charity, and devotion. A Lady de Forli, of whom Machiavel speaks, was an unnatural mother, an indecent virago; Charlotte Corday, a romantic and probably amorous fool; and all the women of the South and North, who place themselves in their balconies in festal garments when the coffin of an officer of the enemy passes by, and who thus insult the august majesty of death, by displaying ridiculous emblems, fill me with horror!"
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jan 24, 2017
Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869) was an American concert pianist and composer. Born in New Orleans, the son of a English/Jewish father and Creole mother, all of his half-siblings were mulatto, as had been his mother's first husband. Early recognized as a piano prodigy, at the age of 13, he was sent to Europe to study, and spent most of the next 15 years of his life there. After some initial difficulty (the Paris Conservatoire rejected him as a student without a hearing ... "America is a land of steam machines, not pianists. Go home and become a mechanic!") ... he eventually became an immensely popular concert artist ("rock-star celebrity" some have said), praised for his virtuosity by the likes of Chopin, Liszt, and Berlioz. Many of his own compositions were influenced by American negro and creole themes. He, in turn would be a major influence on many early jazz artists.​

Returning to New Orleans briefly in 1856, to settle his uncle's estate, he freed the few slaves he found he had inherited. He always proudly introduced himself as a native of New Orleans, though he remained loyal to the Union. After further triumphant tours in Europe and South America, Gottschalk arrived in New York in February 1862. There followed a long tour of the U.S. and Canada, which included many benefit performances for soldiers’ aid. His first journal (published in 1881, as Notes of a Pianist) contains this assessment of the baleful influence of the women of both sides upon the Civil War.

Be forewarned, his attitude towards women is decidedly Victorian, untouched by the slightest hint of feminism!
View attachment 390223
Louis Gottschalk
[Brady Photo, LoC]​

"Stuart, the general of cavalry of Lee's army, is young, handsome, brave, and generous. The last information having been given me by a Baltimore belle, strongly attached to the Secessionists, as are almost all the ladies of Maryland, I cannot guarantee its exactitude. A woman's imagination is a deceitful prism through which she sees everything rose colour or everything black, according as loves or hates the object which is reflected. This would furnish, if I knew how to write, matter for a very long chapter, in which, acknowledging that it is the privilege of woman to inspire in us our noblest actions, and to be the source of all our poesy, I would deplore the influence which they so fatally exert over our conduct. But for the women our civil war would long ago have been ended. Through their imprudent zeal, and the intemperance of their opinions, which, in politics as in other things, carry them beyond their mark, they have on both sides contributed to foment the discord and to envenom the strife. Indeed, women are found at the bottom of every social revolution, and in all the little accidents of social life.

"Imbued with prejudices, they execrate or adore a principle, a law, a race, as their rancour or their personal affections drive them in this or that direction; nervous and irritable they become heroic, without suspecting it; ... passionate and unreflecting, they commit with innocent frankness monstrous cruelties, at which their tender natures would revolt if the blindness of their passion did not almost always prevent them from seeing rationally and soberly. Without giving entire faith to the stories of jewels made from bones gathered on the battle-fields, I will cite that woman of the South, who burst into laughter on seeing the funeral procession pass by of a young Federal officer, killed near Baton-Rouge and that young madwoman of the North, unfortunately endowed with eloquence, who, for some time has gone about 'lecturing,' preaching with ferocious simplicity the massacre of all classes in the South; and the ‘strong-minded women' of New England, who demand the annihilation of the McClellan party, because it is too moderate towards the rebels.

"What do I say? The ladies of Baltimore, of Nashville, and St. Louis, crying as loud as they can bawl, ‘Hurrah for Jefferson Davis!’ in the presence of wounded Federals; wrapping up their children in Confederate flags, and making them sing every time an officer of the United States passes by, 'My Maryland' or 'Dixie,' for the purpose of drawing on themselves the prosecution of the government, or of rendering plausible the reproaches which the enemies of the latter make, that it attacks women and children; and my beautiful female fellow-citizens in New Orleans, provoking the officers of Butler so far as to render indispensable the regrettable measures which that general thought it his duty to take, seeing a conflict becoming imminent on account of their incessant hostile manifestations. Here is what a young officer, a friend of mine, wrote to me on this subject:


‘On arriving at New Orleans, I flattered myself that I was above such little annoyances; I had made up my mind to consider them as childish behaviour; but soon, I admit, the contortions, the grimaces, the sneers of the women that I met, the insulting care with which they placed their handkerchiefs on their nose when they met me, or wiped their dress if they had touched me in passing, the affectation with which they walked in the mud in the middle of the street, rather than to walk on the pavement where I happened to be; — all these little, pin-prick annoyances, to a man well educated, who was disposed to accord them his protection, and to respect them, triumphed over my philosophy, and caused me a sort of painful humiliation that you cannot imagine and nevertheless these insults are nothing in comparison with those which many of my companions have suffered!’
"However, without undertaking to make an apology for all the acts of Butler, I do not easily understand the indignation caused in Europe by his famous order of the day, which says that 'every woman who shall insult an officer or soldier in the streets will be considered as a common woman.' I have no need of Butler to arrive at the same conclusion, and the proof of it is in the answer of Beauregard's sister, whose opinion was asked respecting this 'infamous edict.' I have none, said she, seeing it does not concern me. Is it difficult to judge by this answer that she was a lady, and consequently had nothing to fear, as the order of Butler did not justify the insults of an officer or soldier to her?

