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The (re) construction of narrative : decolonization and postbellum southern literature

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The (re) construction of narrative : decolonization and postbellum southern literature
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Russell, David W., 1965-
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 280-294).
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Typescript.
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THE (RE)CONSTRUCTION OF NARRATIVE:
DECOLONIZATION AND POSTBELLUM SOUTHERN LITERATURE

















By
DAVID W. RUSSELL





















A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

1996




THE (RE)CONSTRUCTION OF NARRATIVE:
DECOLONIZATION AND POSTBELLUM SOUTHERN LITERATURE
By
DAVID W. RUSSELL
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1996


This dissertation is dedicated to my mother, Janet Rae
Russell, a woman whose sacrifices made this work possible.
Her model of decency and integrity will stay with me always,
and anything good that X ever do or become will be due almost
completely to her.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
So many people have contributed to this dissertation that
I feel frankly embarrassed in calling it my own. I owe a debt
of gratitude to all of the members of the dissertation reading
group I participated in, particularly Gary MacDonald and
Rhonda Morris. Their comments, discoveries, encouragements,
and subtle decencies propelled me at moments when I wallowed
in self-pity, secure in the knowledge that I would never
finish. Anne Goodwyn Jones, though not my director, provided
stability and comfort as well as acute observations, some just
in passing (as when I had the audacity to invade her lunch
with another graduate student), all of which gave me a sense
of the worth of my ideas and the confidence to pursue them.
Finally, I would not have a dissertation at all without the
tireless efforts of my director, David Leverenz. His
amazingly careful readings, occasional intellectual butt-
kickings, patience through my rantings, and compassion
throughout have made the next chapter in my life possible. He
has also offered me a model of integrity and dignity that I
can only long to emulate.


TABLE OF CONTENTS
page
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS iii
ABSTRACT V
CHAPTERS
INTRODUCTION 1
Notes 11
1 RHETORIC AND THE (DE)CONSTRUCTION OF NATION 14
Notes 54
2 PERFORMING CONFEDERATE NATIONALISM:
WHITE WOMEN'S REJECTION OF BODILY GOVERNMENT 59
Notes 106
3 RECONQUERING OLD TERRAIN: PATRIARCHAL
REPOSITIONING IN AUGUSTA JANE EVANS'S
ST. ELMO Ill
Notes 143
4 THE GEOGRAPHY OF SOUTHERN NATIONALISM . 151
Notes 189
5 "YOU CAN'T KILL ME BUT ONCE": THE
CHALLENGE OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN TEXTUALITY . 196
Notes 260
CONCLUSION 276
Notes 279
WORKS CITED 280
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 295
iv


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
THE (RE)CONSTRUCTION OF NARRATIVE:
DECOLONIZATION AND POSTBELLUM SOUTHERN FICTION
By
David W. Russell
December 1996
Chairperson: David Leverenz
Major Department: English
This project focuses on Southern fiction produced in the
post-Civil War period. Despite the defeat of the Confederacy,
the idea of a Southern nation lingered in the minds of many
whites. White Southern novelists produced a series of works
which reflect a postcolonial commitment to nation-building;
that is, these writers sought to revitalize and redeploy the
organizing principles of the antebellum South. In Benedict
Anderson's phrase, these writers shared the idea of an
"imagined community": a Southern nation, predicated on a
continuity of thought and custom among the white people of the
region. Intervening in this re-creation of white hegemony was
the writing of African Americans. The desire for
"decolonization" is one of the prime forces energizing these
fictions. The drive to decolonize also initiated an argument
about just exactly what the South and being Southern meant.


INTRODUCTION
There are 250 or so countries (flags) in the world, but more
than 3,000 nations (peoples) who want their own countrythus
"small" wars.
Richard Reeves, "Where we've been in 20
years"
Gainesville Sun. January 3, 1996
"Tell mother I die for my country. I did what I thought was
best."
purportedly the last words of John Wilkes
Booth1
In a lecture at the Sorbonne in 1882, historian Ernest
Renan tried to answer a simply formulated yet complex
question"What is a nation?" Defying geographical
determinism, Renan asserted, "A nation is a spiritual
principle, the outcome of the profound complications of
history; it is a spiritual family not a group determined by
the shape of the earth" (18-9). Amplifying his discussion,
Renan explained that a nation needed two supporting premises
a belief in a common past and "the desire to live together":
A nation is therefore a large-scale solidarity,
constituted by the feeling of the sacrifices that one has
made in the past and of those that one is prepared to
make in the future. It presupposes a past; it is
summarized, however, in the present by a tangible fact,
namely, consent, the clearly expressed desire to continue
a common life. A nation's existence is, if you will
pardon the metaphor, a daily plebiscite, just as an
individual's existence is a perpetual affirmation of
life. (Renan 19)
For Renan, a nation was "a soul, a spiritual principle." In
1


2
detaching the definition of nation from geography, Renan
argued that a nation could exist even if it did not appear on
a map or possess a material presence in the landscape. As
long as citizens continued to "vote" for it, a nation could
live on in perpetuity.
Renan made his case two decades after the Confederate
States of America had been formed, and his definition of
nation has important implications for thinking about the post
war Confederacy. Historians and sociologists have long
understood the significance of Southern nationalism when
considering the persistent belief in the region's
distinctiveness. However, when they have analyzed postbellum
Southern fiction, literary critics have not been so scrupulous
in understanding the ideology of nationalism as well as the
way in which the Southern nation became a potent force even in
defeat.2 This study argues that postbellum fiction functioned
as both an effect of and an organizing principle for the
perpetuation of the idea of a Southern nation.
The fiction generated by white Southern writers in the
aftermath of the Civil War reinvigorated the Confederacy and
its organizing precepts. By emphasizing the imperial nature
(at least from their perspective) of Union invasion and
occupation, these writers were able to sell a perception of
the South and Southerners as abused and defamed but
nonetheless heroic. Calling upon a common racial heritage
with Northern whites, these writers subtly but effectively


3
interjected themselves into the debate over black civil
rights, a debate that culminated with the rejection of federal
protections for African Americans. Indeed, the fictions
produced by white Southern writers proved so effective that in
December 1888 novelist and civil rights advocate Albion W.
Tourgee pronounced American literature "not only Southern in
type, but distinctly Confederate in sympathy" (405), and
Thomas Dixon baldly offered a return to "white man's
government," along the lines of the old Confederacy, as the
appropriate model of 20th century American nationhood.
To be sure, the reconsolidation of white power did not go
unchallenged. Tourgee, with A Fool1s Errand (1879) and Bricks
without straw (1880), tried to undermine the revisionist
histories of Southern whites. A more powerful challenge, one
that I consider in Chapter 5, was offered by African-American
writers. Frances Harper's Iola Leroy (1892), Charles W.
Chesnutt's The Marrow of Tradition (1901), and Sutton E.
Griggs's various novels, notably his first, Imoerium in
Imperio (1899), provided counter-histories, giving voice to
the experiences of blacks in the postbellum South. In
challenging the attempt to create a hegemonic (and exclusively
white) historiography of the post-war South, these writers
also tried to map out their idea of 20th century Americaan
"imagined community" that would be integrated and respectful
of all voices in the narrative of nation. Ultimately,
however, these writers had their own literary voices drowned


4
out by the racist rhetoric, epitomized by Dixon's novels, that
came to dominate American culture in the latter part of the
19th century. Significantly, none of these writers published
significant fiction after 1908. Iola Leroy proved to be
Harper's only novel, Chesnutt went back into the stenography
business in Cleveland after the commercial failure of The
Marrow of Tradition and The Colonel's Dream (1905), and Griggs
abandoned writing after the publication of his fifth novel,
Unfettered (1908), to concentrate on his Baptist ministry.
The idea of a "post-war Confederacy" still might seem
oxymoronic, particularly given the fact that America has
remained united since the Civil War. As Renan pointed out,
however, and as Benedict Anderson has amplified, a nation is
not merely a geographical entity but rather "a spiritual
principle." As Anderson makes clear with his aforementioned
phrase "imagined community," a nation is by definition a
fictive construct, believed in because its purveyors cultivate
an ideology of commonality among its inhabitants. As Clifford
Geertz has argued, the job of ideology is to engender belief:
The function of ideology is to make an autonomous
politics possible by providing the authoritative concepts
that render it meaningful, the suasive images by means of
which it can be sensibly grasped. (Geertz 63)
Calling upon the work of Geertz, historian John McCardell
argues that Southern nationalism became a viable strategy for
retaining traditions and institutions (most notably slavery)
that seemed under assault from all other quarters of the
American union.3 The central premise of this study is that


5
the ideology of Southern nationalism became so deeply embedded
in those who governed, fought for, and suffered as a result of
the Confederacy that this idea became a basic component part
of Southern identity.4 When that nation was defeated in war,
the idea of it remained strong, providing an ideological
framework for a resuscitation of Southern political power and
the redeployment of antebellum gender and race relations.
Southern nationalism was created by and then sustained the
belief in Southern difference." The fiction authored by
whites in the postbellum period, rather than mourn the passing
of the Southern nation, fought to keep that "imagined
community" alive and vibrant and politically valid.
The focus of this study is primarily white men and women.
I focus on the ways in which these various white writers set
about the task of creating and sustaining an "imagined
community," a community built upon racist premises. Far from
justifying this racism, I try to understand it as a strategy
of decolonization. As Richard Gray has asserted, the
expansion of the literary canon requires that we now think of
Southern cultures, not a singular culture.5 This study
critiques the attempt on the part of the first generation of
postbellum Southern writers to reconstruct and assert the
exclusivity of a dominant, necessarily white Anglo-Saxon
culture.
Chapter 1 focuses on the ways in which secessionists
sought to link ideas of nation and masculinity to promote the


6
idea of a separate Southern nation and to insure its
viability. Looking at contemporary critical essays, poetry,
letters and diary entries, I contend that the Confederate
nation-builders posited the Southern nation as the phallus,
testing each Southerner's "manhood" by measuring their loyalty
to and willingness to fight for that nation. With this
rhetorical construct, the defeat of Southern troops at the
hands of the Yankees called into question the Confederacy's
efficacy. The ultimate defeat of the Confederacy had a
devastating impact on Southern manhood, requiring significant
efforts on the part of Southern women after the war to recoup
Southern men's self-image.
In Chapter 2, I examine the role white Southern women
were expected to play in the creation of the Confederacy.
Women occupied a seemingly paradoxical double spacethey had
to be weak in order to incline their men to fight, but at the
same time they had to be strong to maintain the homefront and
keep up a happy facade for the men in the field. This double
space was merely an extension of the equally paradoxical space
ascribed to Southern womanhood in generalat once the
repository of all that was good and moral and simultaneously
without a voice to advocate such values. Defeat created a
disjunction between rhetoric and reality for both Confederate
men and women. As they suffered increasing and unmitigated
deprivation on the homefront. Southern women rejected their
prescribed role as patient sufferers. They engaged in


