Remapping the Civil War: New Takes on Ethnicity, Chronology, and Geography

AHA Session 172
Society of Civil War Historians 2
Saturday, January 9, 2016: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Salon C (Hilton Atlanta, Second Floor)
Ari Kelman, Pennsylvania State University
True Life: Iím a Confederate Colonist in Emperor Maximilianís Court
Matthew C. Hulbert, Kentucky Historical Society
Looking at the Civil War from Apache Pass
Megan Kate Nelson, independent scholar

Session Abstract

Mainstream narratives of the American Civil War typically begin in 1861. They unfold on the eastern killing fields of Virginia, Georgia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. They end in 1865 with the Confederacy defunct, Lincoln assassinated or soon-to-be, and Reconstruction taking form.  This panel suggests, however, that we remap the Civil War, turning our attention to unexplored moments and places. With this in mind, Megan Kate Nelson examines how the broadest meanings of the war evolve when observed through the eyes of an Apache warrior fighting against the Union armies of the West in 1862; Gregory P. Downs focuses on how our understandings of Reconstruction and Emancipation are transformed when the Confederate surrenders of 1865 are recast as a midpoint rather than a conclusion to wartime violence; and, Matthew C. Hulbert evaluates whether the Confederate experiment could survive in spite of total military defeat via international colonization. Collectively, these papers reconsider what constitutes “Civil War History” by extending the duration of violence, increasing the number of non-white combatants, and prompting us to rethink the meaning of Confederate citizenship and the consequences of defeat. These papers force us to raise old questions and pose new answers: Who fought the war and why? Where was the war fought? What was “the war in the West” and how much did it really influence the conflict’s broader outcome? How and where did the war end for the defeated South? And is it possible that the war never did end for some diehard Confederates? Ultimately, this panel represents a change in our angle of historical vision, and disrupts the perspectives through which the war has traditionally been analyzed and narrated.

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