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Lecture 18: Losing the Peace: Veterans, the Lost Cause and Late 19th Century Reconciliation

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Lecture 18

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Lecture 18: Losing the Peace: Veterans, the Lost Cause and Late 19th Century Reconciliation

  1. 1. Veterans, the Lost Cause, and Late- Nineteenth Century Reconciliation Frances M. Clarke
  2. 2. This is Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt in 1861 at age 4. He’s wearing a “Zouaves” uniform – a type of military garb common to NY Regiments Following a sickly childhood, he famously remade himself as a hunter/adventurer/soldier and politician. After leading the so- called “Rough Riders” in the Spanish-American War of 1898, he served as U.S. President. (Although he liked to kill things, btw, you can thank TR for Yosemite and a host of other national parks, as well as for the U.S. Forest Service).
  3. 3. These images depict Union and Confederate Veterans at the 50th Reunion of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1913 By this time, thousands of squares across America featured monuments like this one dedicated to honoring the memory of white male heroism in the Civil War Why does it take so long for Union veterans to start
  4. 4. Postwar, economic downturn in the Nth. Maimed soldiers selling pamphlets like this one were a regular sight. As you might imagine, the idea of limbless veterans reduced to begging in the street helped rouse public sympathy for the creation of soldiers’ homes.
  5. 5. The Growth of Soldiers’ Homes Republican administrations began passing measures from 1866 onward directed toward veterans to court their votes: • Preferences in govt jobs • Pensions for disabled soldiers • Federal system of homes But there was a lot of handwringing on this issue of homes. Will this lead to dependency? Will they take away veterans’ self-respect?
  6. 6. Conservatory and garden, Central Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, circa 1876. And the Central Branch Hospital c. 1880s Homes are created as rural idylls, lavishly appointed.
  7. 7. Poster announcing picnic excursion to Central Branch, 1875 Soldiers’ homes showcased how well the nation cared for its veterans By the late 19th century they’d became major tourist attractions, offering beautifully landscaped gardens, and the spectacle of “2000 soldiers”
  8. 8. Dining Room and library at the NHDVS, 1880s Within the homes, however, military forms were maintained —underscoring the notion that the inmates were worthy heroes.
  9. 9. Veterans organizations like the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) were miniscule in the 60s and 70s (only around 25,000 veterans were in such groups) In the 1880s, at the same time as soldiers’ homes expanded, so did membership in veterans’ organizations (peaking at 500,000 million in the 1890s) Like Soldiers’ Homes, GAR Posts like this one had exceptional facilities. And they hosted semi-annual encampments, put on theatricals etc. that linked vets
  10. 10. CW pensions were initially modest and linked to service. Only 2% of vets received a pension in 1866. By 1879, lobbying led to an act that gave retrospective payments to current and new applicants. As a result, pension rolls doubled in 1880s and pension laws grew inc. generous.
  11. 11. The last few decades of the 19th century were characterized by: - Tremendous income inequality - Constant scandals over economic and political corruption- Massive consolidation and expansion of industry; - A series of devastating depressions (esp in 1873 & 1893) - violent class conflict (esp bw government/business and workers, with 37,000 strikes in the two decades after 1880, many ending in bloodshed) - Growing calls for women’s suffrage; - unprecedented immigration (20 million immigrants arriving bw 1880-1920)
  12. 12. Influenced by the spread of Social Darwinism, many former CW veterans in the late 19th c embraced a version of the war as a noble struggle of one group of brave men against another The willingness to participate in war came to be widely celebrated as proof of American manhood. The GAR lobbied to teach drill in schools; it set up visiting programs and instituted a host of new patriotic rituals in schools, such as the pledge of allegiance and flying the flag.
  13. 13. The Lost Cause Myth contains four elements: 1. a vision of what was supposedly lost 2. A denial of slavery’s role in the war 3. An interpretation of why the Confederacy lost. 4. An image of Reconstruction and white southern victimhood Institutional support for the LC myth included churches, Memorial Organizations, the Southern Historical Society, and Veterans organizations.
  14. 14. Local veterans organizations combined to form The United Confederate Veterans (UCV) in 1889. Its mission was similar to that of the GAR: lobby for the vet’s pensions; celebrate veterans’ service; and organize social events like reunions and gatherings. This image depicts the Annual UCV
