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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