Patchwork nation: sources of Confederate nationalism, 1848-1865 Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Quigley, Paul D.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • "Patchwork Nation" explores white southerners' conceptions of nationalism during the American Civil War era. The core impetus of Confederate nationalism was the desire to preserve slavery, but my emphasis is on the broad range of intellectual, cultural, and personal sources that white southerners drew upon as they engaged the concept of nationalism in their lives. Investigating these sources pushes our understanding of Confederate nationalism in three previously neglected directions: outward, backward, and inward. White southerners conceived of Confederate nationalism in light of what they already knew about the concept. Nationalism was then enjoying a golden age in Europe, and transatlantic intellectual currents greatly influenced ideas about nationalism in the American South. Hence our turn outward. But the nationalism with which white southerners were most familiar was antebellum American nationalism, in which most of them had been enthusiastic participants. Hence our turn backward. In defining a new nationalism, they replicated many aspects of the old, in both substantive and conceptual terms. Such replication generated a persistent problem that will concern us throughout: how could the South retain the nationalism of a country from which it had voluntarily departed? Our final turn takes us inward, into the sphere of everyday life. Confederate nationalism came to matter to individual white southerners because of the ways they connected it to their personal identities and the fabric of their daily lives. Thus they defined individual responsibility to the nation by using ideas about manhood and womanhood, morality and religious beliefs, sacrifice and daily suffering. Connections between individuals and the nation were especially intense when they involved perceptions of shared victimhood at the hands of the northern enemy. When this sense of victimhood came to encompass not just slavery and politics but personal fears as well, it became the most potent source of nationalism of all. The image of a patchwork captures the way that white southerners drew on all of these resources in conceiving of Confederate nationalism and in defining their individual connections to it. This was a nationalism crafted by many hands, using varied materials, with a pattern that emerged only in the making.
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  • Watson, Harry L.
  • Open access

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