We kicked off the last day of the conference with battlefield tours. This day we followed “Gettysburg Through the Eyes of a Soldier.” I was in the group following William T. Livermore of the 20th Maine, led by Jared Peatman. We followed the 20th Maine’s entrance into the area and their march to Little Round Top and Strong Vincent’s placement of them. We discussed the action there and some of the postwar controversies regarding what Joshua “Don’t Call Me Lawrence” Chamberlain said about the battle. We also followed the regiment up to the top of Big Round Top and then to their position on July 3 [No, it wasn’t in the center of the line]. This was an excellent tour. Livermore’s writings are excellent accounts.
After the tours we regathered and had a conversation on “The Rise of the New South” with William Link of the University of Florida, Michael Bernath of the University of Miami, Charles Holden of St. Mary’s College, and James Broomall of Shepherd University. They first considered what was the New South? It appeared mostly after the formal end of Reconstruction. It announced the death of the Old South and the confederacy. Its message emphasized postwar reconciliation. Finally, it was a marketing tool for Northern investment. Henry W. Grady (1850-1889) was a newspaper editor, publicist, investor, and promoter. He was the owner and editor of the Atlanta Constitution. It was said of Grady that a “greater Atlanta, a greater Georgia are his monuments.” [More on Grady here, here, here, and here] Grady’s New South was “one long hymn of invocation to preemption and exploitation.” He gave his New South speech on December 22, 1886. He was the first Southerner to speak at the New England Society in New York. William T. Sherman was in attendance at that speech. On reconstructing the South he said, “We have let economy take root and spread among us as rank as the crabgrass which sprang from Sherman’s cavalry camps.” On the freed people, he said, “To liberty and enfranchisement is as far as law can carry the Negro. The rest must be left to conscience and common sense. It should be left to those among whom his lot is cast, with whom he is indissolubly connected and whose prosperity depends upon their possessing his intelligent sympathy and confidence. Faith has been kept with him in spite of calumnious assertions to the contrary by those who assume to speak for us or by frank opponents. Faith will be kept with him in the future, if the South holds her reason and integrity.” He delivered the message of a New South that wouldn’t need intervention. Up until the late 1880s, Sherman and Grady were allies. Sherman was interested in encouraging investment in the South. In 1881, Sherman was an honored guest at the World’s Fair in Atlanta. There would be two more world’s fairs, one in 1885 and one in 1897. Sherman wrote an article in the October, 1888 issue of the North American Review in which he said, “I say to the South, Let the negro vote, and count his vote honestly. It will not disturb, but, on the contrary, will hasten your prosperity and stability as a people.” Sherman also warned the South: “The Northern people will not long permit the negro vote to be suppressed, and yet be counted in the political game against them. Better meet the question honestly. Ask the abrogation of Article XIV. of the Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, or allow the negro to vote, and count his vote. Otherwise, so sure as there is a God in Heaven, you will have another war, more cruel than the last, when the torch and dagger will take the place of the muskets of well-ordered battalions.” Grady denounced Sherman after this article. Grady gave a speech in Boston on December 12, 1889 and developed pneumonia, from which he soon died. The Life and Labors of Henry W. Grady was published and talked about that last speech. Many references to race and white supremacy were taken out of the speech in that book. The New York Times report on the speech, though, has the full transcript. The speech is all about race, what the future of the South meant in terms of white control. Northern and Southern whites, he said, should unite because of the “tremendous menace” of “black rule.”
Michael Bernath considered, “How was the New South a product of the Old South?” The South remained agricultural and became even more devoted to a monocrop system. The New South is often seen as the story of capitalism coming to the South and the story of the rise of a Southern middle class. But much of that scholarship on the New South matched the scholarship on the Old South, almost point for point. Scholarship on the Old South stresses slavery and capitalism, the rise of industrialized slavery in the Old South, and the growth of Antebellum cities.
James Broomall said the legacy of defeat will play out in several different ways. The sheer bitterness many white southerners feel is one way. The world changed dramatically, but the world view of white southerners hadn’t shifted. In the wake of the Civil War’s destruction is an impulse to rebuild the region.
Charles Holden asked, “What is the life span of the New South, and what are its legacies? He said the New South still largely held until the Southern economy began to fall apart again after World War I. FDR in 1938 said the South was the nation’s number one economic problem. The New South made a contribution to the rise of segregation. Progressivism was seen as for whites only. It saw the establishment of a more ‘natural’ arrangement where everyone knew “their place in the social order.” Progress was explained as a result of white business and political leaders. He also made the extraordinary comment that the New South began to take some of the air out of the lost cause, which I found difficult to believe. The evidence he cited was an editorial in a campus newspaper at the University of North Carolina mocking J. W. Jones, a major advocate of the lost cause who gave a speech on the campus, as being stuck in the past. In the Q&A I pointed out that the views of a young college newspaper writer who probably wasn’t interested at all in history is probably not the best evidence to cite. I reminded him that looking at the hair color of the majority of the audience at the CWI would show more older people are interested in history and memory while younger people are primarily interested in the future.
The final presentation was Carrie Janney of Purdue University speaking on “Returning to the Field of Glory: Veterans and Gettysburg in Civil War Memory.” Carrie is always terrific, and this is no exception. She talked about the famous images we have of veterans of blue and gray shaking hands across the stone wall and sitting together. With very few exceptions, these photos were staged events. The images did not reflect the views of many veterans. Rather than being a mecca of reconciliation, Gettysburg was contested memory, bitter feelings, and continuing violence. It was conceived by Union veterans to be a Union Memorial Park. Many Union veterans did not try to appease their former enemies by forgetting slavery’s role in the conflict. She told us the National Cemetery became a symbol of Union at Gettysburg. For most Army of the Potomac veterans, the field would always remain first and foremost a memorial to the Union victory. Even efforts to come together for reunions on the field revealed conflict over the war’s memory. Rather than the picture of reconciliation, Union and confederate veterans continued a struggle, this time over the memory of the war and its legacy. Union veterans continued to extol the results of Union and the end of slavery. They pushed back against confederate claims that slavery had little to do with the war, and they especially pushed back against veneration of the confederate cause. This was yet another wonderful presentation.
Capping off the conference was a panel of historians taking questions from the audience. Peter Carmichael, Barbara Gannon, David Silkenat, Catherine Clinton, James Downs, Gregory Downs, Caroline Janney, Anne Marshall, Sarah Gardner, Brooks Simpson, Judith Giesberg, and William Link were on the panel. It was a great way to end the conference by giving attendees a chance to get any unanswered questions answered.