One year down!

Over the past year, I have definitely developed my skills as a historian and a graduate student. When I came into the program, I had a bachelor’s degree in history, but it quickly became clear to me that I had no real training in the work of professional historian. I learned a lot in my historical methods class—from basics like what a historiography is to the important fact that it is not only okay, but even admirable to conclude different things from the same primary source as other scholars before you. Since I want to go into public history after this program, my coursework in that area was very helpful as well. While I may not agree with every new age technique for getting people “into” history and museums, I have learned a great deal about approaching the past in new and accessible ways for the public. As a first year graduate student, last semester taught me how to get the most out of a lot of reading material in a short amount of time.

This semester, starting to think about and work on my thesis has been very exciting. I found a topic that I’m really interested in, which is great since I will be spending so much time on it over the next year! I have always loved all kinds of history and could never pick one period or subject as my favorite, but as I have gotten deeper into my thesis work I have become less patient with assignments that do not further my historical goals. I surprise even myself with the amount of enthusiasm with which I come to a book on my subject after reading something not as applicable. Writing over the last two semesters has jump-started my academic writing skills again after over a year out of college writing nothing but public relations pamphlets, test questions, and cover letters. I have also been exposed to the digital world and can now successfully navigate blogs, Google Drive, and even technology like Dreamweaver, Omeka, and Neatline (on a very basic level). I feel like I can actually call myself a historian after the training I have received so far, and I look forward to diving head first into my thesis over the summer and next year and then hopefully finding a job where I can put my skills to good use. I am glad I took time off after college—I definitely needed the break. I think this program will give me the boost I need to launch a public history career, which is especially good given the fact that after a year in grad school I am confirmed in my desire to stop with my MA (although who knows, maybe I’ll change my mind in future!)

It’s been great becoming a real part of a department, as well. As a double major in undergrad, I never got to know more than a relatively small number of professors in both of my departments, and I never felt like I really functioned as a part of either, aside from coming to class, etc. Grad school does have its perks, especially the people I’ve been able to meet and work with over the last year. I can’t wait to keep growing as a historian and help smooth the path of the new crop of first years taking our place in the fall. In the meantime, I’m off to look at some monuments!



Will my thesis prove to be “Glory Crowned?” Let’s hope!

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The aftermath…part II




Goochland County CSA monument, 1918


I am happy to report the completion of a successful committee meeting! I was very pleased with my committee recommendations, and it seems they are all excited to have a hand in my project. My committee is headed up by Dr. Quigley and also includes Dr. Jones and Dr. Cline. Dr. Cline was the only committee member I had not yet met with, so he gave some very helpful comments on my proposal draft to start the meeting. He suggested that rather than say I am studying Confederate memory, I make it clear that I am studying the public enactment of that memory, which is much easier to get at and which I was really studying anyway but hadn’t articulated. Dr. Cline and Dr. Quigley agreed that one unique aspect of my work will be bringing the physical nature of monuments and the rhetoric surrounding them together, rather than studying either one in isolation.

My committee agreed that to build my historiography, I need to deepen my understanding of two important contexts: World War I America and the making of monuments, especially Civil War monuments, in general. My committee was intrigued by the idea of the generational shift taking part around the 1910s and the impact that may have had on Civil War memorialization. The ongoing national conversation during this time over the role of black soldiers in the military is another factor that I will look into. Dr. Jones reemphasized the importance of Grace Hale’s Making Whiteness, which I have finally checked out of the library and begun to read!

Much of the meeting focused on comments that had been given already by both Dr. Jones and Mr. Kelley, my peer reviewer. We also discussed my research plan for the summer and the importance of incorporating sources from local organizations, not just the large repositories in Richmond. I am very excited, of course, to see more of the Old Dominion and check new monuments off my list of things to see.

Overall, I was happy with how my first full committee meeting went and I think I will be able to revise my proposal successfully for May 5. At this point I am ready to start contacting people and going to do research, but most of that will have to wait just a little longer! As my committee put it in summation, I have a great question—now all I need is a great answer!

