The Civil War in Popular Culture

The Civil War in Popular Culture: Memory and Meaning

Lawrence A. Kreiser
Randal Allred
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    The Civil War in Popular Culture
    Book Description:

    Dividing the nation for four years, the American Civil War resulted in 750,000 casualties and forever changed the country's destiny. The conflict continues to resonate in our collective memory, and U.S. economic, cultural, and social structures still suffer the aftershocks of the nation's largest and most devastating war. Nearly 150 years later, portrayals of the war in books, songs, cinema, and other cultural media continue to draw widespread attention and controversy.

    In The Civil War in Popular Culture: Memory and Meaning, editors Lawrence A. Kreiser Jr. and Randal Allred analyze American depictions of the war across a variety of mediums, from books and film, to monuments and battlefield reunions, to reenactments and board games. This collection examines how battle strategies, famous generals, and the nuances of Civil War politics translate into contemporary popular culture. This unique analysis assesses the intersection of the Civil War and popular culture by recognizing how memories and commemorations of the war have changed since it ended in 1865.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4322-4
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)
    Lawrence A. Kreiser Jr. and Randal Allred

    Perhaps no other event has captured the national imagination to the extent the Civil War has. Portrayals of the war in songs, books, and movies, among other cultural and media outlets, continue to draw widespread attention.Gone with the Wind, the 1939 epic that follows Scarlett O’Hara through the tragedies and triumphs of the Civil War era, remains one of the top-grossing and most influential films of all time.¹ More books have been written about Abraham Lincoln than any other figure in world history, with the exception of Jesus Christ. In 2012 historians constructed a tower consisting of books on...

  4. Section I. The Aftermath of Battle
    • 1 “Really, Though, I’m Fine”: Civil War Veterans and the Psychological Aftereffects of Killing
      (pp. 11-24)
      Michael W. Schaefer

      Forty years after serving as an infantryman in the Confederate army, Texan George Gautier justified the title of his autobiography,Harder than Death, by explaining to his readers that killing other men, as he did during the Civil War, “will bring you to ruin and distress the balance of your life.”¹ Although many historians argue that Gautier’s guilt-ridden postwar life was anomalous among Civil War veterans, research into the experiences of veterans of more recent wars, coupled with an attentive reading of the memoirs of Gautier’s peers, suggests that Gautier was an exception not in his haunted feelings but only...

    • 2 Traumatized Manhood: Confederate Amputees in History, Memory, and Hollywood
      (pp. 25-44)
      Brian Craig Miller

      In the 1959 filmThe Horse Soldiers, members of the Union cavalry ride into Newton Station, where Colonel John Marlowe (John Wayne) and Major Kendall (William Holden) interact with a Confederate prisoner named Colonel Johnny Miles (Carleton Young). Major Kendall recognizes the prisoner from their time fighting Indians together along the Platte River prior to the Civil War. He also notices that his former comrade has lost his right arm. “Sorry about the arm, John. When did that happen?” Kendall asks. “I want neither your solicitude nor to recall our association,” responds the defiant Confederate, who then asks Marlowe, “Have...

  5. Section II. Reunions and Battlefield Preservation
    • 3 Relics of Reunion: Souvenirs and Memory at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, 1889–1895
      (pp. 47-60)
      Daryl Black

      At noon on September 19, 1895, General J. S. Fullerton, chairman of the Chickamauga Park Commission, stepped to the rostrum on a temporary stage set up at the foot of Snodgrass Hill.¹ The former Union officer and veteran of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns welcomed the audience—more than 12,000 people—to the dedication ceremony for the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. Charged with providing a “simple” introduction for Vice President Adlai Stevenson, Fullerton found himself inspired by “the scenes of this battlefield around us, and the many old comrades into whose faces we now look for the first...

    • 4 The Graying of Gettysburg National Military Park: Race, Erasure, Ideology, and Iconography
      (pp. 61-82)
      Robert E. Weir

      Modern-day Americans remember the Civil War in many ways, most of them historically inaccurate. Humorist Austin O’Malley (1858–1932) once quipped, “Memory is a crazy woman that hoards colored rags and throws away food.” Frederick Douglass agreed. In his 1871 Memorial Day address at Arlington National Cemetery, Douglass lambasted those seeking to rewrite the meaning of the Civil War: “May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I forget the difference between the parties to that bloody conflict.… If this war is to be forgotten, I ask in the name of all things sacred what shall men...

    • 5 Civil War Battlefields for Future Generations: The Relationship between Battlefield Preservation and Popular Culture
      (pp. 83-98)
      Susan Chase Hall

      In 2007 noted author, economist, actor, and pop icon Ben Stein stood before an audience at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. He did not look out onto a crowd of uninterested students and discuss the science of volcanoes or call out for “Bueller” in his famous monotone. Instead, he enthusiastically addressed the importance of battlefield preservation as a powerful educational tool. He stood as a spokesperson for the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT), a private nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of Civil War battlefields. At the unveiling of the CWPT’s report on the most endangered Civil War battlefields,...

