- The Civil War in Popular Culture: Memory and Meaning ed. by Lawrence A. Kreiser Jr., Randal Allred
Presented by long-established as well as emerging scholars, The Civil War in Popular Culture: Memory and Meaning excels in offering strong and eclectic research that clearly reveals why bookstores typically possess a separate Civil War History section and why the 150-year-old-conflict remains so much more than a simple narrative of North and South divided by the sword. The book is divided into five sections, each guided by a unique premise: The Aftermath of Battle; Reunions and Battlefield Preservation; The Memory of the Civil War over Time; The Civil War in Fiction and Film; and, finally, The Civil War As Entertainment. Each section includes work by no fewer than two scholars who offer new research and represent larger universities on both American coasts, as well as smaller schools, disciplines, and institutions that at first glance are not [End Page 106] usually thought to be deeply associated with Civil War research. The scholars themselves reflect an array of experience, with birthdates from the 1930s to more recent decades. Such diversified subject matter and approach presents tried-and-true as well as newer methods of research and questions and overall engagement of existing historiography in tight arguments, combining to form an element of good inquiry.
In the opening section, The Aftermath of Battle, Michael W. Schaefer’s “‘Really Though I’m Fine,’ Civil War Veterans and the Psychological Aftereffects of Killing” reminds the reader that combat-related mental trauma did not first spring forth with World War I and yet adroitly observes that such combat-caused mental suffering research will forever be hampered by a nineteenth-century generation not predisposed to share such feelings. Schaefer, however, avoids such pitfalls and examines the active postwar lives of veterans to prove his thesis. By looking at the widely untouched subject of amputees, Brian C. Miller, in the chilling “Traumatized Manhood: Confederate Amputees in History, Memory, and Hollywood,” clearly shows that injured southern manhood faced many more adversaries than a postwar stigma of defeat and domestic “bottom rail on top.” Miller offers numerous examples that the loss of a limb or the potential threat of such, conjured demons such as Old Testament–style heavenly punishment, long-buried personal doubts, suicide, death instead of medical dismemberment, postwar life adjustment, and likely subsequent failure if others viewed a southern veteran as less than a complete man. After his essay, readers will carefully observe any Civil War photograph displaying a man with an empty shirtsleeve or one-legged trousers.
The second theme, Reunions and Battlefield Preservation, works well with the remaining subjects. Many of the essays in this section clearly reveal the efforts of many to remember the past under the influence of a white-dominated present. Daryl Black’s “Relics of Reunion: Souvenirs and Memory at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, 1889–1895” shows how, in many cases, dedications of Civil War parks—through the use of promotion style and particular products—served to reinforce the Lost Cause and solidify the white-male dominated mindset of a pre–Progressive movement America. In “The Graying of Gettysburg National Military Park: Race, Erasure, Ideology, and Iconography,” Robert E. Weir suggests that in concentrating too heavily on the July 1–3, 1863, combat and subsequent commemorations, the broader narrative of what actually brought two great armies to that small 1863 town is lost.
Subsequent sections deal with remembering the war by looking back to the future. Susan Chase Hall examines how battlefield preservationists finally have combined new modern circuitry along with older mason stone to allow technology to aide in battlefield preservation. Jacqueline Glass Campbell recounts how southern women endured loss of personal identity to preserve nineteenth-century societal norms in regards to gender and, especially, race. Matthew Eng’s work chastises Civil War historiography for holes in the war’s narrative and argues that the Union navy still [End Page...