Alice Munday, MS3

“Such is War”: Union Surgeon George M. Trowbridge and the Personal Perils of Slavery and Race in the American Civil War

One of the most permanent effects of the American Civil War (1861-1865) was the 1865 13th Amendment that gave 10 million slaves their freedom. While most of the Union soldiers did not enlist to end slavery, after time, they began to witness the nefarious traits of slavery themselves while seeing the humanity of the thousands of slaves that fled to freedom in their Union lines. This exposure to freedmen changed many soldiers’ perspectives on slavery and African Americans as a whole. Our research on the nearly 200 sagacious letters George M. Trowbridge, an Assistant Surgeon in the 19th Michigan Infantry, wrote to his wife from 1863-65 exposes the complexities and the evolution of one soldier’s ideas about slavery, race, education and the war’s aims.  While anti-slavery from the time he joined the war, Trowbridge goes from being provincial and almost indifferent towards African Americans to inevitably becoming more tolerant and excited to see African American troops fight courageously. Trowbridge’s letters reveal a personal and vivid picture of the larger narrative of slavery and the Civil War.

Faculty Mentor: Scott Stabler, History

Page last modified August 2, 2013