Moments of Despair
Suicide, Divorce, and Debt in Civil War Era North Carolina
“Her husband began drinking heavily soon after their wedding, often returning home drunk and abusive. On their second wedding anniversary, an intoxicated Francis stumbled home and began verbally abusing his wife and infant son, breaking furniture, and throwing the fragments at his terrified spouse, who shielded their baby in her arms. Luckily for Addie, Francis’s drunkenness impaired his aim, and she fled the house, running to her mother’s with Francis pursuing them “with an unsheathed bowie knife in his hand.” — excerpt from Moments of Despair
by Angela Esco Elder
Oct. 10, 2011
Pills stalled their hearts, bullets tore their brains, and knives sliced their wrists when men refused to live another day. Farmers fought and survived the bloodiest war in American history only to return home to pregnant wives, but not by their seed. Other wives came to court battered and beaten, begging for release from their marriages because for their husbands, war was not over.
Meanwhile, debt shackled families across the South, clasping white and black North Carolinians alike into a form of economic enslavement in a land supposedly free from slavery. Suicide, divorce, and debt— this was the legacy of the American Civil War and is the topic of David Silkenat’s new book Moments of Despair: Suicide, Divorce, & Debt in Civil War Era North Carolina.
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