Competing Conceptions of Manhood and Honor in the North and the Union Army

If you are like me, there is a never ending list of books you keep adding to but can’t get to. For me, that often also leads to a similar stack of books on my bookshelf bought in excitement, just waiting to be read. The Gentlemen and the Roughs, by Professor Lorien Foote, is one of those books. I’ve finally been able to dive into it and what a consuming read it has been so far.

I can’t remember where I read this, but I’ve read that Justice Hugo Black engaged with the authors in the books he read. He underlined passages and wrote questions in the margins.

I’m no Justice Black, not by a long shot. But I get drawn in to books. I underline, pose questions in the margins, and likewise pose potential answers to myself as well. In Professor Foote’s book, I’ve underlined and scribbled on probably every page I’ve read so far.

Professor Foote is a giant. Simply put. I bought The Gentlemen and the Roughs some time ago during one of my frequent book buying binges, but just recently started reading.

The modern day Uniform Code of Military Justice (“UCMJ”) makes it a criminal violation to engage in conduct that is unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. Lawyers and informed laypersons should immediately be wary of such a crime because of our current understanding of the notice requirements of the Due Process requirement located in the Constitution.

Professor Foote appears to argue that nineteenth century America, and the Union army in particular, struggled with competing conceptions of manhood and honor, which was likewise reflected in courts-martial tasked to assess gentlemanly conduct.

Professor Foote’s thesis is captivating. I’m about halfway through the book, but still taking it all in. It is definitely worth being on any interested reader’s bookshelf.

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