A Union soldier with the tattered colors of the Eighth Pennsylvania Infantry (Corbis)
Henry James was 18 when the war broke out, but his father was protective of his shy second child and urged him not to enlist in the Union army. Instead James enrolled in law school, dropped out, and began to focus on his writing.
As of 1864, only one of his short stories had yet seen print—in an obscure New York publication. Setting his sights higher, he decided to try The Atlantic. He feared rejection, however, and asked the editors to send their response to a friend’s address so that his family (especially his older brother, William, who was wont to tease) wouldn’t see it. To his delight, the piece was accepted, and “The Story of a Year”—about the fate of a couple who get engaged just before the young man heads off to fight in Virginia—appeared in the March 1865 issue.
James’s relationship with The Atlantic would prove long and fruitful: in the years to come, he would contribute numerous reviews, travel essays, and stories, and the magazine would serialize such classics as Daisy Miller and The Portrait of a Lady.—Sage Stossel
My story begins as a great many stories have begun within the last three years, and indeed as a great many have ended; for, when the hero is despatched, does not the romance come to a stop?
In early May, two years ago, a young couple I [knew] of strolled homeward from an evening walk, a long ramble among the peaceful hills which inclosed their rustic home. Into these peaceful hills the young man had brought, not the rumor, (which was an old inhabitant,) but some of the reality of war,—a little whiff of gunpowder, the clanking of a sword; for, although Mr. John Ford had his campaign still before him, he wore a certain comely air of camp-life which stamped him a very Hector to the steady-going villagers, and a very pretty fellow to Miss Elizabeth Crowe, his companion in this sentimental stroll. And was he not attired in the great brightness of blue and gold which befits a freshly made lieutenant? …