The Divided Family in Civil War America

By Amy Murrell Taylor

336 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 9 illus., 1 table, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-6186-8
    Published: August 2009
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-9907-6
    Published: November 2009
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-7846-5
    Published: November 2009

Civil War America

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The Civil War has long been described as a war pitting "brother against brother." The divided family is an enduring metaphor for the divided nation, but it also accurately reflects the reality of America's bloodiest war. Connecting the metaphor to the real experiences of families whose households were split by conflicting opinions about the war, Amy Murrell Taylor provides a social and cultural history of the divided family in Civil War America.

In hundreds of border state households, brothers--and sisters--really did fight one another, while fathers and sons argued over secession and husbands and wives struggled with opposing national loyalties. Even enslaved men and women found themselves divided over how to respond to the war. Taylor studies letters, diaries, newspapers, and government documents to understand how families coped with the unprecedented intrusion of war into their private lives. Family divisions inflamed the national crisis while simultaneously embodying it on a small scale--something noticed by writers of popular fiction and political rhetoric, who drew explicit connections between the ordeal of divided families and that of the nation. Weaving together an analysis of this popular imagery with the experiences of real families, Taylor demonstrates how the effects of the Civil War went far beyond the battlefield to penetrate many facets of everyday life.

About the Author

Amy Murrell Taylor is associate professor of history at the State University of New York at Albany.
For more information about Amy Murrell Taylor, visit the Author Page.


"A fascinating study of actual families, North and South, white and black, divided by war. . . . Taylor writes well, easily mixing absorbing details of family dysfunction with cogent and complex analysis."--Journal of American History

"Taylor's deeply researched and thoroughly readable book is the first social and cultural history of Civil War-era divided families. . . . The dynamic portrait painted here ably renders any simple stories as much more complicated and complex narratives, and therefore ultimately much more historically satisfying."--Civil War History

"[The Divided Family in Civil War America] is a sophisticated and multi-faceted treatment of an ambitious topic. Taylor makes as significant a contribution to gender and family history as she does to that the on the Civil War home front, and her book deserves a wide readership from those interested in either field."--Journal of Southern History

"Taylor provides us with a convincing interpretation of the ways in which Americans used familiar ideas, behaviors, and rhetoric to cope with the colossal failure of family that was one aspect of the Civil War. Her work adds considerably to studies of Civil War popular culture and family life, her sources are comprehensive and well-mined, and her writing is thoughtful and at times downright lyrical. Well done."--American Historical Review

"Broad, deep, and thoroughly current."--Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"A rich, new perspective on the Civil War."--Virginia Magazine