People In Line For Change
The people living in the Kennesaw Mountain region prior to the Civil War were very diverse. These communities were composed of five classes of people: merchants, large scale farmers, yeomen/small scale farmers, free blacks, and enslaved blacks. Each group had its own individual characteristics and would each have an impact on the Kennesaw Mountain region before, during, and after the Civil War.
The lives of women during the mid-nineteenth century varied greatly according to their socio-economic status, i.e. working on a farm, leading a life of leisure, or working in a factory. Even with the differences between the varying groups within Victorian society, all women were united by a common societal view towards their gender. Their lives were dominated by the ideals of what is known as the Cult of Domesticity and True Womanhood. The major principles of this ideology included: piety, purity, domesticity, and submissiveness. The extent to which these principles were relevant to a woman's daily life also depended on their socio-economic status. For example, the wife of a yeomen farmer would likely have worked alongside her husband on the family farm, in addition to her duties within the home. Along the same lines, the wife or daughter of a large plantation owner or merchant would have had more time to practice the crafts and other activities, such as embroidery and playing musical instruments, recommended by the ideals of the Cult of Domesticity.
For the women of the Kennesaw Mountain region, daily life was similar to that of the everyday American woman, finding themselves a part of the Victorian ideal of womanhood. In the South, there were two exceptions to this expectation: enslaved and free black women; in society the same rules of femininity did not apply. The major social-economic groups that existed in the Kennesaw Mountain region included: merchants, large-scale farmer, yeomen farmer, free-blacks, and slaves. With the beginning of the Civil War, the roles of men and women changed.
While men were predominantly involved in the military, most women remained active on the homefront. The ideals of the Cult of Domesticity and True Womanhood were still in existence, however with the occurrence of war the roles of women shifted out of necessity. Some women were more directly involved in the war through their service as nurses and doctors, by disguising themselves as soldiers, and/or by participating in espionage activity. Women were responsible for taking on many of the duties of males while they were away at war. A woman's socio-economic status greatly influenced the extent to which she assumed additional roles. For example, an enslaved black woman would have continued her work without much interruption, but the wife of a yeoman farmer would have been responsible for maintaining not only the housework, but also the family farm.
Another way that the war expanded the roles of women was through work outside of the home. In a scenario akin to women entering the workforce during World War II, numerous middle class women went to work in government offices, hospitals, factories, and mills. For the women of the Kennesaw Mountain region and the surrounding area, the mills in New Manchester and Roswell were the most notable. When General Sherman came through Georgia during the Atlanta Campaign (1864), many of the women working in local mills were arrested on charges of treason against the Union and shipped north. For many of these women, it would be years before they were able to return to their homes.
At the end of the war, life for most women returned to its pre-war existence dominated by the Cult of Domesticity. However, for many women life would be forever changed because homes and lands were destroyed, husbands never returned from the war, and formerly held ideals were shattered. The work of the women on the homefront during the Civil War prepared America for the women's rights movement.
In 1860, the United States Census reported that there were a total of 4.4 million African Americans in the country. Of this total, approximately 488,000 were free blacks and the remaining 4 million were enslaved. The first African American slaves were brought to the United States in 1619. In the southern United States, slavery became a necessity to maintain their economic system after the invention of the Cotton Gin by Eli Whitney in 1794. Although the importing of slaves was made illegal in 1808, the slave trade continued to flourish. Even so, there was a notable population of free blacks living in the country. Freedom could be attained a few ways: escaping, being given freedom by one's master, or through birth (one's status as slave or free followed that of the mother). Life as a free black was not particularly easy, because they were still subject to racism and discrimination faced by all blacks.
On a plantation, slaves were divided into two groups based on their work responsibilities: house slaves and field slaves. A house slave worked in the master's house in close proximity to the master and his family. Their duties involved cooking, cleaning, nannying the children, acting as a valet, amongst a variety of other tasks. Involving more heavy physical labor, the tasks of a field slave included working the land of the master. The life of a slave was largely dependent of his or her master. Because slaves were considered property, the food they ate, the clothes they wore, if families were kept together or split apart, and whether or not a slave lived or died all depended on their master. Slaves were not considered citizens of the United States, but they were subject to laws known as slave codes. Each state, in which slavery was legal, there existed a slave code which outlined the condition of being a slave, as well as a description of offenses and punishments for said offenses.
In the Kennesaw Mountain region, there were populations of both enslaved and free blacks. However, there were not a lot of slaves in this area as a result of the lack of large plantations. Monemia and James Johnson were two free blacks who lived in Marietta during the Civil War. Monemia ran a restaurant and store and her husband, James, was a barber. James' treasonous dealings with a Union spy, Henry Cole, led him to flee to the city of Nashville, Tennessee. In November of 1864, after the capture of Atlanta, Union troops plundered Monemia's restaurant and home taking nearly everything she owned as provisions for the Union Army. Soon after, the fires set in Marietta by the Union troops destroyed her house and restaurant. History remembers Monemia Johnson because of the claim she filed against the United States government for $2,591.10 in damages. Thirteen years after the end of the Civil War, Monemia finally received a check for a total of $246.
Last updated: April 14, 2015