Warrior culture Chapter uri icon

abstract

  • © Cambridge University Press 2017. Throughout the antebellum period, a warrior spirit animated American culture, and the skill and bravery of heroic individuals, as opposed to professional armies, gained public attention and fame. As Marcus Cunliffe has pointed out, between 1775 and 1865, the martial spirit in America was “warlike but unmilitary” and had a long foreground: “For several generations of colonial settlers, fighting and bloodshed were inescapable. The French, the Spanish and the Indians were real enemies, as a hundred American communities could testify … By the end of the Revolutionary War nearly every town of any size in the colonies had been attacked or occupied, or both, by the British. The Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War and a score of campaigns against the Indians kept alive the traditions of belligerence.” These traditions became infused with a heightened romanticism in the wake of the Revolution, due to the enormous popularity of the writings of Sir Walter Scott. As the publisher Samuel Goodrich recalled, “Everybody read these works; everybody - the refined and the simple - shared in the delightful dreams which seemed to transport them to remote ages and distant climes, and made them live and breathe in the presence of the stern Covenanters of Scotland, the gallant bowmen of Sherwood Forest, or even the Crusaders in Palestine!" Books, periodicals, illustrations, paintings, sculptures, and songs all represented the martial exploits of men such as George Washington, Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Andrew Jackson, and even William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor, in terms of the chivalric ideal, despite the emergent democracy of the new nation. Almost all American writers of the antebellum period were influenced by Scott, most notably the historical novelists Cooper, Hawthorne, and Simms. His appeal extended to women authors as well, including Harriet Beecher Stowe, who as a girl memorized passages from Scott, and as an adult read his books to her children and servants. Margaret Fuller likewise became enamored with Scott at an early age, and in 1849, as she watched Garibaldi lancers galloping through Rome during the revolution there, she told her New-York Tribune readers: “I longed for Sir Walter Scott to be on earth again, and see them; all are light, athletic, resolute figures, many of the forms of the finest manly beauty of the South, all sparkling with its genius and ennobled by the resolute spirit, ready to dare, to do, to die.”

author list (cited authors)

  • Reynolds, L. J.

citation count

  • 0

Book Title

  • Henry David Thoreau in Context

publication date

  • January 2017