Reenivisioning War Through Children’s Eyes: Northern and Southern Literature in Post-Civil War America
In post-Civil War America, the sectional divide between Northern and Southern states continued to cause conflict even after the fighting had ended. In order to uphold their memory of the conflict, authors from both sides used the publication of children’s literature as a vehicle to spread their perspective. The Southern states wrote myths about the “Lost Cause” of the Civil War, a post-war invention to explain the South’s defeat in the Civil War and to maintain a predominantly white political system. In the Northern states, authors illustrated a romantic view of the war in order to spread tales of patriotism and encourage continuing enlistment in the army. Although finally a union following the Civil War, the two parts of the United States could not be more different.
Historians have combed through Civil War archives and have come to understand many of the causes of the sectional divide that developed during Reconstruction. Most historians have focused on the ways those who lived through the war have memorialized the war over time, but what about the next generation? A closer look at children’s literature reveals some of the ways sectional beliefs were inculcated in the next generation of Northern and Southerners. Children's literature is significant because the children who were influenced by the works became the future adult generation in the Reconstruction, Gilded Age, and Progressive Era. These periods, plagued with racism and conflict, were the result of interpretations of the Civil War that shaped American views on political and social issues. Drawing Southern children’s literature from the late 19th and early 20th centuries and using Northern literature as a counterpoint, this paper will ask, how did children’s literature influence the memory of the Civil War in the North and the South? These competing values are still ingrained in our culture today, and have created a ripple effect in which we cannot agree on our history. When we rethink of this period in terms of creating a generation of new beliefs, it encourages us to look into the root of how these beliefs were instilled.