About The Book
In War No More Cynthia Wachtell offers an important, new interpretation of American antiwar writing and reveals the shared antiwar impulse of some of the giants of American literature. Voicing their opposition to war's brutality, absurdity, inhumanity, and irrationality, these authors gained favor during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as the implications of modern warfare became increasingly evident. "War will yet be, and to the end," predicted Herman Melville. His prophecy, borne out by the course of American history from the Revolutionary War through to our current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, seems all too depressingly likely.
Beginning with an examination of three very different renderings of the chaotic Battle of Chickamauga-a diary entry by a northern infantry officer, a poem romanticizing war authored by a young southerner a few months later, and a gruesome story penned by the veteran Ambrose Bierce, Wachtell traces the gradual shift in the late nineteenth century away from highly idealized depictions of the Civil War. Even as the war was under way, she shows, certain writers-including Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, John William De Forest, and Nathaniel Hawthorne-quietly questioned the meaning and morality of the conflict.
As Wachtell demonstrates, antiwar writing made steady gains in public acceptance and popularity in the final years of the nineteenth century and the opening years of the twentieth, especially during the Spanish-American War and the war in the Philippines. While much of the era's war writing continued the long tradition of glorifying battle, works by Bierce, Stephen Crane, Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, William James, and others increasingly presented war as immoral and the modernization and mechanization of combat as something to be deeply feared. Wachtell also explores, through the works of Theodore Roosevelt and others, the resistance that the antiwar impulse met.
Drawing upon a wide range of published and unpublished sources, including letters, diaries, essays, poems, short stories, novels, memoirs, speeches, magazine and newspaper articles, and religious tracts, Wachtell makes strikingly clear that pacifism had never been more popular than in the years preceding World War I. War No More concludes by charting the development of antiwar literature from World War I to the present, thus offering the first comprehensive overview of one hundred and fifty years of American antiwar writing.