HIST 471A3: Remembering the American Civil War

Jeffrey McClurken

Office Hours:  MW, 9:00-11; TR, 1:30-2:30, or by appt

Course Description

This course explores the multiple (and often contested) meanings of the American Civil War.  It begins with the wartime struggles to define the conflict, and continues to the present, with the continuing interest in the war in popular and scholarly arenas.  The course will explore the many perspectives and meanings through a variety of sources, including memoirs, histories (both academic and popular), memorials, commemorations, reenactments, national parks, and popular culture.

Departmental Course Goals and Objectives

This course will help students build upon a range of skills, including the ability to make discipline-specific oral presentations to groups; the ability to utilize technological resources in research, data analysis, and presentation; the ability to communicate in a group setting; and the ability to read critically primary sources and modern authorities.  This course also counts in the History major.

Course Requirements

This class requires a 7-10-page literature review, online writing, and a short presentation, but will largely be structured around class discussions of readings. Students are expected to attend all classes, read all assigned texts, post regularly to the blog and the wiki, participate in class, and help lead two weeks of class discussions.  [Papers are collected at the start of class on the day they are due.  Papers are considered late if turned in anytime after they have been collected.  Late papers will be penalized one full letter grade or, after 24 hours, not accepted.]


In the Bookstore

Blight, David. Race & Reunion.  (0-674-00819-7)

Coski, John. The Confederate Battle Flag. (067401983-0)

Desjardin, Thomas. These Honored Dead. (0-306-81382-3)

Fahs & Waugh, eds. The Memory of the Civil War in American Culture. (0-8078-5572-3)

Ferguson, Andrew. Land of Lincoln.  (978-0-8021-4361-7)

Horowitz, Tony. Confederates in the Attic.  (067975833X)

Shackel, Paul. Memory in Black and White.  (978-0-7591-0263-7)

Discussions and Reading Questions

Students are expected to attend all classes having read the material and having prepared 2-3 questions or debate topics.  The questions—posted to by 6 AM (at the latest) on class days—should be aimed at provoking class discussions on the reading.  [Since these are intended to help prepare you for class discussion, late questions will not be accepted.]

Class participation includes posting these questions and then actively participating in these daily discussions.[1] Each of you will also be expected to co-lead group discussion with another person (or persons) during two weeks.  I will be happy to meet with these leaders ahead of time to talk about how to facilitate discussion for their particular week.

Weekly Resource Blog Posts

Create a new (or use a preexisting) UMWblog by Thursday, January 13.  Add your blog using the Add Link Sidebar at All semester, once a week (by Thursday), post a link to a digital resource, image, clip, article, document, blog, etc., and write a brief (2-4 sentence) post summarizing it and its relevance to the course or your project.  These resources should be either on the theme of the week’s class discussion or about your paper topic.  In addition to helping you do research on your project, this work will also create a set of resources related to the memory of the Civil War online that we’ll use later in the semester.  Tag each of those posts with CWMemory2011.

Civil War Movie Review

During week 11, we’ll be discussing movies about the Civil War.  By the start of Spring Break, pick a movie from this list, keeping in mind that you need to be able to find a copy of it to watch on your own.  [Everyone will need to have a different film, so you may want to pick yours earlier than Spring Break.]  Before class on March 29, write a 300-500 word blog post summarizing your film and explaining how it fits into our understanding of the history and memory of the Civil War.

Literature Review Assignment

You must write an original 7-10-page literature review on a particular aspect or topic of the history and memory of the American Civil War.  Topics of discussion could include—but are not necessarily limited to—memorial organizations, historical institutions, particular events related to the memory of the war, Civil War veterans organizations, museum exhibits or treatments of the Civil War, reenactor groups, debates over specific Civil War related issues, or presentations at particular national or state historical parks.  However, unlike a typical literature review, which comes up with a thesis about the shape, development, or evolution of scholarly writings about a topic, your literature review will be based on a wide variety of sources on your topic, including academic scholarship, popular writings, physical artifacts, ephemera of material culture, images, videos, parks, museums, monuments, and other items you talk to me about.   Your paper should contextualize your topic within the ideas and themes of the history and memory of the American Civil War as discussed in this seminar.  You must cite all facts, images, ideas, paraphrasing, and quotes, in footnotes (or endnotes), using either Turabian (7th edition) or the Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition).

1) A broad paper topic and citations of eight significant sources are due by the start of class on Thursday, January 27 for my approval.  [Failure to successfully complete this assignment on time will result in a full letter grade off of your research paper grade.]

