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The Good Men Who Won the War

Army of the Cumberland Veterans and Emancipation Memory

Written by Robert E. Hunt

Publication Year: 2010

Robert Hunt examines how Union veterans of the Army of the Cumberland employed the extinction of slavery in the trans-Appalachian South in their memory of the Civil War. Hunt argues that rather than ignoring or belittling emancipation, it became central to veterans’ retrospective understanding of what the war, and their service in it, was all about.  The Army of the Cumberland is particularly useful as a subject for this examination because it invaded the South deeply, encountering numerous ex-slaves as fugitives, refugees, laborers on military projects, and new recruits. At the same time, the Cumberlanders were mostly Illinoisans, Ohioans, Indianans, and, significantly, Kentucky Unionists, all from areas suspicious of abolition before the war.
Hunt argues that the collapse of slavery in the trans-Appalachian theater of the Civil War can be usefully understood by exploring the post-war memories of this group of Union veterans. He contends that rather than remembering the war as a crusade against the evils of slavery, the veterans of the Army of the Cumberland saw the end of slavery as a by-product of the necessary defeat of the planter aristocracy that had sundered the Union; a good and necessary outcome, but not necessarily an assertion of equality between the races.
Some of the most provocative discussions about the Civil War in current scholarship are concerned with how memory of the war was used by both the North and the South in Reconstruction, redeemer politics, the imposition of segregation, and the Spanish-American War. This work demonstrates that both the collapse of slavery and the economic and social post-War experience convinced these veterans that they had participated in the construction of the United States as a world power, built on the victory won against corrupt Southern plutocrats who had impeded the rightful development of the country.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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List of Illustrations

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p. vii

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p. ix

This book has been a long time coming. What began as a Web page on the Tullahoma campaign has evolved into a full-fledged discussion of how Army of the Cumberland veterans remembered their involvement in the emancipation process. The last few years of researching and writing on this topic have led me on a fascinating journey. Like other authors...

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pp. 1-9

This study examines Army of the Cumberland regimental histories and personal memoirs in order to evaluate how the authors included emancipation in their interpretation of the North’s victory in the Civil War. During the conflict the army had been instrumental in turning invasion into an act of liberation in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia, and I wanted to see how Cumberland...

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Prelude: The Army of the Cumberland’s War, 1861–1865

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pp. 10-19

In a journal he kept during the war and in several letters to his wife, James Connolly, a major in the 123rd Illinois, chronicled the life of the Union’s Army of the Cumberland. What he discussed was not the glories or horrors of battle but the cruel reality of invasion, demonstrating in his description how this invasion led to revolution. Connolly was a self-proclaimed Democrat...

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1. Remembered War; Forgotten Struggle

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pp. 20-41

At various times after 1880 individual authors (or committees) sat down to write the history of a Cumberland army regiment or the story of a soldier’s life. When they did so there was no agreed-upon pattern to follow. Although a number of the authors read their compatriots’ works (often enough for the purpose of disagreeing about campaign details), no standard was ever set...

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2. Victory in “God’s Country”

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pp. 42-72

As Albion Tourgee discovered, the North could not remake the defeated Confederacy in its own image. The Civil War was a different kind of conflict, unlike the long process of Native American removal or the brief fight with Mexico. The Northern victors of ’65 could not clear the landscape or move in to civilize a metaphoric “frontier.” Many Northerners might have wanted to tame...

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3. Incorporating Friends and Enemies

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pp. 73-101

Because he had to endure the violent politics of Reconstruction in North Carolina, Albion Tourgee came to regard the Union’s Civil War as a failure. The veteran had defined victory as the opportunity to reform Southern society: to substitute the relations of the market for what he described as the corrupt forced bargain between master and slave. Other Cumberland veterans were not...

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4. Legacies

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pp. 102-134

By the turn of the century the legacy of the North’s Civil War seemed dead. As America embarked on its imperialistic crusade in 1898, it seemed to betray the great moment of liberation that had happened three decades earlier. After January 1, 1863, the North had used its overwhelming force not only to destroy the Confederacy but also to give freedom a wider meaning. In the process...

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pp. 135-140

The North’s Civil War created a paradox for the victors. In previous conflicts Americans had been able to translate military victory into the absolute control of the conquered (or secured) landscape. By contrast, the Union’s triumph in 1865 simply ended Confederate independence, turning the Southern states into an insurgent territory that congressional Republicans could...

Appendix: Cumberland Regimental Histories and Personal Memoirs Reviewed for This Study

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pp. 141-145


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pp. 147-173


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pp. 175-178

E-ISBN-13: 9780817383527
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817316884

Page Count: 178
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 664233648
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Good Men Who Won the War

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Soldiers -- United States -- Attitudes -- History -- 19th century.
  • United States. Army of the Cumberland.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Social aspects
  • United States -- Race relations -- History -- 19th century.
  • Public opinion -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Veterans.
  • Slaves -- Emancipation -- United States -- Public opinion -- History -- 19th century.
  • Slavery -- United States -- Public opinion -- History -- 19th century.
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