Based on an extensive collection of letters written from the home front and the battlefront, Family War Stories offers fresh insights into how the reciprocal nature of family correspondence can shape a family’s understanding of the war.
Family War Stories examines the contribution of the Densmore family to the Northern Civil War effort. It extends the boundaries of research in two directions. First, by describing how members of this white family from Minnesota were mobilized to fight a family war on the home front and the battlefront, and second, by exploring how the war challenged the family’s abolitionist beliefs and racial attitudes. Family War Stories argues that the totality of the family’s Civil War experience was intricately shaped by the dynamics of family life and the reciprocal nature of family correspondence. Further, it argues that the serving sons’ understanding of the war was shaped by their direct military experiences in the army camps and battlefields and how their loved ones at home interpreted these experiences.
With two sons serving as officers in the United States Colored Troops’ regiments fighting in the Mississippi Valley, the Densmore family was heavily involved in destroying slavery. Family War Stories analyses how the sons’ military experiences tested the family’s abolitionist ideology and its commitment to white racial superiority. It also explains how the family sought to accommodate the presence of a refugee from slavery working in the family kitchen. In some ways, the presence of this worker in the household posed an even greater range of challenges to the family’s racial beliefs than the sons’ military service.
By examining one family’s deep involvement in the war against slavery, Wilson analyses how the Civil War posed particular challenges to Northerners committed to abolitionism and white supremacy.