Dr. Adam Pratt
23 April 2015
What is a man? Biology teaches us that a man is a human being born with a penis, and modern day political correctness police teach us that a man is a male soul trapped inside a human body despite any biological inhibitors that prevent said human body from actually being a real, biological man. For the sake of this paper, let’s throw the political correctness out the window for five pages. What really is a man? The definition of a man has changed and evolved over the course of modern humanity’s 50,000-year existence. Before humanity even had a written or spoken language, men were the caregivers to there families. They were the protectors, the suppliers, and the hunters who played a dominant role over their subservient female partners (it’s hard to verify whether marriage was a thing prehistorically.) This very basic definition of the prehistoric man hasn’t changed all that much. Statistically, huge portions of modern men are still the primary breadwinners in their households while the wife plays a gentler, more caregiving role. Obviously, women are no longer looked upon as property of the husband and more and more we see women in the world completely self-sufficient, who work full time jobs and play an equal roll in providing for there family’s. Despite that, the role of a man has remained roughly the same. Overtime, more would be expected from men. To be a man means more than simply have a male sex organ and providing for your family. Men are expected to be the protectors, the fighters, the athletes, the guardian of women, the moral compasses of the world, the people with the power and above all, the strength and rock of whatever situation they may be in.
Yes, the basic values of manhood haven’t changed much over time, but the definition of a man in 1860 was still very different than what a man is today. Being a man in the 1860’s meant something. There was a certain swagger and bravado associated with being a guy back then that has been lost over the years whether to a push for female equality or just because the world has changed. More so than any other trait of manhood, men were the moral compasses. Religion played a much more significant role in the world of 1860 vs. the world now and people tried to live using a code of honor and respect for God that was usually defined by men. Men were the supreme lords of their households and were treated with respect; equally as much they treated their women with respect, probably to a fault. These basic definitions of a Civil War-era man have been generally accepted as true throughout history. As the north and south fought in the civil war, we also have differing views of what each region’s men were like in this time period. Generally, the focus has always been on what southern men were like. There has always been the stigma of “southern gentlemen” put on the Confederate soldiers, which leads most people to assume that they were the men who were described previously and for the most part they were, but Lorien Foote shows us in The Gentlemen and the Roughs that these assertions not only hold true for the confederate army but the Union army as well.
Honor plays a big role in Foote’s book, and for the longest time, much of the scholarly focus has been on honor in the confederate ranks as opposed to the Union Army. Gentlemen focuses wholly on the Union Army, with each chapter introducing the reader to several new regiments and characters who all have an opinion about honor. The largest comparison that Foote makes is comparing the gentlemen (usually upper class soldiers and previously enlisted men who were more than happy to serve) and the roughs (lower class men who were usually conscripted men who were forced to serve rather than volunteer.) This was the cause of a lot of tension in the Union army. Whereas rich or poor southern fighters always valued respect, the Northern forces were often torn between the roughs and the