7
protests (one of which was attended and disbanded by Jefferson
Davis) and advocated desertion to their men in the field. In
this way, Confederate women had a hand in the final defeat of
their nation, because they began not to identify with it.
Yet, in an ironic twist, these same women were made to believe
that their resubmission to patriarchal authority was crucial
to the reconstruction of Southern political power.
Chapter 3 is a consideration of the South's most
prominent antebellum female novelist, Augusta Jane Evans.
Understanding that Southern men needed to be uplifted after
the war, Evans wrote St. Elmo, a novel in which the main
female character, Edna Earl, devastates her body so badly that
she needs to be rescued by a strong manSt. Elmo Murray. St.
Elmo has assumed all of the qualities previously ascribed to
womenhe is religious, moral, and succoring. Considering St.
Elmo (which was Evans's most successful book) as a revision of
her antebellum novel, Beulah. in which Beulah Benton must
rescue her husband from moral nihilism, shows how drastically
Evans revises notions of female character and the female body
in order to reposition Southern men as strong, brave, and
virile. In this way, St. Elmo becomes Evans's attempt to
resuscitate the idea of the Southern nation, an idea that she
clung to passionately.
Whereas Evans reconfigures Southern manhood to
reinvigorate the imagined community of the Confederacy, three
prominent local color writers of a later generationKate


8
Chopin, Thomas Nelson Page, and George Washington Cable
create a revisionary geography to accommodate revisionary
histories. Chopin's At Fault creates a landscape in which
racial diversity gets replaced by a pervasive whiteness. Page
and Cable both produce "chronicles of Reconstruction," but
they also construct imaginative geographical settings that
both confirm the South's repossession of itself and reorganize
social relations, which had been turned upside down by the
war. The Supreme Court's rejection of civil rights
legislation for blacks as unconstitutional in 1883 re-placed
authority for such protections in the hands of local
authorities. This reemphasis on the power of the "local"
allowed local colorists like Chopin, Page, and Cable to create
a local scene that restores antebellum values and premises in
a postbellum world.
Chapter 5 looks at the burgeoning writing of African-
Americans as well as the response to it by Thomas Dixon, who
with The Leopard's Soots (1902) and The Clansman (1905) became
the most widely read author of his day. Dixon's virulent
racism tapped into a national anxiety about "others" at the
turn of the century. Writers like Frances Harper, Charles
Chesnutt, and particularly Sutton Griggs had begun to create
a response of sorts to the widespread notion of the
inferiority of African-Americans. Griggs and Dixon offer
competing versions of "nation" for America at the turn of the
20th century. In his first novel, Imperium in Imperio. Griggs


9
rejects the possibility of separate nations, one white and one
black, and instead offers a plea for integration. Dixon
tacitly offers two potential nationhoods for Americaone
prophesying anarchy because of Anglo-Saxon submission to
"dark" races, and the other the Confederate model, a nation
premised on white supremacy. Dixon's success presaged a
struggle for civil rights for African-Americans that would
last for over half a century.
Undoubtedly some might question the appropriateness of
considering white Southerners after the Civil War as
"colonized." After all, their nation stood for a far more
direct form of colonizationslavery. Interestingly, though,
signs of the Confederate nation have been appropriated as
modes of protest and resistance. For instance, in his survey
of the genre of Southern rock music, Paul Wells argues that
Southern musicians strive to create in their music "nostalgic
continuities," mythic connections between the Civil War South
and modern day which constantly invigorate the idea of
Southern distinctiveness. Discussing the way in which
Sherman's burning of Atlanta is a repeated trope in many
Southern rock songs, Wells shows how "the South" becomes a
metonym for resistance:
It is clear that whatever was achieved politically by
"the North" in winning the Civil War, little has changed
psychologically and emotionally in "the South." Southern
rock has thus taken on the mantle of resistance group,
still metaphorically fighting the war by refusing closure
and signifying an enduring alternative culture, perhaps
most significantly embodied in the figure of "the Rebel."
(Wells 118)


10
Oddly, as Wells suggests, Southern rock relied on its own
political incorrectness to attract fans and retain popularity.
Southern rock thus becomes one manifestation in popular
culture of the continued belief in Southern nationalism. As
Wells sums up, "Ironically, in southern rock culture, looking
back eguates with looking forward, and creating an identity
which resists the contradictions of contemporary life. This
construction is its own 'happy ending,' validating the notion
that, even if only at the level of consolidating a place in
popular culture, the South has risen again" (126).6 At least
in its popular manifestations, the Confederacy comes to
represent the very idea of resistance that postbellum white
Southern writers tried to deploy. Rightly or not, the idea
that the South was imposed upon by an imperial power after the
war has become popularly accepted.
Thus, I seek not to trivialize the struggles of people
emerging from colonization by misappropriating postcolonial
theory. Rather, by doing some "creative borrowing," as Edward
Said calls it, I wish to try and understand the reconstruction
of a "national" consciousness and culture at the same time
that the nation in question ceased to exist. Postbellum
Southern fiction is a key venue at which discourses on race,
gender, and class merge to produce a "national" narrative, a
narrative that could assert a coherent Southern identity to
countermand "imperial" discourse and aid in the process of
decolonization. In this way, I propose a new reading strategy


11
for Southern literature which recognizes the importance of
Southern nationalism and which, for good or ill, identifies
significant tropes of this literature, such as racism, a
resurgent patriarchy, and an emphasis on "local color," not as
regional idiosyncracies but as strategies of cultural self-
determination. Our country still struggles with lingering
vestiges of the Confederacy. Only by understanding these
vestiges as embedded cultural phenomena, phenomena dictated by
the imagined community of the Southern nation, can we ever
hope to combat them by offering an alternative model of
nationhood.
NOTES
1There is some debate as to just exactly what, if
anything, Booth actually said. In addition to his reported
message to his mother, Booth is said to have begged, "Kill me-
-kill me!" Booth actually wrote a letter explaining his
actions, writing over his signature, "A Confederate doing duty
upon his own responsibility." Ray Stannard Baker reported in
the May 1897 McClure's Magazine that as Booth rushed out of
the barn he was hold up in, he shouted, "One more stain on the
glorious old banner." Regardless of what Booth said, his
passion derived from his belief in the idea of a Southern
nation. See Albert Furtwangler, Assassin on Stage (Urbana:
University of Illinois Press, 1991), p. 112, and Baker, The
Capture. Death and Burial of J. Wilkes Booth (Chicago: The
Poor Richard Press, 1940).
2Discussing the "post-Rubin" generation of critics of
Southern literature in his introduction to Southern T.iterature
and Literary Theory, Jefferson Humphries concedes that the
Civil War does not play as central a role in modern-day
criticism as it did for the critics of Louis Rubin's
generation. Humphries argues that the Civil Rights movement
of the 1960's (which he sees as an offshoot of the war) more
directly informs the new generation's critical sensibilities.
Thus, Humphries disputes Lewis Simpson's claim that historians
and not literary critics will be more adept at identifying the
complexities of Southern identity:


12
The conflict between Old and New South, the sort of
tensions we lived through, and still feel, while
different from those occasioned by the economic and
material devastation of the Civil War and Reconstruction,
are too powerful to find expression in the quieter,
cooler mode of history alone. Only literature can
accommodate them. (Humphries xii)
Yet Humphries's decentering of the Civil War removes a key
component for understanding the evolution of Southern culture-
-Confederate nationalism. Tellingly, though many different
theoretical approaches get space in Southern Literature and
T.iterary Theory (and Humphries particularly champions
deconstruction), no critic discusses the implications of
Southern nationalism and/or the postcoloniality of the post-
Reconstruction South. Humphries is right to be wary of a
simple recurrence to what he calls an "organicist nationalism"
as an explanation of Southern distinctiveness, but his mere
passing glance at the significance of the Civil War for "post-
Rubin" critics denies the possibilities offered for Southern
cultural studies through post-colonial theory and conceptions
of nationalism(s). See Humphries, "Introduction: On the
Inevitability of Theory in Southern Literary Study," in
Southern Literature aild Literary Theory (Athens: The
University of Georgia Press, 1990), pp. viii-xviii.
3McCardell makes the following argument concerning the
situation of the South in the 1820's and 30's:
The South was becoming increasingly aware of its minority
status within the Union. Compounding the difficulties of
this position were the declining economic fortunes of the
seaboard states coupled with a growing concern over the
future of slavery. Each of these problemsbeginning
with the Missouri crisis of 1819-20, continuing with the
social and economic dislocation of the 1820's, and
intensifying with the launching of William Lloyd
Garrison's abolition newspaper The Liberator in 1831
converged and crystallized during the tariff imbroglio of
the early 1830's. The resulting strain aroused and
sharpened sectional awareness. Many Southerners were
finding, in Geertz's words, their social situation
incomprehensible. And, as a result, they turned to
Southern nationalism to render their situation
meaningful. (McCardell 4)
I want to extend McCardell's argument, suggesting that the
idea of the Southern nation helped defeated Southerners cope
with not only defeat but also the modern world, as exemplified
by the North, a world that had little use for Southern
traditions and economics. See McCardell, The Idea of a


13
Southern Nation (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1979) ,
particularly pp. 3-9.
4Historian David M. Potter notes the paradox of the
increase in Southern nationalistic feeling due to defeat in
war: "The Civil War did far more to produce a southern
nationalism which flourished in the cult of the Lost Cause
than southern nationalism did to produce the war" (469) As
Ernest Renan suggests, a nation requires an acknowledged and
embraceable common past. Ironically, defeat in war provided
Southerners with just such a past (manifesting itself most
clearly, as Potter points out, in the myths of the Lost
Cause). Thus, to talk of a "post-war Confederacy" is not so
illogical or historically inaccurate as it might initially
seem. See Potter, The Impending Crisis. 1848-1861 (New York:
Harper and Row, 1976). See also Carl N. Degler, Place Over
Time: The Continuity of Southern Distinctiveness (Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State University Press, 1977), pp. 99-132, and J. P.
Radford, "Identity and Tradition in the Post-Civil War South,"
Journal of Historical Geography 18 (1992): 91-103.
5See Richard Gray, "Afterword: Negotiating Differences:
Southern Culture(s) Now," in Dixie Debates: Perspective on
Southern Cultures, eds. Richard H. King and Helen Taylor (New
York: New York University Press, 1996), pp. 218-227.
6In fact, the idea of the Confederacy as resistance
extends beyond the geographical borders of the South. Wells
begins his consideration of Southern rock by describing a
scene in an auditorium in London in 1975 where a local band
was doing a cover of the Lynyrd Skynyrd song "Freebird":
Two young lads from the South (of England) One,
stetsoned and cowboy-booted, perched precariously on the
shoulders of the other, waving an outsized Confederate
flag. Three guitarists, hair tumbling wildly, united at
the front of the stage, each producing the satisfying
wail and screech of the extended solo at the end of
Lynyrd Skynyrd's rock anthem, "Freebird." Somehow, some
way, the music of the American South had come to mean so
much to an insecure English teenager hundreds of miles
away. (115)
Closer to home, the Montana "Freemen," a group that did not
recognize U. S. sovereignty and proclaimed that they had
seceded from the union, reportedly used the Confederate Stars
and Bars as one of its symbols of defiance. Ironically, all
of the emphasis on "free" locates itself in the symbolism of
a nation which itself was predicated, at least in part, on a
population of unfree.


