Eberly Professor of Civil War Studies
202F Woodburn Hall
P.O. Box 6303
Morgantown, WV 26506-6303
- Civil War and Reconstruction
- Southern history
- Nineteenth-century America
- Ph.D., Rice University, 2003
- M.A., Wake Forest University, 1998
- B.A., University of Richmond, 1996
I research how Civil War Americans created widespread expectations for the future to understand how anticipations influenced people’s perceptions, actions, and stories. My first book, Diehard Rebels: The Confederate Culture of Invincibility (2007), explains why many Confederate soldiers expected victory to the bitter end. The expectations of diehard rebels merit close examination because these men prolonged the war, embodied southern patriotism, created the Lost Cause, and seized power after Reconstruction. By interpreting the letters and diaries of hundreds of Confederates, I show how several factors, including religion, slavery, sectional stereotypes, the fog of war, and widespread rumors convinced these men that they were unconquerable. When forced to surrender, stalwart southerners defended their failed expectations and fashioned a peculiar postwar identity as unconquered losers.
My current book project, Civil War Looming: A History of the Future, inverts Civil War memory studies to ask how Americans anticipated the war. This “history of the future” explains how competing visions of the nation’s horizon formed among racial, gender, and sectional groups by interpreting a host of antebellum and wartime sources, including sermons, editorials, literature, music, military records, political rhetoric, diaries, and private correspondence. By studying how diverse people forecasted the conflict, this book tests the widespread belief that Americans expected a short and glorious war at the outset. It also interprets the material culture of the Civil War era by studying things that people associated with the future, and introduces cultural prophecy as an analytical category that is the opposite of historical memory. Historians know that societies make history by looking backward and forward in time, but scholarly hindsight often privileges memories at the expense of expectations. I argue that anticipations may be more powerful than memories because they come first and precondition how people perceive and recall events.
Grad Students Advised
- HIST 453: Civil War and Reconstruction
- HIST 454: Antebellum America
- HIST 757: Graduate Readings in U.S. History, 1776-1876
- HIST 758: Graduate Research Seminar in American History, 1776-1876
Diehard Rebels: The Confederate Culture of Invincibility (University of Georgia Press, 2007; paperback, 2010)
Storytelling, History, and the Postmodern South (edited volume, Louisiana State University Press, 2013)
Selected Articles and Essays:
“Harpers Ferry Looming: A History of the Future” Rethinking History 18.1(March 2014), 1027
“The Prophecy of Edmund Ruffin: Anticipating the Future of Civil War History,” Zachary Dresser and Benjamin Wright, eds., Apocalypse and the Millennium: Providential Religion and the Era of the American Civil War (Louisiana State University Press, 2013), 13-30
“Prophecies among Civil War Soldiers: Testing the Short War Thesis,” Jimmy L. Bryan, Jr., ed., The Martial Imagination: Cultural Aspects of American Warfare (Texas A&M University Press, 2013), 183-200
“The Liars at the Jung Hotel,” Storytelling, History, and the Postmodern South (Louisiana State University Press, 2013), 111.
“Rebels in War and Peace: Their Ethos and Its Impact” in Paul A. Cimbala and Randall M. Miller, eds., The Great Task Remaining before Us: Reconstruction as America’s Continuing Civil War (Fordham University Press, 2010), 15472.
“The Return of the Beards” Reviews in American History 37.3 (September 2009): 46369.
“The Grape Vine Telegraph: Rumors and Confederate Persistence.” David Roediger, ed., The Best American History Essays, 2008 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 203234 [Reprint].
“Battling Stereotypes: A Taxonomy of Common Soldiers in Civil War History” History Compass 6 (2008): 140725.
“What America Lost, Buried, and Became” Reviews in American History 36.4 (December 2008): 51928.
“A Brothers’ War? Exploring Confederate Perceptions of the Enemy” Aaron Sheehan-Dean, ed., The View from the Ground: The Experiences of Civil War Soldiers (University Press of Kentucky, 2007), 6790.
“Against All Odds” Civil War Times (November/December 2007): 2229.
“The Grape Vine Telegraph: Rumors and Confederate Persistence” Journal of Southern History 72 (November 2006): 75388.
“Religious Belief and Troop Motivation: ‘For the Smile of My Blessed Savior’” Peter Wallenstein and Bertram Wyatt-Brown, eds., Virginia’s Civil War (University of Virginia Press, 2005), 10113.