With so many of you hunkering down in your homes I thought it might be a good idea to move forward with my idea to offer a course/discussion group on twitter on the topic of Civil War memory. I’ve had difficulty focusing on my own research and have been looking for ways to connect with others. I hope you will find this worth your time and I hope it brings a little enjoyment during this difficult time.
This is a course for beginners. We are going to explore a range of topics surrounding how Americans came to terms with and remembered the Civil War. Among the topics include the rise of the Lost Cause, the process of reunion and reconciliation, veterans reunions, commemorating the dead, African-American memory of the war, and, of course, the dedication of monuments. Readings will be relatively light and will serve as an introduction to the scholarship. You will have a sufficient grounding from which to explore further and I will be happy to recommend additional readings.
As to how this discussion will proceed on twitter, I don’t really know. It’s an experiment. I will post questions and allow you to respond. Of course, I will do my best to engage each and every one of you. I suspect other scholars in the field will take part as well. You will have the opportunity to respond to one another as well. We will use the hashtag #CWM101 so that the tweets remain searchable and organized. You can find me on twitter @kevinlevin.
A number of academic publishers have made their titles available free to download through Project Muse. With that in mind I have selected Caroline Janney’s Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the Limits of Reconciliation as our base text. I don’t know if we will read the entire book, but it will help us get started. In addition, I have selected a couple of primary sources to accompany the reading.
Week 1 (March 29 at 8pm EST)
Read the Prologue and chapter one in Janney’s book and think about the following questions as you make your way through it. I will likely use these questions to get us started, but you should also feel free to come up with your own.
- How does Janney distinguish between reunion and reconciliation? (from the prologue)
- Why do you think Janney begins her book about how Americans remembered and commemorated the Civil War with the war itself?
- According to Janney, “In the postwar years, veterans would wistfully recall how enemy troops had fraternized along the lines and would contend that both rebels and Yankees were true Americans. but the voices of the war told a different story, one of bitter hatred and animosity toward the enemy that would not quickly be forgotten…” (pp. 13-14) It goes without saying that the Civil War was violent, but does Janney’s analysis add anything to the nature and scope of the violence? Why does this matter?
- How would you characterize the divisions between Americans during the war after reading this first chapter? Does it challenge any of your own assumptions about the war and the nature of the violence that it unleashed?
- What evidence in this chapter best illustrates the overall argument that Janney makes about how the two sides perceived one another between 1861 and 1865?
- According to Janney, why was emancipation so troubling to Confederates? How did white Northerners in the military and on the home front respond to it? Did the two responses overlap in any way?
- In what ways did the deep divisions between Americans during the Civil War anticipate the challenges that they would face during the postwar period?
- What tensions existed between the rules governing who could be buried in the Gettysburg National Cemetery and the address that Lincoln delivered in November 1863?
- Why did African-American commemoration of the Union dead during the war trouble Confederates?
- According to Janney, what factors impeded reunion between Northerners and Southerners by 1865?
Below are some primary sources to accompany your reading.
The Meaning of Union
The Confederacy: Nationalism/Slavery