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The end is in sight

With only three more weeks left in the semester, here are two more secondary sources I looked at this week:

“Creating and Instrumenting Nationalism: The Celebration of National Reunion in the Peace Jubilees of 1898,” by Fabian Hilfrich, in the book Celebrating Ethnicity and Nation: American Festive Culture from the Revolution to the Early Twentieth Century, edited by Jurgen Heideking, Genevieve Fabre, and Kai Dreisbach.

This chapter analyzes the peace jubilees of 1898, large celebrations of American victory following the Spanish-American War. Hilfrich focuses on the common theme of North-South reconciliation during these celebrations. Though many scholars touch on the Spanish-American War as the most important beginning moment of national reconciliation, this is the first detailed analysis of the phenomenon I have read so far (thanks Dr. Quigley!) I found this chapter really interesting, reading about the ways in which President McKinley, especially, went out of his way to include Southerners in the national good feeling of the war. His agenda was not quite pure, however—by including Southerners, Hilfrich argues, McKinley was subtly trying to build support for America’s new imperialist aims. I also found Hilfrich’s discussion of Southern anti-imperialism during the Philippine Insurrection useful. As he argues, sectionalism resurfaced thanks to rhetoric comparing rebellion in the Philippines to the Civil War, which advocated a similar policy of intolerance to revolt. This could be very useful as I study WWI, since I now have an idea for one reason why the nationalism of the Spanish-American War did not lead directly to the end of the Lost Cause.

Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the Limits of Reconciliation, by Caroline E. Janney.

Janney’s new book extends her research into the 1930s, whereas the last one I read—about Ladies’ Memorial Associations in Virginia—stopped at 1915. Thankfully, I suppose, her new work still leaves considerable room for my own, as the WWI era is condensed as part of a chapter spanning 1915 to 1939. The central claim of the book is that reconciliation was never as complete or widespread after the Civil War as people have believed (thanks to reinforcements of the idea found in places like Ken Burns’s The Civil War, etc.) Focusing as she tends to do on women, Janney argues that Southern women’s contributions to the WWI effort helped vindicate southern patriotism (p. 281). One interesting point that Janney makes is that the Union cause of the Civil War was subsumed into the general patriotism of the Spanish-American and Great Wars, leaving the Confederate cause intact and distinct. I think this book will be useful and could very well help me fine tune my argument as I take into consideration the various aspects which played into North-South reconciliation and Confederate memory during WWI.

In other news, I have successfully set up my first full committee meeting for Monday at 10:00—notes will follow in my next post!

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The aftermath…Part I

This week I met with my adviser, Dr. Quigley, to go over his comments on my draft proposal. His comments were very helpful. We talked about my chapter outline, which we both see as needing improvement as I get deeper into my research. Dr. Quigley also echoed Dr. Jones, saying I need to expand my historiography to include works on the homefront during World War I, which I also see as essential to my final product. I touched on memory and the scholarship on remembering in my draft proposal, but as I revise I need to also increase my knowledge of that historiography. Luckily, according to Dr. Quigley, the body of literature on memory is broad enough but also narrow enough to be great for a Master’s thesis. Other things I need to focus more on as I continue include the interpretation of Confederate monuments themselves, not just the rhetoric and inscribed words associated with them. The actually statues and locations can tell us a lot about the way monuments were meant to reflect public memory. My argument, Dr. Quigley said, is fine for a proposal, and will naturally coalesce as I do my primary source research—a development both he and I are excited about for the summer. Dr. Quigley recommended several books to get me started, even lending me some of his own copies. One book has an essay on reconciliation during the Spanish-American War, which will hopefully also point me in the direction of more works on that topic. The other book, Where These Memories Grow, is discussed below. With feedback from Dr. Quigley, Dr. Jones, and peer reviewer Lucas, I think I will be able to revise my proposal successfully for the end of the semester.


Secondary sources:

Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity, ed. by John R. Gillis (1994).

This is a collection of essays all about remembering and commemorations. In his introduction to the essays which he sees as “reconnecting memory and identity in time and place” (p. 3), Gillis discusses both memory and identity as essential for understanding each other. Both concepts, as he points out, as social and political constructions (p. 5). The book focuses on public commemoration, which is very useful for my topic. Gillis ends his introduction by reminding us that there is still a need for civil spaces to foster memory and identity, since they are so intertwined (p. 20). Several essays in the book will be useful for me, including ones on the Civil War and World War I, which will add to my historiography.

