Conference Program


85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky


Title: SMH 2018 Keynote Address and Reception: Southern Cross, North Star - The Politics of Irreconciliation and Civil War Memory in the American Middle Border (co-sponsored by the Filson Historical Society)
Abstract: Most Americans hold that the Ohio River is a clearly defined and static demographic and political boundary between North and South: an extension of the Mason-Dixon Line into the West and thus a fixed boundary between freedom and slavery, between the slave states of Kentucky and Missouri and the free states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kansas.

In prevailing narratives, the Civil War rarely serves as a defining event in the history of this former West, and vice versa. Yet this former West was central perhaps to the Civil War's most lasting outcomes: The cultural politics of "irreconciliation" in these states that would fashion discrete and often inaccurate memories of winning and losing the Civil War, establishing the middle border as a front for the far longer "war after the war."

Fought for nearly half a century with internecine violence and politics, formal and informal, this extension of the Civil War changed the meaning of the American middle border, and with it the nation's regional identities. Unable to conform either to the emergent southern or northern war narratives after the war, the battleground that was the West was effectively written out of the war, and by 1926 residents had created a new regional geography driven by cultural identities: Northern, Southern, and more complicatedly, Midwestern.
 
Christopher Phillips, University of Cincinnati



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