Martial masculinities and family feeling in old soldiers’ memoirs, 1793–1815
This chapter explores the place of family in Revolutionary and Napoleonic War memoirs, to query whether military masculinities were wholly divorced from the civilian ideals that upheld the primacy of the family as a key arena and marker of manly identity. It contends that despite the iconic depictions of soldiers’ tearful departures from kin in wartime propaganda, memoirs attest to the continued importance of blood relations as a source of emotional support, patriarchal fulfilment, potential motivation, reward or patronage. Memoirs also reveal how the proxy familial bonds forged within a regiment offered an alternate means of participating in family life, as the language and imagery of familial connection was co-opted to convey hierarchy and foster cohesion, loyalty and brotherhood. These sources affirm that whilst military men’s experiences of marriage, fatherhood, filial or fraternal duty may have differed from those of their civilian counterparts, family feeling was no less central to their lives and ideals.