Civil War Memory 101 (Week 3)

Welcome to Week 3 of #CWM101, which will take place on Twitter on Sunday, April 12th at 8pm.

One of the things that I really appreciate in these early chapters of Caroline Janney’s Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the Limits of Reconciliation is its emphasis on the war years. This focus drives home the point that postwar memories of the war did not emerge in a vacuum, but were shaped by antebellum beliefs and especially on the scope and length of the war itself.

Chapter three drives this point home in the way it bridges the final months of the war with a postwar period that saw early memories of the war take shape, mainly around the importance of commemorating the dead.

Here are a few questions to guide your reading:

  • Between 1865 and 1869 we see the emergence of three coherent and often competing memories of the war. What were they and to what extent were they shaped by the need to commemorate the dead?
  • In their desire to bring about a quick and peaceful reunion the United States held back in punishing all but a few former Confederates. To what extent, according to Janney, did this encourage southern defiance and plant the seeds of the Lost Cause?
  • Why was it so dangerous for African Americans to commemorate the preservation of the Union and the end of slavery in the immediate postwar South? Keep in mind that African Americans constituted a majority of the population in many parts of the South.
  • According to Janney, why were defeated Confederates so suspicious of how Northerners commemorated fallen soldiers in their “cities of the dead?”
  • How does the author explain why Southern women were given so much room in which to organize cemeteries for their Confederate dead?
  • What were the “key differences” between Union and Confederate Memorial Day commemorations?

Additional Readings (for those of you who want to explore further)

Primary Sources

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

Purchase your copy today!

3 comments… add one
  • Pat Young Apr 5, 2020 @ 18:01

    I liked the more deliberative pace this week.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 6, 2020 @ 1:12

      I thought it also worked well. Thanks again for taking part, Pat. Hope all is well with you and your family.

    • washingtonsenators01 Apr 6, 2020 @ 6:23


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