The Burnt District: Making Sense of Ruins in the Postwar South

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Book Chapter

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ruins, South, Civil War, North, post-Civil War era, ruination

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This chapter examines how northerners turned to ruins—real and metaphorical—in an attempt to make sense of the South after the Civil War. Depictions and discussion of the war-torn southern landscape saturated northern print and visual culture. Southern ruins appeared in newspaper articles, speeches, sermons, travel narratives, photographs, and illustrations. Although physical ruins were largely confined to the South, representations of ruins did important work in the cultural spaces of the North. This chapter explores the intellectual and cultural terrain of the early post-Civil War era by focusing on popular conversations about southern ruination. Focusing on the thirteen months between the burning of Atlanta in November 1864 and the convening of the Thirty-Ninth Congress in December 1865, it considers the ways that images and discussion of ruination reflected larger notions about the North, the South, and the legacies of the Civil War.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

The Burnt District: Making Sense of Ruins in the Postwar South, in G. Downs & K. Masur (Eds.), The World the Civil War Made, University of North Carolina Press