  15. 15. The most powerful group of Confederate apologists, however was the United Daughters of the Confederacy • Began in 1894, open to anyone who could trace ancestry to a confederate veteran (so an all- white organization) • Worked to raise money to build monuments, endow scholarships, rewrite textbooks, decorate graves etc.
  16. 16. In 1889, Libby prison was shipped to Chicago, surrounded by elaborate pseudo-medieval castle walls and opened as a tourist attraction. When tourism declined in the 20th c. it was turned into a coliseum to stage rock shows, then later demolished in 1982
  17. 17. This 1890s cartoon shows the Populist candidate for president (William Jennings Bryan) threatening to destroy the Democratic Party Populism was a third party movement that began in the late 19th century among poor farmers, resentful of political and economic corruption. The most frightening aspect of Populism for elites was the way some populist leaders talked about the need to bring poor black and white workers together and make common cause with labor unions to pass economic measures that benefited workers.
  18. 18. According to Southern historians like C. Van Woodward, the lost cause myth helped reconcile white Southerners to economic development. During the worst labor strife in US history, this myth celebrated unity, duty, loyalty and heroism Proponents of the New South essentially bought veterans off—first by celebrating them (for instance, in this 75 ft monument in Raleigh, NC, build in 1895), then by giving them pensions
  19. 19. Confederate Soldiers’ Homes & Pensions • Funded by states and demanded that veterans maintain their heroic role • As a result of lobbying by groups like UDC, Confederate soldiers’ pensions ballooned in the 1880s and 90s in many states (in 1908, for eg. Confederate veterans’ pensions made up 40% of the budget) • These pensions were funded by property taxes, so black veterans – who mostly lived in the South – were being taxed to support the Lost Cause. • This was a welfare program at the expense of poor black residents.
  20. 20. Birth of a Nation • Southern family (Camerons), and Northern family (Stonemans). All is happy; slaves are jovial and lightly worked. • Wartime romance between brothers/sisters in both families during the war. • But black troops destroy Cameron home, and the youngest Cameron and Stoneman brothers kill each other in battle • Ben Cameron returns to a devastated South. • Austin Stoneman, a radical Republican senator, has foisted black rule onto the South, (along with his black mistress and ‘mulatto’ protégé, Silas Lynch)
  21. 21. Silas Lynch eventually tries to force Elsie Stoneman to marry him. When she refuses, he kidnaps her. Ben Cameron then creates the KKK to save Elsie, which he does, in the nick of time. In the original, unedited version, Klan members castrated Silas Lynch. The final scene showed African Americans being sent back to Africa, above quotes from Lincoln sanctioning colonization The film helped launch the second KKK,
  22. 22. D. W. Griffiths, Birth of a Nation (1915) In this still from Griffiths’ film, black legislators are shown as ignorant and incapable of rule – lounging around with their bare feet on the desks and stuffing themselves with fried chicken.
  23. 23. The KKK riding to the rescue of Lillian Gish (Elsie Stoneman), who is about to be raped by Silas Lynch in the original, unedited version, the KKK castrated Silas Lynch. The film ended with quotes from Lincoln sanctioning colonization and with a scene of black people being sent back to Africa.
  24. 24. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind Published in 1936, set in Georgia and Atlanta during the CW. The title refers to the Old South. Slaves are loyal house servants, who stay with their owners even after the emancipation proclamationThe novel depicts Scarlett meditating on her slaves: “There were qualities of loyalty and tirelessness and love in them that no strain could break, no money could buy.” Mitchell’s book owed a great deal to Thomas Dixon. In letters to him, she said “I was practically raised on your books, and love them very much.”
  25. 25. “Aided by the unscrupulous adventurers who operated the Freedman’s Bureau and urged on by a fervor of Northern hatred almost religious in its fanaticism, the former field hands found themselves suddenly elevated to the seats of the mighty. There they conducted themselves as creatures of small intelligence might naturally be expected to do. Like monkeys or small children turned loose among treasured objects whose value is beyond their comprehension, they ran wild – either from perverse pleasure in destruction or simply because of their ignorance.” Mitchell’s interpretation of Reconstruction:

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