Strong Minds and Strong Hearts: The Ladies National League and the Civil War as an Intragender War

  • LeeAnn Whites


By the spring of 1863, the prospects for Union victory were looking dim. On the military front, the Union had experienced a string of depressing defeats. It was, however, the “fire in the rear,” the rising levels of disaffection and ever more active disloyalty among the northern citizenry that Lincoln most feared would bring down the Union war effort. In his 1858 campaign for the Illinois senate seat, Lincoln had correctly predicted that a nation half slave and half free, a “house divided” could not stand. No one could have predicted, however, the ferocity of the war that ensued over how, in what way, with what consequences the nation would be purged of slavery. In the South, the abolition of slavery threatened the very foundation of the most powerful households of the region, but Lincolns’ issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation in the fall of 1863 also tested the depth of northern households’ commitment to the liberties of free men. Would they continue to send their men to fight and die now that defeating the southern slavepower—the overweening power of slaveowners—meant that their slaves would be rendered free?1


National League Gender Matter Household Dependent Union Victory Public Presence 
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  1. 1.
    For a more extended discussion of the “fire in the rear,” see, James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (New York, Oxford University Press, 1988), 591–526.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
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  4. 3.
    “The Great Mass Meeting of Loyal Citizens,” 5. The contribution that Confederate womens’ demoralization played in the defeat of the Confederacy has been discussed at some length. See Drew Faust, “Altars of Sacrifice: Confederate Women and the Narratives of War,” Journal of American History 76 (March 1990): 1200–1228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  29. 33.
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© LeeAnn Whites 2005

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  • LeeAnn Whites

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