War Matters

Material Culture in the Civil War Era

Edited by Joan E. Cashin

278 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 12 halftones, 3 graphs, 1 table, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-4320-5
    Published: October 2018
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5594-7
    Published: October 2018
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-4319-9
    Published: October 2018
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-4321-2
    Published: October 2018

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Awards & distinctions

2021 Speak Up Talk Radio Firebird Book Award (History/United States)

Material objects lie at the crux of understanding individual and social relationships in history, and the Civil War era is no exception. Before, during, and after the war, Americans from all walks of life created, used, revered, exploited, discarded, mocked, and destroyed objects for countless reasons. These objects had symbolic significance for millions of people. The essays in this volume consider a wide range of material objects, including weapons, Revolutionary artifacts, landscapes, books, vaccine matter, human bodies, houses, clothing, and documents. Together, the contributors argue that an examination of the meaning of material objects can shed new light on the social, economic, and cultural history of the conflict. This book will fundamentally reshape our understanding of the war.

In addition to the editor, contributors include Lisa M. Brady, Peter S. Carmichael, Earl J. Hess, Robert D. Hicks, Victoria E. Ott, Jason Phillips, Timothy Silver, Yael A. Sternhell, Sarah Jones Weicksel, Mary Saracino Zboray, and Ronald J. Zboray.

About the Author

Joan E. Cashin is professor of history at the Ohio State University.
For more information about Joan E. Cashin, visit the Author Page.


"All of the contributors . . . successfully argue for the appropriateness and validity of incorporating into the historical scholarship the study of material items of cultural significance. . . . Should be read by all Civil War professional historians and graduate students, but many of the essays also exhibit popular appeal sufficient to gain the volume a wider reading audience. Highly recommended."--Andrew Wagenhoffer, Civil War Books and Authors

“The first collection of essays devoted solely to Civil War material culture . . . . War Matters pushes readers beyond the idea that relics are just ‘things’ collected by Civil War enthusiasts and are instead meaningful artifacts that speak to the history of the American Civil War.”--The Annals of Iowa

“A singular contribution. Once shunted to the side as tidy illustrations, the artifacts of war and peace are now being taken seriously as complicated and revealing forms of evidence. And for that, we owe Cashin and her contributors a debt of gratitude.” --Ohio Valley History

“The volume convincingly argues that war matter mattered. . . . Together the essays establish war material culture as a fertile field, and they open paths for further research.”--Journal of Southern History

“A must-read for historians, anthropologists, and sociologists working in the nineteenth century.”--Journal of American History

“Individually, the essays all add new depth to debates over soldiers’ motivations and civilians’ loyalties, sectional tensions and military operations, and the process of Reconstruction writ large. . . . Together, the essays pose important questions about material culture studies, which will resonate beyond the study of the war itself.”--Journal of the Civil War Era