Databases and More

Inspired by an exercise in Dr. Agmon’s class, I started thinking about my topic temporally. The question below is, of course, simply the first attempt at formulating my project—I anticipate changes as I delve further into my research.

How did World War I affect Confederate memory and memorialization in Virginia?

Between 1900 and 1919, 83 Confederate soldiers’ monuments were unveiled in Virginia, according to Thomas J. Brown in The Public Art of Civil War Commemoration (p. 26). This last great period of monument building coincides with World War I, which sent Americans from both North and South overseas. Some historians credit the Spanish-American War in 1898 with helping the nation to heal again, but I’m interested more in looking at the WWI period since it corresponds with the semi-centennial of the Civil War. Answering this question would help us to understand the historical context of public monuments which are still around today. It would also add to the understanding of the evolution of Confederate memory in the state where most of the fighting took place.

Databases:

The databases I looked at for this week were WorldCat and America: History and Life. These are both secondary source databases for the most part, which is what I was looking for at this stage. Both seem very useful, especially America: History and Life since it has links to full text online. I skimmed several ebooks, which I am not used to but seem to be easy to figure out. WorldCat is great in conjunction with interlibrary loan, since it lets me know what’s out there. I started with basic searches in each one, looking for Confederate monuments to see what came up.

One of the most promising secondary sources I found was actually a 2002 dissertation from a student at the University of Maryland. She wrote about Confederate memory in Luray, which had also piqued my interest as I went through some books because there are two Confederate soldiers’ monuments in the town. Usually there is only one, most often in the county seat. Luray’s two monuments jumped out at me because their dates were 1898 and 1918, both dates which corresponded with the other wars I was looking at. This thesis would not have shown up most places, but it did come up for me in America: History and Life. I have ordered it through interlibrary loan so we’ll see if I ever actually get to have a look.

Switching up search terms was the key to finding multiple sources. For example, I first searched Confederate monument oration, then changed out oration for dedication to see if I could find sources on the unveiling ceremonies of various monuments. Which reminds me—next I will search for unveiling! As I searched, I was surprised to not find more explicit secondary sources having to do with Confederate memory during WWI. I guess that’s good news for me though, and of course I have plenty more searching to do as we move forward.

Also, I’m trying Zotero again and already it’s coming to me more easily…

Some sources:

An Illustrated Guide to Virginia’s Confederate Monuments, Timothy S. Sedore (2011).

This is a really useful book for finding monuments in Virginia. I found it in ebook form, which makes searching for key dates really easy. Using keyword searches for dates between 1914 and 1919, I have so far identified nine or ten Virginia monuments dedicated to Confederate soldiers during that time. (If I decide to look at the Spanish-American War instead, there are about the same number dedicated in 1898-1899). Sedore’s book, though it only has monuments from Virginia, has more information that Widener’s wider geographical survey of nationwide monuments. Sedore also has some good introductory material which may prove useful.

I came upon an ebook of the Ceremonies Attending the Dedication of the Virginia Memorial on the Battlefield of Gettysburg, from 1917. By searching the text for “Great War,” I found the address given at the ceremony by the assistant secretary of war mentioning the troubling situation in Europe. Though not in Virginia, this monument and its dedication could prove a valuable addition to my research!

Another source not directly related to Virginia, but showing similar themes to the ones I am looking for, is Memorials of Dixie-land; orations, essays, sketches, and poems on topics historical, commemorative, literary and patriotic, by Lucian Lamar Knight. This was written in 1919 and seems to deal exclusively with Georgia (Knight was state historian), but seems to be a good example of the type of source I’d like to use. The dedication, for example, is “To the Sentiment of Brotherhood which a Great World War Has Intensified and Strengthened in the Heart of a New America,” Woodrow Wilson, and his Confederate uncle and father, the latter who “bequeathed to me the inheritance of a good name…which, to the associations of an ancient chivalry, adds what is richer still: the memories of an old gray jacket and the pledge of an allegiance to the Confederate flag” (p. iii).

To end, some pictures of the Floyd County Confederate memorial (1904)…I thought the reference to soldiers as braves was really interesting:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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