Northerners at War: Reflections on the Civil War Home Front
by J. Matthew Gallman, Kent State University Press, 2010, $39.95
IT IS UNFORTUNATE THAT MANY OF Matthew Gallman’s prescient essays about the Northern home front appear in scholarly journals often overlooked by Civil War experts. Thankfully, Northerners at War rectifies that problem. The 12 essays Gallman, a University of Florida professor, has gathered for this new book display the incredible breadth of his historical curiosity. They are, he says, “snapshots about particular questions, bodies of evidence, and theoretical issues” confronting today’s historians who seek a more comprehensive understanding of the changes the war brought to the North’s social structure and economic development.
Of particular note is Gallman’s essay on volunteerism, civic order and disorder, entrepreneurialism and the changing role of women, which focuses on how the war affected the citizens of Philadelphia, a city the author knows quite well. And his account of African-American soldiers and the February 1864 Battle of Olustee (Fla.) is probably worth the price of the book alone. Gallman looks at three regiments that fought there to examine the larger issues of why many middle-class black men in the 8th U.S. Colored Troops, mostly from Philadelphia, chose to enlist so late in the war, and how recruitment rhetoric played on their sense of citizenship, manhood and loyalty to their race.
Gallman’s essays are cogently argued and deftly organized. Graduate students in any field would do well to use them as models for dissertation chapters. One can only wonder where Gallman’s eclectic interests will take him next.
Originally published in the January 2011 issue of America’s Civil War. To subscribe, click here.