“Courage mattered. Loyalty mattered. Honor mattered. Personal Pride mattered. Soldiers, and their culture, defined these as masculine values. The Gilded Age substituted gain for cause and friends for comrades.” Richard White

Charles being masculine.
Charles being masculine.

Charles Francis Adams, despite being considered an authority on the management of railroads couldn’t keep the Union Pacific stable as its president. One of the reasons, according to Richard White in Railroaded,  was the boys–the young men too young to have fought in the war seemed “weak, unruly, willful and hard to control.”

On July 9, 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated Colonel Adams for the award of the rank of brevet (honorary) brigadier general, United States Volunteers, “for distinguished gallantry and efficiency at the battles of Secessionville, South Carolina and South Mountain and Antietam, Maryland and for meritorious services during the war” to rank from March 13, 1865 and the U. S. Senate confirmed the award on July 23, 1866. [wiki]

When the mother of one of his young subordinates (at the railroad) wrote about the hardships of his life, Adams told her, ‘You will, I fear, have to talk in vain to men of my generation . . . [T]he hardships and dangers incurred by your son seem to me quite trifling in comparison with my own recollections of four years active service, summer and winter, in Virginia.”  Richard White, Railroaded.

Ouch. So here’s a few questions: Why do most cultures  still value the warrior? Why do most boys play soldier? Is it possible to reach true masculinity without a battle?

10 thoughts on ““Courage mattered. Loyalty mattered. Honor mattered. Personal Pride mattered. Soldiers, and their culture, defined these as masculine values. The Gilded Age substituted gain for cause and friends for comrades.” Richard White

  1. In relation to the Charles Adams quote to the mother, was it not ever thus, the old soldier’s judgement upon the young? I haven’t read Railroaded, but the Credit Mobilier scandal was conceived during the Civil War by those old enough at least to have fought in the war, had they not been rich enough to buy themselves an Irishman to fight for them.
    Even before the war and especially in California and in the South, a man sensibly refusing to fight a duel over some imagined petty insult was considered lower than a coward — he was dishonorable.
    An associated element of the male psyche which has changed out of all recognition is the old bushido code of honour that was at the core of the well-brought up 19th century gentleman and could not be easily expunged from the conscience of many — even during the act of making a false step. The code of right and wrong was so ingrained that suicide was a recognised and understood remedy for the degree of irredeemable shame that a financial misdeed – discovered or not – engendered in a certain type of man. Nowadays, his equivalent weasel does not practice “self-murder”, but writes a self-serving autobiography, or goes on talk shows.

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    • Or has a movie done about him–though I have noted a few banker suicides in the headlines recently.

      Since fighting is a traditional rite of passage for men I would think some of these young Irish guys probably jumped at the idea of a good fight–not that they were all Irish.
      The Apache also liked the idea of fighting so much they took money to hunt their own vs learning to farm which they considered women’s work.
      Theodore Roosevelt always felt a considerable amount of shame in his father for not fighting in the Civil War (his wife was a southerner and she had brothers). TR more than made up for it in the masculinity department. I liked TR’s father from what I’ve read. He did a great bit of charity work with his money.

      You are so right about the old soldiers always thinking the men of the next generation are soft. I like pointing out the echoes through history. I will say that if I look at the WWII generation and compare it to the hippie generation . . . well maybe I won’t say it. I like old soldiers. 🙂

      I thoroughly enjoy your comments!
      All the best~
      Adrienne

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  2. Powerful quote. It explains the era in just a few words. On a separate issue, I ended up focusing on the headline, on how long it was, on discussions I’ve recently read about pros/cons of long/short headlines. Yours worked fine.

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    • It had to be done 🙂 I liked it so much I didn’t want anyone to miss it. Sometimes in blogging I forget it’s a headline. I think of it more as an idea journal, I guess.

      I curious now how the discussion went!

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  3. I’m struggling with that very issue at my church. All the men at my church LOVE guns and shooting. Some of them are avid hunters. I don’t like guns or hunting at all, and believe that it doesn’t take guns to be masculine. I’m fighting an uphill battle.

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    • I think you can have loyalty, honor and courage and be very masculine indeed. The battlefield brings you close to mortality and forces you to live at your highest or lowest level (I’m imagining). I think Christians over the course of time have shown an incredible amount of bravery without force . . . but there is an energy about force that seems masculine–okay I’m rambling. I struggle with these things, too.

      As far as hunting goes, I used to hate it but then I figured that until I gave up eating meat that I was unprepared to kill myself, I had to take a step back on my opinion. I think musicians get a pass since they play the guitar. 🙂

      We had to kill my rooster the other day because he attacked me quite severely. Life is so morally complex!

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      • Sorry to hear about your rooster. I actually don’t mind the guys hunting. I just don’t care to do it myself. They eat what they kill. I like the comment about musicians getting a pass. 😀

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