In the history of the United States of America, the American civil war is very important. The civil war is documented as the largest war in the history of America, where six hundred thousand of the three million warriors who fought in this war lost to the battle for independence. This struggle surpassed gender and color, where men and women, black and white, were engaged in the battle of independence and went beyond state boundaries. This was why the stand-off between the southern United States and the northern United States arose in 1861. (Heidler, Heidler & Coles, 2000). The controversy between the two American parties revolved around federal control and state sovereignty, slavery explosion and the westward expansion. This was between 1861 and 1865. American civil war began with the election of President Abraham Lincoln who was a republican against slavery. Lincoln’s election in the year 1860 led to the defecting of seven southern states from the American union who later formed Confederate States of America (Reid, 2014). After the kick-off of the American civil war, the Confederate States of America was later joined by four more other states. This marked the four years of extreme war conflict at Manassas, Gettysburg, Antietam, Vicksburg, Chancellorsville and many other American states. The extremism of the American civil war was to an extent of brotherly and neighborly conflict where even brothers and neighbors rose against each other. The civil war ended by surrendering of the Confederate States of America in the year 1865 with unimaginable registration of death and injury numbers.
The impact of the American civil war of 1865 is perhaps a constant reminder of the negative impact and evil caused by extremism in civil conflict. As such, Americans have since gone miles to commemorate the leap of civil freedom that was hardly gained through the bloody American Civil War. Celebrations, observances, memorials and monuments, flags, veteran associations and reenactment organizations, ‘Lost Cause’ Ideology in the popular culture among others are some of the ways that have been used by Americans to commemorate the past that defines the current social condition and that comforts them and build their self-esteem in addition to creating social pride after the pain suffered in a four-year civil war (Shackel, 2001). However, to realize the real significance of their historical memories, as Blight, 1993 puts it Americans need to disengage the history of the civil war from mythological social memory. This paper focuses on examination of how the American Civil War has been remembered in the United States of America and why these memories have been created.
Celebrations and observances
Celebrations and observances comprises of holidays that have been set apart by the United States of America to commemorate the American Civil War. These are consistent efforts by the American government to ensure that Americans live in memory of their history of what happened in the civil war and therefore preventing such an occurrence in their time out of ignorance of the history of what caused their historical conflict as Christopher Clausen (2004) puts it in his works of Living the Memory.
Memorial Day: The American Civil War is an event in the history of the United States of America which is recorded to have caused most deaths. As such, the overwhelming number of deaths as a result of the civil war led to the establishment of the first national cemeteries in the United States. Most Americans in various towns in the late 1860s had started honoring their fallen heroes in the civil war by holding tributes as well as undertaking decorations for the graves of the dead soldiers; this led to the designation of the memorial day to commemorate the bloody event of the American civil war and most importantly in remembrance of the fallen soldiers during the civil conflict (Brennan, 2014).
The Memorial Day is an annual holiday celebrated every year on every last Monday of May. The holiday is set aside to honor men and women who paid the ultimate price for the civil freedom in the United States America during the American civil war; these are the men and women who served in United States military and died in this battle. Traditionally, the Memorial Day was renowned as the Decoration Day. During those days when Memorial Day was termed as Decoration Day, veterans used to match to the cemeteries where the fallen soldiers were buried to decorate the graves of their fellow comrades in battle. It was common for them to take photographs of soldiers near the American flags. In more honorable manner, air gunshots salute was done in remembrance of soldiers from the northern states who had succumbed to the civil war.
The decision to change Decoration Day to Memorial Day in 1882 was due to the pressing need of honoring all soldiers who had perished in all the previous battles in the United States of America. The southern states set aside the Memorial Day as a legal holiday and they used to remember their dead soldiers up until the First World War.
After the First World War however, the Memorial Day was as well referred as the Poppy Day. The Poppy Day was the idea of Moina Michael who inspired by the poem of McCrea proposed the wearing of red poppies in honor of the entire soldiers who had died in the war.