2) A one-page proposal is due Tuesday, February 15 at the start of class.  It should briefly outline a preliminary thesis and the topics likely to be discussed, and should describe sources sufficient to write a major research paper.  It should also include an annotated bibliography including at least fifteen sources [Worth 5% of overall class grade.]

3) Finally, the 7-10-page paper (double spaced with standard 1-inch margins, 12-point font) is due at the start of class on Thursday, March 17. [Worth 25% of overall class grade.]

Papers will be graded on content (including originality and quality and use of evidence), grammar, and proper formatting (including notes and bibliography).

OPTIONAL ASSIGNMENT – If you wish, you may create a significant research-based web site or a documentary short (instead of writing the literature review) using the sources you’ve found.  All other deadlines and assignments apply, but there will be extra-credit given for this choice.  If you’re interested, talk to me as soon as possible.  You must commit to doing a web site or documentary short by February 15, or I’ll assume you’re doing the written assignment.

Oral Presentation

At the end of the semester (either in the last week of class or during the exam period) everyone will make a four to five-minute presentation summarizing her or his project and findings. [Worth 15% of final grade.]

Final Grades

Final grades will be determined based on class participation (including two weeks of co-leading discussion) (40%), on performance on the proposal (5%) and literature review (25%), on performance on the resource blog posts (10%), on the Civil War movie review (5%), and on the quality of the four-to-five minute presentation on research (15%).  [Unsatisfactory mid-semester reports will be reported for anyone with a grade of D+ or below at that time.]  Completion of all assignments is required to pass the class.

Grading Scale

A Unusual Excellence 93 or higher=A; 90-92=A-
B Distinctly Above Average 87-89=B+; 83-86=B; 80-82=B-
C Average Quality 77-79=C+; 73-76=C; 70-72=C-
D Below Average Quality 67-69=D+; 60-66=D
F Failure, No Credit 0-59=F


The Office of Disability Resources has been designated by the University as the primary office to guide, counsel, and assist students with disabilities. If you receive services through the Office of Disability Resources and require accommodations for this class, make an appointment with me as soon as possible to discuss your approved accommodation needs. Bring your accommodation letter with you to the appointment. I will hold any information you share with me in strictest confidence unless you give me permission to do otherwise. If you have not made contact with the Office of Disability Resources (540-654-1266) and need accommodations, I will be happy to refer you. The office will require appropriate documentation of disability.

Honor Code

I believe in the Honor Code as an essential, positive component of the Mary Washington experience.  You should know that if you cheat or plagiarize in this class, you will fail, and I will take you to the Honor Council, so do not do it.  On the other hand, I also believe that having friends or family read and comment on your writing can be extremely helpful and falls within the bounds of the Honor Code (assuming the writing itself remains yours).  If you have questions about these issues, then you should talk to me sooner rather than later.

Topics & Readings  — See for more on all sources.

Week 1 – The Relationship of History and Memory

Jan. 11 — Introduction

Jan. 13 — Blight, Race and Reunion, Title page through 5; Fahs and Waugh, The Memory of the Civil War in American Culture, 1-4; David Thelen, “Memory and American History,” Journal of American History, 75 (March 1989): 1117-29; Thomas Brown, The Public Art of Civil War Commemoration, 1-14.

Part I – The Civil War in the Nineteenth Century

Week 2 – The War Itself

Jan. 18Defining the War

—   Blight, Race and Reunion, 6, 12-30; McPherson, What They Fought For, Title page-69; Remembering Slavery, 209-262.

Jan. 20Early Reconstruction

—   Blight, Race and Reunion, 31-63; Remembering Slavery, 262-277; Drew Faust, Wars within a War, 184-201.

Paper topic & citations of eight significant sources due by start of class on Thursday, Jan. 27.

Week 3

Jan. 25 — Late Reconstruction, Southern White Violence, and the End of Reconstruction

— Reading – Blight, Race and Reunion, 98-139; Fahs and Waugh, “Anna Dickenson,” 157-179; Allan Trelease, White Terror: The Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy and Southern Reconstruction, xv-xlviii. [Trelease’s piece was written in 1971, so some of the terminology may seem dated.]

Jan. 27 Memorializing the Fallen—Part One & Soldiers’ First Attempts to Remember the War

— Reading – Blight, Race and Reunion, 64-97, 140-170

— Paper topic and citations due.

Week 4 – Memorializing the Fallen—Part Two

Feb. 1Women and Monuments

—   Reading —  Whites, Civil War as a Crisis in Gender, 160-224

Feb. 3Representing the War in Public Spaces

—   Reading – Shackel, Memory in Black and White, 51-143

Week 5 – Rise of the “Lost Cause” and Northern Versions of the War in the Late Nineteenth Century

Feb. 8 — Blight, Race and Reunion, 171-210, 255-299

Feb. 10 Fahs and Waugh, The Memory of the Civil War, 5-38, 64-78, 79-93, 130-156, (Waugh, McPherson, Fahs and Brown articles).

