American 19th Century Culture
Culture in 19th century America is an important feature when trying to understand the Civil War. This section of the website is devoted to understanding of how culture played a role in shaping the war, both in the field and on the home front.
Walt Whitman Poetry
John Greenleaf Whittier Poetry
The Confederate Primer
The Dixie Primer
J. E. B. Stuart’s Favorite Recruitment Song
One of the most favorite past times in America was playing Whist. This is a card game that has largely passed from our experience. However, we have located the following description and rules of the game of whist.
Just what did "union" mean and was it worth fighting for? Gary Gallagher, in his book, The Union War, explains that to Northerners "union" meant that they had the freedom to better their social, cultural and economic standing under the Constitution, despite their current status, through the application of hard work and diligence. They held Lincoln's ascension to the Presidency as a prime example of that freedom under the union.
The opportunity that constitutional liberty represented coupled with the fact that an opposition party sought to destroy their right to a better life simply because one side lost an election was too much for them to bear. Disunion threatened the very substance of freedom and liberty they so cherished and depended upon. Moreover, Gallagher says that emancipation was viewed as purely a military strategy to accomplish reunification.
One of the most popular alcoholic beverages in 19th century America was Madeira wine. Like the name implies, Madeira came from the island of Madeira off the coast of modern day Morocco and north of the Canary Islands. Madeira had been cultivated and sold since the 16th century to ships traveling to the New World and the East Indies. A brief history of Madeira Wine can be found at this link.
Poetry played an interesting role in shaping thoughts and feelings of 19th century American. The following poem was written by Herman Melville in 1859 in response to John Brown's attempt to end slavery. Notice that he calls Brown "The Meteor of the War".
Hanging from the beam,
Slowly sawing (such the law),
Gaunt the shadow on your green,
The cut is on the crown
(Lo, John Brown),
And the stabs shall heal no more.
Hidden in the cap
Is the anguish none can draw;
So your future veils its face,
But the streaming beard is shown
(Weird John Brown),
The meteor of the war.
The most popular book in the Antebellum South, aside from the Bible, was Ivanhoe. Through this classic by Sir Walter Scott, Southerners learned about honor and chivalry. If you haven't read Ivanhoe, or haven't read it recently, consider purchasing the volume with the following link:
Harry McCarthy wrote a song that chronicled the birth of the Confederate States of America. This was "The Bonnie Blue Flag" and follows:
We are a band of brothers and native to the soil,
Fighting for the property we gained through honest toil.
And when our rights were threatened the cry rose near and far,
Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.
Hurrah, Hurrah, Hurrah for Southern Rights Hurrah.
Three cheers for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star.
As long as the Union was faithful to her trust,
Like friends and brethren, kind were we and just,
But now when Northern treachery attempts our rights to mar,
We hoist on high the Bonnie Blue flag that bears a single star. Chorus
First gallant South Carolina nobly made the stand,
Then came Alabama and took her by the hand.
Next, quickly Mississippi, Georgia and Florida,
All raised the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star. Chorus
Ye men of valor gather round the banner of the right,
Texas and Louisiana join us in the fight.
Davis, our beloved President, and Stephens statesmen are,
Now rally round the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star. Chorus
And here’s to brave Virginia, the Old Dominion State,
With the young Confederacy at length has joined her fate.
Impelled by her example, now other states prepare,
To hoist on high the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star. Chorus
Then here’s to our Confederacy, strong we are and brave,
Like patriots of old we’ll fight, our heritage to save.
And rater than submit to shame, to die we would prefer,
So cheer for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears a single star. Chorus
Then cheer boys, cheer, raise a joyous shout,
For Arkansas and North Carolina now both have gone out.
And let another rousing cheer for Tennessee be given,
The single star of the Bonnie Blue Flag has grown to be eleven.
COURT: The basic game, also called rugby fives, is played in a court which is quite long, but not so wide, with flat walls.
OBJECT: The object of the game is to reach 15 or 11, (15 is the most common).
SINGLES: There are two players. At the beginning of the game, a coin is tossed to determine who serves. Service is good when the ball hits the wall above, not on, the white line. A player can use either the left or right hand, but not the back of the hand,
PLAY: On the first service only, a point can only be scored by the receiving player. There can only be one bounce of the ball, however play continues until either player does not return the ball before the second bounce. If the receiving player scores, he continues to receive. If the server scores, players exchange places and the receiving player becomes server.
DOUBLES: This game has the same rules except your parter always stands diagonally opposite to each other. Once a player get beaten by the server. partners exchange positions and the new partner receives the ball. If he loses, then he becomes server. When he loses service, the first receiving player gets the chance to serve. This rotation continues, with servers alternating, until a server wins the point and the opposition doubles team start serving.