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Across the Divide

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Across the Divide
Union Soldiers View the Northern Home Front. By Steven J. Ramold. (New York University Press, New York: 2013. 256 pages.) ISBN: 978-0-8147-2919-9

A History in Review Book of the Week Selection

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - June 24, 2013

When soldiers go off to war, their view of the 'home front' is influenced by a number of factors including their perception of the support, or lack thereof, that they receive both personally and for the cause that they are fighting for. Their sentiments are also influenced by their own memories, letters from home, news reports, propaganda from 'the other side', and the events they witness and experience during their military service. In Across the Divide: Union Soldiers View the Northern Home Front, Steven J. Ramold provides an edifying glimpse into how Union soldiers viewed the Northern Home Front - and more important, how they viewed the civilians that they had left behind.

Ramold's thesis is that as the war progressed, and the attitudes of Northern civilians began to alter. This change in attitudes, which ranged from a growing anti-war movement to the changing roles of women caused Union soldiers to begin to mistrust their fellow northerners. In this compelling work, Ramold explores how and why these divides occurred, and the repercussions that they had for the war effort.

Ramold is an Associate Professor of American History at Eastern Michigan University, and is the author of two additional books dealing with the Union Army. They are: Slaves, Sailors, Citizens: African Americans in the Union Navy and Baring the Iron Hand: Discipline in the Union Army. In writing Across the Divide, he has crafted a thoughtful and important study on the political and social divides that developed during the war, and it examines the factors that prevented Northern civilians and Union soldiers from presenting a united front throughout the American Civil War. In composing this study, Ramold has consulted, and incorporated in the narrative, excerpt from letters, diaries, news reports, and political speeches. The end result is a comprehensive and highly readable overview of this overlooked aspect of the civil war - the divides that existed between the Union soldiers and the civilian population in the North. This text is essential reading for anyone interested in gaining a fuller understanding of the social underpinnings of the civil war. It is accessible to general readers and academics alike. In addition, this text is ideal for use in classes dealing with any aspect of the American civil war including courses dealing specifically with the social or military history of the conflict.

Related Reviews:

Clash of Extremes: The Economic Origins of the Civil War, by Marc Egnal.
An energetic analysis of the role that economics played in the lead-up to the American Civil War, a role that was so important that, Egnal theorizes, it was the primary cause of the war.

The Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, edited by Drew Gilpin Faust.
A compelling history that looks at an often overlooked aspect of the American Civil War - the dead, and how the military and civilian population dealt with the more than 600,000 casualties.

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