Cities of the Dead

Cities of the Dead: Contesting the Memory of the Civil War in the South, 1865-1914

WILLIAM A. BLAIR
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 264
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9780807876237_blair
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  • Book Info
    Cities of the Dead
    Book Description:

    Exploring the history of Civil War commemorations from both sides of the color line, William Blair places the development of memorial holidays, Emancipation Day celebrations, and other remembrances in the context of Reconstruction politics and race relations in the South. His grassroots examination of these civic rituals demonstrates that the politics of commemoration remained far more contentious than has been previously acknowledged.Commemorations by ex-Confederates were intended at first to maintain a separate identity from the U.S. government, Blair argues, not as a vehicle for promoting sectional healing. The burial grounds of fallen heroes, known as Cities of the Dead, often became contested ground, especially for Confederate women who were opposed to Reconstruction. And until the turn of the century, African Americans used freedom celebrations to lobby for greater political power and tried to create a national holiday to recognize emancipation.Blair's analysis shows that some festive occasions that we celebrate even today have a divisive and sometimes violent past as various groups with conflicting political agendas attempted to define the meaning of the Civil War.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0358-2
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-10)

    This book examines the political implications of commemorating the Civil War, specifically Emancipation Day and Memorial Day in the former Confederate states from 1865 to 1915. These rituals originated and matured in an era when street processions, parades, and various public displays were instrumental both for partisan political activity and for fashioning a new public sphere. The Cities of the Dead, or what nineteenth-century Americans called the cemeteries for fallen heroes, provided places for community leaders to reach mass audiences of like-minded people to reinforce partisan ideals and behavior. The commemorations of war and freedom also were part of the...

  5. 1 THE COMMEMORATIVE LANDSCAPE BEFORE THE CIVIL WAR
    (pp. 11-22)

    When a writer forNorth American Reviewlooked at the commemorative calendar of the United States in 1857, he bemoaned the lack of a unified holiday. ‘‘It is an exceptional trait in our nationality,’’ he noted, ‘‘that its sentiment finds no annual occasion when the hearts of the people thrill with an identical emotion, absorbing in patriotic instinct and mutual reminiscence all personal interests and local prejudice.’’ The nation had anniversaries aplenty and even a number of ‘‘universal celebrities,’’ ‘‘but the dates of their birth, services, and decease form no saints’ days for the Republic.’’¹ It was not as if...

  6. 2 ESTABLISHING FREEDOM’S CELEBRATIONS, 1865–1869
    (pp. 23-48)

    In the spring of 1866, the Civil War had been over for a year, but the wounds had by no means healed. That much became clear as the black residents of Hampton, Virginia, gathered on the first anniversary of freedom. They marched on April 9—not the date of the Emancipation Proclamation but the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. Black veterans paraded in the blue uniforms of the United States while carrying weapons like the ones that had helped to bring down the Confederacy. The event angered former Confederates; its correspondence with a tragic day seemed to mock...

  7. 3 WAGING POLITICS THROUGH DECORATION DAYS, 1866–1869
    (pp. 49-76)

    For former Confederates, a number of shadows darkened the first ceremonies in honor of their war dead. First was the knowledge that those being mourned had fallen in an unsuccessful effort. White southerners had to accept the sacrifice of nearly one-quarter of their seventeen - to fiftyyear - old men, many of whose bodies lay in unmarked graves far from home. Another shadow was cast by the ceremonies in which black people marched through the streets carrying guns as symbols of their agency in winning freedom. Still another element darkening the Confederate valley of sorrow was the federal government and...

  8. 4 THE POLITICS OF MANHOOD AND WOMANHOOD, 1865–1870
    (pp. 77-105)

    When viewing Confederate Decoration Days during Reconstruction, northern commentators often reached the conclusion that their former male enemies hid behind the skirts of women. Periodicals suggested that the events served as thinly disguised political rallies for the Democratic Party and that men let their women organize a ritual that allowed the rebel spirit to thrive within a mourning cloak. Incensed editors of the Confederate press sloughed off these allegations, claiming that everyone had the right to care for their dearly departed and that the Cities of the Dead were not places of political controversy. Despite the rebuttal, northerners persisted in...

  9. 5 THE ERA OF MIXED FEELINGS
    (pp. 106-143)

    Ten years after the Civil War, people throughout the country noticed a changing mood between the sections. In 1875 Congressman William D. Kelley of Pennsylvania returned from a six-week tour of the South convinced that the North had little cause to fear its former enemies. At a Confederate Decoration Day ceremony in Augusta County, Virginia, the onetime Radical Republican watched men and women pay tribute to dead soldiers while accompanied by a band from a U.S. infantry unit. Kelley heard no taunts, insults, or complaints from the crowd leveled at the troops—proof to him that military occupation was no...

  10. 6 THE RISE AND DECLINE OF POLITICAL SELF-HELP, 1883–1900
    (pp. 144-170)

    On May 29, 1890, Richmond residents unveiled the statue of Robert E. Lee that still sits on Monument Avenue. With first light the city bustled with activity, accompanied by martial music. The crowd was estimated at 100,000, with the procession of veterans, according to one observer, taking two hours to pass. Important generals from the former Confederacy had come, including James Longstreet, Joseph Johnston, and Jubal Early, as well as less prominent figures such as M. C. Butler of South Carolina—the man who had been instrumental in the Hamburg massacre of 1876. Confederate flags were everywhere. Some of the...

  11. 7 ARLINGTON SECTIONAL CEMETERY
    (pp. 171-208)

    In 1914 Woodrow Wilson committed a political blunder over commemorating the dead. The southern-born president declined an invitation by the gar to speak at Union Memorial Day in Arlington Cemetery. Although a disappointment to the veterans, Wilson’s decision came as no great surprise. He had refused a similar request the preceding year, and few people expected anything different this time. What perplexed the veterans, and then increasingly angered them, was Wilson’s promise to the Daughters of the Confederacy to address the throngs expected for the dedication of the monument in the Confederate section in Arlington on June 4—same cemetery,...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 209-226)
  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 227-236)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 237-250)