For the men and women in the thick of the action, the American Civil War was a war of peculiar situations. While combative bitterness ran hot and thick in the leaders and zealots, it was frequently forgotten by the men carrying the guns. Soldiers had to choose between loyalty to their country and loyalty to their state - not an easy choice in a time when television and the internet were non-existent and the idea of 'Washington DC' likely meant very little to a poor farmer.
The American Civil War was one of just a few where both sides spoke the same language. At the Battle of Fredericksburg, Union and Confederate soldiers yelled insults back and forth at each other, eventually getting so angry that they threw down their guns, called a truce, and had a good old fashioned fist fight (Catton, 45). On another occasion Union soldiers amicably traded their coffee for Confederate tobacco. This isn't to say the war wasn't bloody - it certainly was bloody. My point is simply that it was a war between people who deeply understood one another.
This puts the Beson family in both a geographical and cultural conundrum. They lived in Virginia, about 60 miles Southwest of Richmond (the Confederate Capital). As the United States fractured, the state of Virginia fractured as well (eventually becoming Virginia and West Virginia). The Beson family, a non-slaveholding family of modest means, had no particular stake in the outcome of the war. The Besons who fought in the war were patriots forced to choose between their country and their state, concerned primarily with ensuring the safety and wellbeing of their family.
It is in the context of this conundrum that the next story unfolds, as Abigail sets out to find her enlisted older brothers after the end of the war.
ReferencesCatton, Bruce, and John Leekley. Reflections on the Civil War. New York: Berkley, 1982. Print.
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