Honoring the Civil War Dead: Commemoration and the Problem of Reconciliation (Modern War Studies Series) / Edition 1

Honoring the Civil War Dead: Commemoration and the Problem of Reconciliation (Modern War Studies Series) / Edition 1

by John R. Neff
     
 

ISBN-10: 0700613668

ISBN-13: 9780700613663

Pub. Date: 04/24/2005

Publisher: University Press of Kansas

By the end of the Civil War, fatalities from that conflict had far exceeded previous American experience, devastating families and communities alike. As John Neff shows, commemorating the 620,000 lives lost proved to be a persistent obstacle to the hard work of reuniting the nation, as every memorial observation compelled painful recollections of the war.

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Overview

By the end of the Civil War, fatalities from that conflict had far exceeded previous American experience, devastating families and communities alike. As John Neff shows, commemorating the 620,000 lives lost proved to be a persistent obstacle to the hard work of reuniting the nation, as every memorial observation compelled painful recollections of the war.

Neff contends that the significance of the Civil War dead has been largely overlooked and that the literature on the war has so far failed to note how commemorations of the dead provide a means for both expressing lingering animosities and discouraging reconciliation. Commemoration—from private mourning to the often extravagant public remembrances exemplified in cemeteries, monuments, and Memorial Day observances—provided Americans the quintessential forum for engaging the war's meaning.

Additionally, Neff suggests a special significance for the ways in which the commemoration of the dead shaped Northern memory. In his estimation, Northerners were just as active in myth-making after the war. Crafting a "Cause Victorious" myth that was every bit as resonant and powerful as the much better-known "Lost Cause" myth cherished by Southerners, the North asserted through commemorations the existence of a loyal and reunified nation long before it was actually a fact. Neff reveals that as Northerners and Southerners honored their separate dead, they did so in ways that underscore the limits of reconciliation between Union and Confederate veterans, whose mutual animosities lingered for many decades after the end of the war.

Ultimately, Neff argues that the process of reunion and reconciliation that has been so much the focus of recent literature either neglects or dismisses the persistent reluctance of both Northerners and Southerners to "forgive and forget," especially where their war dead were concerned. Despite reunification, the continuing imperative of commemoration reflects a more complex resolution to the war than is even now apparent. His book provides a compelling account of this conflict that marks a major contribution to our understanding of the war and its many meanings.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780700613663
Publisher:
University Press of Kansas
Publication date:
04/24/2005
Series:
Modern War Studies Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
328
Product dimensions:
6.32(w) x 9.28(h) x 1.15(d)

Table of Contents

Tables, Figures, and Illustrations

Acknowledgments

Introduction: "All Care for the Dead Is for the Sake of the Living": The Loyal and the Rebel Dead

1. "This Mysterious Providence": Americans' Initial Responses to Civil War Death

2. "A Heroic, Eminent Death": The National Dimensions of Lincoln's Assassination

3. "One Interminable Grave-Yard": Northern Dominance in the Commemoration of the Soldier Dead

4. "Death in a Far-Off, Stranger's Land": Southern Creation and Commemoration

5. "Something Like a National Act": The Uneasy Synthesis of American Nationalism

6. The Congregation of the Dead

Appendix A:

National Cemeteries Created for the Civil War Soldier Dead, 1861-1875

Appendix B:

Numerical Abstract of the Commission for Marking Graves of Confederate Dead, 1906-1912

Notes

Bibliography

Index

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