Midnight in America

Darkness, Sleep, and Dreams during the Civil War

By Jonathan W. White

296 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 25 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3204-9
    Published: March 2017
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-3205-6
    Published: February 2017

Civil War America

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The Civil War brought many forms of upheaval to America, not only in waking hours but also in the dark of night. Sleeplessness plagued the Union and Confederate armies, and dreams of war glided through the minds of Americans in both the North and South. Sometimes their nightly visions brought the horrors of the conflict vividly to life. But for others, nighttime was an escape from the hard realities of life and death in wartime. In this innovative new study, Jonathan W. White explores what dreams meant to Civil War–era Americans and what their dreams reveal about their experiences during the war. He shows how Americans grappled with their fears, desires, and struggles while they slept, and how their dreams helped them make sense of the confusion, despair, and loneliness that engulfed them.

White takes readers into the deepest, darkest, and most intimate places of the Civil War, connecting the emotional experiences of soldiers and civilians to the broader history of the conflict, confirming what poets have known for centuries: that there are some truths that are only revealed in the world of darkness.

About the Author

Jonathan W. White is associate professor of American Studies at Christopher Newport University.
For more information about Jonathan W. White, visit the Author Page.

Reviews

“A vital addition to Civil War collections.”--Library Journal

"The quoted letters create a sense of intimacy with wartime lives that is eerie and intense, at times rivaling the highest achievements of art."--Pacific Standard

“A wide-ranging and fascinating study. . . . Reminds us of the haunting effects war can (and does) have on its participants long after the fighting ends.”--Lesley J. Gordon, Civil War Monitor

“Highly original, exhaustively researched, and compellingly written, Midnight in America makes a fresh and vital contribution to the essential Civil War literature. This is literally a dream of a book. And Jonathan W. White is one of the very best young historians in the field.”--Harold Holzer, winner of the 2015 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize

“In a winning combination of marvelous research and creative analysis, Jonathan White examines how Civil War Americans experienced, thought about, and shared their dreams. Thick with clever arguments about war and society, Midnight in America illustrates how we might learn from the murky world of sleep and dreams and wartime.”--Matthew Gallman, author of Defining Duty in the Civil War