Where These Memories Grow: History, Memory, and Southern Identity, ed. by W. Fitzhugh Brundage (2000).

Brundage describes this collection of essays as “social history of remembering in the South” (p. 3).  The introduction by Brundage covers a lot of useful ground as far as memory theory is concerned. I was pleased to see him citing my old professor Frederick Corney, who got me interested in memory and monuments in the first place at William & Mary. Emphasizing the ways in which people create and assert specific memories, Brundage focuses on the power of memory. There is authority in being the creator of public memory, since it influences collective memory. Collective memory, as Brundage writes, “involves sharing, discussion, negotiation, and often conflict,” all things I hope to uncover in my research (p. 4). This book will be useful to me as it speaks to the connection between material culture, such as monuments, and ritual in the creation of public memory. As my project will address as I move forward, memory is not just about remembering the past. There is always a “dialectic…between the willfully recalled and deliberately forgotten past” (p. 6).

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A modest proposal draft

I thought that writing my proposal draft for last week would be really difficult after having seen the proposal presentations by second year students in historical methods last semester. Of course I realize that I as watching the presentation of a final, polished draft. We could not come close to that with our first drafts. Still, I was a little concerned about writing the proposal in the middle of the semester, since I wasn’t sure I would be able to say enough.

In reality, writing the proposal draft was not as awful as I feared. Since we had worked all semester on getting together a bibliography and addressing the questions useful for writing a proposal, the process of putting it all together was not so bad. Writing the proposal draft helped me get an even stronger grasp on what exactly I’m doing with my project. Thinking about the limitations to the project was an especially good exercise, since I can now tailor more of my work to addressing these possible drawbacks. Putting my thoughts from the reading I have done this semester into cohesive form gave me a much clearer idea of what I actually want to accomplish with this thesis and how I should go about doing so. Now, when someone asks me what I am studying, I feel pretty confident that I can explain it to them concisely, which will certainly make meeting people easier!

Working on this draft also gave me good ideas about what to change and add for my next draft. First, I’d like to deepen both my historiography and primary source base, which more reading and research should take care of. This will also help me figure out a better outline for the chapters of my thesis—the outline I proposed in this draft reflects my preliminary thoughts, but I feel like it will and should change as I get further into the research. I want to add more secondary reading on the WWI period, since most of what I have used so far discusses the Lost Cause and that aspect of things instead of the period I will actually be studying. I have already started on this, but not enough to have added anything to my proposal draft.

For example, this week I read two books on America during the period I am looking at. First, I read Rich Man’s War, Poor Man’s Fight: Race, Class, and Power in the Rural South during the First World War, by Jeanette Keith (2004). In this book, Keith examines draft resistance in the rural south during WWI. Her discussion gives a good overview of the tensions of the period. I was struck to read her assertion that “we have no idea how Americans actually felt about the war in 1918,” since government vigilance had effectively quashed dissent by then (200). Since I am attempting to study public discourse on WWI and the Civil War, the idea that people might not have been saying what they thought presents an issue I will need to discuss. Keith also makes interesting points about southern politicians’ use of Confederate rhetoric in support of WWI, which I want to examine in greater depth.

The second book was D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation: A History of “The Most Controversial Motion Picture of All Time,” by Melvyn Stokes (2007). Stokes discusses the Lost Cause viewpoint of the film, as well as various reactions to it which I think can reveal some of how contemporaries viewed the Lost Cause when the film came out in 1915. The film’s relationship to WWI as an anti-war piece is interesting, as are reactions by critics of the film’s portrayal of blacks who pointed to African American service in WWI to refute the film’s stereotypes. One of my other secondary sources makes the point that cinema overtook monument building as a way to memorialize the past in the early twentieth century—this film would definitely fit that category if I want to consider this argument. This book gives a revealing look at the culture of the time as well, which will be useful for my project.

I look forward to polishing my proposal as I incorporate more secondary and primary source work!

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Revised Focus Statement

I am researching Confederate memory in Virginia during the World War I period, circa 1914-1920. Focusing on public memory, especially the erection of Confederate monuments during those years, I ask if and how international conflict affected Civil War memorialization. America entered WWI only 52 years after the end of the Civil War, during a period when, according to some scholars, the importance of the Southern tradition or Lost Cause mentality was waning. I am interested in why the Lost Cause lost influence at this time. I will argue that US involvement in Europe played an important role in North-South reconciliation.

