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Battle hymns - The Power and Popularity of Music in the Civil War - A. Ostendorf



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Battle hymns - The Power and Popularity of Music in the Civil War - A. Ostendorf
  The Revolution of 1861: The American Civil War in the Age of Nationalist Conflict.  By AndreM. Fleche. (Chapel Hill: University of NorthCarolina Press, 2012. xiv, 204 pp. $39.95.) TheRevolution of1861 succeedsadmirablyinitsprincipal objective: to show that many North-erners, Southerners, and Europeans interpreted the American Civil War with reference tonationalism and revolutions in mid-nine-teenth-century Europe. Andre M. Fleche is by no means the first to suggest such a connec-tion, and his arguments build on the work of many other scholars, but in a number of important ways he expands and deepens our understanding of the international context of  what is too often viewed as an exclusively  American conflict.Fleche ’ s overarching contention is suc-cinctly captured in the words of a Missourinewspaper editor during the secession crisis: “ This is the  American  1848 ”  (p. 44, emphasisin srcinal). With an initial focus on Europe-ans who immigrated to the United States inthe wake of the revolutions of 1848, Flechebuilds his case that perceptions of the Euro-pean revolutions informed reactions to thedeveloping sectional crisis. The year 1861 wasno exact replica of 1848, of course, and Flecheis at his best when revealing the ironies and problems generated by American efforts todefine their crisis in European terms. It wasdifficult for Northerners to liken Southernslaveholders to tyrannical European aristocratsand at the same time justify the Union ’ s use of military force for conservative political ends.For their part, Southerners made much of thesimilarity between the Confederacy  ’ s claim tonational self-determination and the claims of the Irish, the Hungarians, and the Poles, yetslavery made it difficult to forge any real alli-ance with liberal — and often antislavery  — European nationalists. Who were the revolutio-naries here? Fleche rightly sees the Emancipa-tion Proclamation as a turning point. AlthoughConfederates persisted in their efforts to createa slaveholding republic that could fit into themodern world of nation-states, it became a more difficult project after the issuance of theproclamation on January 1, 1863. Ongoing NortherneffortstoimbuetheUnioncausewithglobal significance were strengthened. And for Europeans, the Emancipation Proclamationclarified what the two sides were fighting for and made it easier to slot the American conflictinto the template of 1848.There are, as always, other avenues thebook could pro 󿬁 tably have explored. Outsideof the second chapter, there is little sense of debate within the North or the South over themeaning of 1848 for 1861. What did SouthernUnionists think? Northern Democrats makethe occasional appearance, but are mostly sub-sumed within an emerging Republican hege-mony with a uniform international vision. It would also have been interesting to hear moreabout how Latin American revolutions  󿬁 t in.Finally, the creation of the Kingdom of Italy at almost exactly the same time as the creationof the Confederacy surely deserves more exten-sive discussion. Still, Fleche establishes styl-ishly and persuasively that as Northerners and Southerners rede 󿬁 ned their conceptions of nationalism in the 1850s and 1860s, they paidcloseattentiontotransatlanticcomparisons. The Revolution of 1861  is essential reading for anyone interested in placing the AmericanCivil War in broader international patterns of ideology and politics.Paul Quigley  University of Edinburgh Edinburgh, Scotland  doi: 10.1093/jahist/jas384 Battle Hymns: The Power and Popularity of   Music in the Civil War  . By Christian Mc- Whirter. (Chapel Hill: University of NorthCarolina Press, 2012. x, 321 pp. $39.95.)Music in nineteenth-century America wassocial and ephemeral. As a result, its power and popularity remained largely situational.Such a musical climate is the setting for ChristianMcWhirter  ’ s BattleHymns  — anexten-sive, descriptive account of music during the American Civil War. The author  ’ s approachis that of a Civil War historian more than a cultural or music scholar. In thematic chapters, written in clear prose drawn from detailed archival research, the author handles suchtopics as the Northern and Southern quests for national anthems, popular music on the homefront, music in the armies, music of and about 924 The Journal of American History December 2012  freedpeople, and the politicization of music. Although the book does not follow a