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Politics of the Black Flag: Guerrilla Memory and Southern Conservatism in the New South

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Hulbert, Matthew C. “Politics of the Black Flag: Guerrilla Memory and Southern Conservatism in the New South.” (Under the direction of Dr. Susanna Lee.)

This thesis explores the intersection of Civil War memory and the history of conservative politics in the New South through two critical phases and its historiographic context. Phase one examines the partisan constructs of guerrilla honor, defeat, and extra-legal violence presented in Noted Guerrillas, Or, The Warfare of the Border (1877) by fire-eating Democratic newspaperman John Newman Edwards. Through his creation of “guerrilla memory,” Edwards kindled a significant counter-narrative to traditional strands of early-Lost Cause mythology. More importantly, by harnessing class-based bushwhacker imagery and violence, Edwards expanded the socio-economic reach of the conservative Lost Cause and adjoined a newly important political function to social memory during Reconstruction. Phase two addresses broader concepts of race, gender, citizenship, and commemoration by tracing how guerrilla memory and its bushwhackers-turned-authors adapted to shifting standards of conservatism in the New South and attempted to situate themselves snugly within its elite ranks. While highlighting how turn-of-the-century bushwhacker memoirs adapted to increasingly powerful women, subsequent wars, and changing racial attitudes, practical light is also shed on the fundamental processes of memory itself—that is, the theoretical means by which strains of memory are created, updated, and even destroyed. Finally, this thesis includes a sweeping historiographic analysis of guerrilla memory; how historians and propagandists waged a partisan struggle over the memory of William C. Quantrill as an avenue to controlling guerrilla memory as a whole; and how the fallout from this debate shaped—for better and worse—the study of Confederate guerrillas for decades. In the process of surveying these sources, methodological conclusions regarding the treatment of primary materials, allegedly “tainted” by the forces of social memory, are also addressed and put to rest. Overall, “Politics of the Black Flag: Guerrilla Memory and Southern Conservatism in the New South” seeks to illuminate that deeper understanding of the ways in which southern conservatism has been remembered will, in turn, lead to equally better understanding of the forces and environment that shaped it.

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