Date of Award

8-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

History

Major Professor

Stephen V. Ash

Committee Members

Luke E. Harlow, Daniel Feller, Martin Griffin

Abstract

This dissertation explores the meaning of the Civil War in the South by examining white Southerners’ perceptions of the Army of Tennessee from 1861 to 1930. While scholarship on the war’s memory is immense and growing, little of this literature examines the memory of the Confederacy's war effort in the western theater—the area of operations military historians now deem central to the war's outcome. This project rectifies that oversight by examining white Southerners’ memory of the Army of Tennessee in the post-war decades. Unlike Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, the Confederacy’s primary western field army suffered a near endless string of battlefield defeats and a revolving door of incapable, egotistical, and irascible commanders. Its wartime record is hardly complimentary to the Lost Cause which insisted on the martial, moral, and masculine superiority of Confederate officers and soldiers.

An examination into the popular historical memory of the Army of Tennessee reveals two significant developments that change our understanding of how post-war white Southerners conceptualized the Confederate war-effort and processed the trauma of defeat. First, despite historians’ insistence that white Southerners focused their attention and memories on Lee and his army, the western theater occupies a more prominent place in the post-war Confederate mind than previously thought. Second, unlike that of the eastern army, the Army of Tennessee’s memory was constructed in a fragmented manner that allowed for the circumvention of its wartime record. For the army to maintain both prevalence in Confederate memory and synchronicity with the Lost Cause narrative of the war, it could not be remembered in the same holistic manner as “General Lee’s Army.” In focusing their memories on isolated moments, contingencies, units, or individuals—as opposed to the army as an inclusive institution—ex- Confederates succeeded in reconciling the army’s record with the Lost Cause.

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