chrono-logy, it still describes how and why popular music transformed over the course of the war as peoples ’  experiences with and attitudestoward the war changed.Stories on the creation of   “  John Brown ’ sBody, ” “ Battle Cry of Freedom, ”  and   “ Dixie ” revisit common subjects in American musichistory. McWhirter  ’ s chapter on how whitesmusically expressed their changing opinions of blacks and how they musically conveyed their newfound status as freedpeople situates Civil War music within its racial context. Hisdescription of how veterans used Civil War  – era music to promote their legacy begins aninteresting chapter that progresses throughlater attempts to bolster the Lost Cause using Civil War music and ends in 2009 with theUniversity of Mississippi football controversy over using   “ Dixie ”  as the team ’ s unof  󿬁 cial 󿬁 ght song  — nicely emphasizing this history  ’ srelevance to the present.The author best meets his goal of exploring the role of music in daily life when describing music and its meaning to soldiers — precisely be-cause his sources tend to be from soldiers ’ explicit recollections of music ’ s meaning tothem. He is less convincing when making larger claims with thin evidence or making claims thatfall outside the purview of this study  — for example, his claim that soldiers served as distrib-utors for music or that music became a moreprominent cultural tool during the war (but without a comparison to antebellum music). Although McWhirter wants to go beyond lyricalanalysis (and he does), this work still relies onsong lyrics as sources without enough criticalre 󿬂 ection on how such lyrics affected listeners.How literally do song lyrics express opinion?The evidence of music ’ s reception and ability totransform a listener often appears speculative.Finally, McWhirter  ’ s use of the terms  popular, successful, highbrow,  and   lowbrow   could be defined more precisely and could be placed more explicitly into the historiography of eachof these musical topics. Without using any quantifiable measure of popularity, we have totake his word that a song was popular, and wehave to accept what he means by the term. Also, the author  ’ s claim that a clearly visibleline existed in the 1860s between highbrow and lowbrow music is an awkward framework for the topics covered. Such analytical and the-oretical deficiencies, however, do not take away from his informative and detailed account of music during the American Civil War. Ann Ostendorf  Gonzaga University Spokane, Washington doi: 10.1093/jahist/jas404 War Stories: Suffering and Sacrifice in the Civil War North.  By Frances M. Clarke. (Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 2011. xiv, 251pp. $35.00.) As the Civil War unfolded, Americans of allstripes struggled to make sense of and   󿬁 nd meaning in the increasing carnage. Pro-UnionNortherners, argues Frances M. Clarke in her textured analysis, consciously fused suffering and sentimentality to create war stories withthe conviction that the telling and retelling of such inspiring tales would ultimately foster the creation of a noble wartime and postbel-lum  “ society in which honorable men would thrive and sel 󿬂 ess women would continue to wield salutary moral in 󿬂 uence ”  (p. 176).Clarke rightly frames her study by arguing that the de 󿬁 nitions of suffering prevalent in Vic-torian America informed and infused pro-Union Northerners ’  understandings during the war. Short life expectancy and sweeping epide-mics made antebellum Americans intimately familiar with suffering, which  “ itself thus becamea marker of whiteness, re 󿬁 nement, and classstatus ”  (p. 12). In the eyes of pro-Union North-erners during the Civil War, the parameters of soldiers ’  and civilians ’  suffering became the way to distinguish between Confederates and Feder-als. Through an investigation of   󿬁 ve dominanttropes in Civil War stories — namely, those thatdepicted Union of  󿬁 cers ’  heroic deaths; thosethat described the behavior of white enlistees inconfronting wounds and sickness; tales focusing on the effects of voluntary efforts on suffering men; those that imagined the bene 󿬁 cial impactof Northern voluntarism on warfare itself;and  . . . thosefeaturingUnionamputeesasthecon- 󿬂 ict ’ s most evident and inspiration victims — Clarke convincingly argues that pro-UnionNortherners saw themselves as fundamentally  Book Reviews 925  Copyright of Journal of American History is the property of Organisation of American Historians and itscontent may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder'sexpress written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.
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