Reporting from the SHA: Defining Defeat—Three Approaches to Making Sense of Loss and the Confederate Experience

Reporting from the SHA: Defining Defeat—Three Approaches to Making Sense of Loss and the Confederate Experience

Historians had long analyzed the context of Confederate defeat during Reconstruction and the creation of the Lost Cause in the years after Reconstruction ended. This panel at the 2018 Southern Historical Association demonstrated that there are more avenues for historians to unpack the meanings of Confederate defeat and the building of the Lost Cause. The panelists were Amy L. Fluker (University of Mississippi), Ann L. Tucker (University of North Georgia), and Sarah K. Bowman (Columbus State University).

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The Invisible Toll: Mental Trauma and 'Total War'

The Invisible Toll: Mental Trauma and 'Total War'

Central to the concept of total war is the full mobilization of resources and a more intense experience of warfare.  While the technologies and material goods of warfare have changed drastically over time, the most basic resource of warfare has changed very little—the men (and now women) who fight. As a battle of minds, warfare is constantly requiring full mobilization of a soldier’s own personal resources, thus reflecting elements of total war within the singular unit of the soldier. 

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Secession Documents: Kentucky and Missouri

Secession Documents: Kentucky and Missouri

Kentucky and Missouri were divided border states. Pro-Confederate governments within both states declared secession and issued formal documents, but neither state officially left the Union and remained with the United States during the war. The divided nature of the border states caused conflict within their borders and men from Kentucky and Missouri fought for both sides of the Civil War.

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Secession Documents: Texas

Secession Documents: Texas

Texas was the seventh state to secede on February 1, 1861, the last of the first phase of secession and the final of the seven states to formally declare the Confederacy on February 8, 1861.

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Secession Documents: Georgia

Secession Documents: Georgia

Georgia was the fifth state to secede on January 19, 1861. It was one of the original seven states to declare the Confederate States of America on February 8, 1861. Georgia gives one of the longest explanations for its secession from the Union. 

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Secession Documents: Mississippi

Secession Documents: Mississippi

Mississippi was the second state to secede from the United States on January 9, 1861 and one of the states to declare the formation of the Confederacy on February 8, 1861. The state's declaration of secession provides one of the clearest connections between secession and slavery.

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Secession Documents: South Carolina

Secession Documents: South Carolina

South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union on December 20, 1860. Because they were the first to leave they needed to explain to the rest of the states and the world why they were dissolving the Union and defend the legality of secession. South Carolina's declaration of secession includes a defense of states’ rights as the foundation of the legality of secession as well as the grievances with the North that sparked that action.

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Secession Documents: Introduction

Secession Documents: Introduction

While secession and the lead up to the Civil War were very complex, conflict over slavery was certainly central to the South’s decision to leave the Union. This is evident from the Southern states’ own words as they issued the ordinances of secession and documents of explanation as they each left the United States to form the Confederacy.

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"In behalf of humanity:" Richard Etheridge, the U.S. Lifesaving Service, and Reconstruction

"In behalf of humanity:" Richard Etheridge, the U.S. Lifesaving Service, and Reconstruction

Within one hundred miles of Ft. Monroe, the catalyst for military emancipation under the command of Benjamin Butler, military operations along the coast of Virginia bled into North Carolina’s Outer Banks and had lasting implications for its seemingly small population.  Within this militarily and geographically dynamic area, Richard Etheridge would make a name for himself both as an advocate for Civil Rights and leader of the freedman’s population along the coast.

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A (Macabre) Family Affair: The Weavers and the Gettysburg Dead

A (Macabre) Family Affair: The Weavers and the Gettysburg Dead

In 1863, Samuel Weaver carefully exhumed thousands of Union bodies from Gettysburg battlefield for burial in the new National Cemetery. Several years later, his son would pick up his father's work to send Confederate burials south.

