The Lost Cause and Reunion in the Confederate Cemeteries of the North
- Landscape Journal: design, planning, and management of the land
- University of Wisconsin Press
- Volume 35, Number 1, 2016
- pp. 1-21
- Additional Information
The states that formed the Union during the American Civil War contain the remains of 26,000 Confederate prisoners of war. The United States neglected Confederate prisoners’ graves after the war, but in the late nineteenth century the Lost Cause movement appropriated the cemeteries as repositories of Confederate symbolism and rituals. This was part of the broader Southern campaign to reconcile defeat, to reassert southern partisanship, and to normalize the Jim Crow South. The parallel reunion movement in the North valorized the South by elevating military duty to a moral imperative while sidestepping the conflict over slavery. The reunion sentiment inspired the work of the Commission for Marking Graves of Confederate Dead, which resulted in systematic placement of monuments to Confederates in federal cemeteries. Confederate cemetery landscapes in the North represent changing interpretations of the meaning of the dead: a utilitarian burial process and War Department neglect of rebel graves, Lost Cause landscape production, assertions of the Americanism of Confederates, and expressions of reconciliation by the federal government. Encapsulated in these politicized landscapes are the white South’s need for a narrative to support white supremacy and of the North’s abandonment of racial justice as it sought reconciliation.