Rebecca Harding Davis’s Stories of the Civil War Era
Selected Writings from the Borderlands

Edited by Sharon M. Harris and Robin L. Cadwallader

The first anthology of Davis’s Civil War–era work


"Harris and Cadwallader's collection reveals the stark complexities of a nation divided, and rightfully situates Davis's work as a necessary, vital commentary on 19th-century American life and letters."
Choice magazine

"In this shrewd and refreshing collection, Robin L. Cadwallader and Sharon M. Harris introduce readers to some of the most important short stories by one of the most prolific and respected writers of the nineteenth century. They resituate Davis in literary history and invite us to read her work from a new perspective."
—Lisa A. Long, editor of White Scholars / African American Texts

"Rebecca Harding Davis's stories illuminate the ambiguities of Civil War America—the disjuncture between the political rhetoric of war and daily life on the homefront, the reversals of emancipation in a world where Confederate masters have become prisoners, and the grinding injuries of poverty during and after the war. Above all, they show the complexities of wars waged by women, sometimes in relation to armed engagements but more often in struggles for self-definition. The ten stories in this anthology provide fresh perspectives on the wartime era and, in so doing, make an important contribution to our understanding of Davis, nineteenth-century women's writing, and the literature of the Civil War."
—Elizabeth Young, author of Disarming the Nation: Women’s Writing and the American Civil War

"Any criticism of Rebecca Harding Davis's Stories of the Civil War Era is minor compared to the value of the anthology for a range of disciplines, including literary studies, Civil War history, Southwestern border studies, cultural anthropology, women's studies, and gender studies. Besides its thematic importance, the collection also clearly illustrates Davis's literary talents, which stand out in comparison to many other writers of her generation."
—Kevin A. Brown, H-Net Reviews

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The ten stories gathered here show Rebecca Harding Davis to be an acute observer of the conflicts and ambiguities of a divided nation and position her as a major transitional writer between romanticism and realism. Capturing the fluctuating cultural environment of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras, the stories explore such issues as racial prejudice and slavery, the loneliness and powerlessness of women, and the effects of postwar market capitalism on the working classes. Davis’s characters include soldiers and civilians, men and women, young and old, blacks and whites. Instead of focusing (like many writers of the period) on major conflicts and leaders, Davis takes readers into the intimate battles fought on family farms and backwoods roads, delving into the minds of those who experienced the destruction on both sides of the conflict.

Davis spent the war years in the Pennsylvania and Virginia borderlands, a region she called a “vast armed camp.” Here, divided families, ravaged communities, and shifting loyalties were the norm. As the editors say, “Davis does not limit herself to writing about slavery, abolition, or reconstruction. Instead, she shows us that through the fighting, the rebuilding, and the politics, life goes on. Even during a war, people must live: they work, eat, sleep, and love.”

Page count: 384 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9


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Sharon M. Harris is a professor of English at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. She is the author of Rebecca Harding Davis and American Realism and coeditor of Rebecca Harding Davis: Writing Cultural Autobiography. Her other books include Mercy Otis Warren: Selected Letters (Georgia). Robin L. Cadwallader is an associate professor of English at Saint Francis University. She is the managing editor of Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers and founder of the Society for the Study of Rebecca Harding Davis and Her World.