The war conditions affected social life. But people found ways to entertain themselves.
Horse races were held at the Burns Island Track in Nashville. When conditions permitted, young adults enjoyed courting and attending dances.
In 1864, sixteen-year-old Alice Williamson wrote in her diary about life in Gallatin, Tennessee. On May 1, she declared “this is the dullest May-day Gallatin ever seen; no picnics or anything else.”
In August Williamson visited with friends. She said “Sallie M. and I have been enjoying ourselves finely today. Jennie Griffith has lost none of her wild way.” Although the war disrupted some kinds of events, Tennesseans continued to visit with friends and family.
Many Tennesseans had relatives serving in the army far from home. People wrote letters to communicate. Louise Gilmer’s father served in the Confederate Army of Tennessee. On March 16, 1862, she wrote:
My Dear Dear Father:
I do want to see you so much. I do miss you so much in the evenings when I come in and no one is in…if you were here you would tell me stories and so I would not be so lonesome. I wish you would tell one in your letter to me for I want you to write to me what your hourse is named.
Tennesseans who lived in cities tended to have more entertainment choices. They could attend operas or plays. In Nashville two theaters provided audiences with a range of performances such as ballet, opera, comedy, Shakespeare, histories and dramas. Many Union soldiers occupying Nashville also enjoyed going to the theater.
- Print of the painting, Tidings from the Front, by Gilbert Gaul. The painting is the artist’s rendition of reactions to a letter from a loved one serving in the war. Tennessee State Museum Collection, 2005.162.2
- May’s Grand Opera House, in Nashville, was constructed in 1850. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Government Archives of Nashville and Davidson County
Civil War and Reconstruction >> Civil War >> Life At Home >> Social Activities