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War Breaking Out On American Soil

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Today it is hard to imagine war breaking out on American soil. Though war has most definitely not ceased to exist as a constant worry in our minds, most Americans do not have to fear a stray bomb to drop into the yard. The Civil War, though, had exactly that kind of effect on the American population, both of the Union and the Confederacy. Civilians often found themselves at the mercy of either army, in some cases both, and were forced to choose a side even if they wanted no part in the war. As the films Shenandoah (1965) and Ride with the Devil (1999) portray, for many people the war invaded their lives, and forced them to take matters into their own hands against the evil-doing soldiers as irregular troops waging guerilla warfare. Other times, as the film Pharoah’s Army (1995) depicts, helpless civilian families and their homesteads came under occupation by the opposing side. When neighbors begin warring, nobody could escape the crossfire and people found themselves entangled in the war whether they wanted to take part or not. Primary documents from Major Problems in the Civil War and Reconstruction, edited by Michael Perman, tend to support the films’ points on the depiction of the role of the civilians, such as the anonymous letter from the plain folk protesting the burden of the war from February of 1863. Shenandoah begins with a vision of the nineteenth century dream of idyllic American life. Farmer Charlie Anderson is happy and satisfied on his peaceful tract of
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