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Civil War Monuments and the Militarization of America

By Thomas J. Brown

384 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 87 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5374-7
    Published: December 2019
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5373-0
    Published: December 2019
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-5375-4
    Published: October 2019

Civil War America

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Awards & distinctions

2020 Tom Watson Brown Book Award, Society of Civil War Historians

This sweeping new assessment of Civil War monuments unveiled in the United States between the 1860s and 1930s argues that they were pivotal to a national embrace of military values. Americans' wariness of standing armies limited construction of war memorials in the early republic, Thomas J. Brown explains, and continued to influence commemoration after the Civil War. As large cities and small towns across the North and South installed an astonishing range of statues, memorial halls, and other sculptural and architectural tributes to Civil War heroes, communities debated the relationship of military service to civilian life through fund-raising campaigns, artistic designs, oratory, and ceremonial practices. Brown shows that distrust of standing armies gave way to broader enthusiasm for soldiers in the Gilded Age. Some important projects challenged the trend, but many Civil War monuments proposed new norms of discipline and vigor that lifted veterans to a favored political status and modeled racial and class hierarchies. A half century of Civil War commemoration reshaped remembrance of the American Revolution and guided American responses to World War I.

Brown provides the most comprehensive overview of the American war memorial as a cultural form and reframes the national debate over Civil War monuments that remain potent presences on the civic landscape.

About the Author

Thomas J. Brown is professor of history at the University of South Carolina and author of Civil War Canon: Sites of Confederate Memory in South Carolina.
For more information about Thomas J. Brown, visit the Author Page.


“In this insightful and deeply researched study of Civil War monuments, Thomas Brown argues persuasively that over time, monument builders in both the North and the South used an imaginative trove of aesthetics to efface battlefield horrors and rework tragedy into noble deeds and glorious causes.”--North Carolina Historical Review

"Thomas J. Brown's definitive study of Civil War monuments shows the impact these shrines and memorials have had on the American landscape. Bringing a keen analysis to scores of monuments, Brown reveals how these sites speak to shifting ideals about war and peace, military command, and civic engagement and uncovers surprising revelations about northern and southern similarities. This book reminds us how and why these monuments remain flashpoints of political controversy."--Nina Silber, Boston University

"This long-awaited and much-needed book is the first synthetic study of U.S. Civil War memorials--a daunting task with more than a thousand monuments spanning a century or more. Brown argues convincingly that these memorials helped transform ideas of citizenship and promoted a new institutionalization of the military in American life."--Kirk Savage, University of Pittsburgh