Homesickness and The Civil War: The Northern Perception of Union Soldiers’ Nostalgia
The Union soldiers of the American Civil War, though historically triumphant in their battle against the South, dealt with an additional, internal conflict in regards to their emotions while away at war. Homesickness, or “Nostalgia,” ran rampant through the Union Army, to the point of becoming a diagnosis in medical journals at the time. The homesickness experienced by these soldiers was a product of the North’s societal emphasis on domesticity and “the home”; however, Northerners’ perceptions of the men experiencing nostalgia varied. While military officials and medics deemed nostalgia to be a sign of weakness that must be avoided at all costs, civilian doctors and Northern citizens believed these feelings demonstrated the strength of their regional values, and therefore admired and encouraged the homesick soldiers. Despite both perspectives being heavily documented, it is evident that these soldiers were, more often than not, praised by other Northerners for being proper family-men and maintaining moral nobility on and off the battlefield. By investigating not only the emotions experienced by these men on the battlefield, but also how such emotions were perceived, we are given a more holistic look into life during the war. Additionally, by connecting emotions to history, we open the door to exploring historical events through various other lenses and new perspectives.