CHAPTER 1
THE MAKING OF THE CONFEDERACY:
THE FICTIVE BORDERS OF SOUTHERN MASCULINITY AND NATION
At least on the Southern side, the Civil War was about
liberation, fought against what advocates of secession
perceived to be a tyrannical, colonizing Northern government.
"The Constitution, either openly violated or emasculated of
its true meaning and spirit by the subtleties of New England
logic, is powerless for protection," wrote William H. Holcombe
in the February 1861 Southern Literary Messenger. The
election of Lincoln provided merely the final pretext for a
break between the two sections. But Holcombe's own shifting
gender distinctions concerning the Constitution highlight his
chief dissatisfaction with union. The Constitution was
androgynoussusceptible to "violation" (feminine) or
"emasculation" by "the subtleties of New England logic."
Later in his essay advocating "a separate nationality,"
Holcombe describes Northern abolitionists as "that motley crew
of men who should be women and women who should be men" (87) .
What Holcombe and other advocates of secession craved was a
national space that was based on and posited as normative a
bold heterosexual masculinity, a national premise that could
resist violation and emasculation.
14


15
In Nationalism and Sexuality. George L. Mosse traces the
rise of German nationalism that eventually led to the Nazi
state. He notes that heterosexual masculinity became an
important tool in the creation of nation: "Manliness was
invoked to safeguard the existing order against the perils of
modernity, which threatened the clear distinction between what
was considered normal and abnormality. Moreover, manliness
symbolized the nation's spiritual and material vitality" (23).
Strong, heterosexual men exemplified a strong, healthy nation.
Deviances could not be tolerated, and those "perils of
modernity," that is, ideas and behaviors that challenged the
bourgeois status quo, constituted such deviances. Mosse notes
how such deviant characters were portrayed in nationalist
propaganda:
The ugly counter-image of the nervous, unstable
homosexual and masturbator, whose physiognomy was ever
more sharply delineated thanks to medical science's
attribution of moral and aesthetic values, became an
important symbol of the threat to nationalism and
respectability posed by the rapid changes of the modern
age. (31)
Such "counter-images" reflected the supposed results of a lack
of moral control. People who gave in to their lusts sapped
their strength and thus became unproductive; people who
invested themselves in the state channeled their energies
(including their "harmful" desires) into socially positive
acts of nationalism.
Though Mosse was writing about turn-of-the-century
Germany, his ideas can be applied to the Southern United


16
States of the mid-19th century. Just such a normative
heterosexual principle was articulated and deployed in the
rhetoric of secession. In fact, the rhetoric of the "Southern
man" and the rhetoric of Confederate nationalism became
inextricably linked, reinforcing and depending upon one
another. Supporters of secession, calling upon the cavalier
myth of Southern manhood, argued that a Southern nation was
viable because of the superiority of Southern men.
Conversely, the idea of a Southern nation helped organize
gender relations by associating "apporpriate" masculinity with
the willingness to fight for the Confederacy. The rhetoric of
secession thus created two interdependent discoursesone of
"proper" masculinity and one of "proper" nationthat had to
cite one another to verify their respective premises.
The cavalier myth, which purported to explain Southern
"difference" and the superiority of Southern men, existed long
before secession.1 Secession advocates merely exploited the
belief in that superiority to make their case for "a separate
nationality." "We are the land of rulers; fanaticism has no
home here," wrote Georgia planter Charles C. Jones, Jr., to
his father on January 28, 1861. "The sooner we separate the
better" (Myers 43). William Holcombe concurred with such an
opinion:
The word submission, in the sense of political
degradation, does not exist in the Southern vocabulary.
There is no man in the South so stupid, so cowardly, so
base as to be willing to live in the Union as it is.
(Holcombe 86)


17
For Jones and Holcombe and other proponents of the sectional
split, the Southern man's capacity to rule was indisputable.
As one Southern editorialist noted in an essay distinguishing
between Northern and Southern men, lording over an entire race
demonstrated "their particular capacity for executive control"
("The Difference . ," 403). A separate nation would
provide the venue that would both protect Southern
institutions and traditions and confirm for the world the
honor of Southern men.
The concept of "honor" organized white Southern society
and self-perception. As Bertram Wyatt-Brown has argued, the
failure of Northerners to recognize the importance of honor in
the make-up of Southern life only exacerbated the sectional
strife. He divides the concept of honor into three
distinctive ideas: "the inner conviction of self-worth," "the
claim of . self-assessment before the public," and "the
assessment of the claim by the public, a judgment based upon
the behavior of the claimant" (14). Honor required a public
consensus; it was an ideology which interpellated subjects,
making those subjects understand behavior acceptable to the
state as well as the unacceptability of challenges to that
ideology.2 The North and its attitudes, along with the
possibility of the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, posed
the most serious challenge to Southern society and the
institutions it cherished. As Wyatt-Brown puts it, "pre-Civil
War Southerners had to calculate the value of union when their


18
claims to respect were met in the North with skepticism,
condescension, and finally, contempt" (20-21).
Thus, the Southern nation could be proposed as a viable
idea because of the deeply held belief in the superiority of
Southern men. Once secession gained support, the Southern
nation began to dictate the grounds of "appropriate" Southern
masculinity. Some pro-South advocates tried to connect the
future of the new nation to the storied past of the region.
For example, Joseph Addison Turner, a Georgia planter and
writer, argued in the July 1860 DeBow's Review that
Southerners should boycott Northern-produced goods as a sign
of regional solidarity. Conceding that some economic hardship
might result, Turner used the prominent families of the South
as a model of how his generation's men should comport
themselves:
Are the sons of our fathers so degenerate that they can
sacrifice nothing to the cause of independence? Ar they
willing, for the sake of present ease and luxury, to
remain in a state of virtual vassalage? Is the spirit of
the Habershams, the Mclntoshes, the Tatnalls, the Troups,
and all that gallant host, whose name is legion, extinct?
(Turner 222)
Turner's diction recurs to the cavalier mythchallenging
Southern men not to accept "vassalage," referring to the great
Southern families as "gallant." In this way, Turner both
accepts the mythos of the superior Southern man and sets the
standard for his generation's men. Only by committing
themselves to "the cause of independence" could Southern men
show that they were not "degenerate." Turner's rhetoric thus


19
taps into what Mosse notes as the need of the nation to
present "manliness" as a measure of "the nation's spiritual
and material vitality."
Even more direct challenges to Southern manhood were made
in various public organs. For example, in a propaganda
pamphlet circulated throughout the South in 1860, a
secessionist using the penname Troup challenged Southern men
to join in the building of a Southern nation in order to
refute aspersions cast against the South by the New York
Tribune. The alternative, Troup suggested, was submission:
But if, indeed, we are as impotent as the Tribune
represents us, in the name of all that is decent, I
implore you, my countrymen, to submit quietly. If you
are incapable of a manly resistance, exhibit the next
best proof of manhood, silent endurance. (Troup 6)
"Manly resistance" would refute Northern claims of Southern
male impotence; submission would only confirm such ridicule.
As Troup later claims, "Any thing is better than, without one
manly effort, to take the fate of prostrate Ireland" (7) .
Troup's rhetoric cordons off a very specific space of "true"
masculinity. Only by joining the cause of the Southern nation
could Southern men show their worth and efficacy. This
rhetorical inscription "persuaded" those reluctant to commit
to secession. It also delegitimized protests against
disunion. Objections could be coded as unmanly, objectors as
"impotent."
To this end, women were enlisted as coercive agents for
the state. They literally came to embody the nation; that is,


20
in order to ensure service to the Confederacy, women offered
themselves as prizes for victory. For example, around the
same time that Thornwell was writing his essay, Carrie Bell
Sinclair wrote a song called "The Homespun Dress" which
detailed not only women's sacrifices for the war effort but
also expectations of the men they were sacrificing for:
And now, young man, a word to you;
If you would win the fair,
Go to the field where honor calls,
And win your lady there.
Remember that our brightest smiles
Are for the true and brave,
And that our tears are all for those
Who fill a soldier's grave. (I. Silber 68)
Once again calling on men's honor, Sinclair argues that the
war served a double purposeto win political sovereignty and
to win women. Even death would be rewarded by women's love,
as long as it was connected to service to the state. But
Sinclair makes quite clear what living, victorious soldiers
could expect:
The soldier is the lad for me
A brave heart I adore;
And when the sunny South is free,
And fighting is no more,
I11 choose me then a lover brave
From out the gallant band,
The soldier lad I love the best
Shall have my heart and hand.
What Sinclair suggests reinforced the rhetoric of the superior
Southern man. Only men who had served the state could be
imbued with true manhood, and Sinclair affirms that only these
men were worthy of Southern women. But Sinclair's song also
points to the ultimate marker of Southern manhoodvictory.


21
Women will choose soldiers as lovers "when the sunny South is
free." To prove themselves true men, soldiers had to make the
uniform and the nation mean something, and that meaning could
only be achieved through political independence.
The Southern nation gets installed as "the law,"
regulating both the history of the South by playing up the
cavalier myth and the categories of gender. The nation
becomes the iterative mechanism of the "law" of Southern
masculinity. Judith Butler hypothesizes in Bodies That Matter
that "sex" is a product of discourse, a discourse that gains
status as normative and "the law" because of its reiteration
as law:
The force and necessity of these norms ("sex" as a
symbolic function is to be understood as a kind of
commandment or injunction) is thus functionally dependent
on the approximations and citation of the law; the law
without its approximation is no law or, rather, it
remains a governing law only for those who would affirm
it on the basis of religious faith. If "sex" is assumed
in the same way that a law is cited . then "the law
of sex" is repeatedly fortified and idealized as the law
only to the extent that it is reiterated as the law,
produced as the law, the anterior and inapproximable
ideal, by the very citations it is said to command.
(Butler 14)
In terms of "the Southern man" as a norm, the Southern nation
dictates "the law" that verifies the norm. In other words,
the rhetoric of secession so closely intertwines the discourse
of masculinity with the discourse of nation that a subject
cannot make reference to the norm without first citing the
nation. In this way, the Southern nation gains status and
viability through its implication in the law of normative


22
Southern masculinity. As that law is "cited" (and, in the
process of citation, in Butler's formulation, "fortified and
idealized as the law"), the Southern nation is cited,
fortified, idealized, and "produced as the law" as well. The
performativity of "proper" masculinity becomes implicated in
the performativity of "proper" citizenship in the Southern
nation.
The Un-Yankee
Much of the basis for the claims of the secessionists
about Southern men rested on comparisons to Northern men.
Such comparisons underscored Northern deficiencies so as to
make the case for separation of South from North more
compelling. Southern men, for example, were depicted as
brave, trustworthy, and honorable; Northern men possessed none
of these qualities. In his letter of January 28, 1861,
Charles C. Jones, Jr. offered his own assessment as to why the
men of the two regions had grown apart:
I have long since believed that in this country have
arisen two races which, although claiming a common
parentage, have been so entirely separated by climate, by
morals, by religion, and by estimates so totally opposite
of all that constitutes honor, truth, and manliness, that
they cannot longer coexist under the same government.
(Myers 43)
For Jones, as for all disunionists, a separate Southern nation
was the only antidote to the Northern contagion of dissipated
morals. Jones conflates "manliness" with the capacity to
rule. In ascribing to Southern men the "true" qualities of


