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Civil War - The Home Front

In researching my Civil War ancestor, I became fascinated by all aspects of that war. If you're a Civil War buff, check out my topics.

Abraham and Nancy Tower

Abraham and Nancy Tower

What Was Life Like for Women While the Men Went Away to the Civil War?

The battles and campaigns of the Civil War are quite well documented, but I see little information about the effects of the war on the wife and children left behind. What was life like on the home front during the Civil War? That's a big topic, so I'll narrow it down to what was life like in Southern Indiana for my great-great grandmother, Nancy Angeline (Long) Tower.

Her husband, Abraham Bates Tower was mustered into Company G, 93rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry on August 28, 1862. It was three years before he came back from the war, a greatly changed man. They are listed as living in Leopold, Indiana at the time of his enlistment. I'll share with you here what I can piece together of her story.

(The photo shows Nancy Angeline and Abraham Bates Tower some time after the Civil War.)

Some Background Information on Nancy Angeline Long

She was born May 2, 1840 in Harrison, Harrison County, Indiana, United States

Her parents are Thomas Long and Nancy Ann Daggs

Nancy Angeline is the sister of Rebecca Long, Mildred Long, Mary Jane Long, Sarah J Long, William Long and Minva Long.

Nancy Angeline and Abraham Tower had been married for four years when he left for the Civil War. At that time, they had 2 young children.

She died August 4, 1909 in Tyro, Montgomery County, Kansas. Nancy Angeline had a stroke and was cared for by her daughters, Alice and Lissa. In mid-1907, her daughter Viola Matilda Tower McGhee came from Arkansas to take care of her. (from the book My Flint Hills Childhood)

Places in Nancy Tower's Life

  • Harrison, Indiana - Nancy Angeline (Long) Tower's birthplace
  • Leopold, Indiana - Where Nancy and Abraham Tower lived when he left for the Civil War
  • Laclede, Missouri - Where Nancy moved to be with her sister after Abraham was missing-in-action.
  • Tyro Kansas - where Nancy Tower lived for the last years of her life.

We Don't Know What Kind of House the Towers Lived in

It might have been like this vintage log cabin. Perhaps they were living with the Tower or the Long family and did not have a place of their own. I want to find out more about that.

Before the war, the census shows Nancy and Abraham sharing a house with another couple. Both men are listed as coopers (barrel makers). Both couples had young children.

Perhaps It Was a Cabin Like This One

Cabin in the state of Virginia in the early days. Homes in Indiana during the frontier times would have been similar.

Cabin in the state of Virginia in the early days. Homes in Indiana during the frontier times would have been similar.

Women's Role on the Home Front

Recipes from the Civil War Era

Corn was commonly made into meal in Indiana and was served regularly as cornbread or corn muffins. Here's a Civil War-era cornbread recipe.

Families grew gardens and put away potatoes, pumpkins, and apples for the winter. They grew beans and other vegetables.


Questions I Want to Answer about Nancy Tower's Life during the Civil War

  • Where was she living? In the home that they had before the war? With her parents? With Abraham's parents?
  • What was she living on? Did Abraham get a signing bonus that she could draw on? Did he send money from his pay? What about after he was missing and presumed dead and there would have been no pay?
  • Did they live in the country or in the town? What kind of house was it? How was it furnished?
  • What was Abraham's job before the war? If it was farming, was Nancy able to keep the farm going?

    Update: In the 1860 census, AB Tower (age 22) and Nancy A. Tower (age 20) are living with S.J. Linn (age 22) and Rebecca J. Linn (age 21). There were two children in the household, Sarah A. Tower (age 8/12) and Mary E. Linn (age 7/12). Also in the household was Nancy's mother, Nancy A. Long (age 54). Both AB Tower and S.J. Linn are listed as coopers. I later found out that Nancy's parents got divorced, which was unusual in the mid-1800s. That gives me a new question to research.

  • How did she travel to Missouri to stay with her sister after she thought Abraham was dead? I'm guessing this was by train, but the railroads must have been busy with moving troops and goods for the war. Missouri was part of the Confederacy, while her home state of Indiana was part of the Union.

How Would Nancy Angeline Dress?

Women's Clothing from the Civil War Era

This would depend on their social status in the community and their lifestyle. I need to find more about Nancy and Abraham's background for this. The only photos I have of her are from shortly after the war and then later in her life.

Learn More about Women's Clothing in the 1860s

  • This is a helpful webpage, How-To Wear Civil War Era Dresses. Dressing in a Victorian-style gown is a fun and feminine way for women of all ages to get to play "dress-up". It's particularly exciting if you are attending a Civil War reenactment where everyone else is in costume too!
  • Here are tips from someone who describes herself as a Civil War geek. She had seen movies like Glory and also North and South and wanted to experience that herself, How to Get Started as a Lady Civil War Reenactor.


Read about the Clothing Worn in the Civil War Period

Civil War bonnets

Civil War bonnets

Re-enactors at an event in Florida. The re-enactors are dedicated in getting their costumes perfect for the time period.

Re-enactors at an event in Florida. The re-enactors are dedicated in getting their costumes perfect for the time period.

Links about Women in the Civil War

  • Civil War Women Blog
    Abolitionist Movement African American Women Authors and Poets Battle of Gettysburg Civil War Diaries Civil War Doctors Civil War Events Civil War Generals Civil War holiday Civil War Leaders Civil War Nurses Civil War Places Civil War Soldiers Civil

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Virginia Allain

Please Sign the Guestbook

tinac4242 on September 12, 2013:

I love to read about history and see what life was about in these times. Very informative.

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on April 22, 2013:

I can't wait to read more about this aspect of your family history. I tend to like the personal stories more than the big historical ones.