Monday, November 11, 2019

Booknotes: Civil War Monuments and the Militarization of America

New Arrival:
Civil War Monuments and the Militarization of America by Thomas J. Brown (UNC Press, 2019).

It is quite the appropriate happenstance that this Booknotes entry appears on Veterans Day. A "sweeping new assessment of Civil War monuments unveiled in the United States between the 1860s and 1930s," Thomas Brown's Civil War Monuments and the Militarization of America "argues that they were pivotal to a national embrace of military values." Given that the U.S. military establishment was consistently gutted to below even the minimal standards of a world power up through the mid-1930s, it is presumed that Brown is using the term "militarization" in a more restrained cultural context.

According to Brown, "Americans' wariness of standing armies limited construction of war memorials in the early republic,..., and continued to influence commemoration after the Civil War. As large cities and small towns across the North and South installed an astonishing range of statues, memorial halls, and other sculptural and architectural tributes to Civil War heroes, communities debated the relationship of military service to civilian life through fund-raising campaigns, artistic designs, oratory, and ceremonial practices. Brown shows that distrust of standing armies gave way to broader enthusiasm for soldiers in the Gilded Age. Some important projects challenged the trend, but many Civil War monuments proposed new norms of discipline and vigor that lifted veterans to a favored political status and modeled racial and class hierarchies."

The decades prior to the beginning of the Great War were a boon to Civil War monument construction, and Brown also notes that in the years following the return of American troops from Europe the country still looked to its Civil War past to inform how it would memorialize the 1917-18 experience of World War. In the end, "(a) half century of Civil War commemoration reshaped remembrance of the American Revolution and guided American responses to World War I."

Civil War Monuments and the Militarization of America "provides the most comprehensive overview of the American war memorial as a cultural form and reframes the national debate over Civil War monuments that remain potent presences on the civic landscape."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please SIGN YOUR NAME. Otherwise, your comment submission may be rejected, at my discretion. Also, outside promotions are not allowed in the comments section.