"Strong-minded women are ridiculous, and they become odious as soon as their mission ceases to be that of tenderness, of charity, and devotion. A Lady de Forli, of whom Machiavel speaks, was an unnatural mother, an indecent virago; Charlotte Corday, a romantic and probably amorous fool; and all the women of the South and North, who place themselves in their balconies in festal garments when the coffin of an officer of the enemy passes by, and who thus insult the august majesty of death, by displaying ridiculous emblems, fill me with horror!"
I enjoyed reading this gentleman's perspective, @John Hartwell, after our conversation the other day. There is much to reflect on and untangle, but for now I am watching the Superbowl so it will have to wait - Go Chiefs!!
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2017
Go Chiefs!!
:cry::cry::cry:

Let me just get that bit of feminine angst out of the way first! Or maybe this is more universal angst amongst Chief's fans ...

Be forewarned, his attitude towards women is decidedly Victorian, untouched by the slightest hint of feminism!
Let me just get this out of the way, too. I am not a feminist. And while feminism does exist, and no doubt the piece you shared may raise its hackles, I have no interest other than to speak authentically as an individual woman and from a woman's perspective. What might he be called if one wanted to apply labels, I wonder? A misogynist? I don't believe in applying either type of label unless someone wants to apply them to themselves. And I find his point of view interesting. I am happy to hear it. It provides an opportunity for the exchange of perspectives. And in many ways he is presenting a balanced perspective between North and South in his commentary on women. So that is fair. It's not just women of the South being put under the microscope. But it is women being put under the microscope, so there is a need to reply.
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2017
His first journal (published in 1881, as Notes of a Pianist) contains this assessment of the baleful influence of the women of both sides upon the Civil War.
First off we must consider the overall impression given here of women, which is that their influence was destructive re: the CW.

That is quite a broad brush with which to paint women if we align it with the understanding that women were often left bereft of their husbands, fathers, brothers, sons and forced to carry on daily living without their support. They kept home and hearth, men needed the reassurance that they were managing without them and also that the women still thought of them and loved them in spite of their separation. Women built men up, reassured them, ministered to them in the circumstances, kept vigil at their bedsides, provided them with as much succour and comfort they possibly could for the most part, even from a distance. Such women were far from destructive as they supported their men both back at home and sometimes in the field. Most men would not know where they would be without them and the nation would not have withstood the calamity that befell it without the strength of women to help shore it up.

I'm going to have to break this up into several bite sized chunks for easier digestion.
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2017
A woman's imagination is a deceitful prism through which she sees everything rose colour or everything black, according as loves or hates the object which is reflected.
A woman's imagination may be impregnated with emotion, rather than logic, and as such can be a deceitful prism through which she sees according to how she feels. This could be in the manner described, but he is not also crediting women with an intellectual capacity which enables her to think critically and discern beyond the influence of those emotions. A woman is not a slave to her emotions. But she generously shares them so others may benefit from the depth of her feeling. It is how we connect as human beings.

in which, acknowledging that it is the privilege of woman to inspire in us our noblest actions, and to be the source of all our poesy, I would deplore the influence which they so fatally exert over our conduct.
In one breath he states it is the privilege of women to inspire men and yet he deplores the influence women exert over men's conduct.

Men might not aspire to nearly as much without women to encourage them.

But for the women our civil war would long ago have been ended. Through their imprudent zeal, and the intemperance of their opinions, which, in politics as in other things, carry them beyond their mark, they have on both sides contributed to foment the discord and to envenom the strife. Indeed, women are found at the bottom of every social revolution, and in all the little accidents of social life.
I think we all know who started the war, and it wasn't women. Julia Dent Grant offered to intervene in helping to end the war but was not given her husband's permission who duly said that it was men who started the war and it was men who would finish it.

