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Scars to Prove It

The Civil War Soldier and American Fiction

Craig A. Waren

Publication Year: 2009

History as fiction’s muse

“When the first cannon sounded over Charleston Harbor in 1861, it announced the beginning of an American literary phenomenon. Readers North and South hungered for imaginative writing about the escalating war, and canny publishers were swift to deliver. . . . Today even the most conservative estimate would place the total number of Civil War novels at well over one thousand, and this figure does not account for the thousands of war-related stories published in journals, newspapers, and magazines since 1861.”—from the Introduction

This examination of the interaction between fictional representations of the Civil War and the memoirs and autobiographies of Civil War soldiers argues that veterans’ accounts taught later generations to represent the conflict in terms of individual experiences, revealing how national identity developed according to written records of the past.

Author Craig A. Warren explores seven popular novels about the Civil War—The Red Badge of Courage, Gone with the Wind, None Shall Look Back, The Judas Field, The Unvanquished, The Killer Angels, and Absalom, Absalom! His study reveals that the war owes much of its cultural power to a large but overlooked genre of writing: postwar memoirs, regimental histories, and other narratives authored by Union and Confederate veterans. Warren contends that literary scholars and historians took seriously the influence that veterans’ narratives had on the shape and character of Civil War fiction.

Scars to Prove It fills a gap in the study of Civil War literature and will appeal to those interested in the literature, military writing, and literary studies related to the Civil War.

Published by: The Kent State University Press


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Title, Copyright, and Dedication

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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-8

When the first cannon sounded over Charleston Harbor in 1861, it announced the beginning of an American literary phenomenon. Readers North and South hungered for imaginative writing about the escalating war, and canny publishers were swift to deliver. ...

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1. Various Veterans Had Told Him Tales: The Red Badge of Courage and an Inclusive Civil War Literature

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pp. 9-38

For many readers, The Red Badge of Courage (1895) occupies a curious place in the history of Civil War literature. Although routinely celebrated as our greatest novel of the war, the book has surprisingly little to say about the conflict beyond the heat and crash of battle. ...

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2. For Was I Not a Soldier, Enlisted for the War? Female Veterans in Gone with the Wind and None Shall Look Back

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pp. 39-82

By any measure, the South’s literary response to the Civil War has been enormous. During the war and for decades to follow, Southerners penned thousands of manuscripts and printed millions of words in order to assess, justify, and remember secession and its aftermath. ...

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3. The Eggshell Shibboleth of Caste and Color Too: Civilian Narrators in Absalom, Absalom! and The Unvanquished

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pp. 83-117

When we consider how often the works of William Faulkner grapple with the Civil War and its legacy, it should surprise us that the writer had so little to say about the Confederacy’s oft-mythologized troops.1 After all, the Mississippi-born author “was growing to manhood” during the years between 1890 and 1920, when the Lost Cause civil religion “flourished especially.”2 ...

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4. Each Man Has His Own Reason to Die: The Triumph of the Individual in The Killer Angels

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pp. 118-159

In January 1993, Bantam Books published a paperback edition of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s 1915 memoir, The Passing of the Armies. Early in his introduction to the text, historian James M. McPherson explained how Chamberlain, a brevet major general in the Union army, has become one of “the best-known figures” of the Civil War:...

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Conclusion: Grief Crowded the Secret Rooms of Their Hearts: Haunted Veterans in The Judas Field

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pp. 160-169

Sam Watkins and John Billings fought on opposite sides during the Civil War, and their published narratives differ widely in content, style, and delivery. In Co. Aytch, Watkins told of his own experiences in camp and battle, remembering old friends and reflecting on episodes that were sometimes humorous and often horrific. ...


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pp. 170-199


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pp. 200-214

Index [Includes Back Cover]

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pp. 215-223

E-ISBN-13: 9781612775616
E-ISBN-10: 1612775616
Print-ISBN-13: 9781606350157

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 815970778
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Scars to Prove It

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Subject Headings

  • War and literature -- United States -- History.
  • Soldiers in literature.
  • War in literature.
  • Soldiers' writings, American -- History and criticism.
  • Nischik, Reingard M.
  • Soldiers -- United States -- Biography -- History and criticism.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Literature and the war.
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