39 pages 1 hour read

James M. Mcpherson

For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1997

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Chapter 10Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 10 Summary: “We Know That We Are Supported At Home”

Chapter 10 begins with the idea that soldiers’ morale is improved by letters from home and that soldiers who do not get letters from home often become depressed:

Could our friends witness the crowding round the post-man—the beaming look of expectation on the swarthy, weather-beaten faces—the cloud of disappointment upon the brows of those who receive nothing […] they would never again imagine that it matters little with soldiers whether or not they receive frequent letters (132).

Worse, the wrong type of letter from home often lowers morale. Wives complaining of loneliness and hardship causes soldiers consternation, and some soldiers succumb to pressure from home, or at least listen to it: officers asked by their wives to resign must confront their honor. Others contemplate desertion. To counteract such requests, some soldiers buoy the spirits of their wives by asking them to remember their patriotic sense of duty, family honor, and the soldier’s own sense of manhood:

In an effort to arrest this demoralizing process, the lieutenant colonel of the crack 6th Wisconsin of the Iron Brigade gave a speech at home during a furlough in March 1863: ‘If you wish success, write encouraging letters to your soldiers […] Do not fill the ears of your soldiers with tales of troubles and privations at home, caused by their absence’ (134).