Civil War Memory 101 (Week 4)

This discussion will take place on Twitter on April 19th at 8pm #CWM101

This week we are going to discuss chapter 4 in Caroline Janney’s book, Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the Limits of Reconciliation. This chapter focuses on the dedication of some of the first Union monuments, the birth of the GAR and the politics of Civil War memory during Reconstruction.

The chapter’s narrow focus on this Unionist/Emancipationist narrative should not obscure the fact that its early development took place in direct opposition to the Lost Cause, which we will explore in more detail next week. Civil War memory is often framed as North v. South, but Janney clearly demonstrates in this chapter that even in the North there were disagreements over how the war should be remembered and commemorated.

Here are a few questions to guide your reading.

  • What challenges did Union veterans experience in promoting and maintaining interest in public commemorations that Confederates veterans did not face?
  • How did (white) Union veterans attempt to differentiate between a war for Union and emancipation?
  • According to Janney, what was the significance of the GAR in terms of race relations in the North in the late 19th century?
  • How did the Border States shape the Unionist narrative?
  • How did black veterans challenge the dominant white Unionist narrative that placed union ahead of emancipation?
  • How does Janney explain the role that northern women played in promoting the Unionist cause in contrast to their southern counterparts?
  • In what ways did the Union cause get wrapped up in Reconstruction politics? To what extent was ‘waving the bloody shirt’ successful as a means to promote the agenda of Radical Republicans?

Further Reading

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!

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