Ami's SOA Wives And Husbands, Soldiers And Widows Of The South

JPK Huson 1863

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#1
Found some thought provoking articles on Southern wives and husbands, soldiers and widows. There's a perspective out there, that so many Southern men perished in the war, women remained war widows and young girls coming of age during and just after the war had a difficult time, realizing the married life those before and after them took for granted.
widow nc 1863.JPG

This is very cool, from a North Carolina paper. NC was the state to raise to rise Holy Heck when support was withdrawn for families of soldiers- you see there was strong sentiment there.

Era periodicals variously proclaimed disaster or reassured an anxious population. Unsurprising, given that the tragic consequences of an endless war were brought as shattering news stories with distressing regularity. Because the South had less population to draw on than the North, these took their toll in forms other than statistics.
widow nc 1864.JPG

North Carolina again, 1863. Funny, every article I found published about concern for war widows was out of a North Carolina paper. It is not the topic of the thread, just found it interesting. I'm not saying the other states were missing the care, NC most obvious in newspapers, keeping soldiers, families and widows concerns front and center.
wid1.jpg

For some reason I think she was from the South although now cannot track her down.
wid2.jpg


wid3.jpg






Common sense, gosh, tells us how entire communities would certainly have an awful time- how could it not be the case? How do you break these village-wide tragedies down into numbers and stats? Northern villages suffered in the same way, too, not quite as commonly. But they did. Widows and young girls there, certainly, for whatever reasons, plural, did not resume life's spring through winter patterns as would have been the case had not war robbed all, of all. Just look at this;

" The 26th North Carolina, hailing from seven counties in the western part of the state, suffered 714 casualties out of 800 men during the Battle of Gettysburg. The 24th Michigan squared off against the 26th North Carolina at Gettysburg and lost 362 out of 496 men. Nearly the entire student body of Ole Miss--135 out 139--enlisted in Company A of the 11th Mississippi. Company A, also known as the "University Greys" suffered 100% casualties in Pickett's Charge. Eighteen members of the Christian family of Christianburg, Virginia were killed during the war. It is estimated that one in three Southern households lost at least one family member. "
http://www.civilwar.org/education/civil-war-casualties.html


I don't know. This next article seems to go back and forth, or at least do that ' thing ' where a significant amount of lives were affected but they are a little dismissed. Each one of the numbers in any statistic is a person- that woman has a life, that life was made different by the war. Like this below; Which is fine but begs the question on who and how much?

" Thus, despite its enormous death toll, the war had a modest, short-lived effect on the timing and incidence of first marriage. " (* Is that true? And what does it mean, if so- who are the women included in those numbers? )



"On one hand, for a brief period after the war, southern men who had survived the conflict enjoyed demographic advantages in the search for a wife. ( * the guys' perspective... )Relative to southern men born a generation earlier or later, white men in the postwar South had more potential spouses to choose from and married at a slightly younger age. On the other hand, unmarried southern white women in their twenties at the outbreak of the war faced an acute shortage of available men after the war. Unsurprisingly, a small number of women in this cohort delayed marriage or compromised on marriage partners. The vast majority eventually married, however, and the war did not create a large cohort of lifelong spinsters or so-called maiden aunts. Although available census data limit the analysis of the timing and incidence of first marriage, an analysis of widowhood in the 1880 and later censuses suggests that many women widowed during or after the war were unable to remarry.

High levels of widowhood in the postwar South among relatively young women probably reflects both high death rates of southern men during the war and low remarriage rates of southern widows afterward.


for every 100 southern white women expected to be entering marriage in 1870 there would be just 70 southern white men.

