- The Loyal West: Civil War and Reunion in Middle America by Matthew E. Stanley
(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2017)
Interest in Civil War memory and post–Civil War sectional reconciliation has expanded greatly in recent years, as two 2016 historiographical essays attest.1 Matthew E. Stanley's new book, The Loyal West: Civil War and Reunion in Middle America is thus well timed to make an important contribution to our evolving understanding of the process of sectional reconciliation in the decades following the Civil War. With his focus on Kentucky's northern neighbors in the lower portions of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, the editorial staff of the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society believe Stanley's book will help historians better understand the role Kentucky played in the events of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, which saw a white supremacist version of Civil War memory eclipse an emancipationist version nationally.
We have asked four nineteenth-century historians to consider Stanley's book from varying perspectives. M. Keith Harris teaches history at a private high school in Los Angeles, California. He is the author of Across the Bloody Chasm: The Culture of Commemoration among Civil War Veterans (2014) and is currently writing a book on D. W. Griffith's controversial 1915 silent film, The Birth of a Nation. Anne E. Marshall is an associate professor of history at Mississippi State University and the author of Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State (2012). James [End Page 79] Marten is professor and chair of the history department at Marquette University. His most recent books are Sing Not War: The Lives of Union and Confederate Veterans in Gilded Age America (2011) and America's Corporal: James Tanner in War and Peace (2014). Kristopher Maulden is a visiting assistant professor of history at Columbia College in Missouri. He is completing a book manuscript on the influence of Federalist politics and federal policy in the Ohio River Valley, and he is engaged in a study of nineteenth-century Ohio newspaper editor Charles Hammond. Finally, the author of The Loyal West, Matthew E. Stanley, assistant professor of history at Albany State University, will respond to the reviews.
M. Keith Harris
In The Loyal West, historian Matthew E. Stanley invites his readers to consider sectionalism in Civil War–era Middle America beyond conventional North-South binaries. In so doing, Stanley recalls the words of an Indiana man, who recognized the region as existing "between two fires." The Hoosier in question described a section where conflict was both among regions and within sections: between northern and southern interests, between Yankee and Tidewater lineages, and between abolitionist and secessionist politics. The narrative of the so-called Loyal West was both anti-rebel and anti-eastern and, as Stanley suggests, proved a means of "reconciling antebellum regionalism with postwar sectionalism, balancing the revolutionary aspects of emancipation and the Union Cause with the political and cultural conservatism of the white rural Middle West" (p. 6).
Identity studies, be they regional or otherwise, should be steeped in nuance. As such this book is a successful effort—not as an endeavor to "complicate" an unsophisticated Blue-Gray story but rather to acknowledge and understand the people of a particular loyal region on their own terms, as a people who identified outside of that story. Stanley suggests that observations concerning Civil War sectionalism tend to travel down familiar paths, with emphasis on the East. Most recently he notes that scholarship on postwar memory, and especially on veterans' commemorative efforts, leans heavily on sectional contentions [End Page 80] concerning the "northern" or "Unionist" emancipationist cause. My own work on Union and Confederate veterans at least partially follows suit. Guilty as charged.
And so I read this book with particular interest, finding it a valuable corrective to a body of scholarship that began to emerge several years ago in response to David W. Blight's influential but flawed Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American...