A book in our Gift Shop is called Women in Mourning, put out by the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. It tells about how nineteenth century mourners would go to great lengths to demonstrate their love and affection for the deceased.
Widows were expected to observe a minimum of two and a half years in mourning. First came the heavy- mourning with the face covered entirely by a black, crepe veil whenever leaving the home. Full-mourning followed, still requiring black, but with the allowance of white lace collars and cuffs and lighter veils.
Finally, half-mourning completed the process and required print and solid-colored dresses of gray or lavender. The act of altering one’s personal appearance had long been part of the ritual of mourning; it set the bereaved apart from general society and, in particular signified his or her changed status.
Men, as might be expected only had to mourn three months. Few southern families escaped the horrendous losses of the War. As a result the vast majority of Southern women went into mourning at some point during the awful struggle.
Because of the traumatic combat experiences, Southern soldiers turned to religion and its lessons that death brought eternal peace. In many ways, the soldiers were finding ways to prepare to die, and steeling their families for perhaps the inevitable.
One of the hardest things was to reclaim a body after it had been buried. Some rested in mass graves, some in unmarked ones. With peace came the ability to do better. Women took the lead in caring for the soldiers’ graves and cemeteries.