Civil War Talk Radio: October 30, 2009

by Brett Schulte on October 30, 2009 · 1 comment

Air Date: 103009
Subject: The Beginnings of Lost Cause Romanticism: The Ladies’ Memorial Associations of the South
Book: Burying the Dead but Not the Past: Ladies’ Memorial Associations and the Lost Cause
Guest: Dr. Caroline E. Janney

Summary: Dr. Caroline Janney discusses the first organizations to characterize the Confederate cause as a noble one.

Brett’s Summary: Dr. Janney, a professor at Purdue University, is this week’s guest on Civil War Talk Radio.  She is a native Virginian, and is now in her fourth year at Purdue.  She teaches a Civil War Memory class using films, novels, monuments, organizations, and other items to study the historiography of the Civil War.  Gary Gallagher was mentioned as an influence on Dr. Janney’s class.  She was an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, but she did not take any of Gallagher’s classes.  She was taken to many Civil War battlefields as a child, especially by her World War II veteran grandfather.

BuryingTheDeadButNotThePastCarolinaEJanneyGerry asked Professor Janney if the stereotype of over 50, balding, bearded, white, overweight men as Civil War buffs is accurate.  While she agreed to some extent, she did point out that many of here students of both sexes are interested in the war in one way or another.  Gerry then asked about her experiences with preconceptions about the Civil War in different regions of the country.  She said in some ways there were different preconceptions, but that she found that people in Virginia are much more aware of where events happened and have a more personal connection to the Civil War than in the North.

Southern women definitely helped the Confederate war effort in conventional ways, but their faith in the Confederate cause was incredibly strong, even after the Confederates had lost the Civil War.  It was so strong, in fact, that Janney believes modern audiences have a hard time grasping just how devoted these women were.  The end of the first segment saw a brief discussion of how this devotion lasted long after the war and throughout the entire 19th Century, contradicting what some other authors have argued.

Janney argues that Southern women did not lose their devotion to the cause after the war ended.  Instead, Ladies’ Memorial Associations started to spring up, in Winchester, Virginia’s case immediately after the war, with a widespread movement underway by the spring of 1866.  Upper and middle class women organized these groups to provide proper burials for Confederate soldiers in lieu of the former Confederate government.  The U.S. government was providing for proper burials of Federal soldiers at the same time.  However, Confederate soldiers were completely ignored.  As a response, the Ladies’ Memorials Associations were formed.  The women hired men to reinter Confederate soldiers in Confederate cemeteries, and they also had wreath laying ceremonies to properly honor these fallen soldiers, resulting in Confederate Memorial Day as well.  Many of these women did not lose a male relative during the war, so they were not mourning a person so much as the loss of the Confederate nation.  In other words, these associations appeared to be as much political as it was personal for many of these women.  Women and children were heavily involved, and Gerry pointed out that this minimized the exposure to Northern criticism due to Victorian culture.  Rather than just laying wreaths, Professor Janney said, there were usually processions to the cemetery which included former Confederate soldiers who wore their uniforms without insignia.  Oftentimes speeches by former Confederates were a major portion of the proceedings.  These speeches were in many cases an opportunity to vent against the Federal government’s Reconstruction policies.  It looked like a military parade and spectacle, but the newspapers were careful to note that these events were organized by women.  Professor Janney believes these women were not being used by their men, but instead were completely on board with the proceedings and realized what these events were really about.

CarolineEJanneyNorthern politicians and newspapers saw these events as treasonable activities, and cried out for these events to stop.  By the Fall of 1866 sanctions on these events began to cut down on these activities by the Federal government.  By 1870, when Virginia was readmitted to the Union, Southern men became more active in the memorial movement.  Janney points to the death of Robert E. Lee as a rallying event for the Confederate men to properly commemorate the former Confederacy.  Former soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia, in the October of 1870, formed two competing organizations which eventually merged into one to commemorate the Confederacy.  The Southern Historical Society was also formed during this time.  Jubal Early was the dominant figure in these movements.  He wanted Southern men to lead the commemoration efforts.  Some Southern women, including Thomas Jefferson’s granddaughter, were reluctant to give up the lead in these memorial movements.  As a result, a “gender dispute” arose in the mid-1870s among former Confederates as to who should lead the way.

In 1886, the Hollywood Memorial Association, a ladies group, tried to take back the lead from Confederate men in celebrating Confederate Memorial Day.  These women believed they should control the events on this day.  Interestingly, the Ladies’ Memorial Associations were not very big into reconciliation with the North.  Male Confederate groups were much more likely to reconcile with their former Northern enemies.  She points out the differences between reunion and reconciliation.  Northern and Southern men were able to reconcile to some extent in postwar encampments, but the women of both sides were not able to do this in the same way.  Southern women, Janney says, did not feel that Northern women had experienced the war to the same extent as they had.  There were major differences in the way Union and Confederate veterans commemorated their women.  Confederate veterans were much more willing to commemorate the suffering of their women during the war.  The only memorials to Union women tend to focus on nurses, and not women on the home front.

The Ladies’ Memorial Associations finally lost steam with the forming of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the 1890s.  The UDC was a national organization rather than a local one and gained popularity in a hurry.  Younger women tended to join the UDC rather than the Ladies’ Memorial Associations.  The UDC wanted to reinforce notions of White supremacy in the form of teaching using textbooks and pamphlets, while the LMA members simply took this for granted.  By 1915, the UDC had completely eclipsed the Ladies’ Memorial Associations.

Civil War Talk Radio airs most Fridays at 12 PM Pacific on World Talk Radio Studio A. Host Gerry Prokopowicz, the History Chair at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, interviews a guest each week and discusses their interest in the Civil War. Most interviews center around a book or books if the guest is an author. Other guests over the years have included public historians such as park rangers and museum curators, wargamers, bloggers, and even a member of an American Civil War Round Table located in London, England.

In this series of blog entries, I will be posting air dates, subjects, and guests, and if I have time, I’ll provide a brief summary of the program. You can find all of the past episodes I’ve entered into the blog by clicking on the Civil War Talk Radio category. Each program should appear either on or near the date it was first broadcast.

Check out more summaries of Civil War Talk Radio at TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog.

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