23
"honor, truth, and manliness," Jones described the basis upon
which the Confederacy would be grounded.
Positing Northern men as the "enemy" not only provided a
flashpoint for the creation of nationalism but also helped
divert attention from some potentially fractious issues
confronting the new nation. For example, slavery as a
rationale for disunion might have tended to underscore
regional and class differences. The border states of the
Confederacy relied far less on slavery for agricultural
production than did their deep South neighbors. Thus,
protecting the peculiar institution did not seem as urgent a
necessity in states like Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Further, even by Southern counts, only one in three landowners
possessed slaves, and half of those owned five slaves or fewer
(DeBow 68).
Pro-secessionists tried to harmonize such differences by
recurring to the trope of superior Southern manhood. If, as
they believed, this superiority was "racial" and inherent in
all Southern men, it transcended class boundaries and made all
brethren of a sort. Slavery served only to emphasize the
superiority of Southern men because it elevated all above
menial labor. "The poor white laborer at the North is at the
bottom of the social ladder," wrote J. D. B. DeBow in January
1861, "while his brother here has ascended several steps, and
can look down upon those who are beneath him at an infinite
remove!" (DeBow 74). Though laborers in the North and South


24
might be "brothers," DeBow asserts that the conditions and
institutions of the South served to heighten white Southern
men's advancement. Slavery was coded not as a marker of
economic and class difference but as the sign of collective
white Southern male strength.3
Some secessionists predicted that the class distinctions
between Northern and Southern men would be most in evidence
during battle. In an open letter to the North appearing in
the October 1861 Southern Literary Messenger, one pro-South
advocate suggested that the quality of the men fighting on the
Southern side would prove the decisive factor against Northern
paid "mercenaries":
It is claiming little credit to assume that our
gentlemen and farmers will prove an over-match for your
blackguards; for the total destruction of troops, such as
yours, would be gain to the North; while almost every
death in our ranks will be a real misfortune. ("Boston
Notions," 294)
These Southern "gentlemen" would be fighting for a causethe
protection of their property and institutions. Northern
troops would be fighting for the right to pillage. For this
writer, the elevation of Southern men and their moral sense of
purpose provided a counter to the North's technological and
numerical superiority.
The protection of tradition became yet another way that
secessionists distinguished Southern men from Northern.
Northern men represented a wrong-headed modernity that, if
allowed to run its course, would have catastrophic
consequences. Joseph Brenan's poem "A Ballad for the Young


25
South," published in February 1861, makes such a point with
the fictional speech by a Northern senator:
"Down with the laws our fathers made!
They bind our hearts no more;
Down with the stately edifice
Cemented by their gore!
Forget the legends of our race
Efface each wise decree
Americans must kneel as slaves,
'Till Africans are free!
Out on the mere Caucasian blood
Of Teuton, Celt or Gaul
The stream which springs from Niger's source
Must triumph over all!"
So speaks a solemn Senator
Within those halls to-day,
Which echoed erst the thunderburst
Of Webster and of Clay! (Brenan 101)
Abolitionists represented a direct threat not merely to
slavery but to the traditions of democratic government"the
laws our fathers made," "the stately edifice," "the legends of
our race." Brenan's poem lays out the challenge faced by
Southern men, but it also positions those men as "divine"
defenders: "To the Saints of Heaven was Empire given, / And we
alone are Saints!" (100).
William Holcombe sees not just the North but the whole
world in conspiracy against the South. Like Brenan, Holcombe
sees Southern men as divinely chosen interceders: "Let us be
faithful to our sublime trust, and future ages will appreciate
the grandeur and glory of our mission" ("The Alternative,"
82) For both Holcombe and Brenan, the "mission" of the
Southern nation was to provide an alternative staging area for
tradition. With its industrialization and abolitionist


26
sympathies,, the North became a convenient symbol of the
decadence sure to emerge from modernization.
Northern men were thus a product of a perverted
environment, and as such, they could not hope to compete on
the battlefield with their Southern counterparts. For one
editorialist, writing in November 1860, Northerners were "a
people who display such vicious, unmanly and undignified
qualities in every department of life, public, private, and
religious." They were "mean hermaphrodite creatures, in the
garb of men, participating in the digusting saturnalia"
("Northern Mind and Character," 349). This "unmanliness"
manifested itself most particularly in Northern men's
unwillingness to fight. They might denounce the South and its
institutions, but when challenged by Southern men, they "most
cowardly [claimed] protection of the law, or [fell] back upon
the fact of being non combatants" (349, author's emphasis).
Southern willingness to engage in physical "debate" had
a vivid historical antecedent. In May 1856, South Carolina
Representative Preston Brooks beat Massachusetts Senator
Charles Su mer into unconsciousness after Sumner refused an
invitation to duel. Sumner had made fun of the Southern
commitment to slavery as a question Butler, Brooks's cousin:
The senator from South Carolina has read many books on
chivalry, and believes himself a chivalrous knight, with
sentiments of honor and courage. Of course, he has
chosen a mistress, to whom he has made his vows, and,
who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him;
though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in


27
his sight. I mean the harlot, slavery. (quoted in
Osterweis, 1224-5)
Brooks's impetuousness actually earned the praise of his
fellow Southerners. Looking back on the event in June 1861,
L. Q. C. Lamar told Mary Chesnut that if Sumner "had stood on
his manhood . [the] blow need not have been the opening
skirmish of the war" (quoted in Wyatt-Brown, 35). Sumner's
presumed cowardice encouraged secessionists like Lamar to
trust implicitly in the superiority of Southern men.
In a burst of exuberance, Southern writers published
rousing accounts of the exploits and capacities of their
region's men. Typical of such fare was W. H. Holcombe's poem
"The Southern Man," published in the July 1860 issue of the
Southern Literary Messenger. Holcombe extols what he sees as
the chief virtues of Southern men: generosity, integrity,
faithfulness. Holcombe describes the southern man as ready
and capable of fighting and triumphing for any cause:
Is it a fight on hand?
For sacred cause or none
For a silly word or Fatherland?
With a dozen faces or one?
Clear the ring, my boys!
Battle it while you can;
But for gallant bearing and reckless daring
There's none like the Southern man!
Holcombe's language again taps into the cavalier myththe
Southern men is "gallant," but he is also "reckless." In
fact, the Southern man is also a "boy," and he fights for
"sacred cause" or "a silly word." The boyish nature, as
exemplified by Brooks's attack on Sumner, prevented the


28
Southern man from falling victim to "New England logic." The
willingness to fight, regardless of the odds ("With a dozen
faces or one?") fulfilled the requirements of honor, but it
also demonstrated why the Southern nation could survive and
flourish. The "manliness" of Southern men would work in the
same way that Mosse identifies manliness working in Nazi
propaganda--"to safeguard the existing order against the
perils of modernity." Only for Holcombe, modernity assumed
the guise of the Yankee.
All of the propaganda about the superior Southern man and
his effeminate Northern counterpart worked to create a sense
of inevitable (and quick) Confederate victory. The editors of
DeBow's Review argued in the July 1861 issue that the
leadership of the "reckless" Confederates was precisely the
quality lacking in the Northern army:
The Yankees have little self-reliance or personal
courage, are submissive and easily drilled, and may make
better common regular soldiers; but they have few men
qualified to make officers. Benedict Arnold was the best
officer the North has produced. ("The Times and the
War," 4)
Such confidence in Southern superiority was echoed by
many of the Confederate soldiers as they went into battle.
For example, 23-year old Robert Moore, a private in the 17th
Mississippi Regiment, was not deterred from duty even after
the death of his cousin. After his aunt remarked that she was
glad that her son had died in service to his country, Moore
observed in a journal entry dated June 2, 1861, "When such
sentiments are felt & expressed by the matrons and men of our


29
country, I should like to know how the Abolitionists of the
North ever expect to conquer the South" (Moore 24).
But there were doubts, too. Some Confederates feared
that the rhetoric of superior Southern manhood may have
succeeded too well. They worried that many people would
underestimate the battle before them. Captain William Dorsey
Pender voiced such concerns in a letter to his wife dated May
18, 1861:
It is hard to say which would be better for us, delay or
immediate action, for there is no doubt that they [the
Union troops] are making tremendous efforts and are
organizing much more rapidly than we. They imagine we
are much better prepared than we are. The fact is, our
people imagine the only thing to do to whip the Yankees
is to form a few volunteer companies and go to Richmond
and the thing is done. (Hassler 23)
Pender did not doubt that the Confederate cause would win out,
but he did fear that people's expectation level was far too
unrealistic. "I have thought for some time," he concluded,
"that a little whipping would be of immense benefit to us, not
that I wish anything of the sort" (24).
Pender's concerns were echoed by his commanding officer,
Robert E. Lee. Lee bemoaned the lack of discipline shown by
the Confederate enlisted men: "Our people are so little liable
to control that it is difficult to get them to follow any
course not in accordance with their inclination" (quoted in
Linderman, 39) The very quality so applauded by those
constructing the idea of the "Southern man," his impulsiveness
in defense of his principles, proved hard to manage in a
fighting force. The Yankees, whom Pender admitted were far


30
better organized, seemed to be calling into question one of
the basic tenets of Southern masculinity.
The rhetoric of superior Southern manhood, with its
concomitant guarantee of a viable Southern nation, helped
create the conditions necessary for secession. Such rhetoric
had clarified the Southern political situation or, in the
formulation of Clifford Geertz, had made the possibility of an
independent Southern nation "comprehensible." "Whatever else
ideologies may beprojections of unacknowledged fears,
disguises for ulterior motives, phatic expressions of group
solidaritythey are, most distinctively, maps of problematic
social reality and matrices for the creation of collective
conscience," Geertz asserts (64). By installing "the Southern
man" as the distinct expression of the Southern nation,
secessionists tapped into a rich history of myth that they
believed would produce "group solidarity." The war and its
results fractured the ideological wholeness of the "the
Southern man" while, ironically enough, at the same time it
verified the dichotomies that undergirded the Southern nation.
Thus, while Southern men did not live up to the rhetorical
standard set for them, the idea of the Southern nation
ingrained itself in its defeated citizens.
The Coercion of Nation
Mississippian Robert Moore's decision whether or not to
fight for the Confederacy had more or less been predetermined.


