'That Mystic Cloud': Civil War Memory in the Tennessee Heartland, 1865-1920
Harcourt, Edward John
This dissertation explores the formation of Civil War memory through a social history of remembering within the Middle Tennessee heartland in the sixty-five years after the war. I tell the story of essentially two competing conceptions of the past—a Union-Emancipationist memory, rooted mainly in the experiences of African Americans, and a Confederate-Reconciliationist tradition championed by whites—and analyze efforts by these groups to locate, articulate, sustain, champion, transfer, and institutionalize memories of the war years. Attention to local circumstances permits me to delineate the process of social memory formation and to detail the ways in which social memories of particular groups either failed to establish themselves in regional consciousness or were championed and institutionalized as a collective memory. By 1890, a Confederate revivalism, which accompanied a resurgence in the politics of white supremacy, dominated cultural representations of the past within the region. I feature the role of what I term “memory entrepreneurs,” individuals and groups—such as the United Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy—who worked to attach broad social memories to the identity needs of social and political groups. By the end of the study—in 1920—a Confederate-Reconciliationist memory is housed in the region’s libraries and archives, funded by State government, taught in the region’s colleges and universities, and inscribed upon the landscape in countless memorials and shrines to the Confederate cause. By contrast, constituencies of Union-Emancipationist memory lose their cohesiveness and lack the resources to combat the consolidation of a Confederate memory cult.