The Civil War In Popular Culture: Memory And Meaning, Lawrence A. Kreiser and Randal Allred, editors, University of Kentucky Press, 257 pages, bibliographic notes, index, $40.00.
The eleven essays, introduction and afterward offered in The Civil War In Popular Culture: Memory And Meaning are each scholarly, informative and entertaining. The perspectives and focus of the fourteen authors' essays are both broad and unique. A casual bookstore browser may think that it is another book about reenactors for reenactors but that would certainly be a mistaken impression. The essays chosen and edited by Kreiser and Allred are compelling for the questions they address.
What do we know of how Civil War veterans came to psychological terms with the aftereffects of killing? Where Confederate amputees viewed as whole men who could be married? What value did veterans and early visitors to Chickamauga battlefield park during 1890s place on relics they found there?
If 80% of all Americans receive no historical training beyond high school, then what success can the Gettysburg National Military Park have in placing slavery into the battle and its legacy? Is the Civil Preservation Trust's rebranding itself as the Civil War Trust, its investment in Internet web pages and mobile phone applications eliminating actual visits to the battlefields that the foundation has preserved?
What does the history of Civil War board games tell us about what the popular culture views as entertainment and hobby? Have Lincoln movies homogenized the president who confessed his own childhood was among the simple annals of the poor? Has Lincoln the lawyer become both a vampire slayer and a pragmatic emancipator in the popular mind?
Does the film Glory offer an honest depiction of Civil War combat? There is indeed one essay on reenactors. How do today's Good Ol' Rebel reenactors understand racism, slavery and their Lost Cause?
Clear, concise and cogent, the essays are both incisive for the scholar and accessible to the general reader. The bibliographic notes appear at the conclusion of each essay and encourage readers and graduate student to realize the dynamic nature of the field pursue new avenues of research in popular culture.