The Memorial Day was formed some years after the civil war and was later approved to be an official federal holiday in the year 1971 by President Richard Nixon. Before Nixon’s declaration, President Lyndon Johnson had declared Waterloo in New York to be the place of birth of Memorial Day. The holiday usually comes at the start of summer and thus marking the start of this season. Americans usually honor this day by paying visits to memorials or cemeteries, through parades participation and conducting prayers. It is also in this day that Americans take opportunity in remembrance of their beloved ones who have departed from them. The day is dominated by an atmosphere of solemnity and dignity as Americans take moments silence and put flowers on graves in reflection of the dark days for the war dead soldiers of the American Civil War in addition to their loved ones.
On the eve of the Friday before the coming Monday of the Memorial Day, soldiers serving in the Third U.S Infantry salute their fallen comrades taking a walk along the head stories and stopping at every head-story to salute and take a flag and push it into the ground. On this remarkable day in the American history, either the president or the vice president addresses the nation followed by lying of wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Confederate History Month: Confederate History Month is another important date in the American calendar as far as the American Civil War is concerned. Confederate History Month usually takes place on the month of April each year (Catton & McPherson, 2014). This observation is made in remembrance and honor of the men and women soldiers from Georgia who braved the American Civil War for the seek of Confederates states of America.
For the confederates States of America, April marked the start-off of a civil conflict in the American Civil War which was to last for four years. Over this time, over ninety thousands of the soldiers served in the confederate army against the republicans; this army was composed of both men and women. It is in the year 1861 when the confederates States of America was joined by the state of Georgia in the American Civil War and ever since this time, Georgia has held the history of the confederates dearly and always acknowledged and honored the efforts of its great leaders who gave themselves to the fight for Georgia as a member of the Confederate States of America.
Jews were the most renown in government service and the service of the armed forces. A good example of the Jews service to the confederates was Judah Benjamin who was the first Jewish cabinet in the confederate States Government in North America. In this respect, Benjamin served in three positions of cabinet in the confederates’ government. Among other jews were the likes of Charles Wessolowsky from the county of Washington and Phoebe Levy from the county of cobb.
The confederate month is celebrated alongside the Confederate Memorial Day usually held on April 26 every year. Commemoration of this day is accomplished various forms with one of the ways being a simple temporary fixed history lesson where teachers take time to teach a brief history of the confederates in the American Civil War. The lesson is aimed at recognizing the men and women who died in the civil war in 1861 while fighting for their soil or rather the territory of the Confederates American States. Unfortunately, the historical relevance and importance of the confederate day continues to depleted and undermined each day as instead of serving its memorial purpose and bringing more unity to the people of Georgia, it continues to divide them along political and cultural lines (Reardon, 2000).
Memorials and Monuments
The United States of America has since built memorials and monuments and other national symbols such as flags in remembrance and reflection of the American Civil War. This is according to Stuart McConnel (2004), a historical memory writer who outlined that reimposing narratives on a sprawling democracy of versions required mapping the geography of memory which could be achieved through the use of memorials and monuments which the author terms as memorial geography. A good example of memorial monument is the cabin creek battle field at Oklahoma among others.
The Cabin Creek Battlefield: The Cabin Creek Battlefield is a historic representation of an engagement between two American divides (soldiers from the Confederate States of America against soldiers from the Union) during the American Civil War at the Indian Territory (Jones, 2015). Cabin Creek Battlefield is situated in a trail towards Kansas from Texas. The trail was very critical and significant in the American Civil War as it was the pathway for military supplies from fort Scott and Kansas to fort Gibson and the Indian Territory at the time of the civil war. The Cabin Creek Battlefield is known for two major engagements, one of them being that of the confederate troops led by colonel Stand Watie whose major target was to capture the wagon train for federal supply. On the other hand, Colonel James Williams was in command of the federal army which was composed of the various units from Colorado and Kansas as well as the Indian Home Guard among others. Colonel Stand’s attempt to capture the federal wagon supply train was unsuccessful as he was overpowered by the William’s troops and driven away. Sometimes later on July 1863, another confrontation arose in Carbin Creek Battlefield, however the third, which involved the confederates and the First Indian Home Guard. Moreover, there was another trial by Generals Stand Watie and Richard Gano to capture the federal supplies which were redirected to Fort Gibson in December 1863 in an attempt which was labeled the Second Battle of Cabin Creek. And Although Colonel Stand Witie had failed in his first attempt to capture the federal supplies, this time in collaboration with General Richard they managed to capture over one hundred and thirty wagons of federal supplies from the federal troops.
