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Patriot Graves: American national identity and the Civil War dead

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Susan-Mary Grant



The Civil War was America's defining conflict, the war that made the nation and the fulcrum for the development of American national identity in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Yet the role that the Civil War dead played in this process has only begun to be explored. Although the monuments raised to honor the dead, along with the battlefields on which they fought, attract considerable interest, the cemeteries constructed to inter them have been integrated into the landscape - literal and figurative - of the American nation so fully that the need they answered, the manner of their development, the form they took, and their longer-term symbolic message has been relatively neglected. Yet the Civil War dead were a crucial - indeed, the crucial - component in the construction of American national identity. Although scholars interpret American attitudes toward the Civil War dead within the context of the mourning rituals of the antebellum era, the war required, and produced, a different approach to death, for which antebellum precedent had ill-prepared Americans. Removed from its antebellum religious and societal framework, death in the Civil War acquired a new and more potent national meaning that not only validated American nationalism through warfare, but anticipated the response to fallen soldiers in future European conflicts.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Grant S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: American Nineteenth Century History

Year: 2004

Volume: 5

Issue: 3

Pages: 74-100

Print publication date: 01/10/2004

Date deposited: 20/12/2007

ISSN (print): 1466-4658

ISSN (electronic): 1743-7903

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/1466465042000302773


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