Places: The Crisis

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1901

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Historical

Time of work: 1860’s

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*St. Louis

*St. Crisis, TheLouis. Major Mississippi River port city and principal city of Missouri, a border state that was occupied by Union troops before it could declare itself for the Confederacy when the Civil War began in 1861. Union generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman spent many years in St. Louis before the war. South St. Louis had a large proabolition population of Germans, who had left Germany after the failure of the revolutions of 1848. However, St. Louis was also a city in which many southern aristocrats lived, along with others who had relocated from the South. St. Louis was also the birthplace of author Winston Churchill.

Mrs. Crane’s boardinghouse

Mrs. Crane’s boardinghouse. St. Louis establishment where many of the novel’s major characters, such as Eliphalet Hopper, the Brices, and the Cranes, visit or reside. The house is a center of considerable debate bordering on “mad delirium.” It is here that Stephen Brice, who has relocated from Boston to St. Louis in order to have a better chance in a legal career, brings a female slave he has just purchased with his last dollars, to free her from the horrors of slavery.

Carvel house

Carvel house. St. Louis home of Colonel Carvel and his daughter Virginia. Located on Locust Street, this family house and its possessions are seized over Christmas in 1861, along with the possessions of other secessionist families. Judge Whipple, a New England transplant and ardent abolitionist, purchases the property for his friend, Colonel Carvel. Nevertheless the colonel moves to his picturesque summer home in Glencoe, Missouri, to the southwest of St. Louis. Judge Whipple visits there, and it is at Glencoe that Stephen Brice meets Virginia Carvel.


Bellegarde. Residence of the pro-secessionist Colfaxes; located on Bellefontaine Road outside St. Louis. It is here that Clarence Colfax gives a huge ball to announce his betrothal to Virginia Carvel. Stephen Brice is intentionally not invited.

*Camp Jackson

*Camp Jackson. Confederate army camp and arsenal set up in St. Louis by Missouri’s pro-secessionist governor Claiborne Jackson. Confederate volunteers, including Captain Colfax, attempt to gain control of the city, but five German regiments from South St. Louis surround the camp and force the Confederate sympathizers to surrender. In the novel not a shot is fired; however, in the actual historical event, twenty-eight people were killed.

*Wilson’s Creek

*Wilson’s Creek. Ten miles southwest of Springfield where the fiercest Civil War battle in Missouri is fought on August 10, 1861, Although Union forces lose the battle, they retain control of Missouri.


*Vicksburg. Mississippi town on the Mississippi River where Union and Confederate forces meet in a major battle to determine control over traffic on the river. There, Lieutenant Stephen Brice sees General Sherman, renewing an acquaintance made earlier in his civilian days. Brice also meets with General Grant, who soon promotes him to captain. The novel provides considerable detail about the battle and Grant’s heroic steadfastness in pursuing the campaign. After Confederate captain Clarence Colfax is badly wounded, Brice uses his influence to have Colfax sent to St. Louis for medical attention, as fate brings the two friends together.

*White House

*White House. Home and headquarters of U.S. president Abraham Lincoln, before whom Virginia Carvel successfully pleads for the life of her fiancé, Clarence Colfax, who has been convicted as a Confederate spy. Later, while visiting the president, Major Stephen Brice proposes marriage to Virginia Carvel within Lincoln’s office; the coming merging of pro-Union and pro-Confederate families symbolizes the future reuniting of the divided nation.

BibliographyKnight, Grant C. The Strenuous Age in American Literature. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1954. Classic study of American literature covering the period 1900 to 1910, largely coinciding with the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. Successfully integrates the authors, including Churchill, and their works with the times.Pattee, Fred Lewis. The New American Literature, 1890-1930. New York: Century, 1930. Although dated, the work has valuable comments on Churchill’s The Crisis as being in the Romantic tradition of the Waverley novels of Sir Walter Scott.Schneider, Robert W. Five Novelists of the Progressive Era. New York: Columbia University Press, 1965. Compares Churchill with the other major authors of the period: William Dean Howells, Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, and Theodore Dreiser. Concludes with the argument that Churchill’s liberalism was fundamentally affected by the events of World War I.Schneider, Robert W. Novelist to a Generation: The Life and Thought of Winston Churchill. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1976. This biographical study by an eminent scholar is the most satisfactory work about Winston Churchill. Combines a discussion of his life with an analysis of his novels.Titus, Warren Irving. Winston Churchill. New York: Twayne, 1963. Combines biography and literary analysis. Was the major study of Churchill until the appearance of Schneider’s analytical biography.
Categories: Places