Masculinity and adolescence in Antebellum America: Robert Wirt at West Point, 1820-1821

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Abstract

This article uses the family correspondence and private writings of Robert Wirt, a young cadet at the U.S. Military Academy, to explore masculinity and adolescence in antebellum America. While boys in previous generations assumed they would simply follow in their fathers' footsteps, the Jacksonian era offered new opportunities - for failure as well as success. Forced to find their own - not their fathers' - route to self-sufficiency, middle-class white males in nineteenth-century America experienced a turbulent adolescence that was foreign to their parents' experience. Robert Wirt's life sheds light on important themes in family history, including coming-of-age, homosocial friendship, and rebellion against parental authority.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-416
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Family History
Volume23
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1998

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