The Carbin Creek Battlefield monument has been preserved since the year 1961 in commemoration of blood that was shed in this particular field as different groups of states were very keen in safeguarding their territories. Furthermore, the Carbin Creek Battlefield monument is preserves the historic memories of sacrifices that were made by the old age soldiers for civil freedom.
Confederate Memorial Museum: The Confederate Memorial Museum has existed for a hundred and twenty years since January 1891 when it was opened in New Orleans (Cox, 2003). The museum holds the largest confederate memorial collections in the United States of America. Confederate Memorial Museum as well has the greatest age in Louisiana.
Frank Howard a very significant role in the development of Confederate Memorial Musuem. By establishing a Board of Governors who were drawn from various Confederate Veteran Associations, Horward was able to gather donations from confederate relics and other civil war records which he developed a repository for in the museum. Moreover, Howard also significantly contributed to the construction of Howard annex next to the museum. Howard’s acts of museum development took place in the year 1889.
The museum holds a collection of civil war records as stated earlier which encompassed war flags, personal items, weapons, uniforms and special exhibits. The museum is there important in explaining the kind of weapons used in the civil war and the some battle strategies used in the American Civil War. The war treaties contained in the war records in the museum are as well important in explaining some the things that transpired in the historic American Civil War.
Veteran Associations and Reenactment Organizations
Veteran associations and reenactment organizations such as the Civil War Reenactment and Glengarry Light Infantry of 1812 to 1816 are very key in examination of how the American civil war has been remembered in the United States and assessing why these memories have been created.
Civil War Reenactment: The civil war reenactment clearly unfolds the history of the military actions, battles and activities that took place during the American Civil War. The reenactment brings about the commemoration of the Rich Mountain Battlefield which took place in the year 1861 on July. During this time, hundreds of confederate troops took to the mountains to defend the mountain pass from over a thousand federal troops (Schneider, 2011). Nevertheless, it was unfortunate for the confederate troops who were forced to retreat from their camp and abandon the battlefields due to the increased resistance and overpowering from the federal troops. The increasing strength of the federal troops enabled them to maintain control over northwestern Virginia.
Glengarry Light Infantry on the other hand clears the history of how troops used to dress in the times of the American Civil War. Glengarry Light Infantry partly details on the type and colors soldiers used to dress in. for instance, Glengarry Light Infantry were highlands troops and therefore dressed in green uniforms.
Veteran Associations and Reenactment Organizations contain detailed history of the behavior of soldiers and armies during the American Civil War which through reading Americans commemorate the American Civil War.
‘Lost Cause’ Ideology in Popular Culture
One of the many ways Americans remember the American Civil War is through the Lost Cause Ideology in popular culture that details on the reconciliation of the southern white society popularly known as the southerners and the confederate States of America. The lost cause ideology was commonly referred as the intellectual movement that barely tried to portray the cause of the Confederate States of America as noble and whose leaders were only outperformed through huge forces of the union troops but not superior military strategy (Burkhardt, 2011).
Memorial associations such as the United Confederate Veterans have popularized the ideology of the lost cause. It is important to that, the ideology of the lost cause was very critical to southerners as it helped them to align themselves with the social, economic and political dynamisms during and after the American Civil War.
For four years since 1861 the United States of America was in the American Civil War, a cause that the United States paid a huge economic, social and political price for. There was unbelievable economic crisis both in the northern and southern American states, the agricultural prosperity of the southerners and the industrialization and commercialization of the northerners was down to ashes in less than four years. All this disaster emanated from differences in political opinions which arose with the election of President Abraham Lincoln who advocated for anti-slavery and development of confederacy states that would be free from slavery. The union states could not stand such succession and even sought a military alternative to depict the republicans move. As a result the nation was torn into two and one people fought against themselves; a cause that cannot be justified.
In essence, the times of the American Civil War reflects a nation that had once drowned and was in desperate need of salvation from economic, social and political crisis. In deed the conclusion substantiates the great need for creating memories of the American Civil War to the Americans through the historic means as they have been discussed to be a lesson and warning against falling into the same trap of civil conflict.
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