With the new college football season upon us it might be worthwhile to reflect on the cultural connections with the Civil War and defeat and the Lost Cause. While the enthusiasm here in Charlottesville, Virginia probably doesn’t match the anticipation found elsewhere around the South [I lived in Alabama for two years.] the talk seems to be all about UVA’s prospects and even who will start at the quarterback position. Apparently, this is a serious matter for many. I’ve never been a big college football fan and I have even more trouble understanding how it is possible to get so excited about playing William and Mary as a season opener. Perhaps UVA fans no all too well that the rest of the season is likely to be a real bummer. For those of you who are college football fans and Civil War enthusiasts I offer you the following for your reading pleasure. The first is a journal article, titled, “From Lost Cause to Third-and-Long: College Football and the Civil Religion of the South, which appeared in the Journal of Southern Religion. Additional commentary can be found here and here. And I almost forgot, GO TERPS!!!
From the Bain-Selbo essay:
A particularly moving moment occurs at the end of a game. In this video, we see such a moment after a hard-fought Mississippi loss to Alabama in the fall of 2005. While some fans leave the stadium, a large portion (particularly the student section near where the band sits) stays for a final playing of the medley. It begins slowly, mournfully (particularly appropriate after a tough loss)—the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Dixie” gently mixing together. One feels a sense of longing— longing for a past more ideal than real. Midway through, the tempo picks up, hands are clapping, and the parts that include the fans singing (particularly the chorus of “Dixie”) are louder and more boisterous. This all culminates with a yell, a hope, a declaration of defiance rising from all—”The South will rise again!”
Yesterday’s post about sexual violence and rape in the Civil War led to a spirited exchange. As always, I appreciate your comments even when the topics are emotionally divisive. My wife, Michaela, read through the entire exchange and, as a result, formulated some strong opinions which she wrote up as a comment. After reading it I convinced her to write it up as a guest post – her first one here at Civil War Memory.
First, I propose to define rape. Rape is defined as penile or non-penile vaginal penetration or sexual assault w/o penetration in some countries. So choosing that definition would increase the numbers compared to exclusively vaginal penetration rape. Thus the women being “surprised” in their bedroom might imply rape depending on what actually happened. Secondly, I am not sure whether rapists are more prevalent among one nationality compared to another. Thirdly whether an army is “just” ordered to rape or whether the extreme psychological conditions lead to rapist behavior might give us different leads as to the actual numbers of rape. And lastly, this is a “Memory” blog. So going back to the idea of memory I don’t think that the rapist Union or Confederate soldier is a) a well documented picture and b) a wildly interesting subject to the community of CW historians (and the latter is not a judgmental comment). My uneducated guess is it would be rather analyzed in the comparative history of warfare.
Casteel says that his own family had two ancestors – brothers – who actually fired at each other from opposing armies during the Battle of Gettysburg, according to family history that has been handed down through generations. It was not until about a year after the War that the brother who fought as a Confederate eventually showed back up at the other’s farm. It had apparently taken a year for him to come to grips with the fact that the South had lost. But the delay in returning apparently was not long enough to heal the emotional wounds; the two brothers began to fight about the War’s outcome and eventually parted ways forever. The Union soldier in “Brothers” is wounded and wearing a head bandage, and is clutching his brother. The Confederate soldier is shown in a reciprocal embrace, but his one fist remains clenched. Casteel says that he portrays the Confederate as the one who finds it hard to let go of the fact that his brother is a Yankee. “Hard to accept the fact that his world is now changing.”
I also heard stories from my parents and grandparents of relatives fighting one another during the Civil War, even though the family didn’t arrive at these shores until the early twentieth century. At least one Levin had his home burned down by Sherman.
Why can’t we move beyond this ridiculous little narrative thread that tells us nothing about the horrors and consequences of war? Let’s stop playing Civil War and get serious; after all, this is supposed to be art. It looks like something out of a Civil War soap opera or Mort Kunstler painting. Does anyone know if this statue is going to be placed on NPS-owned land?