Where was women's influence most prevalent? In a social context. Therefore it was the only place they could be found, and the only place they could make their voices heard.
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2017
‘On arriving at New Orleans, I flattered myself that I was above such little annoyances; I had made up my mind to consider them as childish behaviour; but soon, I admit, the contortions, the grimaces, the sneers of the women that I met, the insulting care with which they placed their handkerchiefs on their nose when they met me, or wiped their dress if they had touched me in passing, the affectation with which they walked in the mud in the middle of the street, rather than to walk on the pavement where I happened to be; — all these little, pin-prick annoyances, to a man well educated, who was disposed to accord them his protection, and to respect them, triumphed over my philosophy, and caused me a sort of painful humiliation that you cannot imagine and nevertheless these insults are nothing in comparison with those which many of my companions have suffered!’
It's not hard to imagine how affecting this behaviour must have been. And one only has to imagine being in those women's shoes to understand why they might have acted the way they did. How do you treat your enemy? With warm congratulations, brilliant smiles, firm handshakes? Or with rancour and disdain? Perception is everything, and ultimately the population had experienced what amounted to a hostile takeover of their city. To expect a population to behave in a welcoming manner in those circumstances, or at least not an aggrieved one, is irrational. To expect a subjugated people to be thankful is unrealistic. Where the officer has chivalrous intentions toward the inhabitants he forgets that he is not wanted there and his more powerful position makes him a threat. While the variety of reactions saddens me, I also find them understandable. And it often works both ways. Some of Butler's actions smack of mistreatment to me. Perhaps some of that also trickled down to his men.
 

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
It's not hard to imagine how affecting this behaviour must have been. And one only has to imagine being in those women's shoes to understand why they might have acted the way they did. How do you treat your enemy? With warm congratulations, brilliant smiles, firm handshakes? Or with rancour and disdain? Perception is everything, and ultimately the population had experienced what amounted to a hostile takeover of their city. To expect a population to behave in a welcoming manner in those circumstances, or at least not an aggrieved one, is irrational. To expect a subjugated people to be thankful is unrealistic. Where the officer has chivalrous intentions toward the inhabitants he forgets that he is not wanted there and his more powerful position makes him a threat. While the variety of reactions saddens me, I also find them understandable. And it often works both ways. Some of Butler's actions smack of mistreatment to me. Perhaps some of that also trickled down to his men.
I think that disaffection was not unexpected. But, it was expected to be expressed in a properly feminine manner: passively. These women took the offensive, which was improper (in an age that valued "propriety") and left the men involved with no acceptable way to respond (if a man had behaved that way, it would have been a different matter). After Butler's "Woman Order," the women of New Orleans did not suddenly become welcoming and friendly, they continued to make their disaffection clear: just not in an insultingly aggressive manner.

They behaved as they did, Gottschalk claims, "for the purpose of drawing on themselves the prosecution of the government, or of rendering plausible the reproaches which the enemies of the latter make, that it attacks women and children." Of course, that's at best only partially true. Mostly, they were honestly voicing their very real frustrations. They were helpless in their situation, so they presented the occupying garrison with a situation in which they were likewise helpless.

Some of Butler's actions smack of mistreatment to me. Perhaps some of that also trickled down to his men.
Possibly. But, I would quote a letter written to Butler in October 1863, from Confederate Gen. M. Jeff Thompson, who controlled the territory north of New Orleans during the summer of the previous year:

""You say that 'no one more surely than myself' knows that 'the acts' for which my Government blamed you 'were untruly reported, and unjustly construed.' What your intentions were, when you issued the 'order' which brought so much censure upon yourself, I of course cannot tell, but I can testify, and do with pleasure, that nearly all of the many persons who passed through my lines, to and from New Orleans during the months of August and September 1862, spoke favorably of the treatment they had received from you, and with all my enquiries, which were constant, I did not hear of one single instance of a lady being insulted by your command." [Butler's Private and Official Correspondence, vol. III,p. 143]
Butler's policies came down very hard on the upper classes of NOLA society, and some of it could well be construed as mistreatment. But, the weight of his actions were directed at the men of the city, not the women. Ben Butler was certainly not without his faults, but those have been vastly exaggerated by his many political enemies, both North and South.

Take a look at the thread:
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/in-the-end-benjamin-butler-really-was-a-ladies-man.159862/
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jan 24, 2017
Your first paragraph is very telling in that you note women were expected to act passively. I'm sure that was the expectation and women themselves need to decide which of their behaviours are likely to be more effective. So, I take that back to the women involved and not as a requirement to be placed on them. Part of the issue is the inability of the men to respond to what is seen as women's bad behaviour due to requirements placed on them. Butler had his own ingenious way of solving that problem by potentially downgrading the women's status to match their behaviour. It would have been better if the women had made this decision for themselves, but ultimately it forced their hand and no doubt the newly designed chamber pots were a hit! Another ingenious method of literally relieving themselves of some of their angst.

He says they behaved as they did for the purposes of drawing punishment on themselves. I disagree. They behaved as they did to express their opposition, not to draw punishment on themselves. That punishment was a possible consequence of their actions should have been kept in mind as well as a preparedness to face those consequences. That the consequences fit the 'crime' should also have been a consideration.

Mostly, they were honestly voicing their very real frustrations. They were helpless in their situation, so they presented the occupying garrison with a situation in they were likewise helpless.
I think this is the understanding I was trying to create.

I will take a look at the thread you have linked. Thanks.
 

Lubliner

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Of the women I am to understand that no matter how nice the occupying forces may tend to be, it shall not be excepted as manly gestures, nor polite niceties; but instead shall be construed as insult to injury, negligent irresponsibility, and treachery to forwardness.
Lubliner.
 
Top