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Confederate Visions

Nationalism, Symbolism, and the Imagined South in the Civil War
Ian Binnington


BUY Cloth · 216 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813935003 · $39.50 · Nov 2013
BUY Ebook · 216 pp. · ISBN 9780813935010 · $39.50 · Nov 2013

Nationalism in nineteenth-century America operated through a collection of symbols, signifiers citizens could invest with meaning and understanding. In Confederate Visions, Ian Binnington examines the roots of Confederate nationalism by analyzing some of its most important symbols: Confederate constitutions, treasury notes, wartime literature, and the role of the military in symbolizing the Confederate nation.

Nationalisms tend to construct glorified pasts, idyllic pictures of national strength, honor, and unity, based on visions of what should have been rather than what actually was. Binnington considers the ways in which the Confederacy was imagined by antebellum Southerners employing intertwined mythic concepts—the "Worthy Southron," the "Demon Yankee," the "Silent Slave"—and a sense of shared history that constituted a distinctive Confederate Americanism. The Worthy Southron, the constructed Confederate self, was imagined as a champion of liberty, counterposed to the Demon Yankee other, a fanatical abolitionist and enemy of Liberty. The Silent Slave was a companion to the vocal Confederate self, loyal and trusting, reliable and honest.

The creation of American national identity was fraught with struggle, political conflict, and bloody Civil War. Confederate Visions examines literature, newspapers and periodicals, visual imagery, and formal state documents to explore the origins and development of wartime Confederate nationalism.

Reviews:


Confederate Visions focuses on symbols and myths to get at deeper questions of American culture, and the result is a book that will broaden our understanding of Confederate nationalism.

James McPherson, Princeton University, author of Is Blood Thicker than Water? Crises of Nationalism in the Modern World

Nations are ‘imagined communities’ based on ‘invented traditions,’ we are told. Few have explained just how the South sought to create its imagined community, or dissected the traditions it borrowed, with more skill and verve than Ian Binnington in this fresh new book that takes us to the very heart of the South’s daring project—the creation of a new nation in the mind of the South.

Don H. Doyle, McCausland Professor of History, University of South Carolina

The book’s contribution therefore lies in its focus on certain bodies of texts that both reflected and contributed to the growth of a Confederate nationalist discourse.

Thus Confederate Visions proves that despite the wealth of new studies on Confederate nationalism, a focused study of print culture can still yield important insight that add nuance and subtlety to the debate on the essence of the Southern bid for Independence.

About the Author: 

Ian Binnington is Associate Professor of History at Allegheny College.

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