Nearly one in three southern white women over the age of 40 were currently widowed in 1880. "
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3002115/



I'm not sure we can always break people and tragedy into numbers- as ' numbers ', certainly. Bet a lot there are more personal reasons behind the rest of that article. Guessing areas of the South did not rebound as well as stated- and not merely because it became repopulated. Our country suffered a human event of massive proportions. How do you log numbers in connection to that?

wid4.jpg

Deep mourning, like so, so many.

widows of loc1.jpg

A Union widow, not out of place here, to indicate pain across our country.

widow nc 1865.JPG
widow nc 1865a.JPG

North Carolina, 1865

widow ral 1865 1.JPG
widow ral 1865 2.JPG

North Carolina 1864

widows nc 1864.JPG

Texas, making an amendment, supporting widows. Printed in a NC paper.


20yr75CL.jpg
 
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Anna Elizabeth Henry

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#9
Found some thought provoking articles on Southern wives and husbands, soldiers and widows. There's a perspective out there, that so many Southern men perished in the war, women remained war widows and young girls coming of age during and just after the war had a difficult time, realizing the married life those before and after them took for granted.
Excellent, thought provoking post, thanks for sharing the photos and articles, JPK!

The percentage of ACW deaths, both North and South, if translated into modern population numbers would be the equivalent of losing almost 6 million men of fighting age today (the statistic is from Drew Gilpin Faust's "This Republic of Suffering"). Which is staggering by modern terms, but gives us an idea of the sheer scale of the loss of life in the era.

Also as a side note, my grandmother lived through WWII in Europe and experienced the loss of many of the men of her age group due to the war. In the end, she and a number of young women her age married a bit later, usually to men either younger (my grandfather was four years younger than grandma) or significantly older men who were too old to fight. I imagine a number of widows re-married possibly younger men or much older and perhaps even previously widowed men they may not have considered as a marriage material.
The same may have applied to unmarried ladies, too. I wonder if there's a way to get census statistics on that...hmm...:unsure:
 

Patrick H

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#11
The widow in deep mourning, with her face completely obscured by the veil, is an amazing image. I don't understand why she even posed for it. But for the arm, she could have draped a dress form and got the same image. I am sure there is a reason why she had the image made, but I just don't understand.
 

Anna Elizabeth Henry

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The widow in deep mourning, with her face completely obscured by the veil, is an amazing image. I don't understand why she even posed for it. But for the arm, she could have draped a dress form and got the same image. I am sure there is a reason why she had the image made, but I just don't understand.
Especially given the cost of photography at the time and how infrequently one would sit for a photograph to begin with. Also, what is she holding in her one hand...it's long, thin and white? It hooks a little hooked on the end, too.
 
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#13
On the subject of Confederate women finding it difficult to remarry, I recently learned that my 2x great-grandfather Harry Sawyer married his wife's sister Lucy after the death of his wife Nannie. Lucy had not been widowed by the war (her husband seems to have died about 1879) but both men had been Confederate soldiers, and I wonder about the circumstances of the marriage, since they married very shortly after the death of both spouses, and both had small children at home. It feels to me like there was a strong element of good men being hard to come by. He needed a mother for his children, she needed someone to run her farm... the solution seems more practical than romantic, especially given that Harry had been Lucy's legal guardian during her teen years.
 

Anna Elizabeth Henry

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On the subject of Confederate women finding it difficult to remarry, I recently learned that my 2x great-grandfather Harry Sawyer married his wife's sister Lucy after the death of his wife Nannie. Lucy had not been widowed by the war (her husband seems to have died about 1879) but both men had been Confederate soldiers, and I wonder about the circumstances of the marriage, since they married very shortly after the death of both spouses, and both had small children at home. It feels to me like there was a strong element of good men being hard to come by. He needed a mother for his children, she needed someone to run her farm... the solution seems more practical than romantic, especially given that Harry had been Lucy's legal guardian during her teen years.
I agree, many marriages were practical arrangements in the 19th century. Young brides with small children left widowed needed help and often fathers and brothers were unable to assist due to distance or limited means, so practical marriages were no doubt the answer. It's a wee bit creepy in the modern world to marry a man who was your guardian during your teen years just as one of my ancestors who was widowed young at 19 with a baby married a 47 year old confirmed bachelor. I often wondered if these situations turned into true marriages or just remained arrangements. You could of course grow to love someone over time, but I wonder if it would be the same type of deep love you'd have for your spouse if you chose them on your terms and not out of necessity.
 
