Book Review: The Civilian War: Confederate Women and Union Soldiers during Sherman's March


by Lisa Tendrich Frank

Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2022. Pp. x, 242. Notes, biblio., index. $25.00 paper. ISBN: 0807178179

Georgia's Women and Sherman's March

Dr. Frank gives us look at the part of making “Georgia Howl” that is often overlooked, how Sherman's march affected the civilians – particularly the women – of Georgia. With most of the men away fighting or in many cases already victims of the war, Southern women were the center of events as Sherman moved across the region.

Crushing Confederate military power became less of a priority as Sherman's army turned from Atlanta. Increasingly the army's attention was to target Southerner support for the war, from the front line to the front yards and even into the bedrooms of the South, where women were subject to robbery and worse. Frank makes the case that Sherman realized Southern women were the backbone of the Confederate resistance, and he therefore treated them as wartime opponents. His desire was to destroy that which gave them respectability and privilege.

While Sherman intended to demoralize the mostly female population, Frank asserts that his strategy frequently had just the opposite results. These women saw the destruction of food, arms, and other goods as a part of war; but they were not so understanding about personal transgressions against them and their private space. This provoked the wrath of these Southern women toward the Union soldiers and their most despised leader.

Frank's research throws light not only on the damage inflicted on the battlefield but also on that imposed upon the civilian population. Many women waged their own war on Union soldiers as they strove to protect themselves, their families, and the domestic domain. Southern men glorified in the actions of their women, Jefferson Davis saying “their gallantry is only different from that of her sons in this, that they deem it unfeminine to strike.”

Originally published in hard cover in 2015, this volume in the LSU series "Conflicting Worlds: New Dimensions of the American Civil War", is well-researched, well written, and offers many insights into the experiences of the Southern civilian population as Sherman’s juggernaut drove across Georgia. Recommended.


Our Reviewer: David Marshall has been a high school American history teacher in the Miami-Dade School district for more than three decades. A life-long Civil War enthusiast, David is president of the Miami Civil War Round Table Book Club. In addition to numerous reviews in Civil War News and other publications, he has given presentations to Civil War Round Tables on Joshua Chamberlain, Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, the Battle of Gettysburg, and the common soldier. His most recent previous reviews here include Their Maryland, The Lion of Round Top, Rites of Retaliation, Animal Histories of the Civil War Era, Benjamin Franklin Butler, Dreams of Victory: General P. G. T. Beauregard, Bonds of War, Early Struggles for Vicksburg, True Blue, Civil War Witnesses and Their Books, Love and Duty, When Hell Came To Sharpsburg, Lost Causes, Six Miles From Charleston, Five Minutes to Hell, "If We Are Striking for Pennsylvania", James Montgomery: Abolitionist Warrior, Cedar Mountain to Antietam, Lieutenant General James Longstreet, Count the Dead, All Roads Led To Gettysburg, Unhappy Catastrophes, The Heart of Hell, The Whartons' War, Gettysburg’s Southern Front , Civil War Monuments and Memorials, The Tale Untwisted, and The Confederate Military Forces in the Trans-Mississippi West.




Note: The Civilian War is also available in hardcover and e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: David Marshall   

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