What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation

Engagements

When the Great War Reached Wisconsin, Free Speech Was the First Casualty

President Wilson's Government Criminalized Dissenters, Socialists, and German Immigrants as Traitors

Detail of a U.S. Army World War I recruitment poster. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By Richard L. Pifer

Woodrow Wilson did not want to go to war. On two different occasions during the weeks leading to the 1917 declaration of war that brought the United States into World War I, the president expressed reservations regarding the course he was contemplating.

Because war is autocratic, he feared that free speech and other rights would be endangered. The President told Frank Cobb of the New York World: “Once lead this people into war, and they’ll forget there ever was such …

Identities

The Civil War Art of Using Words to Assuage Fear and Convey Love

Soldiers and Their Families, Sometimes Barely Literate, Turned to Letters to Stay Close

Envelope for stationary packet, "Torch of Love," George W. Fisher Bookseller and Stationer, Rochester, New York. Image courtesy of the National Museum of American History.

By Christopher Hager

Sarepta Revis was a 17-year-old newlywed when her husband left their North Carolina home to fight in the Confederate States Army. Neither had much schooling, and writing did not come easily to them. Still, they exchanged letters with some regularity, telling each other how they were doing, expressing their love and longing. Once, after Daniel had been away for more than six months, Sarepta told him in a letter that she was “as fat as a pig.” This may not …