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Date

5-13-2020

Description

Amid today's controversy over Confederate monuments, the distinction between the history and historical memory (how we remember and talk about past events) has increasingly blurred. The Union may have won the Civil War, but the Confederacy won the war of historical memory. As much ink has been spilled on the topic of Confederate monuments, surprisingly little information exists about monuments outside the South. Cataloguing the style, location, date, and allegiances of Civil War monuments provides an objective way to compare Union and Confederate shifts in historical memory. Charting trends in Civil War monuments also reveals changes in how people remember the war. While Union memory has remained fairly consistent since 1865, the decreasing frequency of monuments since the 20th century indicates the Civil War's hold on Northern consciousness has waned considerably. Conversely, Confederate memory has changed over generations, indicated both by monuments' inscriptions and dedication speeches. The recent revival in Confederate monuments erected in the last 25 years suggests Confederate memory has become more overtly present in Southern culture. The power of historical memory is that it colors our understanding of historical events to suit our current emotional connections and values. The Lost Cause movement has evolved from a boldface defense of slavery, to a denial of the peculiar institutions' role in the war at all, to the modern iteration that to remove any Confederate monuments is to erase history itself. The American symbol war is not about history, but the right to interpret it how we please.

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May 13th, 12:00 AM

The American Symbol War: A Catalogue of Civil War Monuments

Amid today's controversy over Confederate monuments, the distinction between the history and historical memory (how we remember and talk about past events) has increasingly blurred. The Union may have won the Civil War, but the Confederacy won the war of historical memory. As much ink has been spilled on the topic of Confederate monuments, surprisingly little information exists about monuments outside the South. Cataloguing the style, location, date, and allegiances of Civil War monuments provides an objective way to compare Union and Confederate shifts in historical memory. Charting trends in Civil War monuments also reveals changes in how people remember the war. While Union memory has remained fairly consistent since 1865, the decreasing frequency of monuments since the 20th century indicates the Civil War's hold on Northern consciousness has waned considerably. Conversely, Confederate memory has changed over generations, indicated both by monuments' inscriptions and dedication speeches. The recent revival in Confederate monuments erected in the last 25 years suggests Confederate memory has become more overtly present in Southern culture. The power of historical memory is that it colors our understanding of historical events to suit our current emotional connections and values. The Lost Cause movement has evolved from a boldface defense of slavery, to a denial of the peculiar institutions' role in the war at all, to the modern iteration that to remove any Confederate monuments is to erase history itself. The American symbol war is not about history, but the right to interpret it how we please.