31
His last trip home before shipping out to the warfront made
him understand what responsibility was his:
. . It did seem hard that we should part, but our
country calls & he that would not respond deserves not
the name of man & though we fall, battling for our rights
& are determined to have them or die in the attempt.
(26)
Moore saw his primary duty as being to the Confederacy, which
set the boundaries determining "the name of man." Because
secessionists had convinced many men that their masculinity
was riding on the success of the Southern nation, they were
able to generate initial enthusiasm such as Moore displayed.
The more fully men threw themselves into the effort to create
the Confederacy, the more fully defined as men they could be.
The interlinking discourses of masculinity and nation
thus had a coercive effect on Southern men. Whereas initially
the presumed superiority of the Southern man acted as an
assurance of the viability of the Southern nation, secession
turned the tables, positing the Southern nation and its
success as the true measure of Southern masculinity. In an
essay entitled "Our Danger and Our Duty," appearing in the
May/August 1862 issue of DeBow's Review, Presbyterian minister
James H. Thornwell spelled out the level of obedience
Confederate leaders needed if the nation were to succeed: "It
is implied in the spirit which the times demand, that all
private interests are sacrificed to the public good. The
State becomes everything, and the individual nothing"
(Thornwell 272-3). Thornwell sought to reestablish the nation


32
as the pre-eminent authority in Southern life. The state was
supreme; the legitimacy of the individual, particularly of his
manhood, still flowed from the dictates of the nation.
The military setbacks suffered by the Confederacy in
early 1862 (notably the fall of New Orleans in April) had
sparked some questioning of the rhetoric of superior Southern
manhood. Thornwell used a plethora of phallic signifiers to
reconnect virile manhood and the state:
Do we feel the moral power courage, of resolution, of
heroic will, rising and swelling within us, until it
towers above all the smoke and dust of the invasion?
Then we are in a condition to do great deeds. (278)
In using the collective "we," Thornwell indicates that
individual phallic power has no place in the national life of
the Confederacy. Only collectively, for the state, could such
power make meaningspecifically it could make a nation. He
brings together all of the traits of the "true" Southern man
"moral power and courage," "resolution," and "heroic will"
and implies that these should spur on individual acts of
manhood in the service of the state. "Rising and swelling,"
superior Southern manhood eventually "towers" over the
invaders. Defeat had lessened the nation's capacity to make
men; Thornwell sought to reactivate the Confederacy's
tumescent ability.
Other Confederate propaganda acknowledged military loss
but sought to mitigate its impact by reiterating Southern male
superiority and breeding. For example, a Miss I. D. M. of
Columbia, South Carolina, after touring several army hospitals


33
in 1863, made the following observations about the men she
came in contact with:
I never heard one oath or one coarse expression. X never
heard a sentiment of disloyalty or dissatisfaction. I
never heard a doubt thrown upon the right of our cause or
a regret that the war had been begun. I never saw one
man, however wasted by disease or disabled by wounds,
whose chief desire did not seem to be to recover as
speedily as possible so that he might be back at his
place in the field again: and while I encountered many
illiterate, rough, and uncouth men I never met one who
failed in that courtesy which every Southern man, however
humble his station, instinctively accords to womanhood.
("Our Women in the War," no. 1, my emphasis)
Miss I. D. M. served a very specific function for the state.
The wounded she visited, men whose conception of their own
masculinity was intimately tied to their service to the state,
could behave in no other way and hope to retain their manhood.
Thus, when Miss I. D. M. speaks about the "chief desire" of
the wounded, she speaks the desire that the state demands
these men have. When she speaks of the "courtesy" accorded
her, she speaks the ideology of Southern manhood upon which
the Confederacy had been founded and hoped to survive.
Miss I. D. M. very well may have been a fictional
creation, but the fact that the observer of the wounded was
coded as feminine is significant. In Male Subjectivity at the
Margins. Kaja Silverman discusses how post-World War II
American movies tried to reestablish a coherent, dominant,
pre-war male subjectivity. Discussing the 1947 film The Guilt
of Janet Ames. Silverman asserts that women become the agents
of the recuperation of that male subjectivity by denying male
"lack": "[The main male characters] are ultimately shown to be


34
entirely an effect of the way in which they are viewed by the
women around them. Their girlfriends, wives, and daughters
confer the phallus upon them by 'refusing' to see their
inadequacy" (114). Miss I. D. M. would seem to serve the same
function. She does not "see" any male lack; for instance, she
never discusses any of the soldiers' injuries in any detail.
In articulating the soldiers' "chief desire," she creates
these menthey become "an effect of the way in which they are
viewed by the women around them."
Given the fact that the rhetoric of the superior Southern
man was predicated on visible acts that would confirm his
honor, Miss I. D. M.'s "blindness" reinvigorates that rhetoric
by censoring images associated with the setbacks of the war.
In acting as an agent of the state, Miss I. D. M. can confer
the phallus upon the soldiers because, in Lacanian terms, the
Confederate nation was posited as the phallus by its leaders,
the ultimate repository of the Father(land), power, manhood,
the "law," etc.4 Thus, what Thornwell depicted as "rising and
swelling" within men owed its existence to the existence of
the nation. The failure of the nation meant the failure of
their manhood.
Many in the Confederate ranks like Robert Moore
internalized the conflation of manhood and nation and acted
accordingly. Even as the conditions of their loved ones grew
worse, Confederate soldiers continued to place the defense of
their nation above all other matters. For example, Colonel


35
William L. Nugent, upon hearing of the illness of his wife,
wrote her in a letter dated August 8, 1864, that he had to
abide by his sworn duty:
I am too far off and too strongly bound by regulations to
fly to your relief and minister to your comfort; and it
is this thought which adds to the poignancy of feeling.
I sometimes am inclined to kick at the laws which effect
a compulsory separation between man and wife and to
esteem it all wrong. Still, my own precious Nellie, what
can I do? A cruel, relentless war is waged for our
annihilation, and unless we present a bold front to the
enemy, contesting every inch of ground, we may expect
nothing but vassalage and slavery all our lives. Our
rights and privileges will be totally destroyed and
military governors and Yankee judges will govern us,
while our lands will be parcelled out among a horde of
foreign adventurers and mercenary soldiers. (Cash and
Howorth 196)
Nugent's own rhetoric shows the influence of the rhetoric of
his nation. Despite his wife's poor health, he must remain at
the front, defending against the "horde of foreign adventurers
and mercenary soldiers." His characterization of the Union
troops closely resembles the Confederate propaganda that
depicted them as paid mercenaries and "blackguards." Were
Nugent to desert his post, the result might be a Union victory
and "nothing but vassalage and slavery." Nugent positions
himself in the role of traditional cavalier, fending off
attacks by the sullied mob that would lead to the degradation
of Southern culture and traditions. His desire to sustain and
defend the state takes precedence over any emotional or sexual
desire for his wife.
Like Nugent, William Dorsey Pender struggled with the
conflict between his relationship to the state and his


36
relationship to his wife Fanny. Having been promoted to
colonel, Pender felt tremendous responsibility to the
Confederacy. Further, that promotion had instilled in him a
greater sense of his own manhood. To do dishonor to the
nation would taint his own masculinity. Thus, when Pender got
word of Fanny's ill health, he, like Nugent, questioned the
strictures imposed on him by his relationship to the nation,
but he quickly came to his ideological senses:
I sometimes feel that if it were manly and honorable I
would be willing to give up all hopes of distinction and
military ambition, to live quietly with my wife and
children. But anyone with a military education is in
honor bound to come forth these times and defend his
country against the countless thousands of the
unprincipled villains. (Hassler 38)
Again, "honor" plays a key role in Pender's thinking. Like
Nugent, Pender employs the image of the "horde" sweeping over
the Southern landscape"the countless thousands of the
unprincipled villains." Pender recognizes that the victory of
these "villains" would remove his newly gained position, which
would not be "manly and honorable." In short, Pender
recognized that only in defending his nation could he defend
against encroachments on his manhood.
On the field of battle itself, Confederate officers had
to carry themselves so that their men saw an embodiment of
proper Confederate masculinity. In his study of the combat
experiences of both Union and Confederate troops, Gerald F.
Linderman notes that enlisted men frequently had to be
convinced of their commanding officers' worth through acts of


37
bravery. Linderman cites Stonewall Jackson as the primary
example of an officer who, through his own actions, convinced
his men to follow orders directly:
A Confederate officer spoke of his own "desire to emulate
the action of the best men on the field"; by his
fearlessness, Jackson persuaded more of his soldiers than
did any other in direct command of field forces that he
was the best man on the field. (Linderman 44)
As Linderman points out, rank-and-file soldiers rarely equated
rank to honor or "manliness." "It was as if officers were
required to bank courage, with their deposits compelling equal
contributions by the men and the joint balances then becoming
available to officers to draw down when they thought them
required," Linderman asserts (45). Whereas Miss I. D. M.
refused to "see" the wounds of the soldiers in order to
sustain their manhood, enlisted men at the front needed to see
the manhood of their commanding officers. Honor required a
public performance; so, too, did the manhood of those men who
represented most directly the Confederate nation.
The deaths of prominent Confederate leaders not only
snuffed out models of "appropriate" manhood but also created
doubts in the minds of soldiers about their own capacities.
For example, Jackson's death on May 10, 1863, from wounds
received at. the battle of Chancellorsville caused the soldiers
of his regiment to prophesy the defeat of the Confederacy:
A great many of our boys said then our star of
destiny would fade, and that our cause would be lost
without Jackson, as there was no General who could
execute a flank movement with so much secrecy and
surprise as he could. (easier 153)


38
Writing his reminiscences of the war, John 0. easier, a member
of Jackson's regiment, admitted that "Through the destiny of
a nation may appear to be in one man's hands sometimes, yet
there is One above all who controls both men and nations"
(153). Still, the death of Jackson had a demoralizing effect
on his men. Having believed that God was on their side,
Confederate troops continually witnessed evidence seemingly to
the contrary.
Doubt creeped in in other ways as well. The rhetoric of
Southern manhood dictated an aggressive, "reckless" style of
fighting, but the exigencies of war frequently did not conduce
to such a style. Lacking supplies, manpower, and technology,
Confederate military leaders resorted to a mostly defensive
strategy, one that seemed to many to be "unmanly." "I am
tired of doing nothing," Sergeant Edwin H. Fay confided to his
wife in a letter dated November 13, 1863. "I want an
opportunity of killing the damnable villains who pollute our
land" (Fay 357). Fay's language mirrors that used by Nugent
and Pendep. characterizing the Yankees as "damnable
villains," Fay positions himself as fearless defender. "I
don't want a position in the Engineering Corps or any Dept,
half as bad as I do an Independent Scout," he proclaimed in
the same letter. "Then I have an opportunity to carry out my
maxim that paroled Yankees never come back to fight" (357).
Yet Fay's regiment was bogged down in Mississippi, due to a
lack of supplies and a well entrenched Union presence. Fay


39
wanted the opportunity to be "reckless" and fulfill the
rhetorical standard of "the Southern man." But he and many
other soldiers came to recognize that their nation's
rhetorical construct had simplified the conditions of war and,
perhaps, had underestimated the capacity of the Yankees as
soldiers.
The situation for Fay's regiment resembled that of other
regiments throughout the Confederacy. The lack of military
action and victory created hostility and self-doubt in and out
of the army. Some of that hostility was expressed in a
parodie catechism about army life originally intended for
publication in an army newspaper but given wider circulation
to civilian audiences in September 1862, in both the Mobile
Register and The Southern Literary Messenger:
Q.What is the first duty of an army?
A.To destroy as much private property as possible,
particularly that belonging to its friends.
Q.What is the second duty?
A.To parole all prisoners taken from the enemy who are
known to have burned houses, stolen negroes or murdered
women.
Q.What is the third duty?
A.Always to act on the defensive and never to invade
the enemy's territory however good may be the
opportunity, although he may be ravaging yours all the
time. (quoted in Harwell, The Confederate Reader. 128)
Such public derision of the army undermined the rhetoric of
moral and combat superiority of Southern men that
secessionists had worked so hard to create. As Mary Chesnut
observed in a diary entry dated August 3, 1864, "An army, by
constantly retreating, loses confidence in itself" (630).
Secessionist rhetoric and the Southern code of honor enforced


40
the idea that retreat meant unmanly inaction, and Union
victories made retreat an increasingly necessary military
maneuver. Confederate troops learned firsthand that rhetoric
meant little on the battlefield.
The rhetoric of superior Southern manhood had also begun
to lose its luster at the homefront. With the increased
deprivations there, women unhinged the bond between Southern
manhood and the Southern nation by agitating for an end to the
war. "What do I care for patriotism?" proclaimed one South
Carolina woman to a friend in 1864. "My husband is my
country. What is country to me if he be killed?" (quoted in
Faust, "Altars of Sacrifice," 192). Because their self-image
was not directly connected to the success of the Confederate
nation, the people at the homefront did not have as much of a
commitment to sustaining it. Martha Revis, a young North
Carolina woman, reported to her husband in a letter dated July
20, 1863, that "The people is all turning to Union here since
the Yankees has got Vicksburg" (Yearns and Barrett 97).
Those at the homefront were uniquely positioned to
observe how meaningless the rhetoric of Southern manhood
really was. Katherine Couse, a South Carolina woman whose
home was constantly robbed by soldiers on both sides, recorded
her despair in a diary entry dated May 20, 1864:
Might makes right here, we wake up in the morning and
find the thing we prize most highly gone. We are
suffering from such lawless times as existed in the dark
ages, but no knights-errant rise up with the times to
protect the helpless and redress grievances. (quoted in
Schultz, 71)


