Monday, April 30, 2012

Review: "Burying the Dead but not the Past: Ladies' Memorial Associations and the Lost Cause"

Earlier, I posted a great video from Caroline Janney of Purdue about women's involvement in the Civil War. She also has written a book called "Burying the Dead but not the Past: Ladies' Memorial Associations and the Lost Cause."

Many people think that Southern women's involvement in memorializing both the dead and the cult of the Lost Cause (read: "we may have lost, but we did it nobly, dang it") did not begin in earnest until the 1890s when the United Daughters of the Confederacy was established. Janney shows that this actually began during the war itself when nursing and sewing circles and the like evolved just after the war into Ladies' Memorial Associations. The LMAs were primarily the domain of middle and upper-class ladies who had such time and resources, as well as lingering anti-Yankee feelings.  There were LMAs all over the old Confederacy (which often helped each other financially), but Janney focuses on those in Virginia - particularly in Richmond, Lynchburg, Winchester, Petersburg, and Fredericksburg. It goes on even after the establishment of the UDC, which supplanted the LMAs, up until about the First World War.
Ladies' Memorial Associations sprang from a great need in the postwar days: to reinter Confederate soldiers with proper burials as well as to commerorate them, along with the Lost Cause. Part of this was out of anger toward Union men who disinterred the bodies of their own men from Southern ground for reburial, which sparked feeling that Confederate graves were being desecrated. Large cemeteries for the purpose of reburial were established, such as Hollywood and Oakwood in Richmond.
The postwar years were still part of the Victorian era, in which women were "supposed" to be apolitical, and not involve themselves with politics as men did. However, in the LMA's work in memorializing fallen Southern soldiers, it kept the idea of the Lost Cause alive because ladies often did work with living former Confederates. Because LMAs were run by women (and not men, as most of their Northern equivilents were), it looked like they were simply remembering their loved ones rather than keeping the ideology of the former Confederacy going for future generations.

"Burying the Dead" is a great resource for those students and scholars of Southern women's involvement in the postwar era. As with many scholarly works, it may be a bit dry for the average reader outside the field. However, for those so inclined, it is a great addition to your Civil War/Reconstruction book collection.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Review of "Consecrated Dust: A Novel of the Civil War North"

Authors of historical fiction have the dual task of creating an interesting story and getting historical details correct. This Mary Frailey Calland does ably in her historical novel "Consecrated Dust: A Novel of the Civil War North." The story starts in the winter of 1860 and climaxes on September 17, 1862, the day of both the battle of Antietam and the Allegheny Arsenal explosion.

The four young people of this story are from the Pittsburgh/Lawrenceville area, and find themselves contributing to the Union war effort in their own way. All are caught up in the events of that September day - with tragic results.

Clara Ambrose is a liberal, outspoken daughter of a doctor (who goes to the front as a surgeon) and a social-climbing mother who fears for her daughter's marriagability. Her family, including her sister Helen, baby nephew, and ailing grandmother, struggle in the absense of Dr. Ambrose. Clara yearns for a way to help the war effort beyond sewing in parlors, but her mother will have nothing that could hurt Clara's reputation.
Garrett Cameron is an idealistic orphaned law student who joins the 9th Pennsylvania Reserves/38th Pennsylvania Volunteers and soon discovers the horrors of war. Before leaving for the war, he falls in love with Clara and she with him, despite her mother's efforts to steer her toward a more "suitable" mate.
That prospective mate is Edgar Gliddon, the arrogant president of a Pittsburgh iron works who sees the war as an opportunity to get richer. He does business with many, including the local Allegheny Arsenal. The more he pursues Clara, the more she pushes him away, despite his kindnesses toward her family in Dr. Ambrose's absense.
Annie Burke is from a large family of Irish Catholic immigrants with four brothers who join the fight. She is also Clara's best friend, despite the prejudices of many around them (this being a time of strong anti-Irish feeling). Annie begins work as a cartridge maker at the Allegheny Arsenal to help support her family.

Calland does a wonderful job of creating a story with these four characters intertwining as friends, lovers, and rivals. Her book is rich in detail of Civil War Pittsburgh and Lawrenceville (those being separate places at the time), as well as in battle with the 9th Reserves and at work at the Allegheny Arsenal. I'm not normally sappy, but I found myself cheering for the romance between Clara and Garrett.
All told, this is an excellent read for anyone who wants to learn more about what life was like in wartime Pittsburgh and be entertained at the same time. I can't wait to meet Ms. Calland on the 28th this month and have her sign my copy.

Monday, April 2, 2012

6th Annual Civil War Weekend

6th Annual Civil War Weekend | CarnegieCarnegie

I am so going to this. The 6th Annual Civil War Weekend is Saturday, April 28 at the Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall in Carnegie from 10 am-5 pm. It includes a period tea, fashion show, a film, books and such for sale, and best of all: a lecture and book signing by the author of "Consecrated Dust" a novel about the Allegheny Arsenal explosion, Mary Frailey Calland. (I'm still waiting on my copy from Amazon).

Newspaper article about Allegheny Arsenal magazine dedication (1913?)

Lawrenceville: History: Allegheny Arsenal

From the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is an undated newspaper article, most likely from 1913, about the dedication of the memorial at the former powder magazine at the Allegheny Arsenal. Included is a list of the 78 victims.