To be sure, many factors added to the decline of monument building in the South. I seek to explain one aspect of this phenomenon. Southern identity and defensiveness in the face of the federal government, of course, continued past WWI, but public memorialization and affirmation of Confederate identity dropped off after the second decade of the twentieth century.

This project will be primarily a cultural history, using memory, rhetoric, interpretation, and identity to examine the ways in which Virginians living during WWI used Civil War language to discuss current events and vice versa. I hypothesize that monument builders helped strengthen a united white American identity in the South by applying Confederate symbolism and rhetoric to WWI and also by reflecting on the Confederacy and Civil War through the lens of WWI. I will use sources such as speeches given at monument dedications, the design and inscriptions on monuments, letters, newspaper articles, and similar documents related to monument building and other public commemorations. Looking at this intertwining of Confederate and WWI symbolism and language will help historians understand the reconciliation of North and South and the growth of a united American identity in the early twentieth century.


I see this as a cultural historical project because I am looking for the answers to a question of identity. How did Southern whites see themselves during WWI? Although scholars have addressed Southern identity into the mid-1910s, I am pushing my research a few years further to examine the memory of war during wartime. How did WWI affect Confederate memory, and how did Confederate memory affect people’s reactions to WWI? I plan to incorporate memory theory and, to a degree, the ideas of human geography. What can the language used during recollections of the Civil War tell us about how Virginians viewed the World War? How does design and placement of monuments, structures that attempted to freeze one interpretation of history in time, reveal the feelings of the monument builders? What place did Confederate identity have in a reunited America at war against a foreign foe? As I get more into my sources and find more primary documents, I expect this methodology and these questions to evolve. Race is a big issue when talking about North-South reconciliation. Gender plays a role as well, especially the designation of women as keepers of Confederate memory after the war—a duty women defended against men throughout the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Official memory was very much the realm of the elite, as well. There is much more to discover as I move forward with this research!


Reflections on Bertoti:

Overall, I think the Bertoti Conference went really well. This seemed to be the general consensus from people with whom I spoke over the course of the weekend. The speakers were definitely a high point, as were the presentations on the panels which I attended and moderated.

For next year, I would make sure to think ahead about logistics so that we have backup plans to keep everything running smoothly and professionally despite any unforeseen circumstances. Congrats all on a successful event!


Secondary Sources:

This week I read two more books that I think will each add something to my paper. The first was War Memorials as Political Landscape: The American Experience and Beyond, by James M. Mayo (1988). Although this is an older work, I thought Mayo’s perspective on war memorials was really interesting. This book treats the intersection of politics and design at the emotional level. Memorials, as Mayo reminds us, signal what people want to remember about certain events. His chapter on memorials to defeat discusses the Civil War and the commemoration of soldiers’ sacrifices rather than the justice of the Southern cause in most cases. Interestingly, he focuses on a growing sense of “communal guilt” as a motivation for memorialization. His perspective on the Civil War as a failure on the part of the whole country, since it led to the destruction of so many lives, is one I have not seen in many other books, which instead contrast the successes of both North and South in their respective collective memories. This view will add to my discussion of how Virginians chose to remember their defeat.

The second book was Honoring the Civil War Dead: Commemoration and the Problem of Reconciliation, by John R. Neff (2005). This is one of several books that deal with the culture of death following the Civil War. Neff examines “the role of death in condensing, and occasionally defying American nationality” (11). Neff, diverging from other scholarship on the postwar period, discusses commemorations that had no interest in reconciliation. I will have to look at this book as I fine-tune my argument, since I will be arguing in the same reconciliatory vein as scholars like David Blight—addressing arguments like Neff’s will strengthen my own work considerably.