41
Couse's language engages and critiques the tropes of
Confederate national rhetoric. Hoping for the promised
"knights-errant" to save her from the invading horde, Couse
instead finds the rhetoric to be hollow. Couse perceives
herself to be suffering through "such lawless times as existed
in the dark ages." The "law" of the nation, embodied by its
men, had evaporated. The Confederate soldiers who robbed
Couse and her family clearly did not resemble the chivalric
depictions of men offered by secessionist rhetoric. Because
of the interlinking of the rhetoric of manhood and nation, the
degeneration of Confederate men presaged a similar collapse of
the Confederacy.
Even where the law of the nation still possessed great
efficacy, women found themselves having to speak for their own
self-interest. The weakening of the Confederacy exacerbated
class differences which the rhetoric of superior Southern
manhood had glossed over. A Private 0. Goddin wrote to North
Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance on February 27, 1863, "I am
fearful we will have a revolution unless something is done as
the majority of our soldiers are poor men with families who
say they are tired of the rich mans war & poor mans fight"
(Yearns and Barrett 98). One poor woman from Georgia seemed
sincerely pained to ask her husband to desert:
My dear Edward:I have always been proud of you, and
since your connection with the Confederate army, I have
been prouder of you than ever before. I would not have
you do anything wrong for the world, but before God,
Edward, unless you come home we must die. (Wiley 174)


42
Mary, the letter's author, understood that she was violating
an implicit trust in encouraging her husband to violate the
law, but she and many others were positioned to witness
firsthand the failures of the Confederate nation.5
The rhetoric of superior Southern manhood did not prepare
Confederates for defeat. They had left home confident of
ultimate victory; they returned home physically and
psychologically devastated to a countryside that reflected
their own damage and desolation. For example, Captain John 0.
Dooley, a native of Richmond, expressed shock and dismay when
he discovered on March 30, 1865, that Union troops occupied
his hometown:
This intelligence is the most afflicting I ever received.
I feel bewildered, crushed, by the sudden, fearful fall.
Never before have I felt so desolate, so prostrate, so
hopeless. Farewell, poor burning Richmond! Oh, that
whole seas of blood and treasure, poured out in your
defence, should be rendered of no avail by the disaster
of a single day! (Dooley 176-7)
Though Dooley determines to head farther South to try to join
up with any remaining remnants of the Army of Northern
Virginia, he encounters only the chaos of the disintegrating
nation.
As he moves on foot further south, he sees evidence that,
to his mind, spells the end of the Confederacy:
In the gulleys and along the fences might be seen the
abandoned muskets of the straggling soldiers. Some were
broken, the barrels of others bent and the muzzles choked
with mud. And cap boxes and cartridges lay in sad
confusion along the road side. I had been in retreat
from Boonsboro and Sharpsburg, but never had my eyes
witnessed so sad a sight as this. And my heart sinks
low, for here lie unmistakable evidences of a set


43
determination upon the part of hundreds to fight no more,
and a shameless indifference as to whether the world
knows it or not. By these signs more than by any others
I seem to feel that the Republic is despaired of. (182)
Dooley detects defeat not in military loss but in the
"shameless indifference" shown by retreating and deserting
soldiers. In making such a public display of their dishonor,
these soldiers showed that they no longer linked their own
manhood to the survival of the Confederacy. The "unmanly"
lack of honor is, for Dooley, the surest sign of the defeat of
the Southern nation.
One returning Confederate soldier, Fred Fleet, son of a
prominent planter family in Virginia, noticed the despair that
pervaded the land. "I think there is something lacking in our
people," Fleet observed in a letter to his mother dated
December 30, 1866, "some want of energy or fear to risk
anything in an investment and I am afraid it will take them a
long time to get righted again" (Fleet 22). Continuing with
this train of thought, Fleet told the story of a Confederate
officer and his reaction to the conclusion of the war:
He fought for four years as a cavalry officer and came
home to devastation and desolation but got hold of a mule
which he hitched to a plow as best he could. "Proceed!"
he shouted. Nothing happened. "Advance!" Again nothing
happened. Sinking to his knees, he said, "0 Lord, why
wasn't I killed at the Second Battle of Manassas."
(Fleet 22)
Having lost his belief in the superiority of Southern manhood
when the war was lost, this soldier now experienced a further
erosion of his mastery when the mule would not even obey his


44
commands. Fred Fleet took this story as being emblematic of
the people of his region.
Because secessionist rhetoric had been purely
oppositional, coding South as superior and North as inferior,
the demise of the Confederacy simply inverted this coding.
Now, former Confederates saw themselves as inferior. The
promise of a Southern nation having gone unfulfilled, the
rebels questioned what had gone wrong. The recurrent answer
was simply that Southern men had overestimated their own
capacities. Emma Holmes of Charleston, South Carolina, noted
in a diary entry at the end of May 1865 that "we could not but
acknowledge the bitter, humiliating truth, which our boys
openly declared, that we had showed we were incapable of self-
government" (Marszalek 438). Holmes's friend Mary Chesnut
declared that, though the men were bearing up under the burden
of defeat well, one subject was not broached: "Of the country
we try not to speak at all" (790) The war not only deprived
these would-be rulers of their desired nation but also cost
them their sovereignty and their slaves, the one group that
they had successfully ruled over.
The confidence expressed by secessionists leading up to
the war was replaced by a pervasive sense of despair and
inadequacy. Former South Carolina Governor Francis Pickens,
at the convention to rewrite the state constitution, chastized
those unrepentant Confederates who still wished to agitate:
It does n't become South Carolina to vapor or swell or
strut or brag or bluster or threat or swagger; she points


45
to her burned cities, her desolate plantations, her
mourning hearths, her unnumbered graves, her widows and
her orphans, her own torn and bleeding body,this, she
says, is the work of war; and she bids us bind up her
wounds and pour in the oil of peace,bids us cover her
great nakedness; and we must do it, even if it needs that
in so doing we go backwards. (Andrews 43)
Pickens's diction directly attacks the basic premises of the
rhetoric of both Southern masculinity and nation. By
denouncing the desire of some unrepentant Confederates "to
vapor or swell or strut or brag or bluster or threat or
swagger," Pickens hits at writers like William Holcombe and
James Thornwell, who privileged "swagger" and "swelling" as
basic components of Southern manhood. In large measure, the
boyish recklessness of secessionists produced the results
Pickens lists: "her burned cities, her desolate plantations,
her mourning hearths, her unnumbered graves, her widows and
her orphans, her own torn and bleeding body."
Yet Pickens's coding of the defeated South Carolina as
female is also a move to reclaim some sense of Southern male
wholeness, even in the face of defeat. Pickens recurs to the
feminine to display the lack produced by defeat in war. This
"body" is "naked," "torn and bleeding." At the same time that
Pickens critiques the braggadocio that undergirded
secessionist rhetoric, he also holds out the possibility of a
reformed Southern masculinity, stripped of its recklessness
perhaps but nevertheless in control. Kaja Silverman has
suggested that historical trauma like war tends to bring male


46
subjects into contact with the "lack" traditionally associated
with the feminine:
That trauma surfaces in the form that will henceforth
prove decisive during the castration complex; it
manifests itself, that is, in the guise of the anatomical
lack to which the female body is subsumed and with which
the male body is threatened. Physical castration
consequently provides the form through which the subject
is ideologically encouraged to liveor not to livethe
loss of being, and all subsequent crises that could
reprise that loss. It is not surprising, then, that when
the male subject is brought into a traumatic encounter
with lack, as in the situation of war, he often
experiences it as the impairment of his anatomical
masculinity. What is really at issue, though, is a
psychic disintegrationthe disintegration, that is, of
a bound and armored ego, predicated upon the illusion of
coherence and control. (Male Subjectivity. 62)
Pickens seeks to lead off that "psychic disintegration" and
restore "the illusion of coherence and control" by deflecting
the issue of lack from the Southern man. Like Miss I. D. M. ,
who attempted to restore credibility to the rhetoric of
superior Southern manhood by not seeing the wounds of the
soldiers she visited, Pickens chooses to visit the "lack"
produced by the war upon the site that, ideologically
speaking, had always known itthe feminine. Thus, Pickens's
denunciation of the Holcombe version of Southern masculinity
is an effort to disarm the rhetoric that would, because of the
result of the war, constantly point back to Southern male
lack. He instead tries to consolidate the collective Southern
male psyche, one of many attempts at such a "reconstruction"
in the aftermath of the war. These efforts achieve success
only when a component part of the reconsolidation becomes the
idea of the Southern nation.


47
"Jeff in Petti coats"
Pickens's efforts notwithstanding, no one could deny that
the Confederacy had been defeated and the South would be
reintegrated into the Union. In losing the war, the
Confederacy lost both rhetorical and political control of
itself. Thus, while Pickens and others tried to reconcile
themselves and their countrymen to defeat and to resuscitate
the self-image of Southern men, Northern journalists and
writers emphasized the power of Northern manhood and the
consequent emasculation of the South. For example, Sidney
Andrews, writing for the Boston Daily Advertiser, observed the
goings-on in South Carolina and concluded that the citizens
there were ripe for domination:
Individuals there are who rant and rave and feed on fire
as in the old days, but another war is a thing beyond the
possibilities of time. So far as any fear of that is
concerned we may treat this State as we please,hold it
as a conquered province or restore it at once to full
communion in the sisterhood of States. The war spirit is
gone, and no fury can re-enliven it. (37)
Andrews ridicules the unrepentant Confederates "who rant and
rave ... as in the old days," a reference to the rhetoric of
superior Southern manhood. He emphasizes the degraded
condition of that rhetoric and the men it made by pointing out
that the North was once again in control. The idea of
treating South Carolina and the other Confederate states as a
"conquered provinces" not only was a political possibility
advocated by Radical Republicans like Charles Sumner but also
underscored the new Northern dominance.


