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Confederate Visions

Confederate Visions: Nationalism, Symbolism, and the Imagined South in the Civil War

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Confederate Visions
    Book Description:

    Nationalism in nineteenth-century America operated through a collection of symbols, signifiers citizens could invest with meaning and understanding. InConfederate Visions,Ian Binnington examines the roots of Confederate nationalism by analyzing some of its most important symbols: Confederate constitutions, treasury notes, wartime literature, and the role of the military in symbolizing the Confederate nation.

    Nationalisms tend to construct glorified pasts, idyllic pictures of national strength, honor, and unity, based on visions of what should have been rather than what actually was. Binnington considers the ways in which the Confederacy was imagined by antebellum Southerners employing intertwined mythic concepts-the "Worthy Southron," the "Demon Yankee," the "Silent Slave"-and a sense of shared history that constituted a distinctive Confederate Americanism. The Worthy Southron, the constructed Confederate self, was imagined as a champion of liberty, counterposed to the Demon Yankee other, a fanatical abolitionist and enemy of Liberty. The Silent Slave was a companion to the vocal Confederate self, loyal and trusting, reliable and honest.

    The creation of American national identity was fraught with struggle, political conflict, and bloody Civil War.Confederate Visionsexamines literature, newspapers and periodicals, visual imagery, and formal state documents to explore the origins and development of wartime Confederate nationalism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3501-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    On November 20, 1861, Kentucky became the last state to attempt secession from the Union, the thirteenth to do so since the previous December. Kentucky’s secession, like Missouri’s before it, was never entirely effective, but as the last of its kind, her Ordinance of Secession is particularly instructive. According to the aggrieved Kentuckians gathered at Russelville in Confederate-occupied territory, the Lincoln government had

    substituted for the highest forms of national liberty and constitutional government a central despotism founded upon the ignorant prejudices of the masses of Northern society, and instead of giving protection with the Constitution to the people of...

  5. 1 “At Last, We Are a Nation among Nations” The Constitutional Confederate Nation
    (pp. 19-43)

    In an impromptu speech given in Newcastle, England, on October 7, 1862, William Gladstone, then British chancellor of the exchequer in the government of Lord Palmerston, remarked, “We may have our own opinions about slavery; we may be for or against the South; but there is no doubt that Jefferson Davis and other leaders of the South have made an army; they are making, it appears, a navy; and they have made what is more than either; they have made a nation.”¹ Gladstone’s certainty on this issue may have followed from his belief, as he remarked later in the speech,...

  6. 2 “In That Cold Eye There Is No Relenting” The Confederate Nation in the Antebellum Literary Imagination
    (pp. 44-69)

    The year 1861 was not the first time that white Southerners had imagined a Confederate America. Before the Civil War began, some Southern writers were imagining a national future for their region. So the strain of Confederate Americanism at work in the debates surrounding the ratification of the Confederate Constitutions was an extension and amplification of earlier acts of the imagined Confederacy. The starting point for consideration of this antebellum envisioning of Confederate Americanism is Beverley Tucker’s 1836 novelThe Partisan Leader. A quarter-century after its initial publication, this book was joined by two other novel-length narratives of an imagined...

  7. 3 “The Pledge of a Nation That’s Dead and Gone” The Confederate Nation on the Face of Money
    (pp. 70-92)

    Any nation must meet a variety of conditions before its self-determination can be fully realized. We have discussed to this point the need for a national frame of government—in the American tradition enshrined in a written Constitution—as well as a national literature, and we will discuss the need for settled territoriality and military defense, those areas in which the Confederacy most signally failed. A fully realized nation, however, also requires a stable national economy and monetary system. In that respect as well, the Confederate American experience was problematic. The burdens of war pressed hard on the civilian populations...

  8. 4 “Thoughts That Breathe and Words That Burn” The Confederate Nation in Wartime Literature
    (pp. 93-114)

    The role of white Southern writers in imagining a Confederate America before the Civil War began is clear. We might anticipate finding a continuation of that imagining in the war years, and we would not be disappointed. Confederate writers were living the creation of an imagined Confederate America, and they recognized, perhaps without consciously realizing so, that the written word plays a powerful role in creating, defining, and sustaining the nation. It is not, to be sure, a sufficient condition on its own, but it comes very close to being a necessary one. In October 1862, M. Louise Rogers, a...

  9. 5 To “Surpass All the Knighthood of Romance” Soldiers as Paragons of Confederate Nationalism
    (pp. 115-140)

    We have made the point repeatedly that, had the Confederacy in some way prevailed in the war, the foundation had been laid for the development of a mature Confederate nationalism. Although the nation it created had a longer timeframe with which to work than did the Confederacy, the United States that emerged out of the Revolutionary War, and particularly the figure of General George Washington, provides an earlier example of a similar phenomenon. Don Higginbotham argues that Washington self-consciously capitalized on his wartime emergence as “the most visible and meaningful sign of American cohesion throughout the independence struggle,” and that...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 141-148)

    The fast pace at which Confederates constructed their nation meant that they continued to tinker with the apparatus of national symbolism right up to the end of the war. The alacrity with which they wrote a Constitution was not matched, for example, in deciding on a definitive national flag, motto, or seal. The official Confederate motto, adopted by Congress in 1863, wasDeo Vindice, customarily translated as “God will vindicate.”¹ The translation of that phrase, however, and the debate over exactly what the motto should mean, suggests rather more complex depths to the relationship between Confederate nationalism and the divine....

  11. Notes
    (pp. 149-176)
  12. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 177-192)
  13. Index
    (pp. 193-198)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 199-204)