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The Civil War as Global Conflict

Transnational Meanings of the American Civil War

David T. Gleeson

Publication Year: 2014

In an attempt to counter the insular narratives of much of the sesquicentennial commemorations of the Civil War in the United States, editors David T. Gleeson and Simon Lewis present this collection of essays to highlight the war not just as a North American conflict but as a global one affected by transnational concerns. The book, while addressing the origins of the Civil War, places the struggle over slavery and sovereignty in the U.S. in the context of other conflicts in the Western hemisphere. Additionally Gleeson and Lewis offer an analysis of the impact of the war and its results overseas. Although the Civil War was the bloodiest conflict in America’s history and arguably its single most defining event, this work underscores the reality that the war was by no means the only conflict that ensnared the global imperial powers in the mid–nineteenth century and was in some ways just another part of the contemporary conflicts over the definitions of liberty, democracy, and nationhood. The editors have successfully linked numerous provocative themes and convergences of time and space to make the work both coherent and cogent. Subjects include such disparate topics as Florence Nightingale, Gone with the Wind, war crimes and racial violence, and choices of allegiance made by immigrants to the United States. While we now take for granted the values of freedom and democracy, we cannot understand the impact of the Civil War and the victorious “new birth of freedom” without thinking globally. The contributors to The Civil War as Global Conflict reveal that Civil War–era attitudes toward citizenship and democracy were far from fixed or stable. Race, ethnicity, nationhood, and slavery were subjects of fierce controversy. Examining the Civil War in a global context requires us to see the conflict as a seminal event in the continuous struggles of people to achieve liberty and fulfill the potential of human freedom. The book concludes with a coda that reconnects the global with the local and provides ways for Americans to discuss the war and its legacy more productively.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press

Series: The Carolina Lowcountry and the Atlantic World


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Title Page, Other Works in the Series, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

As directors of the Program in the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World (CLAW) at the College of Charleston planning our activities in the early 2000s, we both recognized that 2011 was going to be an important year for the city, state, region and nation in which we were based. Thus the conference that spawned this volume had long been in the “hopper,” and as a result we have had a lot of ...

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David T. Gleeson and Simon Lewis

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pp. 1-13

The American Civil War is one of the most written-about events in history, and in many ways it is one that is the most thoroughly “known” already. If you go almost anywhere in the United States where there was a battle, you are almost certain to encounter someone who knows the terrain of that battlefield to within the last inch and who can tell you the precise development of the fighting to...

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Why Civil War? The Politics of Slavery in Comparative Perspective: The United States, Cuba, and Brazil

Edward B. Rugemer

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pp. 14-35

In January 1861 James DeBow of New Orleans published an article in his widely read Review addressed to the “non-slaveholders of the South.” DeBow explained why secession was not simply an elite movement and why poor whites would benefit from their support of a Confederacy founded on slavery. White men, even those who did not own slaves, would suffer if slavery were abolished, which...

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King Cotton, Emperor Slavery: Antebellum Slaveholders and the World Economy

Matthew Karp

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pp. 36-55

As they looked out on the wider world in the 1850s, American slaveholding elites felt more confident than ever in their grasp on international power. The recent conquest of Mexico, organized and commanded disproportionately by southerners, expanded their sense of the nation’s possible imperial horizons. Across the Atlantic, European revolutions, reactions, and great power wars—breaking ...

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“If it is still impossible . . . to advocate slavery. . . it has . . . become a habit persistently to write down freedom”: Britain, the Civil War, and Race

Hugh Dubrulle

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pp. 56-84

Perhaps the best measure of changing transatlantic attitudes toward race during the mid-nineteenth century consists of a comparison of the ideas expressed by Fanny Kemble, the prominent British actress, and her daughter, Fan Butler. In December 1838, Fanny Kemble arrived on Butler Island, Georgia, with her husband, Pierce Butler, one of the state’s greatest slave owners. Butler and others had...

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“Two irreconcilable peoples”? Ethnic Nationalism in the Confederacy

James M. McPherson

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pp. 85-97

Ethnic nationalism is one of the most powerful forces in the modern world. It broke up Yugoslavia into Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, and Kosovo and caused sometimes deadly conflict among these ethnic nations. It shattered the Soviet Union into a bewildering checkerboard of ethnic nations that can scarcely be said to live in peace with one another or with Russia. It split...

