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Legacy of The Civil War

Ryan Swanson,

Course Description

The Civil War was, arguably, the most significant conflict in American history. Put succinctly, the war decided that slavery would end and that the Union would be held together. But understanding the Civil War’s role in American society, both historically and today, is far from simple. This course will study the war itself, but also issues of memory and commemoration. We will assess why, for example, re-enactors feel compelled to dress up and play war. We will consider how the Civil War has been characterized by Hollywood. We will study how designations of “North” and “South” continue to be formative in the United States. While this legacy class will look at some of the particulars of the conflict (such as the Battle of Albuquerque), the primary goal is to conduct an interdisciplinary analysis of the Civil War in American culture, and to assess how historical memory functions.

Readings and Texts

Karen Cox, Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture
Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War
Robert Hicks, The Widow of the South
Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic

Films and Other Course Materials

Gone with the Wind; The Conspirator; Glory; Gods and Generals

Course Fee


Student Requirements

Students will be expected to embrace interdisciplinary analysis, write several argumentative papers, and engage in class discussion...among other things.

About the Instructor

Ryan Swanson earned his PhD in History at Georgetown University. He is a historian who studies sports and the US 19th century primarily. He has been known to read widely on the Civil War, but would like to point out that he is not a reenactor.