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!
[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!"