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Confederate Visions

Nationalism, Symbolism, and the Imagined South in the Civil War

Ian Binnington

Publication Year: 2013

Nationalism in nineteenth-century America operated through a collection of symbols, signifiers citizens could invest with meaning and understanding. In Confederate 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 Visions examines literature, newspapers and periodicals, visual imagery, and formal state documents to explore the origins and development of wartime Confederate nationalism.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Title Page, Copryight

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pp. 1-4


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pp. v-6

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pp. vii-ix

A book is a collective endeavor for which the author takes sole responsibility. Credit goes to the cloud; blame should go to me. This project began, over twenty years ago, as a senior thesis at Lancaster University written under the direction of the late Marcus Merriman. The intellectual...

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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...

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1. “At Last, We Are a Nation among Nations”: The Constitutional Confederate Nation

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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...

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2. “In That Cold Eye There Is No Relenting”: The Confederate Nation in the Antebellum Literary Imagination

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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...

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3. “The Pledge of a Nation That’s Dead and Gone”: The Confederate Nation on the Face of Money

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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...

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4. “Thoughts That Breathe and Words That Burn”: The Confederate Nation in Wartime Literature

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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...

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5. To “Surpass All the Knighthood of Romance”: Soldiers as Paragons of Confederate Nationalism

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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...

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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...


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pp. 149-175

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 177-192


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pp. 193-198

Further Reading

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pp. 199-216

E-ISBN-13: 9780813935010
E-ISBN-10: 0813935016
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813935003
Print-ISBN-10: 0813935008

Page Count: 216
Illustrations: 11 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 862377590
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Confederate Visions

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Social aspects
  • Group identity -- Southern States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Regionalism -- Southern States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Nationalism -- Southern States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Nationalism -- Confederate States of America -- History.
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