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 6Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 6 Summary: “A Band of Brothers”

Continuing to look for reasons Civil War soldiers stayed in the war, McPherson further analyzes the concept of honor. He says soldiers write often of courage, bravery, and valor, but, since the three words mean the same thing, McPherson says they are writing of the mark of honor (77).

Soldiers also write of dishonor. One of the common fears of Civil War soldiers is to be seen as a coward. This fear drives them to fight. Many of them would rather fight sick than be seen as a coward:

To avoid the taint of cowardice, many genuinely sick soldiers did go into battle on one leg, so to speak. A corporal in the 24th Michigan wrote in his diary during the battle of Fredericksburg: ‘Feel quite sick. If it were not for being called a Sneak and a coward I would not be in the ranks today’ (79).

McPherson explains this fear of cowardice in several ways. One is that many regiments are made up of men from the same town, and these men all write letters home. A soldier who is seen as a coward can never go home for the shame he will carry: “Fighting soldiers did not hesitate to name skulkers in their letters home.