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Atlanta, Cradle of the New South

Atlanta, Cradle of the New South: Race and Remembering in the Civil War's Aftermath

William A. Link
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Atlanta, Cradle of the New South
    Book Description:

    After conquering Atlanta in the summer of 1864 and occupying it for two months, Union forces laid waste to the city in November. William T. Sherman's invasion was a pivotal moment in the history of the South and Atlanta's rebuilding over the following fifty years came to represent the contested meaning of the Civil War itself. The war's aftermath brought contentious transition from Old South to New for whites and African Americans alike. Historian William Link argues that this struggle defined the broader meaning of the Civil War in the modern South, with no place embodying the region's past and future more clearly than Atlanta.Link frames the city as both exceptional--because of the incredible impact of the war there and the city's phoenix-like postwar rise--and as a model for other southern cities. He shows how, in spite of the violent reimposition of white supremacy, freedpeople in Atlanta built a cultural, economic, and political center that helped to define black America.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0832-7
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    In 1886, civic booster and newspaper editor Henry W. Grady became one of the most successful popularizers of what he and others called a “New South.” Grady wanted to hasten the South’s rebirth. The specific locale for his call to arms was post–Civil War Atlanta. Destroyed by war, in two decades the city had rebuilt itself and became a leading, dynamic urban center. Grady emphasized the city as a center of a newly industrialized South that had abandoned the economic bases of the old slaveholding order. His “New South” incorporated some powerful notions that were reflective of Atlanta’s new...

  4. ONE A Troublesome Thing: Invasion
    (pp. 7-32)

    During a clear winter day, late on the afternoon of January 3, 1861, residents of Atlanta, Georgia, experienced an unusual event: a ten-second tremor, probably a small earthquake. Seismic activity in northern Georgia was rare; local residents feared a dark augur. “Who will account for it in this latitude?” asked theAtlanta Daily Intelligencer. “May not its coming and passing away so easily, with the clear and bright sky,” it asked, “be symbolical of the present political convulsion in the country, which, in the South, will pass away so easily, leaving the spotless sky behind?”¹ Six months later, city residents...

  5. TWO Ocean of Ruins: Destruction and Rebirth
    (pp. 33-60)

    Sherman’s conquest of Atlanta occupies a conspicuous place in the popular and scholarly understanding of the Civil War. Narratives of the Atlanta Campaign have influenced American ideas of the ways in which warfare affects civilians and have figured in the construction of both white and African American memories of the Civil War and of the southern economic rejuvenation that followed it. In many respects, the postwar narrative of the war’s meaning in the South was white-dominated, a narrative that drowned out but did not entirely eliminate alternative narratives. Their version of the past unified whites, overcoming their social divisions and...

  6. THREE A Forgetfulness of the Past: Rebuilding the Racial Order
    (pp. 61-85)

    In the summer of 1865, Atlanta offered profoundly contrasting scenes. Felix Salm-Salm, brigadier general in the 68th New York Infantry, had commanded the city’s military post for several months. A Prussian nobleman and officer who had served as a Union cavalry officer, Salm-Salm volunteered in 1861, rising to the rank of colonel and, in April 1865, to brevet brigadier general. In July 1865, he arrived with his wife in Atlanta, where they described a “sad sight.” One could “scarcely believe,” his wife wrote, “that the remaining inhabitants of that country would ever become reconciled to their Northern conquerors.”¹ From the...

  7. FOUR Every Contrivance of Cruelty: Violence and White Supremacy in the New South
    (pp. 86-110)

    On March 31, 1868, in a spectacular act of Reconstruction-era political terror, a group of about thirty masked white men assassinated George W. Ashburn, a white Republican leader in Columbus, Georgia. The killing of Ashburn, a Unionist who became a Republican during Reconstruction, laid bare the realities of white supremacy in the aftermath of the Civil War. His murder, and the controversial efforts to prosecute his killers, brought to public attention and exposed southern notions about the Yankee invasion, the role of African Americans in postwar southern society, and the characteristics of southern white resistance. Violence and intimidation served as...

  8. FIVE We Are Rising: Schooling the City
    (pp. 111-135)

    In the fall of 1868, the commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau, O. O. Howard, visited Atlanta. During the Civil War, Howard had risen to the rank of major general, and, as commander of the Army of Tennessee, played a leading role in the Atlanta Campaign. Visiting the American Missionary Association’s Storrs School, Howard addressed black parents and students. “What shall I tell the children in the North about you?” he asked the black children. A twelve-year-old boy spoke out: “Tell them, General,” he said, that “we’re rising.” George W. Childs, publisher of thePhiladelphia Ledger, repeated the story to the...

  9. SIX Wheel within a Wheel: Competing Visions
    (pp. 136-168)

    In late July 1878, a newspaper reporter observed the anniversary of the Battle of Atlanta, an unsuccessful Confederate assault against Union forces besieging the city fourteen years earlier. A monument marked where Union general James B. McPherson had fallen; not far from that spot, Confederate general William H. T. Walker died on the same day. The anniversary commemorated losses on both sides; surveying the wide battleground, the reporter found little evidence of the carnage of 1864. The old trenches were “almost sunk into common earth,” while the forest had “almost repaired the glories which shot and shell tore from it...

  10. SEVEN The New South in Crisis
    (pp. 169-189)

    On September 22, 1906, Atlanta erupted in an unprecedented racial cataclysm that paralyzed the city for four days and, according to one assessment, “alarmed the entire country and awakened in the South a new sense of the dangers which threatened it.” Reacting to lurid accounts in the Atlanta tabloid press about an alleged epidemic of black sexual assaults on white women, white mobs rampaged in the city’s downtown, indiscriminately attacking African Americans. On the second and third days of violence, Atlanta’s blacks took up arms in resistance, repelling a white invasion of the Dark Town and Brownsville neighborhoods. State militia...

  11. EPILOGUE: The Propaganda of History
    (pp. 190-200)

    Writing in 1922, Atlanta historian John R. Hornady offered evidence of the power that memory of the Civil War still held. Like many others, he believed that the city exemplified the modernizing South, but felt also that the war had left a lasting imprint. A lifelong resident of Atlanta, Hornady grew up among material reminders of the war. As a child, he used to play in a swimming hole in Peachtree Creek, surrounded by Civil War–era earthworks. By the 1920s, trolley cars and automobiles had extended beyond the suburbs, intruding on this historically hallowed ground. A long boulevard now...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 201-230)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 231-242)
  14. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 243-244)
  15. Index
    (pp. 245-251)