To Live and Die

Collected Stories of the Civil War, 1861–1876

To Live and Die

Book Pages: 448 Illustrations: 41 b&w photos Published: April 2002

American Studies, History > U.S. History, Literature and Literary Studies > Fiction

Even before the first cannonballs were fired at Fort Sumter, American writers were trying to make creative sense of the War Between the States. These thirty-one stories were culled from hundreds that circulated in popular magazines between 1861 and the celebration of the American centennial in 1876. Arranged to echo the sequence of the unfolding drama of the war and Reconstruction, together these short stories constitute an “inadvertent novel,” a collective narrative about a domestic crisis that was still ongoing as the stories were being written and published.
The authors, who include Louisa May Alcott and Mark Twain, depict the horrors of the battlefield, the suffering in prison camps and field hospitals, and the privations of the home front. In these pages, bushwhackers carry the war to out-of-the-way homesteads, spies work households from the inside, journeying paymasters rely on the kindness of border women, and soldiers turn out to be girls. The stories are populated with nurses, officers, speculators, preachers, slaves, and black troops, and they take place in cities, along the frontier, and on battlefields from Shiloh to Gettysburg.
The book opens with a prewar vigilante attack on the Underground Railroad and a Kansas parson in Henry King’s “The Cabin at Pharoah’s Ford” and concludes with an ex-slave recalling the loss of her remaining son in Twain’s “A True Story.” In between are stories written by both women and men that were published in magazines from the South and West as well as the culturally dominant Northeast. Wartime wood engravings highlight the text. Kathleen Diffley’s introduction provides literary and historical background, and her commentary introduces readers to magazine authors as well as the deepening disruptions of a country at war.
Just as they did for nineteenth-century readers, these stories will bring the war home to contemporary readers, giving shape to a crisis that rocked the nation then and continues to haunt it now.



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Price: $30.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kathleen Diffley is Associate Professor of English at the University of Iowa and the author of Where My Heart Is Turning Ever: Civil War Stories and Constitutional Reform, 1861–1876.

Table of Contents Back to Top

Daily Emergency: Civil War Stories of the War Generation

Time Line



“The Cabin at Pharaoh’s Ford”, Overland Monthly (December 1874) / Henry King

“Job and the Bug” Lippincott’s (May 1871) / Chauncey Hickox

“A True and Simple Tale of ‘61,” Southern Monthly (December 1861) / Izilda

“Ellen,” Atlantic Monthly (July 1865) / Rebecca Harding Davis


“Hopeful Tackett—His Mark,” Continental Monthly (September 1862) / Richmond Wolcott

“Thomas Elliott’s Speculations,” Harper’s Monthly (February 1863) / Fred B. Perkins

“Mrs. F.’s Waiting Maid,” Harper’s Monthly (June 1867) / Nora Perry

“Believe in Ghosts!” New National Era (November 1870)

“The Sergeant’s Little Story”, Southern Magazine (October 1873) / William H. Kemper

“On the Antietam,” Harper’s Weekly (3 January 1863)

“A Letter from the Country,” Harper’s Weekly (8 November 1862) / Charity Grimes

“T. J.’s Cavalry Charge,” New Eclectic Monthly (April 1870) / Confederate Gray


“Colonel Charley’s Wife,” Harper’s Weekly (8 October 1864)

“The Fourteenth at Gettysburg,” Harper’s Weekly (21 November 1863)

“Lee at Gettysburg,” Galaxy (April 1871) / J. D. Imboden

“Three Days of Terror,” Harper’s Monthly (January 1867) / Ellen D. Larned (Ellen Leonard)

“The Brothers,” Atlantic Monthly (November 1863) / Louisa May Alcott

“The Case of George Dedlow,” Atlantic Monthly (July 1866) / Silas Weir Mitchell

“Robbed of Half a Million,” Harper’s Monthly (October 1866) / J. O. Culver

“In the ‘Libey’,” Harper’s Weekly (20 February 1864)

“Mr. Williamson Slippey and His Salt,” New Eclectic Monthly (October 1870) / Richard Malcolm Johnston (Philemon Perch)


“A Night on the Mississippi,” Putnam’s (April 1870) / Ross Guffin

“Mrs. Spriggins, the Neutral,” Southern Magazine (February 1871) / G. J. A. Coulson (Alcibiades Jones)

“Buried Alive,” Harper’s Weekly (7 May 1864)

“A Night in the Wilderness,” Galaxy (May 1871)

“The Freedman’s Story,” Harper’s Monthly (October 1866) / M. Shele de Vere

“Road-Side Story,” Land We Love (August 1866)


“The Skeleton in the Closet,” Galaxy (June 1866) / Edward Everett Hale (J. Thomas Darragh)

“Sentenced and Shot,” Lakeside Monthly (November 1870) / Richard M. Sheppard

“Wilhelmina,” Atlantic Monthly (January 1875) / Constance Fenimore Woolson


“A True Story, Repeated Word for Word As I Heard It,” Atlantic Monthly (November 1874) / Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)

Author Sketches

Illustration Sources

Civil War Glossary

Bibliographic Essay

Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3439-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2887-2
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