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Reforming a Nation, Saving the Union: the Problem of “Fallen” Women in Antebellum U.S. Culture

Reforming a Nation, Saving the Union: the Problem of “Fallen” Women in Antebellum U.S. Culture

The complicated role that women played in nineteenth-century American culture meant that the case of female crime was more complicated, and that despite the fact that many women were vocal and influential members of reform movements, their counterparts guilty of committing crimes were often left outside of the reformative process. Yet women played a unique role in the breakdown of the systems of control enforced prior to the Civil War, and consequently were responsible for challenging the normative barriers that endeavored to keep them on the margins of public life.

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Confederate Meccas: The Unexpected Legacy of the Civil War in East Tennessee

Confederate Meccas: The Unexpected Legacy of the Civil War in East Tennessee

So what is the legacy of the Civil War in East Tennessee? The short answer is, not a good one. War came to East Tennessee in the form of guerilla conflicts that harassed the lesser-developed portions of the United States in 1861.

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Roundtable: The Civil War's Most Influential Event

Roundtable:  The Civil War's Most Influential Event

In Civil Discourse's first ever roundtable question, we asked five of our writers a classic, yet undeniably important, question:  what event most influenced the outcome of the Civil War?  Our authors diverse answers (and non-answers!) may surprise you!

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Mental Stress in the Union Army

Mental Stress in the Union Army

The conditions and new experiences of the war were unsettling to the volunteer soldier, and they had to deal with them mentally as well as physically.  Some men adapted to the war better than others, but all were affected by what they saw, did, and felt.  As Argentinean writer José Narosky said, “In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.”  Becoming callous to the death and destruction of battle did not mean that soldiers were impervious to its effects.  Men had to overcome and reverse their cultural understandings of killing other men to be effective soldiers; for many men it was easier to die than to kill. 

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Turning the “Gate of Hell” into the “Gate of Heaven”: The Secret Andersonville Death Roll of Dorence Atwater

Turning the “Gate of Hell” into the “Gate of Heaven”: The Secret Andersonville Death Roll of Dorence Atwater

In late June, Clara received a note from one Dorence Atwater who requested a meeting with her concerning information he had about approximately 13,000 of the missing men she was looking for.  Intrigued, Clara visited Atwater at his Washington hotel.  Atwater had enlisted at the beginning of the war, even though he was only 16.  Captured after the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, he was first imprisoned at Belle Isle and then transferred to Andersonville when it opened in February 1864.  Impressed by Atwater’s superior penmanship, the commander of Andersonville, General John H. Winder, assigned him to the surgeon’s office with orders to keep an official record of all union prisoners who died and were buried there.  The Confederates promised they would turn the roll over to the Union government after the war, but Atwater suspected their sincerity as he experienced the cruelty of the prison and recorded over 100 deaths per day.

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The Red Badge of Courage and the 124th NY

The Red Badge of Courage and the 124th NY

Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage borders between classic literature and Civil War battle narrative.  In his unique style, he writes stories of battle without specifying names.  In The Red Badge of Courage most characters are not distinguished by name, nor does Crane specify what part of the battlefield, what troops, or what actions he is writing about.  He purposely avoids using real characters and creates a fictional regiment (the 304th New York Infantry) in order to focus the audience’s attention on the experience of the protagonist, Private Henry Fleming, and his comrades as they face their first battle.  The purpose of the books was to engage readers in the chaos, emotion, and uncertainty of battle and the experiences of a common soldier within the maelstrom.

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Could Slavery Have Died a Peaceful Death?

Could Slavery Have Died a Peaceful Death?

On January 31, 1865, the United States Congress narrowly passed an amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery; that this was accomplished thanks to the American Civil War is undeniable. That destroying slavery became a primary goal of the Civil War, however, was not initially expected. Many northerners were extremely reluctant to abolish the institution. Only through the actions of enslaved men and women, a small group of abolitionists, and the interaction of U.S. soldiers with the brutal institution was the North compelled to focus on slavery. Which begs the question: Could slavery have been abolished without the Civil War?

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