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#15
I agree, many marriages were practical arrangements in the 19th century. Young brides with small children left widowed needed help and often fathers and brothers were unable to assist due to distance or limited means, so practical marriages were no doubt the answer. It's a wee bit creepy in the modern world to marry a man who was your guardian during your teen years just as one of my ancestors who was widowed young at 19 with a baby married a 47 year old confirmed bachelor. I often wondered if these situations turned into true marriages or just remained arrangements. You could of course grow to love someone over time, but I wonder if it would be the same type of deep love you'd have for your spouse if you chose them on your terms and not out of necessity.
In this case it's impossible to say. Lucy didn't live long after the marriage, and Harry married a third time - yet another widow of a Confederate soldier. Harry's family, the Sawyers, and Lucy and Nannie's family, the Woodsons, had been next door neighbors their whole lives, and were apparently very close even before there was romance involved. Harry's younger brother Felix moved in with the Woodsons after their father's death so there would be a "man of the house" even before Harry's marriage. Although these families were farm families in an area where slave holding was the norm, and neither family was poor, neither family ever had slaves. Harry's mother had been raised a Quaker, and it's possible they had abolitionist leanings. In any case it appears the sons of the families did the labor. So having a man about the place would have been critically important. And the Woodsons were four sisters with no brothers.

It seems like it would be hard to make a transition from thinking of someone as your sister-in-law to thinking of her as your wife - yet it was very common at the time, many men married multiple sisters from the same family. Men also commonly married their brothers' widows.

I wonder if part of the reason that the loss of men didn't have as strong a statistical impact on the rate of marriages as you might expect was the high number of women who died young, from childbirth or for other reasons. Looking at my own family around the time of the war, there are several men who buried three or more wives.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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#16
Dad used to say you see a string of wives in early census, one after the other because between childbirth and the unbelievable workload, they just, plain wore out. The last wife would be the one to outlive him- since she was generally younger, it would make it hugely confusing because then she would re-marry.

Yes, some of the stats were confusing or at least a little dismissive, you know? Saying well, yes, there was a shortage of men at the end of the war BUT the women found ' other ways ' to marry, anyway seemed a little- slippery? Studies are funny. How one presents findings can skew how they are viewed? This seemed, to me anyway. to try to look like Southern women really did not have their lives disrupted- and if they did, not much. I'm sorry but just no.

Just reading the above posts highlights some of it. How could it be, with those numbers, an entire generation of men not there any more and really, the South in mourning ( which town was it where the mayor had to pass a law banning wearing black? So many widows, it was depressing the whole population ), there was only a minor impact, as this suggests?

These women had shouldered the burdens of the household, raised children, fought to make ends meet, supported the war- and lost their husbands. Daughters coming of age had little chance, having a normal courtship, with 70 men to every 100 women? And that's across the board. Some areas had regiments decimated, a much lower ratio had to exist.
The widows in black photos are haunting.

These seems to be a Civil War book on every subject imaginable, but I wonder if there has ever been a modern book devoted specifically to the subject of war widows?

This is a great question. I'll look around myself but one of the knock-down, drag out experts here would have much better chance at knowing. If not, it's a big hole. Have to say in the war-torn, economically shattered , population decimated South the study would be awfully difficult to read. The women, the wives there had an awful time, just terrible across the board. Every time I bring up the bread riots, there's a negative reaction because there's this impression the women were un-patriotic- and it wasn't true. They were honestly soldiers wives, really indignant wealthy speculators had been able to hide away barrels and barrels of food- while their husbands were dying. Many of these same women wore black by the end of the war- they were not the unkempt rabble newspapers tried to portray. ( Except North Carolina papers, once again- once again, NC backed the women, ridiculing the speculators and creating yet more food programs. I have the newspaper clippings. ) A book would have to illustrate how both governments failed, too- I have clippings from the North, where a small riot occurred when citizens reacted when a widow was being evicted. She had no money after her husband was killed. Pretty shameful all around.
 