48
Another favorite target for attacks on Southern manhood
was Jefferson Davis, who, as the New York Times reported, when
captured on May 10, 1865, in rural Georgia, was wearing a
dress:
The captors report that [Jefferson Davis] hastily put on
one of Mrs. Davis' dresses and started for the woods,
closely pursued by our men, who at first thought him a
woman, but seeing his boots while running suspected his
sex at once. The race was a short one, and the rebel
President was soon brought to bay. ... He expressed
great indignation at the energy with which he was
pursued, saying that he had believed our Government more
magnanimous than to hunt down women and children,
(quoted in N. Silber, 625)
Whether or not the Confederate president was wearing a
dress is a matter open to some interpretation. Still, at
least according to this report, Davis seems to affirm his
effeminacy and lack of power when he groups himself with
"women and children." Political cartoonists had great fun
with the idea, and an enterprising songwriter, Henry Tucker,
penned a song to memorialize Davis's capture called "Jeff in
Petticoats." Tucker, like the dispatch in the New York Times.
disempowers the image of Davis by infantilizing him:
Jeff Davis was a hero bold,
You've heard of him, I know,
He tried to make himself a king
Where southern breezes blow;
But "Uncle Sam" laid the youth
Across his mighty knee,
And spanked him well, and that's the end
Of brave old Jeffy D. (quoted in I. Silber, 343-4)
The image of Uncle Sam spanking Davis perpetuated the idea of
many Northerners that the Civil War was a disciplinary action-
-that an unruly family member had gotten out of line and had


49
to be punished. Tucker's language also undercuts the term
"hero" used in the first line. Davis, and consequently all
the Southern men he represented, were no better than boys when
compared to Northern men.
Tucker further emphasizes Davis's lack of efficacy
through his feminization. Just as Southern secessionists had
doubted the truthfulness of Northern masculinity, Tucker calls
into question the manhood of the Confederacy's leader in the
last stanza of the song:
The ditch that Jeff was hunting for,
He found was very near;
He tried to "shift" his base again,
His neck felt rather queer;
Just on the out "skirts" of a wood
His dainty shape was seen,
His boots stuck out, and now they'll hang
Old Jeff in crinoline. (I. Silber 345)
Tucker's pun on "skirt" and his reference to Davis's "dainty
shape" work toward a feminization of Davis and the whole
Confederacy. But in his emphasis on Davis's "shift" and his
feeling "queer," Tucker hints in a not very subtle way at
Davis's possible homosexuality. Once again, the standard for
masculinity is coded as heterosexual; Davis's cross-dressing
breeched that standard and suggested a corrupt and immoral
Confederacy.6
As the initial shock of defeat began to wear off, other
prominent Southerners began a reevaluation of the war effort
and its meaning for white Southern manhood. J. D. B. DeBow
began a series of articles entitled in "Times in the
Confederacy" to refute what he saw as scurrilous attacks on


50
the Southern people. In the fifth article of this series,
published in February 1867, DeBow tried to revise the view
that had developed of Cofederate soldiers as brutes, laggards,
and cowards:
You saw [soldiers] in the highways walking in squads,
with their heavy burdens, to their distant homes, upon
furlough or returning promptly to their commands. You
saw them at your door asking for a few crumbs and a
night's shelter upon the floor or in the piazza. You saw
them sleeping upon the hard ground often in the freezing
night without blankets and without fire, but did you ever
hear them complain or wish to evade the calls of duty?
Not often. ("Memories of the War," 142-3)
DeBow, through the offices of his journal, sought to reclaim
Southern manhood from the ashes of defeat. He set in motion
an effort to reconsider the war, to absolve Southern men of
the guilt and stigma of defeat, and to resist Northern
depictions of the "Southern man" as conquered, impotent and
feminized.
Jefferson Davis came to play a significant role in the
resuscitation of white Southern manhood. Appropriated by
Northern writers as "Jeff in Petticoats," Davis received a
boost from some Southern historians. In rejecting the
feminized version of Davis, these historians redeployed Davis
as an embodiment of Southern manliness and honor. In the
booknotes section of the August 1866 issue of DeBow's Review,
the editors reprinted excerpts from a new book entitled Prison
Life of Jefferson Davis. These excerpts showed Davis as
sickly but far from emasculated. In one anecdote, Davis


51
reacts violently when a Union officer orders that he be placed
in leg irons:
At these words, the blacksmith advanced with the
shackles, and seeing that the prisoner had one foot upon
the chair near his bedside, his right hand resting on the
back of it, the brawny mechanic made an attempt to slip
one of the shackles over the ankle so raised; but, as
with the vehemence and strength which frenzy can impart,
even to the weakest invalid, Mr. Davis suddenly seized
his assailant and hurled him half way across the room.
("Editorial Notes, Etc.," 221)
In a later scene, Davis tries to wrestle away a musket from
one of his guards. "Kill me! Kill me!" Davis shouts, "rather
than inflict on me, and on my people through me, this insult
worse than death." Davis is portrayed not as a cross-dressing
wimp or a closet homosexual but as a man defending his and, as
he is purported to have said, his "nation's" honor.
Whereas Northern writers sought to use Jefferson Davis as
a symbol of Southern submission, unrepentant Confederates
utilized their former president not only as a symbol of the
continuing honor and strength of Southern men but also as the
beginning of the argument against Northern occupation.
Davis's unwillingness to be bound sets off a strong Union
responsefour soldiers come into his cell to subdue him:
In a moment Mr. Davis was flung upon his bed, and before
his four powerful assailants removed their hands from
him, the blacksmith and his assistant had done their
workone securing the rivet on the right ankle, while
the other turned the key in the padlock on the left.
(221)
For those former Confederates still embittered by defeat,
Davis and his rough treatment at the hands of his Union
oppressors became a kind of metonym for the condition of the


52
South. Shackled by the Northern military and economic
control, many Southerners feared harsh reunion terms. Still,
though superior Northern power could shackle the South, it
could not destroy its spirit, just as Davis's demand for
recognition of his honor showed his continuing nationalistic
fire.
Still, Davis proved a problematic figure for those who
were rethinking the actions of the Confederate government.
Resuscitating white Southern manhood required that blame for
defeat in war be placed elsewhere, and the government at
Richmond, the government headed by Jefferson Davis, seemed the
most likely culprit. Beginning in May 1868, a series of
articles, unpromisingly titled "Blunders of the Confederate
Government," began to appear in DeBow1s Review. Isolating six
problem areaspolitical foresight, financial policy,
diplomacy, military administration, principles of
constitutional government, and general strategythe authors
of the articles laid the blame for Confederate defeat at the
doorstep of the Davis Administration.
Davis becomes a direct target of criticism when the
authors of "Blunders" discuss the military preparedness of the
Confederacy. As the leader of the Southern nation, Davis was
responsible for providing his men with all of the material
they needed to win the war. The authors provide an anecdote
which in their judgment showed that, rather than blame


53
Southern men for defeat, Davis was to blame because he simply
did not understand what fighting a war involved:
While Congress was in session at Montgomery, President
Davis asked General Henningsen how much powder he thought
should be provided against the emergency. The General
suggested 900,000 pounds, and the President laughed at
his extravagant estimate. Yet the President was one of
those who looked forward to war, though little foreseeing
the proportions it would assume. ("Blunders of the
Confederate Government," II, 656)
The criticisms leveled at Davis demonstrate the same shift in
the definition of Southern manhood as Pickens's critique of
the Southern male tendency to "swagger" and "swell." Davis's
incompetent management of the government deprived the troops
of their chance at victory. Though such characterizations
never went so far as "Jeff in Petticoats," the image of Davis
as incompetent bureaucrat helped refute charges of Southern
men's lack of courage and wherewithal.7
Ironically, then, the idea of superior Southern manhood
as well as the nation it represented gained in strength as the
leadership of that nation fell from grace. Unrepentant
Confederates loved the idea of their nation more than the
nation itself, and that idea became a crucial cog in restoring
the self-image of white Southern men and their political
viability. Whereas secession and the Confederacy were made
possible by the belief in the myth of white Southern male
superiority, after the war the reverse was true. White
Southern men could be restored to their former political and
social prominence only if the idea of the Southern nation were
once again made strong and viable. As Reconstruction began,


54
Southern thinkers began their own reconstruction, and the
fiction produced in the post-war South provided a key venue
for the reconfiguration of the imagined community of the
Southern nation. This "reconstruction" was yet another
attempt on the part of those Southerners who perceived
themselves and their region to be different from the rest of
the country to come to grips with a world that they feared and
did not understand. In Geertzian terms, the idea of the
Southern nation provided the ideology to make their situation
"comprehensible."
NOTES
xThe best overview of the creation and circulation of the
cavalier myth remains William Taylor's Cavalier and Yankee.
Taylor shows through historical and literary analysis how the
mythological figures of North and South
grew and developed in the first half of the nineteenth
century, what social problems produced the need for this
kind of historical rationalization, what kind of worries
and anxieties attended [their] development, and what kind
of men and women contributed to [their] growth and
disseminationwhat sort of mentality, in other words,
created this legendary past and this fictional sociology,
and what sort of needs it satisified. (xvi)
Taylor's analysis is Geertzian in that he traces the "need"
for these myths to anxiety of Southerners concerning their
political place in the nation as westward expansion and the
growth of abolitionist sentiment seemingly imperiled the
institution of slavery. The cavalier myth helped make an
"incomprehensible" situation make sense. See Taylor, Cavalier
and Yankee (New York: G. Braziller, 1961), particularly pp.
xv-xxii, 13-24, and 123-155.
My language and ideas intentionally mirror those of
Louis Althusser in his essay "Ideology and Ideological State
Apparatuses." Althusser writes:
Ideology "acts" or "functions" in such a way that it
"recruits" subjects among the individuals (it recruits
them all) or "transforms" the individuals into subjects


55
(it transforms them all) by that very precise operation
which I have called interpellation or hailing, and which
can be imagined along the lines of the most commonplace
everyday police (or other) hailing: "Hey, you there!"
(95-6)
What Wyatt-Brown identifies when he talks about "honor" is
that ideology which has "recruited" or "transformed"
Southerners into Southerners (i.e., not-Northerners, or, in my
formulation, un-Yankees) What pro-secessionists like
Holcombe and the editorialist who wrote "Northern Mind and
Character" do is to embody that ideology in a tropethe
Southern manand then "hail" the men of the South with it, in
this way creating subjects for the new Southern nation. See
Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses," in
Contemporary Critical Theory, ed. Dan Latimer (New York:
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1989), pp. 60-102.
3LeeAnn Whites points out the way in which black
subjugation fueled white power: "Either the black man in his
capacity as slave to the white man would go on making his
master a man, or the white man would lose his slaves and with
them his concept of himself as a free man, while the black man
achieved his own manhood" (10, author's emphasis). The fear
of losing the institution of slavery underscored white
Southern men's fear of losing both the lifestyle made possible
by slave labor and the ability to dominate. The result of the
Civil War not only exploded the rhetoric of superior Southern
manhood but also denied white men the mechanisms to reaffirm
their own efficacy. See Whites, "The Civil War as a Crisis in
Gender," in Divided Houses, eds. Catherine Clinton and Nina
Silber (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 3-21.
The Lacanian phallus does not equate directly to the
penis, at least for Lacan; rather, the phallus becomes the
ultimate signifier, "a signifier whose function, in the
intrasubjective economy of the analysis, lifts the veil
perhaps from the function it performed in the mysteries. For
it is the signifier intended to designate as a whole the
effects of the signified, in that the signifier conditions
them by its presence as a signifier" (Lacan 285). In other
words, the phallus embodies "the effects of the signified" and
simultaneously "conditions" those effects. The phallus is the
"law" insofar as it commends itself to the attention of
"subjects" as both an "object of desire" and the organizing
principle of that desire.
In his lucid commentary on Lacan's system of
psychoanalysis, Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen provides a clearer
interpretation of the work of the phallus. Discussing the
father's supposed possession of the phallus, Borch-Jacobsen
concludes:


