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Civil War Humor

Cameron C. Nickels

Publication Year: 2010

In Civil War Humor author Cameron C. Nickels examines the various forms of comedic popular artifacts produced in America from 1861 to 1865, and looks at how wartime humor was created, disseminated, and received by both sides of the conflict. Song lyrics, newspaper columns, sheet music covers, illustrations, political cartoons, fiction, light verse, paper dolls, printed envelopes, and penny dreadfuls--from and for the Union and the Confederacy--are analyzed at length. Nickels argues that the war coincided with the rise of inexpensive mass printing in the United States and thus subsequently with the rise of the country's widely distributed popular culture. As such, the war was as much a "paper war"--involving the use of publications to disseminate propaganda and ideas about the Union and the Confederacy's positions--as one taking place on battlefields. Humor was a key element on both sides in deflating pretensions and establishing political stances (and ways of critiquing them). Civil War Humor explores how the combatants portrayed Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln, life on the home front, battles, and African Americans. Civil War Humor reproduces over sixty illustrations and texts created during the war and provides close readings of these materials. At the same time, it places this corpus of comedy in the context of wartime history, economies, and tactics. This comprehensive overview examines humor's role in shaping and reflecting the cultural imagination of the nation during its most tumultuous period.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Title Page

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pp. vi-vii

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pp. ix-xiii

It is probably safe to say that more books have been published about the Civil War than any other subject in American history. So I was surprised a few years ago while looking over the bounty of books on all kinds of arcane topics at a bookstore in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, that I saw nothing on humor of the Civil War. ...

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pp. xv-xvii

There are two stages to writing a book; the second is writing itself, and it is not much fun, and (maybe “because”) it has to be solitary. By far the most enjoyable stage is doing the research, gathering up what the words will be about, and for this book that meant finding and reading as many examples of humor published ...

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Introduction: Civil War Humor, a Paper War

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pp. 3-16

The war from 1861 to 1865 coincided and had much to do with furthering the modernization of an inexpensive print mass medium, a phenomenon of popular culture that would not be equaled for a century, when another war would do the same for the video medium. In each case, the medium responded to the interest ...

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pp. 17-52

The most fundamental purpose of humor in any war is to define the enemy, to put him in his comic, satiric place and thus make him and the cause he stands for laughable. With this war, that had to be done rather quickly because despite a long history of differences, real and even more strongly felt, the fall of Fort Sumter ...

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pp. 53-82

The effects of war on the home front North and South were vastly different. When the war began, the Union had superior industry, transportation, and communications; and as the war continued, those differences became magnified for the Confederacy, the consequence of many interrelated factors: the Union blockade, ...

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pp. 83-114

“War is at best barbarism. Its glory is all moonshine,” retired Union General William Tecumseh Sherman told the graduating class at the Michigan Military Academy in 1879, and he concluded with what has become the most famous judgment of armed conflict: “War is hell.” So very succinct, and a truth invoked since by both ...

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pp. 115-150

Before the Civil War, in both the North and South, blackface minstrelsy—and not only theater performances but also the playbills, songsters, sheet music, and broadsides that they generated—had fixed in the popular imagination the conventions for how the African American (almost exclusively male) would be delineated ...


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pp. 151-154


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pp. 155-156


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pp. 157-162

E-ISBN-13: 9781604737486
E-ISBN-10: 1604737484
Print-ISBN-13: 9781604737479
Print-ISBN-10: 1604737476

Page Count: 160
Publication Year: 2010

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