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The Civil War in Popular Culture

Memory and Meaning

edited by Lawrence A. Kreiser Jr. and Randal Allred

Publication Year: 2014

Dividing the nation for four years, the American Civil War resulted in 750,000 casualties and forever changed the country's destiny. The conflict continues to resonate in our collective memory, and U.S. economic, cultural, and social structures still suffer the aftershocks of the nation's largest and most devastating war. Nearly 150 years later, portrayals of the war in books, songs, cinema, and other cultural media continue to draw widespread attention and controversy.

In The Civil War in Popular Culture: Memory and Meaning, editors Lawrence A. Kreiser Jr. and Randal Allred analyze American depictions of the war across a variety of mediums, from books and film, to monuments and battlefield reunions, to reenactments and board games. This collection examines how battle strategies, famous generals, and the nuances of Civil War politics translate into contemporary popular culture. This unique analysis assesses the intersection of the Civil War and popular culture by recognizing how memories and commemorations of the war have changed since it ended in 1865.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky


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Title Page, Copyright

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Lawrence A. Kreiser Jr. and Randal Allred

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pp. 1-8

Perhaps no other event has captured the national imagination to the extent the Civil War has. Portrayals of the war in songs, books, and movies, among other cultural and media outlets, continue to draw widespread attention. Gone with the Wind, the 1939 epic that follows Scarlett O'Hara through the tragedies and triumphs of the Civil War era, remains one of the top-grossing ...

Section I. The Aftermath of Battle

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1. “Really, Though, I’m Fine”: Civil War Veterans and the Psychological Aftereffects of Killing

Michael W. Schaefer

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pp. 11-24

Forty years after serving as an infantryman in the Confederate army, Texan George Gautier justified the title of his autobiography, Harder than Death, by explaining to his readers that killing other men, as he did during the Civil War, “will bring you to ruin and distress the balance of your life.”1 Although...

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2. Traumatized Manhood: Confederate Amputees in History, Memory, and Hollywood

Brian Craig Miller

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pp. 25-44

In the 1959 film The Horse Soldiers, members of the Union cavalry ride into Newton Station, where Colonel John Marlowe (John Wayne) and Major Kendall (William Holden) interact with a Confederate prisoner named Colonel Johnny Miles (Carleton Young). Major Kendall recognizes the prisoner from their time fighting Indians together along the Platte River prior to...

Section II. Reunions and Battlefield Preservation

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3. Relics of Reunion: Souvenirs and Memory at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, 1889–1895

Daryl Black

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pp. 47-60

At noon on September 19, 1895, General J. S. Fullerton, chairman of the Chickamauga Park Commission, stepped to the rostrum on a temporary stage set up at the foot of Snodgrass Hill.1 The former Union officer and veteran of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns welcomed the audience— more than 12,000 people—to the dedication ceremony for the...

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4. The Graying of Gettysburg National Military Park: Race, Erasure, Ideology, and Iconography

Robert E. Weir

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pp. 61-82

Modern-day Americans remember the Civil War in many ways, most of them historically inaccurate. Humorist Austin O’Malley (1858–1932) once quipped, “Memory is a crazy woman that hoards colored rags and throws away food.” Frederick Douglass agreed. In his 1871 Memorial Day address at Arlington National Cemetery, Douglass lambasted those seeking to rewrite...

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5. Civil War Battlefields for Future Generations: The Relationship between Battlefield Preservation and Popular Culture

Susan Chase Hall

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pp. 83-98

In 2007 noted author, economist, actor, and pop icon Ben Stein stood before an audience at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. He did not look out onto a crowd of uninterested students and discuss the science of volcanoes or call out for “Bueller” in his famous monotone. Instead, he enthusiastically addressed the importance of battlefield preservation as a powerful educational...

Section III. The Memory of the Civil War over Time

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6. The Cultural Politics of Memory: Confederate Women and General William T. Sherman

Jacqueline Glass Campbell

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pp. 101-116

Conventional wisdom about wartime tells us that men are both the protectors and the threat. The army regulates the exercise of violence against an enemy, and it exacts kudos and support from the protected. Logically, then, if noncombatants find their guarantees of protection gone, they will withdraw their support and help end the war. During the American Civil War...

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7. “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye”: The Civil War Navies in Public Memory

Matthew Eng

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pp. 117-134

We are truly at a unique crossroads in American history: the centennial anniversary of the First World War is drawing near, the bicentennial anniversary of the War of 1812 is just past, and the Civil War’s sesquicentennial anniversary is upon us—a gold mine for the collection and preservation of history. Memory of the Civil War, many would argue, has always been present...

Section IV. The Civil War in Fiction and Film

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8. From History to Fiction: Abraham Lincoln’s Most Famous Murder Trial and the Limits of Dramatic License

Daniel W. Stowell

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pp. 137-152

Filmmakers offer dramatic representations of historical events that shape how Americans perceive the past. As recent movies demonstrate, Abraham Lincoln continues to exert a powerful influence on the American imagination. Although the movies The Conspirator, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and Lincoln take very different approaches to aspects of Lincoln’s life and death...

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9. The War in Film: The Depiction of Combat in Glory

Paul Haspel

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pp. 153-172

Edward Zwick’s film Glory (1990) dramatizes the story of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the first African American regiment raised in the North during the Civil War, and its commander, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. Any Civil War combat film will be judged, to some extent, by...

Section V. The Civil War as Entertainment

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10. The War in Cardboard and Ink: Fifty Years of Civil War Board Games

Alfred Wallace

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pp. 175-190

Michael C. C. Adams begins Echoes of War by listing some of the ways Americans enjoy military history: museums, reenactments, popular history books, television programs, movies. The popularity of these military entertainments is apparent from sales figures. For instance, Saving Private Ryan earned $224.7 million in gross ticket sales just a few years before Adams’s...

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11. “Oh, I’m a Good Ol’ Rebel”: Reenactment, Racism, and the Lost Cause

Christopher Bates

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pp. 191-222

Captain Vern Padgett is a Confederate Civil War reenactor—a member of the Richmond Howitzers. Though a California native, he is one of the more diehard Confederate reenactors—not in terms of his devotion to an accurate impression but in his commitment to what he perceives as the southern cause...

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Afterword: Untangling the Webs of the Civil War and Reconstruction in the Popular Culture Imagination

David Madden

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pp. 223-236

Pursuing research for my ninth novel, Sharpshooter (1996), I gathered around me, over many years, more than 1,500 books, including scholarly and popular nonfiction and both popular and literary fiction. From those books I gathered thousands of facts about every facet of the tangled webs of the Civil War and Reconstruction. The first draft was more than 2,000 pages long; the published...


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pp. 237-238


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pp. 239-242


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pp. 243-258

E-ISBN-13: 9780813143224
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813143071

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 870176994
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Civil War in Popular Culture

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Collective memory -- United States.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Motion pictures and the war.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Literature and the war.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Battlefields.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865.
  • Popular culture -- United States.
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