Men During Wartime





Two men from the nineteenth century; one man has his arm around the other's shoulder



Section Questions


In his book Civil War Soldiers, Reid Mitchell notes that as "men served, their own companies and regiments became imbued with a sense of family" (17).

This section of Brothers in Arms considers the way citizens and soldiers experienced their relations to other soldiers in the hospitals and the camps of the Civil War--the words they used to describe these comrades, the social worlds they created and inhabited, the bonds they fostered.

But what might the term "family" have meant to these men? Rather than simply assuming that we already know how to read these verbal and visual texts, we might instead take as our starting place the possibility of changes over time, of historical differences that may challenge our commonsensical understandings of these texts and images.

In the introduction to One Hundred Years of Homosexuality and Other Essays on Greek Love (Routledge, 1992), David Halperin has formulated some questions to keep in mind while reading and viewing these nineteenth-century materials by Walt Whitman and others:

  • How was sexual experience constituted in a given culture?
  • In what terms was sexual experience constructed?
  • How was sexual experience distinguished from and related to other sorts of experience, and how were the boundaries between these various kinds of experience articulated?
  • Were sexual pleasures and desires configured differently for different members of a given society and, if so, according to what principles?
  • How did the terms employed . . . to organize . . . sexual experiences operate, conceptually and institutionally, so as to constitute human beings as the subjects of sexual experience?
  • What other areas of life were implicated in their operation?
  • How did the constitution of sexual subjects relate to the constitution of other social forms? of power? of knowledge?