One-page paper proposal (plus annotated bibliography) due Tuesday, February 15 at the start of class.

Week 6 — The Literature of Reunion & Its Challengers around the Turn of the Century

Feb. 15Blight, Race and Reunion, 211-254, 300-337; Frederick Douglass, 1882, “We Must Not Abandon the Observation of Decoration Day”; W.E.B. Du Bois, 1890, “Jefferson Davis as a Representative of Civilization.”

Proposal due with bibliography at start of class

Feb. 17 Fahs and Waugh, The Memory of the Civil War, 180-212

— Discussion of the 1913 Gettysburg Reunion – Blight, Race and Reunion, 6-12; Woodrow Wilson’s Speech at Gettysburg, 1913, 20-22.

— Summing up “Fifty Years of Freedom & Reunion” – Blight, Race and Reunion, 338-397

Part II – Twentieth-Century Conflicts over the Meanings of the Civil War

Week 7 — Twentieth-Century Contested Images of the Civil War—Part One: Lincoln (& Lee)

Feb. 22Cullen, The Civil War in Popular Culture, 29-64; Fahs and Waugh, The Memory of the Civil War, (Gallagher article), 39-63; Savage, 129-161.

Feb. 24 — Ferguson, Land of Lincoln, Preface-274.  [Lots of reading, but non-academic.]


Research paper due at the beginning of class on Thursday, March 17

Week 8 – Twentieth-Century Contested Images of the Civil War—Part Two: Confederate Battle Flag

Mar. 8 —– Coski, The Confederate Battle Flag, Preface-201.

Mar. 10 —– Coski, 202-307.

Week 9 – Historiographical Changes: Rewriting the Civil War with Race and Gender

Mar. 15 — Fahs and Waugh, The Memory of the Civil War, (LeeAnn Whites and Jon Wiener articles), 213-257; Shackel, Memory in Black and White, 11-19; Ed Ayers, “Worrying About the Civil War,” 1-31.

Mar. 17 — McPherson and Cooper, Writing the Civil War, 1-7, 8-35, 81-95, 201-227, 228-240, 241-260.

Research paper due at start of class

Week 10 – Remembering Battles: A Case Study of National Parks, Monuments, & Stories

Mar. 22 — Desjardins, These Honored Dead, Intro-206.

— Final Presentation schedule to be determined by lottery at March 22 class meeting

Mar. 24No Class –Watch your movies

Week 11 – Movies and the Civil War

Mar. 29 — Bruce Chadwick, The Reel Civil War, 96-150; Cullen, Chapter 3 (GWTW); Gallagher, Wars within A War, 157-183.

— Movie blog post due – 300-500 words summarizing your film and explaining how it fits into our understanding of the history and memory of the Civil War.

Mar. 31 — Cullen, Chapter 5 (Glory); Gallagher, Lee and His Generals, 245-263

Week 12 – Public Nostalgia and the Civil War: Reenactors, National Parks and Civil Wargasms

[Lots of reading—START EARLY]

Apr. 5 — Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic, 3-281

Apr. 7Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic, 282-390; Shackel, Memory in Black and White, 145-172

Week 13 – Fighting the Civil War Online

Apr. 12 — Civil War Memory, (Read “popular posts” on side, with comments); Fredericksburg NPS on Civil War, (Pick 5 posts to read); scan resources we’ve collected all semester on this blog.

Apr. 14Review the list of blogs at pick two to explore and be ready to discuss.

Two or three presentations on both Tuesday, Apr. 19 and Thursday, Apr. 21.

Week 14 – 150 Years of Civil War History and Memory

Apr. 19Fahs and Waugh, The Memory of the Civil War, (McConnell article), 258-266; Shackel, Memory in Black and White, 173-191.

Apr. 21 Review Gov. McDonnell’s Confederate History Month Proclamations, 150th Civil War in Virginia sites, and other links as noted on Readings page on course blog.

— Planning a 150th event – What would you do?

Exam Period – Thursday, April 28, Noon-2:30 – Presentations

[1] To that end, for each class students should also prepare some notes on the reading (parallels, problems, factual questions, reminders of past readings, connections to ideas from other classes or from “real life”) so that they have those points in front of them for the discussion.  Although I have no current plan to collect these comments, I reserve the right to do so at some point during the semester.