About two months ago, Jonathan Winskie and I began planning a session for the 37th annual Appalachian Studies Association (ASA) Conference. We decided to go with the format of three presenters and one commentator. Unable to find a third presenter locally, Jonathan put out a call on H-Net and various other networking sites. He received several terrific responses but Jonathan and I decided Katharine Dahlstrand from Florida Atlanta University. She had a topic that matched our theme and geographic location of study, so she seemed like the perfect fit. With three presenters set, the search began for a commentator. As a shot in the dark, Jonathan contacted Dr. John Inscoe. Dr. Inscoe is a bit of a legendary figure within the study of Appalachia. He honored Jonathan and I by sitting in on our session at last year’s ASA Conference. Within a day of contacting him, Dr. Inscoe agreed to the task of commenting on our papers. With high hopes, Jonathan submitted the session proposal (below).
Today, we were among the first to receive notification that our session proposal had been accepted by the ASA. I want to thank Jonathan Winskie for putting in a lot of man hours to pull this session together. I also want to thank Katharine for coming on board to add her scholarship to this promising panel. Last but not least, a special thanks to Dr. John Inscoe for agreeing to put up with a few grad students for the weekend. March 28th cannot get here fast enough and I look forward to seeing everybody in Huntington, WV!
Abstract for “The Nature of War: Environmental Perspectives on the Civil War and Reconstruction in East Tennessee”
“If we can take and hold Chattanooga and East Tennessee, I think the Rebellion must dwindle and die.” President Abraham Lincoln’s prescient observation underscored the importance of East Tennessee’s Civil War campaigns. At critical juncture of strategic terrain and rail lines, East Tennesseans witnessed terrific, and horrific, battles and maneuvers. During the penultimate point of disunion, over 50,000 fighting men fell victim to East Tennessee’s brutal war. Though a growing contingent of scholars have turned a scholarly eye to southern Appalachia’s role in the Civil War, the role of the environment in this narrative has been largely ignored.
This panel’s papers attempt to discern the reciprocal roles played by people and environment during the pivotal events in East Tennessee. Jonathan Winskie analyzes how soldiers experienced, perceived, and were thus mentally affected by the unique environment of the Chattanooga area. Rob Baker continues the narrative through investigating Patrick Cleburne’s use of heights to a tactical advantage while serving as the rear guard for the Confederate retreat from Chattanooga, and how the altered land affected the lives of those that subsisted on it. Katharine Dahlstrand carries the theme of altered land and lives into Reconstruction, where she analyzes institutional environmental exclusion of the African American populations seeking autonomy in East Tennessee. Dr. John Inscoe will critique the papers, thus assisting in the students’ scholarly development. As these papers elucidate, environment is not only the passive recipient of human alteration, but rather it plays an integral role in East Tennessee’s Civil War narrative.