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Proving Their Loyalty to the Republic: English Immigrants and the American Civil War

David T. Gleeson

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pp. 98-115

On April 23, 1861, the members of the long-established St. George’s Society of New York City were holding their annual banquet in honor of their patron, St. George, at the St. Nicholas Hotel. The society represented the elite of their immigrant community in New York, and the distinguished guests included Her Majesty Queen Victoria’s consul and the Episcopal (Anglican) vicar of Trinity Church in Manhattan (where founding father George Washington had worshipped)....

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“A new expression of that entente cordiale?”: Russian-American Relations and the “Fleet Episode” of 1863

Alexander Noonan

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pp. 116-145

It was a most extraordinary situation: Russia had not in mind to help us but did render us distinct service; the United States was not conscious that it was contributing in any way to Russia’s welfare and yet seems to have saved her from humiliation and perhaps war. There is probably nothing to compare with it in diplomatic history....

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The Rhine River: The Impact of the German States on Transatlantic Diplomacy

Niels Eichhorn

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pp. 146-171

On January 19, 1859, Emperor Napoleon III of France and the Piedmont- Sardinian prime minister Camillo Benso, Conte di Cavour, concluded a formal alliance aimed at ending the Habsburg Empire’s hold on northern Italy and to bring about Italian unification.1 In the treaty, Piedmont-Sardinia agreed to cede Nice and Savoy to France as compensation for French assistance in gaining the...

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Lex Talionis in the U.S. Civil War: Retaliation and the Limits of Atrocity

Aaron Sheehan-Dean

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pp. 172-189

The U.S. Civil War claimed an enormous number of victims, more than all other American conflicts up until Vietnam combined. But this domestic frame of reference distorts the nature of the conflict and its place in history. Any discussion of violence and mortality in the conflict requires a global context. Changing the basis of comparison allows us to recognize the conflict not as the bloodiest civil...

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Fulfilling “The president’s duty to communicate”: The Civil War and the Creation of the Foreign Relations of the United States Series

Aaron W. Marrs

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pp. 190-210

The Civil War was the greatest domestic crisis ever faced by the United States. Yet the character of this crisis—in which one portion of the country bid for independence— required the United States to work abroad to prevent recognition of the southern states as a separate country.1 This foreign struggle, in turn, had a domestic component: President Abraham Lincoln and his secretary of state,...

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“They had heard of emancipation and the enfranchisement of their race”: The African American Colonists of Samaná, Reconstruction, and the State of Santo Domingo

Christopher Wilkins

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pp. 211-234

In January 1871, in an isolated settlement in northern Santo Domingo, the present-day Dominican Republic, a correspondent of the New York Standard witnessed “the extraordinary sight of a real American mass meeting in the midst of a tropical island.” The identity of the participants and their reasons for attending added to the meeting’s extraordinary character. The speaker, Frederick Douglass, and the audience, two hundred members of a colony of African Americans who...

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Nurse as Icon: Florence Nightingale’s Impact on Women in the American Civil War

Jane E. Schultz

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pp. 235-252

I study Florence as if she were a language and as she is a deep one I have not mastered it by any means.

Mary Mohl to Parthenope Nightingale, February 16, 1853

In the five short years between her departure from Balaclava on the Crimean Peninsula and the start of the American Civil War, Florence Nightingale became the most talked-about civilian in the British Empire despite her legendary ...

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Race, Romance, and “The spectacle of unknowing” in Gone with the Wind: A South African Response

Lesley Marx

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pp. 253-274

A young girl who will one day become my mother plays on the pavement in front of her local cinema in the erstwhile mining town of Springs several miles east of Johannesburg, looks up and sees a poster of a “handsome man” holding a “beautiful woman” in “the most romantic pose.”1 The little girl cannot stop looking at it, but, alas, there is an age restriction—no one under the age of twelve may see...

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Coda: Roundtable on Memory

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pp. 275-296

Wars linger far longer than the treaties, victories, or defeats that “end” them. Vanquished enemies have generally been dealt with on a continuum from prosecution to absorption. In the Roman civil wars that led to the establishment of Octavius’s rule as emperor, losers could expect to find themselves on proscription lists, slated for summary execution; the less prominent might find...


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pp. 297-300


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pp. 301-308

E-ISBN-13: 9781611173260
E-ISBN-10: 1611173264
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611173253

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: The Carolina Lowcountry and the Atlantic World
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 876342973
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Civil War as Global Conflict

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Subject Headings

  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Causes.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Political aspects.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Social aspects.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Influence.
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