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Focus Statement: First Attempt

I am researching Confederate memory in Virginia during the World War I period, circa 1914-1920. Focusing on public memory, especially the erection of Confederate monuments during those years, I want to examine the effects of international conflict on Civil War memorialization. America entered WWI only 52 years after the end of the Civil War, during a period when, according to some scholars, the importance of the Southern tradition or Lost Cause mentality was waning. I would like to argue that although many factors added to the decline of monument building in the South, US involvement in Europe played an important role in North-South reconciliation. Monument builders helped to strengthen a united American identity in the South by applying Confederate symbolism and rhetoric to WWI. This is significant because the reconciliation of white Northerners and Southerners by the 1920s shaped the next 50 years of policies and practices in the South, including the government’s complicity in racial segregation and the stymied progress of black civil rights. Understanding more about the Lost Cause will help us understand the racial issues still affecting America today.

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Advance, research!

This week I read an article called “Graves, Worms, and Epitaphs: Confederate Monuments in the Southern Landscape” by J. Michael Martinez and Robert M. Harris in the volume Confederate Symbols in the Contemporary South, edited by Martinez, William D. Richardson, and Ron McNinch-Su (2000). This gave me some good ideas about methodology for my project. The article gives a good overview of the different periods of monument building in the South—commemoration of the dead after the war, memorial markers on battlefields, and public monuments such as the soldiers found in front of courthouses across the region. This article goes on to talk about modern controversies over Confederate monuments. This article uses a lot of secondary sources and also some quantitative data, such as charts of monument construction dates and types. Coverage of controversies from contemporary newspapers adds to the argument that Confederate monuments still play a major role in memory of the Civil War. I think using a similar source base, plus the speeches and dedications of monuments, could help my project—if I can uncover controversies (or a dearth of controversy) during the WWI period, I would be able to get a fuller view of the subject. Seeing how organizations like the UDC navigated possible controversies would be interesting.

I also read The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History, edited by Gary W. Gallagher and Alan T. Nolan (2000) and What Reconstruction Meant: Historical Memory in the American South, by Bruce E. Baker (2007). The first book is an edited volume of essays dealing with various topics on the Lost Cause and southern memory. The introduction and conclusion support much of the scholarship I have already seen on these issues. Nolan gives a succinct overview of the “myth” of the lost cause and Lloyd A. Hunter rounds out the volume with another treatment of the Lost Cause and religion, much like Charles Wilson Reagan’s work. The essays also provide a good historiography of the subject. What Reconstruction Meant seems like it will be helpful as well. Baker’s book is about South Carolina specifically, but much of his method and theory can be applied to Virginia. He writes about public commemorations as part of his treatment of the memory of Reconstruction in the South, and brings the timeline of his work up through the late twentieth century. Since his book is mostly about memory and overlaps with my time frame, I am glad Dr. Quigley recommended it for me.

I also started looking at some primary documents at Virginia Tech’s Special Collections, and at the Library of Virginia in Richmond. Some papers in Tech’s collections from the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy yielded a possibly helpful pamphlet of the Virginia Division UDC history, which discussed some of the war work undertaken by the Daughters during WWI. In Richmond, I looked mostly at the executive papers of Governor Henry Carter Stuart, who served as governor of Virginia from 1914-1918. He was one of the speakers at the Gettysburg monument ceremony (see my blog post of 22 February), so there were a lot of letters and documents pertaining to that event in the collection. I also found documents related to a proposed Joseph E. Johnston at Vicksburg, the 1915-1917 confederate veterans’ reunions, and several letters from other state governors to Stuart that talked about these events and show some of the reconciliation feeling prevalent at the time. I also looked at a broadside and program from the dedication of the Hanover, VA Confederate monument, which took place in August 1914. I was not able to find any speeches yet, but now I know who spoke so I can search by name to see if I can find out what was said. I was not able to make it to the UDC archives in Richmond yet, but I have been in contact with the librarian there so I will definitely go back in summer.

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Creeping ever forward

This week I read two more secondary sources that I thought would be significant to my studies. The first, David W. Blight’s Beyond the Battlefield: Race, Memory, and the American Civil War (2002) is a collection of Blight’s essays and lectures, all on the topic of Civil War memory. His introduction treats the intersection of history and memory broadly, and addresses the significance of such studies: as he writes, “History is often weak in the face of the mythic power of memory and its many oracles. But we run the greatest risk in ignoring that weakness, wishing that the public would adopt a more critical, interpretive sense of the past…As historians, we are bound by our craft and by our humanity to study the problem of memory, and thereby help make a future” (p. 4). His sixth essay discusses many of the same issues he tackles in full in Race and Reunion, which was published after the essay here first came out. I think Race and Reunion will be more useful to me, then, but it’s good to have looked at this book too. Blight’s essay stops at 1913, our familiar endpoint for many studies of Civil War commemoration…and one which I want to extend.

