2014 Georgia Association of Historians Annual Conference

The past few weeks have been really positive for me. Last week I found out that the Appalachian Studies Association accepted a session proposal that I helped organize. Today I received word that the Georgia Association of Historians (GAH), accepted a session proposal that I helped create. I am incredibly excited about the opportunity to present at this conference and I hope to do it justice. Hat tip to Jonathan Winskie for helping me organize this session proposal, and for finding a third presenter. I would also like to thank Dr. Jennifer Smith, who graciously agreed to comment on the papers presented. I’ll let the honeymoon go on for another day or so, and then it’s off to the library.

Here is the proposal:

Proposal: Internal Struggles of the Civil War: The Reciprocal Nature of Ideas in War and History

The Civil War is the climatic struggle in the adolescence of the United States. Every year, thousands of Americans flock to numerous battlefields, museums and cemeteries to pay homage to a pivotal event that claimed the lives of over six hundred thousand people.  In the history of this struggle, battles and their notable figures hold a monopoly over the public narrative of the war. This session intends to embrace more obscure topics that nevertheless helped to shape the war and public perception of it.  The papers in this session will address key concepts that affected and/or were affected by the war: the cultural baggage of honor that pushed southern men into war, how soldiers interacted with and were thus affected by their environment, and how the general public chooses to remember specific elements of the war concerning race.

As the first presenter, James Hill Welborn III examines Southern society from the perspective of religion and honor. He focuses specifically on the correlation between Southern Baptist Reverend Basil Manly Jr., and the Southern male. Noting that many Southerners found religious justification for slavery, he argues that on the precipice of the Civil War, Southerners faced a moral dilemma; confess their sinfulness, admit dishonor and relent to the abolitionist onslaught, or marshal their religious beliefs and sense of honor to defend themselves and their way of life.

Jonathan Winskie will continue the session by analyzing the role of the environment in the Chattanooga Campaign of 1863. He notes that in the fall of 1863, Chattanooga, Tennessee played host to 150,000 soldiers. In this area, Winskie argues that these soldiers are uniquely affected by the terrain of South Appalachia along with less-than-hospitable weather. In this presentation, he reminds us that soldiers did not simply traverse the ground they marched, but manipulated and were manipulated by it, and thus their experiences and outlooks were intricately interwoven with their surroundings.

In the final paper presentation, Robert L. Baker focuses on how Americans, and more specifically Georgians, remember Patrick Cleburne’s proposal of arming slaves to fight for the Confederacy.  He reminds us that two separate entities, the Georgia Historical Society and the Georgia Civil War Commission, recently commemorated Cleburne’s proposal using different interpretations of the event. In analyzing these commemorations, Baker argues that these interpretations reveal much about how Georgians choose to remember their past.

The fourth presenter of the session, Dr. Jennifer Smith, will weave the thread of commonality, tying the aforementioned presentations together and providing commentary and critique. As a published historian of the Civil War era, she will offer sage observations and advice to the three previous presenters, thus enhancing the student’s efforts to shape arguments into publishable quality research.


  1. Congratulations, Rob! Get someone to record this and put it up on YouTube. We need to get real historians speaking about their research so we can link it for students and other interested people. I think this is great and look forward to your presentation.

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