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Take Care of the Living

Reconstructing Confederate Veteran Families in Virginia
Jeffrey W. McClurken

BUY Cloth · 256 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813928135 · $43.50 · Aug 2009
BUY Ebook · 256 pp. · ISBN 9780813928197 · $43.50 · Aug 2009

Take Care of the Living assesses the short- and long-term impact of the war on Confederate veteran families of all classes in Pittsylvania County and Danville, Virginia. Using letters, diaries, church minutes, and military and state records, as well as close analysis of the entire 1860 and 1870 Pittsylvania County manuscript population census, McClurken explores the consequences of the war for over three thousand Confederate soldiers and their families. The author reveals an array of strategies employed by those families to come to terms with their postwar reality, including reorganizing and reconstructing the household, turning to local churches for emotional and economic support, pleading with local elites for financial assistance or positions, sending psychologically damaged family members to a state-run asylum, and looking to the state for direct assistance in the form of replacement limbs for amputees, pensions, and even state-supported homes for old soldiers and widows.

Although these strategies or institutions for reconstructing the family had their roots in existing practices, the extreme need brought on by the scope and impact of the Civil War required an expansion beyond anything previously seen. McClurken argues that this change serves as a starting point for the study of the evolution of southern welfare.


Take Care of the Living stands out because of its quantitative foundation as well as its representativeness. McClurken's interest in understanding every veteran and each of their family members, no matter what their class, and his use of a wide variety of approaches, has led him to compile the most complete community-based study of how Confederate veteran families adjusted in the postwar South.

Robert C. Kenzer, University of Richmond · author of "Enemies of the Country": New Perspectives on Unionists in the Civil War South

As we become increasingly aware of the effects of wars on those who fight them, not to mention those on whose territory they are fought, this multi-faceted study traces the impact of the Civil War on veterans and their families, and on southern private and governmental responses to these needs.

David C. Williard, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill · Virginia Magazine

About the Author(s): 

Jeffrey W. McClurken is Associate Professor in the Department of History and American Studies at the University of Mary Washington.

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