The Arts and Culture of the American Civil War  book cover
1st Edition

The Arts and Culture of the American Civil War

Edited By

James Davis

ISBN 9780367229658
Published February 7, 2019 by Routledge
252 Pages 19 Color Illustrations

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Book Description

In 1864, Union soldier Charles George described a charge into battle by General Phil Sheridan: "Such a picture of earnestness and determination I never saw as he showed as he came in sight of the battle field . . . What a scene for a painter!" These words proved prophetic, as Sheridan’s desperate ride provided the subject for numerous paintings and etchings as well as songs and poetry. George was not alone in thinking of art in the midst of combat; the significance of the issues under contention, the brutal intensity of the fighting, and the staggering number of casualties combined to form a tragedy so profound that some could not help but view it through an aesthetic lens, to see the war as a concert of death. It is hardly surprising that art influenced the perception and interpretation of the war given the intrinsic role that the arts played in the lives of antebellum Americans. Nor is it surprising that literature, music, and the visual arts were permanently altered by such an emotional and material catastrophe. In The Arts and Culture of the American Civil War, an interdisciplinary team of scholars explores the way the arts – theatre, music, fiction, poetry, painting, architecture, and dance – were influenced by the war as well as the unique ways that art functioned during and immediately following the war. Included are discussions of familiar topics (such as Ambrose Bierce, Peter Rothermel, and minstrelsy) with less-studied subjects (soldiers and dance, epistolary songs). The collection as a whole sheds light on the role of race, class, and gender in the production and consumption of the arts for soldiers and civilians at this time; it also draws attention to the ways that art shaped – and was shaped by – veterans long after the war.

Table of Contents


1 "My thoughts are not here…": The Civil War Dance Floor as Multitemporal Place

James A. Davis

2 "But That’s the Old Wound, You See": Ambrose Bierce’s Civil War Poetry

Michael W. Schaefer

3 "Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still": Imagining Women in the Confederate Minstrel Shows on Johnson’s Island, Ohio

Kirsten M. Schultz

4 "Do let me preserve the unities": The Stakes of Metaphor in Civil War-era Fiction

Rebecca Entel

5 "One of the most beautiful villages that ever were seen": Civil War Architecture

Megan Kate Nelson

6 "Dearest Sister, ‘Who Will Care for Mother Now?": Epistolary Songs of the Civil War Northern Home Front"

Sabra Statham

7 "No Partial Picture": Peter F. Rothermel’s The Battle of Gettysburg – Pickett’s Charge

Barbaranne E. M. Liakos

8 "You women folks has no business to be here anyhow": Romancing the War & Women in Civil War Memories on Stage

Bethany D. Holmstrom

Afterword: Artists and Soldiers

John R. Neff

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James A. Davis is Professor of Musicology and Chair of the Music History Area at the School of Music, State University of New York at Fredonia, USA. His primary research focuses on the music and musicians of the American Civil War. He has also worked in the areas of music history pedagogy, American popular music of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the history of bands.