  6. Section III. The Memory of the Civil War over Time
    • 6 The Cultural Politics of Memory: Confederate Women and General William T. Sherman
      (pp. 101-116)
      Jacqueline Glass Campbell

      Conventional wisdom about wartime tells us that men are both the protectors and the threat. The army regulates the exercise of violence against an enemy, and it exacts kudos and support from the protected. Logically, then, if noncombatants find their guarantees of protection gone, they will withdraw their support and help end the war. During the American Civil War, Union general William T. Sherman recognized this relationship of battlefront and home front. And although fighting had occurred on home ground before, Sherman deliberately targeted the southern home front as a means of simultaneously destroying both military resources and the morale...

    • 7 “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye”: The Civil War Navies in Public Memory
      (pp. 117-134)
      Matthew Eng

      We are truly at a unique crossroads in American history: the centennial anniversary of the First World War is drawing near, the bicentennial anniversary of the War of 1812 is just past, and the Civil War’s sesquicentennial anniversary is upon us—a gold mine for the collection and preservation of history. Memory of the Civil War, many would argue, has always been present. According to historians Alice Fahs and Joan Waugh, the war “has never receded into the remote past in American life.”¹ Not since the well-received 125th anniversary has the public fully experienced the weight of the war’s impact...

  7. Section IV. The Civil War in Fiction and Film
    • 8 From History to Fiction: Abraham Lincoln’s Most Famous Murder Trial and the Limits of Dramatic License
      (pp. 137-152)
      Daniel W. Stowell

      Filmmakers offer dramatic representations of historical events that shape how Americans perceive the past. As recent movies demonstrate, Abraham Lincoln continues to exert a powerful influence on the American imagination. Although the moviesThe Conspirator, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, andLincolntake very different approaches to aspects of Lincoln’s life and death,The ConspiratorandLincolnpresent themselves as stories from the American past. In doing so, they raise important questions: What responsibility do filmmakers have to their audiences? Is it simply to entertain? Or is there a broader duty to the historical record in general or in detail? How...

    • 9 The War in Film: The Depiction of Combat in Glory
      (pp. 153-172)
      Paul Haspel

      Edward Zwick’s filmGlory(1990) dramatizes the story of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the first African American regiment raised in the North during the Civil War, and its commander, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. Any Civil War combat film will be judged, to some extent, by the verisimilitude of its battlefield sequences, and according to Martin Blatt, one element of the film that has received particular praise is “the authenticity with whichGlorydepicts battle scenes.” In an effort to build on the best traditions of Civil War cinema, Zwick viewed two classics of the genre—John Huston’sThe Red...

  8. Section V. The Civil War as Entertainment
    • 10 The War in Cardboard and Ink: Fifty Years of Civil War Board Games
      (pp. 175-190)
      Alfred Wallace

      Michael C. C. Adams beginsEchoes of Warby listing some of the ways Americans enjoy military history: museums, reenactments, popular history books, television programs, movies. The popularity of these military entertainments is apparent from sales figures. For instance,Saving Private Ryanearned $224.7 million in gross ticket sales just a few years before Adams’s book was published, leading a large pack of blockbuster war movies.¹

      A year afterEchoes of Warwas published in 2002, the firstCall of Dutygame was released. Even the game’s creators probably could not have imagined that its descendant, 2011’sCall of Duty:...

    • 11 “Oh, I’m a Good Ol’ Rebel”: Reenactment, Racism, and the Lost Cause
      (pp. 191-222)
      Christopher Bates

      Captain Vern Padgett is a Confederate Civil War reenactor—a member of the Richmond Howitzers. Though a California native, he is one of the more diehard Confederate reenactors—not in terms of his devotion to an accurate impression but in his commitment to what he perceives as the southern cause. His e-mail messages often have titles like this: “Rebuttal to ravings of misinformed Yankee propagandists.” He thinks nothing of lecturing his fellow reenactors on the “facts the historians leave out,” with the goal of correcting what he calls “Northern platitudes.”¹

      Padgett is best known—both inside and outside reenactment circles—...

  9. Afterword: Untangling the Webs of the Civil War and Reconstruction in the Popular Culture Imagination
    (pp. 223-236)
    David Madden

    Pursuing research for my ninth novel,Sharpshooter(1996), I gathered around me, over many years, more than 1,500 books, including scholarly and popular nonfiction and both popular and literary fiction. From those books I gathered thousands of facts about every facet of the tangled webs of the Civil War and Reconstruction. The first draft was more than 2,000 pages long; the published novel is less than 160 pages short. During the fifteen years between the first long draft and the final short book, the mere accumulation of facts proved less and less meaningful; but my selection of facts and placement...

  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 237-238)
  11. List of Contributors
    (pp. 239-242)
  12. Index
    (pp. 243-258)