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Memories of WarVisiting Battlegrounds and Bonefields in the Early American Republic$
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Thomas A. Chambers

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801448676

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801448676.001.0001

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The Changing Nature of Battlefield Tourism and Commemoration

(p.1) Introduction
Memories of War

Thomas A. Chambers

Cornell University Press

This introductory chapter looks at how Americans performed acts of memory in a manner that was less about the distinctly nationalistic concerns than it was about the transatlantic trend of picturesque scenery and sentiment that pervaded early nineteenth-century Anglo-American culture. Americans maintained an ambivalent relationship with the past; performing acts of nationalism remained confined to urban spaces which lacked the melancholy responses tourists experienced at barren battlefield sites in magnificent landscapes. By the time the larger American public focused on battlefield commemoration, in the 1850s, this Romantic impulse had faded and memories of war were subsumed by sectional politics. Before that moment, however, people did visit battlefields, and in growing numbers. Their visits made these battlefields into “sacred places,” but this early sacralization was not about politics and was ill-fitted with the patriotic purposes to which these sites would eventually be put.

Keywords:   nationalism, early nineteenth century, Anglo-American culture, battlefield sites, battlefield commemoration, sectional politics, sacralization of battlefields

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