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Civil War News
When the Civil War’s guns fell silent in the spring of 1865, the states that comprised the former Confederacy began the process of recovering from four years of hard war — a conflict that killed or debilitated nearly one quarter of the South’s white male population between the ages of 16 and 45.
Although people did their best to recover and move forward, the survivors of the Confederacy refused to let the sacrifices of the slain go without proper recognition.
While strong sentiment existed to memorialize the Confederate dead across the former Confederacy, perhaps no state trumped the efforts of Virginia, the epicenter of the Confederacy, to appropriately memorialize the legacy of the Old Dominion’s 17,000 dead through monuments in town squares, in cemeteries and on battlefields.
That effort to memorialize Virginia’s involvement in the war provides the basis for Timothy Sedore’s invaluable guide to the commonwealth’s Confederate monuments.
Relying on the monuments as historical artifacts as well as other supporting primary materials, Sedore provides a comprehensive guide, the first such publication of its kind, to the 360 Confederate markers and monuments in Virginia.
He starts with a cogently crafted and insightful introduction that offers a brief history of memorialization after the Civil War. Then he breaks the book into five regional chapters in which he examines the monuments by county.
Sedore employs a superb template to make sense of such a vast array of monuments spread over nearly 40,000 square miles. Each chapter includes a finely detailed map that delineates the location of each monument in its region and an introductory synopsis of the region’s experience during the conflict.
In Sedore’s discussion of each monument, he provides the precise location, a description of the monument and the material used to construct it, and a verbatim copy of the inscription.
He also includes excerpts from dedication addresses, which increase this volume’s usefulness. Historians interested in the rhetoric of the Lost Cause or the campaign for national reconciliation will find these primary documents most useful.
The selected primary materials illustrate how former Confederates made sense of their failed experiment and justified the Confederacy to future generations of Americans.
Sedore’s book also is a splendid reminder of the importance of language in historical remembrance. Analysis throughout this book informs readers that the Confederate veterans and organizations who erected Confederate monuments in Virginia, as was the case across the entire South, chose their words carefully.
These former Confederates knew that although the bronze and marble would stand still for future generations, the words inscribed on them would cut across time to teach forthcoming descendants about the conflict and the importance of human sacrifice for a cause — even a doomed one.
This volume, which is soundly researched, impeccably organized, and eloquently written, should appeal to a wide range of Civil War readers, especially those interested in Confederate history, Virginia’s place in the conflict and Civil War memory.
— Jonathan A. Noyalas