Thursday, February 16, 2017

Booknotes: The Loyal West

New Arrival:
The Loyal West: Civil War and Reunion in Middle America
by Matthew E. Stanley (Univ of Ill Pr, 2017).

Stanley was a graduate student under Christopher Phillips at University of Cincinnati, and it's easy to see the influence of his mentor. Regular readers will recall how much I gushed last year over The Rivers Ran Backward: The Civil War and the Remaking of the American Middle Border, and Stanley's cultural interests here with the lower counties of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio (what he calls the "Lower Middle West") overlap with Phillips's.

From the description: "Here grew a Unionism steeped in the mythology of the Loyal West—a myth rooted in regional and racial animosities and the belief that westerners had won the war. Matthew E. Stanley's intimate study explores the Civil War, Reconstruction, and sectional reunion in this bellwether region. Using the lives of area soldiers and officers as a lens, Stanley reveals a place and a strain of collective memory that was anti-rebel, anti-eastern, and anti-black in its attitudes—one that came to be at the forefront of the northern retreat from Reconstruction and toward white reunion. The Lower Middle West's embrace of black exclusion laws, origination of the Copperhead movement, backlash against liberalizing war measures, and rejection of Reconstruction were all pivotal to broader American politics."

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