This article challenges the assumption that Nathaniel Hawthorne's “Chiefly About War Matters” literally expresses the political beliefs of its author in a work of nonfictional journalism. It shows instead how, in this text, Hawthorne adopted Washington Irving's formulation of the literary sketch and its narrative perspective of the “sauntering gaze” as an aesthetic response to the temporal acceleration of the Civil War. With his fictional sketch narrator, “a Peaceable Man” whose meandering portraits of political and military leaders, modernized warfare, and militarized landscapes unfold to no unified end, Hawthorne experimented with the slow time of Irving's genre to counter the speed of war and weaken the appeal of quickly formed political convictions.

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