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Civil War Memories

Contesting the Past in the United States since 1865

Robert J. Cook

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Why has the Civil War continued to influence American life so profoundly?

Winner of the Book Prize in American Studies of the British Association of American Studies

At a cost of at least 800,000 lives, the Civil War preserved the Union, aborted the breakaway Confederacy, and liberated a race of slaves. Civil War Memories is the first comprehensive account of how and why Americans have selectively remembered, and forgotten, this watershed conflict since its conclusion in 1865. Drawing on an array of textual and visual sources as well as a wide range of modern scholarship on Civil War memory...

Why has the Civil War continued to influence American life so profoundly?

Winner of the Book Prize in American Studies of the British Association of American Studies

At a cost of at least 800,000 lives, the Civil War preserved the Union, aborted the breakaway Confederacy, and liberated a race of slaves. Civil War Memories is the first comprehensive account of how and why Americans have selectively remembered, and forgotten, this watershed conflict since its conclusion in 1865. Drawing on an array of textual and visual sources as well as a wide range of modern scholarship on Civil War memory, Robert J. Cook charts the construction of four dominant narratives by the ordinary men and women, as well as the statesmen and generals, who lived through the struggle and its tumultuous aftermath.

Part One explains why the Yankee victors’ memory of the "War of the Rebellion" drove political conflict into the 1890s, then waned with the passing of the soldiers who had saved the republic. It also touches on the leading role southern white women played in the development of the racially segregated South’s "Lost Cause"; explores why, by the beginning of the twentieth century, the majority of Americans had embraced a powerful reconciliatory memory of the Civil War; and details the failed efforts to connect an emancipationist reading of the conflict to the fading cause of civil rights.

Part Two demonstrates the Civil War’s capacity to thrill twentieth-century Americans in movies such as The Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind. It also reveals the war’s vital connection to the black freedom struggle in the modern era. Finally, Cook argues that the massacre of African American parishioners in Charleston in June 2015 highlighted the continuing relevance of the Civil War by triggering intense nationwide controversy over the place of Confederate symbols in the United States.

Written in vigorous prose for a wide audience and designed to inform popular debate on the relevance of the Civil War to the racial politics of modern America, Civil War Memories is required reading for informed Americans today.

Reviews

Reviews

The book is full of interesting anecdotes that illustrate the many skirmishes between the competing narratives

Cook's work has the advantage of covering the entirety of post-Civil War history, making his the most comprehensive entry in this scholarly debate... His consistent attention to electoral politics across time sets his work apart from that of many other authors and makes the book well worth reading.

Civil War Memories offers a comprehensive treatment of the memory of the nation's most enduring and contested event. In offering a study of Civil War memory since 1865, Cook underscores that memories of the war have never been monolithic. They have always been debated, politicized, and maligned. His attention to the war's differing memories in the modern era reminds us how the Civil War continues to resonate within our own "mystic chords of memory."

In Civil War Memories: Contesting the Past in the United States since 1865, Robert J. Cook outlines the fight over the memory of the Civil War since Appomattox. It is a tightly argued work that blends adept synthesis with primary source research, and Cook offers an absorbing study of the Civil War's long memory and, implicitly, a meditation on the ways in which various entities "marshal the past so powerfully in the service of the present."

Cook makes clear the powerful ways that the reverberations of the Civil War still resonate within American political culture. A compelling story told by a uniquely qualified expert in southern history and civil rights.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
288
ISBN
9781421423494
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Part I
1. A Fractured Country and Its Fractured Memories
2. The Resurgent South and Its Lost Cause
3. Remembering the Victors' War in the Gilded Age
4. The Rocky Road to

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Part I
1. A Fractured Country and Its Fractured Memories
2. The Resurgent South and Its Lost Cause
3. Remembering the Victors' War in the Gilded Age
4. The Rocky Road to Sectional Reconciliation
Part II
5. Distant Drums in an Age of Global Warfare
6. Centennial Blues
7. Afterlife
Conclusion
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Robert J. Cook

Robert J. Cook is a professor of American history at the University of Sussex and author of Civil War Senator: William Pitt Fessenden and the Fight to Save the American Republic.