Anna Elizabeth Henry

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In this case it's impossible to say. Lucy didn't live long after the marriage, and Harry married a third time - yet another widow of a Confederate soldier. Harry's family, the Sawyers, and Lucy and Nannie's family, the Woodsons, had been next door neighbors their whole lives, and were apparently very close even before there was romance involved. Harry's younger brother Felix moved in with the Woodsons after their father's death so there would be a "man of the house" even before Harry's marriage. Although these families were farm families in an area where slave holding was the norm, and neither family was poor, neither family ever had slaves. Harry's mother had been raised a Quaker, and it's possible they had abolitionist leanings. In any case it appears the sons of the families did the labor. So having a man about the place would have been critically important. And the Woodsons were four sisters with no brothers.

It seems like it would be hard to make a transition from thinking of someone as your sister-in-law to thinking of her as your wife - yet it was very common at the time, many men married multiple sisters from the same family. Men also commonly married their brothers' widows.

I wonder if part of the reason that the loss of men didn't have as strong a statistical impact on the rate of marriages as you might expect was the high number of women who died young, from childbirth or for other reasons. Looking at my own family around the time of the war, there are several men who buried three or more wives.
I've seen some similar situations in my family tree where brothers marry sisters from the same family. I know in one case the joining of the two families enabled them to expand their properties and it all became one larger farm and wondered if that had been an arrangement set-up by fathers of both families as the marrying couples were relatively young when married. At the very least they were neighbors, so hopefully they at least were friendly with their new spouses.

Goodness, poor Harry couldn't keep a wife! His family situation is very interesting for sure and I'm sure the Quaker mother had something to do with the lack of slave labor in the family. I've noted in my own family too many, if not most of my Virginia ancestors didn't own slaves (and neither did most of their neighbors), but owned large farms and wondered how they managed it. They had sons, but it must have been grueling to manage a farm with limited labor.

That's an excellent point, women often died in childbirth and from various complications afterwards, not mention contracting illnesses from their children when they cared for them, perhaps the loss of men was balanced out by women who died.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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#18
So- a look inside some of those statistics, thank you Allie! Boy, if you didn't know better you'd imagine everyone was terribly fragile, no? Pretty sure in general it wasn't the case, just uninformed, unaware of ' the germ theory and terribly worn out. One of my grgrgrandparents, a Revolutionary war vet, went through three. Disease and childbirth, respectively. They were Quakers who made up their own rules when I came to men going to war.


Someone on Pinterest claims she is Confederate and the hat not a Kepi? Hat does look gray.
conf wid.jpg


She is thought to be Southern, too, please note, no source
conw1.jpg
 

JPK Huson 1863

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#19
Another article on Southern widows I'd like to use but it comes with a huge disclaimer. MOST work is good, is the thing, descriptive. Speaks of how dismissive war-time can be of a widow's pain, how they were expected to get over it, already for the sake of The Cause and how Widows were seen as overly emotional- or something ' wrong ' with them, behaving poorly. By ' poorly ' it meant sobbing.
" Mary Chesnut criticized her husband early in the war for being insensitive when she
comforted a widow, he responded that “noisy, fidgety grief never moves me at all; it annoys
me. Self-control is what we all need.”

Men.
Not a lot different from northern peers- until one stumbles on to another aspect slipped, one feels unfortunately into the essay. Why? Dunno.


In building a case for Southern womanhood and how widowhood fit into current culture of the era, one feels perhaps bridge too far was undertaken. To wit:

"….ninety-three thousand widows were among the hundreds of thousands of grieving, Confederate families.
Early Civil War historiography overlooked the trauma and tragedy associated with
each death. Particularly in military and political history, casualty lists were as impersonal to
the historian as to the generals on the battlefield
. "

Widows were unique in that external conditions forced them to accept autonomy, but ultimately they
were still grouped along age lines instead of by their status as widows.


