An 1897 article in Scribner's Magazine informed readers of "The Art of Travel," remarking that "there was comparatively little travel before the War, not only because there were few railroads, but because the nation had not yet been put into motion." (quoted in Richter, 174 n42) Travel notably increased during the postbellum years, a likely result of a generation of men and women who had witnessed and taken part in the war that had set the nation in motion. The nature of the mobility of the Civil War is uncontested, however, the movement of soldiers is rarely seen as travel in the traditional sense of the word. Yet an examination of the extreme distances covered by many soldiers during the course of the war and the contents of their letters and journals suggest that the forced movement of military life had much in common with antebellum travelers and their travelogues. Thus the term "travelogue" is used here to refer to the Civil War writings of Northern soldiers who traveled great distances from their homeland and recorded their observations of the peoples, places, and landscapes they encountered on the other side of the sectional divide that had so fragmented the nation. (Literary scholar John D. Cox also examines the works of Civil War soldiers in their capacity as travel narratives.)
Travel writer Susan L. Roberson notes that "the road, both a boundary between places and a location where people and ideas meet, is an apt site for negotiating and initiating new identities, personal and national." (Roberson, 11) In the case of Civil War travel, Northern soldiers grappled with identities of invader and combatant, and also citizen of the North, acutely aware of the "ontological separation" that made the South "different or distinctive" from who they were and the Northern homes they left behind. (Winders, 391) As they traveled South, their observations and experiences permitted them to study their nation’s enemy and confirm or reject long-established understandings of the differences between the two regions, differences that had eventually led to war.
In an examination of the postbellum South, Geographer Jamie Winders argues that "the postwar South occupied a double place within the U.S. as both an occupied territory (re)captured through war and a part of the victorious nation itself." (Winders, 391-92). This same relationship existed during the war as well, as Northern soldiers entered enemy territory on the behalf of a cause which denied the South’s claims of independence. In this way, the South was both outsider and insider, an "imperial holding" of the North, Winders argues. This colonial understanding of the relationship between North and South is evidenced in the ways in which "[N]orthern travelers scripted the postbellum South in their narratives . . . : discourses of civilization, descriptions of nature, and discussions of whiteness." (Winders, 392) These themes are also apparent in the writings of Union soldiers during the war. These war travelogues, which capture soldiers’ immediate reactions to their Southern surroundings, reinforce the sense of difference between the North and the South—both culturally and geographically.
The war journal of Alcander Morse is not exempt from this imperialistic conception of the South as a location. The Southern landscape and its inhabitants are recurrent themes of his war narrative and become diverting and amusing characters within his tale of war. By and large, Alcander experiences the South as wild and untamed beautiful wilderness with equally wild and uncivilized people to match. Explore these notions further by examinging The People, The Place, and The Enemy as documented by Alcander Morse in his jounal. Links to the evidence referenced in these analyses appear in the sidebar to the left and as links within the analysis text.