Wednesday, June 24, 2009

McMichael: "Sacred Memories: The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas"

[Sacred Memories: The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas by Kelly McMichael (Texas State Historical Association, 2009). Softcover, maps, photos, notes, index. Pages 150. ISBN: 978-087611-238-0 $9.95 ]

As anyone skimming the current output of peer reviewed journals and university presses is already aware, the field is fairly awash with inquiry into various aspects of historical memory. Permanent public monuments have always been an important way for American communities to commemorate important persons, places, or events. A common theme in memory studies is the notion that monuments often tell later generations at least as much about those erecting the monument as they do about their subject. In the introduction to her book In Sacred Memories: The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas history professor Kelly McMichael takes this to heart, noting that Civil War monuments reflect the values and political agendas projected by those in power at the time.

Sacred Memories examines 68 large, stone and bronze monuments erected in Texas, most by the United Daughters of the Confederacy for placement on courthouse lawns. However, a few were initiated by veterans, and three (at Comfort, Denison, and a joint one at New Braunfels) are Union memorials. The book is divided into seven sections based on geography, and a series of small maps depict the general location of each monument. Information provided for each site include directions, mention of the individual(s) or group responsible for its creation, a brief physical description (some have photos), an account of the dedication ceremony and purpose of the memorial, and any relevant controversies. The text is annotated (although a bibliography is absent), and an appendix lists the monuments in tabular format.

Sacred Memories is an informative survey of the Civil War monument movement in Texas (which reached its height between 1900 and 1915) at the state and local level. Its summaries of the particulars behind all 68 major public memorials throughout the state also enhance the book's value as a reference work.

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Other Civil War Books and Authors reviews of TSHA press titles:
* Civil War and Revolution on the Rio Grande Frontier: A Narrative and Photographic History

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