(*Elite and I feel another term could have sufficed) Southern white women who lost husbands during the Civil War provide a lens in which
to view that process.
Though some might critique such a narrow class and gender focus, such a scope
provides a clearer picture of conceptions of identity and cognitive processes. White, upper class
women belonged to an elite group with enough education to record their thoughts….”


*Not crazy about some of this, which is why it was impossible to use the whole. It's wildly truncated because i wished to make use of a basic premise. the rest here- “grew up in wealthy, respectable households “ is a dicey sentence. Pairing ‘ wealthy’ and ‘ respectable’ makes me all squinty and nauseated. Gathering speed downhill on some of the most patently elitist greased wheels I’ve ever encountered, the final wreck achieved after this premise stalls in full flight is so unsightly it is with difficulty one does not avert your eyes. Careening past the lower class, ignoring societal intersections where wait black widows in the South, ‘ Elite, white, educated, wealthy, protestant ‘ women are somehow separated from her sisters in grief. Let's not. Privates in the ranks left widows unlikely to have been of this ilk. Neither wealthy nor poor- farm women, country women, city dwellers whose husband answered to call or were drafter- the Souht was not ' Rich' or 'Poor' as this article implies. Some of the grieving widow photos may well be shop keepers wives, or accountants or farmers or salesmen- or milkmen.

My point being, all our widows shared the exact, same horrors. You cannot separate them based on economic circumstances. They wore black. For a reason.



"Leila Habersham’s friends and family disdained public emotional outbursts so much that they
refused to let her attend her own husband’s funeral unless she promised to control herself. "
This was typical- a widow confined within societal dictates. Disallowed by the society in which she lived to display the grief surely eating at heart, merely prolonged the process.


“Grief may be wrong but it is human nature & we cannot refrain ", Southern widow.

Still, such grief had few opportunities for expression. Friends and family

gathered and wrote letters of condolence immediately after the death, but
circumstances, and their belief that grief should end, increasingly separated them from the
widow.

Must site the article- like I said it's very good in spots. Others? Extreme. The sociological impact is dealt with beautifully even if there are a few misperceptions dragged through in the form of fat and red fish.

Back with more It's an extraordinarily important topic, extraordinarily important to get it right.


https://cdr.lib.unc.edu/indexablecontent/uuid:e9106c95-2265-4237-89a8-4e3b20b7d34c



Almost two months after Leonidas Polk was killed in action, his daughter wrote to her

sister that her mother “seems much stronger.”57 The cause seemed to be both the weather and

the “Ignatia” the doctor had prescribed.58 This common herbal remedy was, at the time, used

to treat hysteria.59 Today it is used to treat the physical symptoms of “acute grieving or shockfollowing a death.”60 According to the daughter, the “weakness was caused by excitement

and fatigue.”61 Evidently, Mrs. Polk was suffering from extreme emotional and physical

symptoms of grief after her husband’s death. Other widows also suffered from despair. Mrs.

Mattie R. Morgan claimed, “for four weeks” she lay “prostrate upon my bed” and even

wondered if her “Spirit too would now take its flight.”62 Widows’ loss had a significant

impact on their lives, which caused acute mental and physical distress for months afterward


If I do mention my troubles to any one they’ll say “every one is losing friends now”

and that is the last they think of it; but Oh! ‘Tis not the last with you and with me,

‘Tis very true most persons are losing someone dear to them but that don’t help me. It

don’t replace my loved ones.

Mary Chesnut criticized her husband early in the war for being insensitive when she

comforted a widow, he responded that “noisy, fidgety grief never moves me at all; it annoys

me. Self-control is what we all need.”
 
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#20
The reason given for singling out elite women isn't class-based but simply that they are the ones who were able to record their thoughts. Illiterate women's grief isn't less valuable but it is less accessible to researchers. There's no need to read more into the author's intentions when the reasoning is clearly stated. It would be worse if the author failed to realize that using written records by women filters for the upper-class of that era, since lower-class women were often illiterate.
 



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