I also read Sustaining Identity, Recapturing Heritage: Exploring Issues of Public History, Tourism, and Race in a Southern Town (2007) by Ann Denkler. Denkler’s book is about the town of Luray, in the Shenandoah Valley. She argues that in Luray, “heritage and public history…are vital components to white individual and white community identity and are reflected in its commemorative landscape” (p.  2). By examining the “interplay of history, public history, race, and tourism,” Denkler concludes that the collective memory of Luray’s white citizens has for a long time overshadowed the town’s African American history. She has discussions here about the two Confederate monuments in the town—one erected in 1898 and the other in 1917. The first one was sculpted by a local artist, but Luray’s citizens found enough problems with it and its creator by 1917 to erect another one, purchased from the McNeel Marble Co. in Marietta, GA. According to a contemporary newspaper article, 75 percent of Confederate monuments in the South came from this company. Denkler’s book will probably be helpful, as will her sources, especially in the records of the Page County library—I may want to explore them myself to see if the 1917 monument’s dedications were immortalized in pamphlet or news form.

I met with Dr. Quigley to bring him up to speed on everything Thursday. We went over my bibliography thus far and he suggested some more additions which I will be on the lookout for soon. I was glad to get my adviser’s perspective that things are moving along well.

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I see your Primary colors

First, forgive the title…a pun and a Cyndi Lauper reference may be taking it a little far.

Now let me discuss the significance of the primary source I have chosen to expound upon during our next class. It is a booklet of the “Ceremonies Attending Dedication of the Virginia Memorial on the Battlefield of Gettysburg.” Published in 1917 in Richmond, and most likely commissioned by the Virginia Gettysburg Monument Commission, this source reprints the orations given 8 June 1917 during the dedication ceremonies for the Virginia Confederate memorial at Gettysburg. Here’s a picture of the monument today, taken when I was last in Gettysburg:







I chose this printed program as my primary source for my presentation because it is a good example of the kind of source I want to use in my research. It is a record of the official reasons given at the time of dedication for a monument to the failed Confederacy and its soldiers. The use of rhetoric referencing WWI is especially useful and interesting. It touches on points of memory, war, and reconciliation, all issues my topic will be dealing with. Though not actually in Virginia, it’s still a great resource because the monument was such a big deal. I’m still not exactly sure how limited my scope is going to be but this source will be helpful either way I think.

Looking at the speeches language these men are using to recall the Civil War and apply its lessons to their present situation and the memory of the Lost Cause can tell us how Confederate memorialists used WWI to further national reconciliation on Southern terms while glorifying the sacrifices of the Confederate army. There are some pretty interesting quotations I will pull out for you in class–don’t feel like you need to read the whole thing before Monday. If you want to focus on some of what I’ll be discussing in class, look at page 11 (page 26 of the PDF), page 13 (28), and skim the oration by Leigh Robinson to see what he has to say about the war and slavery.

I’ll save the rest for my presentation on Monday!

Some secondary sources I’ve looked at this week:

Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of the New South by Gaines M. Foster (1987).

This is an older work, but still important in the field. Foster argues that the Lost Cause was a Confederate “tradition,” not a myth or civil religion as other scholars have described it. That tradition faded in importance and utility by the mid-1910s after serving its purpose of easing the South’s transition from Old to New. I would like to push his work further into the decade in my own study of Confederate memory during WWI. Foster also has interesting points about the ways in which class figured in to the Lost Cause memory and especially monument building.

Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America by Kirk Savage (1997).

Savage’s book tells “the story of how a nation redefined itself in the most permanent form of self-reflection it had, the public monument” after the Civil War (p. 209). He argues that race is central to understanding studying Civil War monuments. Though Savage’s work is on the nineteenth century and deals a lot with Union monuments, his assertion that slavery was suppressed in the public monuments commemorating the Civil War carries equal weight in studying the Lost Cause. Clearly I will not be able to ignore the silences of African Americans as I study white commemoration of the war.


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