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Reviews251 fact exonerate him? What message would have been sent to future military officers if Wirz had been spared? The true shame of Andersonville may lie not with Wirz's execution for his management of a Civil War prison, but with the fact that he remains the only soldier, Confederate or Union, who was put to death. The Civil War in Popular Culture: A Reusable Past. By Jim Cullen. Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995. 253 pp. Cloth, $29.95. Reviewed by David Glassberg, who teaches modern American history at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He also directs the public history program there. His many writings on popular history in America include American Historical Pageantry: The Uses of Tradition in the Early Twentieth Century. The Civil War has been history for more than 130 years. In the decades immediately after Appomattox, Americans developed countless narratives of the war's events. Their versions of the conflict were communicated through soldiers' stories and local commemorative rituals that varied according to whether they lived in the North or the South, were black or white, women or men, rich or poor. In those same decades, two powerful forces emerged, however, that standardized American memories of the war: professional history, as disseminated in college classrooms across the United States and in academic monographs, and commercial popular culture, as disseminated in mass-market fiction and motion pictures. While Jim Cullen analyzes the latter phenomenon in his new book, The Civil War in Popular Culture, he is interested in the former, as well as in the specific relationship of his profession of academic history to the culture at large. Rather than a chronological narrative tracing popular representations of the Civil War over the past century, as Michael Kämmen traced images of the American Revolution in A Season ofYouth (1978), Cullen's book offers his readers six separate essays. These essays explore the theme of Civil War popular history, as well as the dialogue that has existed over the past century between academicians and creators of popular history. In one of his early chapters, "The Civil War in Popular Culture and Academic History, 1830-1930," Cullen skillfully juxtaposes widely disseminated images of the war, such as Thomas Dixon's novel The Clansman (1905) and D.W. Griffith's film Birth ofa Nation (1915), with scholarship by early historians such as James Ford Rhodes, Woodrow Wilson, and Ulrich B. Phillips. In subsequent essays, Cullen compares Lincoln biographies of the 1930s and 1940s by Carl Sandburg and James Randall with Margaret Mitchell's novel Gone with the Wind of 1936 and its subsequent movie. Cullen also contrasts these images with Confederate images called forth in white, southern rock 'n' roll of the 1970s, as well as those offered in the motion picture Glory and in recent African American historiography of the 1980s. The author concludes with a portrait of a present-day Civil War reenactment, which implicitly compares the reenactors' motivations for studying Civil War history with his own. Each of these well-crafted essays could stand alone; collected together, they have a cumulative effect far greater than the sum of their parts. Throughout his book, Cullen demonstrates the ways in which artists and writers have used Civil War history to address society's concerns. In the late 1930s, for instance, 252Southern Cultures Carl Sandburg used his book Lincoln: The War Years to speak to a generation looking for effective political leadership, but anxious about newly expanded federal powers. Margaret Mitchell, on the other hand, succeeded in having Scarlett O'Hara speak for white women across America, who were caught between Victorian roles and modern ones. Three decades later, as white southern men faced a new social world with the success of the Civil Rights movement, The Band crafted "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." Meanwhile, the Charlie Daniels Band promised "The South Is Going to Do It Again" and Lynyrd Skynryd celebrated "Sweet Home Alabama." Cullen discusses the style, as well as the substance, of popular historical representations . Poet Carl Sandburg's prose, which dramatically elaborated on every source, Cullen notes, was as cinematic as historian James Randall's was austere. In its transformation from book to screen...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 251-253
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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