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Title:"I feel impelled to write": male intimacy, epistolary privacy, and the culture of letter writing during the American Civil War
Author(s):Bui, Long B
Director of Research:Levine, Bruce
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Levine, Bruce; Lynn, John
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Pleck, Elizabeth; Hoganson, Kristin
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Civil War
Letter writing
Post office
Epistolary culture
Abstract:This dissertation sheds light on the gendered and commemorative history of the Civil War. Many historians have recognized the importance of soldiers' letters as evidence of the cultural and ideological mentalities of Americans in wartime. Yet the scholarship has failed to notice the urgency with which soldiers sought to control and maintain the privacy of their correspondences. For millions of combatants, the Civil War presented problems of maintaining privacy unknown in civilian life. Yankees and rebels alike defined their letters as a form of personal property and regarded unauthorized access to their letters not simply as theft but as violations of their person. The safeguards they sought to impose on their mail reveal how these soldiers tried to defend the boundaries of privacy in the midst of a military environment generally devoid of personal space. This dissertation draws on thousands of soldiers' letters held at over three dozen archives and libraries across the United States. The prevailing model of combat motivation emphasizes the ideological components of cause and country. Soldiers' wartime letters suggest they fought not just for nation and ideology but also for the personal stakes associated with their public standings as honorable men. Women on the home front played key roles as the epistolary confidants of soldiers. After the war, these women, as well as veterans themselves, sought to maintain the public façade of masculine heroism by silencing the wartime admissions of fear, doubt, and desertion.
Issue Date:2016-04-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 by L. Bao Bui
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-07-07
Date Deposited:2016-05

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