Publication Date





Kent State University Press


Black-and-white photographs of former enemies gripping hands across the low, stone fence that rambles down Cemetery Ridge are among the most iconic images of Civil War veterans. Snapped at the fiftieth anniversary reunion in Gettysburg, an event that organizers billed as the “Peace Jubilee,” these disarming scenes came to epitomize the swift exceptionalism of sectional reconciliation in the decades after the Civil War. In 1990, documentarian Ken Burns successfully exploited the emotional power of those photographs—together with sepia-toned newsreel footage of the final reunion of Union and Confederate veterans, held in Gettysburg in 1938—in his nine-part PBS film series. A decade later, historian David W. Blight bookended his history of the Civil War’s place in American memory with scenes from the 1913 reunion. For Blight, what was on display under the Great Tent at Gettysburg was the spectacle of “Blue-Gray fraternalism”—the product of an untoward alliance between white supremacists and “reconciliationists” impatient to put the war behind them. Hardly quaint, nostalgic, or politically unaware, “reunion” had sobering costs. Fifty years after the war that ended slavery, President Woodrow Wilson, a Virginia-born, South Carolina-reared segregationist, declared the late rebellion a “quarrel forgotten.” And, in Blight’s words, “Jim Crow” freely “stalked the dirt paths of the veterans’ tent city.”