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 3Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 3 Summary: “Anxious For The Fray”

Chapter 3 outlines how men react before, during, and after battle. Before battle, many of the Civil War soldiers feel anxious, as the title suggests, though they mean anxious as eager, instead of feeling anxiety. McPherson recounts letters in which soldiers from both sides proclaim their eagerness to “see the elephant” (30), or fight in battle: “We are all impatient to get into Virginia and have a brush with the rebels,” wrote a lieutenant in the 2nd Rhode Island (30). This eagerness is wrapped up in notions of proving their manliness. It also incorporates honor and duty. Those who do not fight feel dishonored, as exemplified by a letter from a South Carolina cavalry officer who missed out on the First battle of Manassas: “I am heartily tired of hearing men say what they did in the fight,” he wrote to his wife, “and I have no showing” (31).

Those who do fight, however, soon learn that their romantic notions of war are an illusion. After they have seen battle, few soldiers are eager to see it again: “Mary I went into the fight in good hart [sic] but I never want to get in another it was offal [sic] awful mary you cant form any idy [sic] how it was the bulets [sic] and cannon ball and shells flew thick as hail” (33).