The Rivers Ran Backward: The Civil War and the Remaking of the American Middle Border

The Rivers Ran Backward: The Civil War and the Remaking of the American Middle Border

by Christopher Phillips


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The Rivers Ran Backward: The Civil War and the Remaking of the American Middle Border by Christopher Phillips

Most Americans imagine the Civil War in terms of clear and defined boundaries of freedom and slavery: a straightforward division between the slave states of Kentucky and Missouri and the free states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kansas. However, residents of these western border states, Abraham Lincoln's home region, had far more ambiguous identities-and contested political loyalties-than we commonly assume.

In The Rivers Ran Backward, Christopher Phillips sheds light on the fluid political cultures of the "Middle Border" states during the Civil War era. Far from forming a fixed and static boundary between the North and South, the border states experienced fierce internal conflicts over their political and social loyalties. White supremacy and widespread support for the existence of slavery pervaded the "free" states of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, which had much closer economic and cultural ties to the South, while those in Kentucky and Missouri held little identification with the South except over slavery. Debates raged at every level, from the individual to the state, in parlors, churches, schools, and public meeting places, among families, neighbors, and friends. Ultimately, the pervasive violence of the Civil War and the cultural politics that raged in its aftermath proved to be the strongest determining factor in shaping these states' regional identities, leaving an indelible imprint on the way in which Americans think of themselves and others in the nation.

The Rivers Ran Backward reveals the complex history of the western border states as they struggled with questions of nationalism, racial politics, secession, neutrality, loyalty, and even place-as the Civil War tore the nation, and themselves, apart. In this major work, Phillips shows that the Civil War was more than a conflict pitting the North against the South, but one within the West that permanently reshaped American regions.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780195187236
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 05/20/2016
Pages: 528
Sales rank: 642,089
Product dimensions: 6.60(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

Christopher Phillips is Professor of History and Department Head at the University of Cincinnati. He is the author of seven books, including Damned Yankee: The Life of General Nathaniel Lyon; Freedom's Port: The African American Community of Baltimore, 1790-1860; Missouri's Confederate: Claiborne Fox Jackson and the Creation of Southern Identity in the Border West; and The Civil War in the Border South.

Table of Contents

Prologue "There is a West"
Interstice-White Salt, Black Servitude
Chapter One: White Flows the River-Freedom and Unfreedom in the Early National
Interstice-North of Slavery, West of Abolition
Chapter Two: Babel-Changed Persistence on Slavery's Borderland
Interstice-Vox Populi
Chapter Three: The Ten Year War-Sectional Politics in a Dividing Region
Interstice-House of Cards
Chapter Four: No North-No South-No East-No West-The Fiction of the
Wartime Middle Ground
Interstice-The Gates of Zion
Chapter Five: Netherworld of War-Civilians, Soldiers, and the Dominion of War
Interstice-War of Another Kind
Chapter Six: Bitter Harvest-Emancipation and the Politics of Loyalty
Interstice-The Art of Retaliation
Chapter Seven: Shadow Wars-The Crucible of Social Violence
Interstice-A River Between Them
Chapter Eight: North Star, Southern Cross-The Politics of Irreconciliation
Epilogue Rally Round the Flag

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