What Did Mark Twain Do During The Civil War

Background Information

Mark Twain is best known as a renowned American author and humorist. He was born in Florida, Missouri in 1835 and died in 1910. He was an integral part of the social and literary scene in the United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries. His works, particularly his novels, remain widely read and appreciated to this day. However, while Twain’s literary contributions are widely celebrated, his role during the Civil War is less well-known.

Twain Enters the Civil War

In the early days of the Civil War, Twain was relatively unknown. He was working as a typesetter for Samuel Clemens in Missouri. Twain had a strong desire to contribute to the war effort, and in 1862 he joined a Confederate military unit called the Marion Rangers. The goal of this unit was to help protect Missouri from Union encroachment. Unfortunately, the brief stint with the Marion Rangers was ultimately unsuccessful. Shortly after joining, the group dispersed due to a lack of organization and resources.

Twain Joins the Union Forces

Following the unsuccessful Marion Rangers mission, Twain decided to join the Union forces. He enlisted in the Calvary of the United States Army, and he was accepted into the unit in 1864. At this time, the war was in its final years, and the Union forces had gained a significant advantage over the Confederates. Twain served in the Calvary for the remainder of the war, and he received an honorable discharge in 1865.

Early Life During the War

Although Twain only saw limited action in the Civil War, it had an undeniable impact on his life. His enlistment in the Union forces allowed him to gain an understanding of the brutality of war, which shaped his outlook for the rest of his life. In addition, Twain’s brief stint with the Marion Rangers sparked an interest in politics and journalism, two areas in which Twain would later become an expert.


In the years following the Civil War, Twain would go on to become one of the most influential authors of all time. His works explored a range of issues, from class divisions to race relations, and they continue to resonate with readers to this day. While Twain’s role in the Civil War was limited, it is clear that it played an important role in his development as a thinker and a writer.

Post-war Writing

Although Twain had received an honorable discharge from the military, he was far from finished writing about the war. In the years following the end of the conflict, Twain wrote extensively about his experiences. In particular, Twain wrote several newspaper articles about the war, in which he discussed his own views and explored the wider implications of the conflict.

Literary Contributions

Twain’s lasting contributions to literature are largely due to the insights he gained during the Civil War. In his works, Twain explored the troubling realities of war and the futility of conflict. As such, his works served as a reminder of the horrors of war and a warning against future engagement in armed conflict.

Travelling Abroad

Following the war, Twain left the United States for extended periods of travel. During his travels, he explored far-flung places such as India, South Africa, and the Mediterranean. In addition to inspiring his writing, these trips forced Twain to face, firsthand, the realities of colonialism, racism, and economic exploitation.

A Cautionary Tale

Twain’s experiences during the Civil War and his subsequent travels around the world changed his outlook on life and the world. He concluded that war and violence were not the solution to the world’s problems. Rather, Twain argued for non-violent means of resolving conflicts and for more equitable relations among nations. He used his literary works to express these views, and to this day, his works serve as a cautionary tale against the use of violence and war.

Impact on American Society

During the latter years of his life, Twain exerted a great deal of influence on American society. His views on the futility of war, along with his condemnation of colonialism and oppression, made an indelible mark on the American political discourse. Indeed, to this day, Twain’s works remain a source of inspiration and a reminder of the horrors of war and the power of the pen.

Conclusion of Mark Twain’s Complicated Legacy

Mark Twain’s life was full of contradiction and complexity. While he contributed to the Union war effort during the Civil War and wrote extensively about his experiences, he also used his writing to criticize the war and to call for more peaceful means of resolving conflicts. To this day, Twain’s complicated legacy continues to inspire readers and to serve as a reminder of the power of the written word.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

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