Peter S. Carmichael Visits A House Divided

The War For the Common Soldier

Peter Carmichael joined us on November 30th to talk with Bjorn Skaptason about his book, The War for the Common Soldier. This book focuses on the experiences of the ordinary soldiers serving during the Civil War.

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The War For The Common Soldier

How did Civil War soldiers endure the brutal and unpredictable existence of army life during the conflict? This question is at the heart of Peter S. Carmichael’s sweeping new study of men at war. Based on close examination of the letters and records left behind by individual soldiers from both the North and the South, Carmichael explores the totality of the Civil War experience–the marching, the fighting, the boredom, the idealism, the exhaustion, the punishments, and the frustrations of being away from families who often faced their own dire circumstances. Carmichael focuses not on what soldiers thought but rather how they thought.

Digging deeply into his soldiers’ writing, Carmichael resists the idea that there was “a common soldier” but looks into their own words to find common threads in soldiers’ experiences and ways of understanding what was happening around them. Soldiering in the Civil War, as Carmichael argues, was never a state of being but a process of becoming.

 

 

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