Academic journal article The Historian

Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the Limits of Reconciliation

Academic journal article The Historian

Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the Limits of Reconciliation

Article excerpt

Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the Limits of Reconciliation. By Caroline E. Janney. (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2013. Pp. xii, 451. $35.00.)

In 2001, David Blight's Race and Reunion pioneered the field of Civil War memory, establishing one of the most robust subfields in Civil War scholarship in recent years. Blight argued that by the fiftieth anniversary of Gettysburg in 1913, white Americans had chosen to embrace a memory of the Civil War that emphasized reunion and sectional reconciliation, heralding the bravery of soldiers on both sides while marginalizing the role of race and slavery. In the dozen years since the publication of Race and Reunion, many scholars have built upon and challenged Blight's findings, including excellent work by John Neff, Karen Cox, and William Blair, among others. Caroline Janney's Remembering the Civil War presents the most robust and sustained challenge to Blight's study.

Janney argues that although reunion came easily, reconciliation did not. Former soldiers on both sides continued to harbor hostility and distrust for decades. For Union soldiers, political reunion with the former Confederacy was a fundamental component of their cause. In championing reunion, they did not necessarily forgive the Confederates for their secession and four bloody years of combat. Contrary to Blight, Janney argues that the destruction of slavery was a key component of Unionist memory. …

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