56
On the contrary, he "has" it only to the extent that he
has given it up beforehand by incurring symbolic
castration: the phallus is a title, which he has received
so that he can bestow it in accord with symbolic pact and
law. In other words, the phallus may very well express
masculine power (the power that ultimately explains why
women do not exchange men/phalluses), but it does so only
symbolically (that is, we must understand, not sexually).
The phallus is the penis annulled-castrated-raised to the
function of "scepter," of inherited signifier, which is
passed on according to the law of exchange and kinship.
(213)
The connection between the nation, which I have designated as
the "phallus," and its men becomes somewhat clearer. The
rhetoric of secession deployed two interrelated tropesthe
idea of a Southern nation and the idea of a "Southern man."
The imagined nation posits itself as the ultimate "desire" of
a Southern man at the same time that it organizes that man's
"appropriate" desires. Thus, the imagined Confederacy could
maintain its position as ultimate arbiter of "true" Southern
men, it could maintain such men's belief in its primacy and
necessity.
Borch-Jacobsen further illustrates the method by which
the phallus figures in identity formation:
The child (the boy) really does continue to be the
phallus insofar as he identifies with the one who has it.
The only difference is that now he is it "by not being
it," insofar as he identifies not with the object but
with the signifier of the desire of the mothernamely,
with the object negated by the paternal "no." In short,
he is a "no"-object; in other words, a subject: he
desires himself beyond himself, such as he is not. At
present, the phallus is the signifier of his desirethat
is, of the non-object that he is (or, what amounts to the
same thing, of the object that he is not) for the desire
of the other. Or, again, the phallus is the signifier of
the subject, insofar as the subject identifies himself in
it ("represents his identity" in it) under erasure, in
the mode of a forbidden, barred, repressed
identification: the subject is the phallus insofar as he
is not it, insofar as he "metaphorizes" himself in it and
defers his own identity in it. (224)
The phallus thus becomes the ultimate signifier, and the
subject (such as the "Southern man") is simultaneously not the
phallus but "defers his own identity in it." In this way, the
phallus is perpetuated (perpetuates itself?) as the ultimate
signifier by its capacity to cause subjects to defer to it.
In the case of the Southern nation, the idea of the nation


57
retained the status of phallus only as long as it seemed a
viable "law." As the war dragged on and the nation proved
increasingly incapable of sustaining itself as the ultimate
signifer, Southern men no longer felt bound to the natiion, no
longer "deferred" to it, to sustain their identity as "men."
Thus, with the link between nation and manliness broken, many
soldiers deserted, with no fear of being branded "unmanly."
See Jacques Lacan, Ecrits: A Selection (New York: W. W. Norton
& Company, 1977), pp. 281-291, and Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen,
Lacan: The Absolute Master (Stanford: Stanford University
Press, 1991), pp. 210-230.
5Historian Drew Gilpin Faust has argued that closer
attention to the Southern homefront must be paid in order to
understand completely the causes of Confederate defeat:
Historians have wondered in recent years why the
Confederacy did not endure longer. In considerable
measure, I would suggest, it was because so many women
did not want it to. The way in which their interests in
the war were publicly definedin a very real sense
deniedgave women little reason to sustain the
commitment modern war required. It may well have been
because of its women that the South lost the Civil War.
(199)
Faust argues that the ideology of the Confederate nation was
not sympathetic to women, so women ultimately felt no guilt
over advocating that their men desert, an action that would
clearly lead to the destruction of the Confederacy. More on
the role of women in the construction and failure of the
Southern nation will be discussed in Chapter 2. See Faust,
"Altars of Sacrifice: Confederate Women and the Narratives of
War," in Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War, eds.
Catherine Clinton and Nina Silber (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1992), pp. 171-199.
6Nina Silber makes much the same point in her essay
"Intemperate Men, Spiteful Women, and Jefferson Davis:
Northern Views of the Defeated South." Though she does not
directly address the question of homosexuality, she
persuasively argues that Northern writers exploited themes of
unstable gender roles in the post-war South to symbolize the
completeness of Confederate defeat: "In the aftermath of the
Civil War, gender was used to signify relationships of power,
in this case to reveal Northern men's belief in the natural
condition of control which they were to exercise over the
South. In the immediate postwar period, these images of
weakened Southern men, hostile Southern women, and a disguised
Jefferson Davis, all of whom were ultimately suppressed by
virile Northern soldiers" (633). The balance of masculine
power had been tipped by the war. Southern men were


58
emasculated while Northern men were virile. Ultimately
Southern writers recurred back to the origin of the
Confederacy to try and refute this Northern ridicule and
"subjugation." See Silber, "Intemperate Men, Spiteful Women,
and Jefferson Davis: Northern Views of the Defeated South,"
American Quarterly 41 (December 1989) : 614-635.
7 Susan Jeffords has made the same kind of argument
concerning the attempt to "remasculinize" American men after
the Vietnam War. She argues that fiction and cinema taking
the war as their theme cast veterans as victims of their
government, their society, and their experiences in the war.
Further, Jeffords observes,
these arguments of victimization are particularly
gendered because the soldier/veteran achieves his renewed
status only in opposition to characters or institutions
defined as feminine. Specifically, the U. S. government
and its loss of the war but in relation to their
inability to retrieve POWs from Vietnam. Through a
posture of negotiation, government figures are shown to
be weak, indecisive, and vulnerable, in clear opposition
to the now strong, determined, and decisive
soldier/veteran. (xiv)
In positing the Davis government as the real weakness during
the war, Confederate sympathizers could "remasculinize"
Southern men. Much of the fiction written by Southerners in
the postbellum period, whether it acknowledged the war or not,
served this ideological purpose as well. This fiction will be
discussed in later chapters. See Jeffords, The
Remasculinization of America (Bloomington: Indiana University
Press, 1989), particularly pp. 144-186.


CHAPTER 2
PERFORMING CONFEDERATE NATIONALISM:
WHITE WOMEN'S REJECTION OF BODILY GOVERNMENT
In her now classic work of feminism, A Room of One1s Own.
Virginia Woolf exposes what she sees as the uses women have
been put to by men. In the most famous passage in the book,
Woolf points out that women have had an inadvertent role in
war-making:
Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses
possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting
the figure of man at twice its natural size. Without
that power probably the earth would still be swamp and
jungle. The glories of all our wars would be unknown.
. . The Czar and the Kaiser would never have worn
their crowns or lost them. Whatever may be their use in
civilised societies, mirrors are essential to all violent
and heroic action. That is why Napoleon and Mussolini
both insist so emphatically upon the inferiority of
women, for if they were not inferior, they would cease to
enlarge. (35-6)
Woolf suggests that, in "enlarging" men, women fuel male
narcissism, which she sees as a necessary component of the
drive for power. To facilitate and sustain such enlargement,
women had to accept a position of inferiority. Their service
to the state required submission and passivity.
Half a century later, in his investigation of the roots
of German nationalism leading to the Third Reich, George L.
Mosse, while agreeing with Woolf's basic conclusion, extends
this discussion to include his assessment of how women had
specific roles to play in the creation and maintenance of
59


60
national spirit. Mosse notes the distinct role that
nationalism enforced on women: "It almost seems as if women
were transformed into static, immutable symbols in order to
command the admiration of truly masculine men" (100-101).
Women became tools to help distinguish "truly masculine men"
from those who were "weak" and, hence, useless to the nation.
Women also provided bodies that needed protecting. Mosse
quotes Rebecca from Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe to make this
point: "God made women weak and trusted their defence to men's
generosity." Mosse and Woolf reach the same basic conclusion-
-men need women to be weak so that they, by contrast, can be
strong or "enlarged." Indeed, the dictates of nation-building
inscribed such distinct roles upon men and women.
Mosse argues further that the passivity imposed on German
women coincided with the symbolism that German nationalists
wanted to invest in the feminine. Women were to be exemplars
of morality and virtue who would, in turn, demonstrate the
morality and virtue of the German nation. Significantly,
Mosse demonstrates how even German feminists, a group
seemingly likely to contest institutionalized submission, were
co-opted by the forces of nationalism:
The majority of those in the German feminist
movement adopted the prevailing stereotype of
femininity. Society, they said, needed women's
"peculiar gifts," "something of their pure love."
As custodians of morality, women were responsible
for education and helping the poor. Women's
suffrage would open public life to "maternal
influences," not to female politicians. The effort
to remain above politics was important to the
majority of women in the movement, and talk about


61
political parties was brushed aside with the
assertion that the nation came first. (Ill)
Thus, Mosse offers significant amplification of Woolf's
position. Women were complicit in their own disempowerment,
but the ideology of nationalism called on women to accept such
a role. Women willingly became "mirrors" because they were
led to believe that they did the most good for their nation in
this role.
Though both Woolf and Mosse use European examples, much
of what they say can be used to describe the role of white
women in the construction of the Confederate nation. Women
were called upon to be mirrors by the ideology of Southern
honor, and for the most part, they behaved accordingly.
Confederate women occupied a paradoxical position in the idea
of the new nationat once weak and, hence, in need of
protection and simultaneously brave, courageous, and self-
sacrificial.
As the war exposed the inadequacy of the Southern nation,
women at the homefront began to question the wisdom of
continued loyalty. That questioning often took overt forms:
newspaper reports, bread riots, letters of protest to
government officials, letters to loved ones advocating
desertion. Still other women lodged their protests privately
in diaries. These women were reacting to the assaults that
the war had authorized against their bodies. Hunger,
household upheaval caused by the invading Union army, and lack
of physical contact with husbands and lovers were only a few


62
of the deprivations that Southern women had to live with. Put
simply, Confederate women ultimately rejected the use to which
the fledgling nation had put their bodies. While superior
Union numbers and resources helped the North to triumph in the
war, the rejection by Confederate women of their nationally
prescribed roles also caused the defeat of the Southern
nation.1
The bifurcation between the spheres of men and women was
clearly not a phenomenon limited to the southern United
States. Yet, the split between male and female realms was
more pronounced, especially concerning the role the physical
body played in each. In a society so completely bound up with
the question of honor, white men frequently had to put their
bodies at the forefront of disputes. As Bertram Wyatt-Brown
has suggested, honor had a public component. How a man viewed
himself was inextricably linked to the public's perception of
him. Thus, individuals needed to perform according to "manly"
standards in the public arena in order to be accorded the
honor they felt they deserved. As Wyatt-Brown puts it, "The
internal and external aspects of honor are inalienably
connected because honor serves as ethical mediator between the
individual and the community by which he is assessed and in
which he also must locate himself in relation to others" (14).
Ironically, "ethical" behavior often was violent
behavior. Southern men felt compelled to subject their bodies
to these tests of honor. As Kenneth S. Greenberg has argued,


63
men viewed one another's bodies as texts, and what was or
wasn't written on them contributed greatly to social
perception:
To gouge out an eye or otherwise mutilate the face of an
enemy was the most common object of men involved in fist
fights. With the possible exception of battle wounds,
the mutilation itself was dishonoring, no matter how it
was actually acquired. In a sense, all mutilations were
equal, because men read the character of other men
through the external features of their face and body.
(67)
Thus, in a very direct way, the world of white men in the
South was a bodily world, a world, as Wilbur J. Cash described
it, "which was full of the chip-on-shoulder swagger and brag
of a boyone, in brief, of which the essence was the boast,
voiced or not, on the part of every Southerner that he would
knock hell out of whoever dared to cross him" (44).
Certainly the world of white Southern women involved the
body, too. However, slavery effectively changed the place of
Southern women, or, at least, the place of those women whose
husbands owned slaves. Removed from much of the labor
required in running a household, these women could be elevated
to the status of "lady." In the May 1835 Southern Literary
Messenger, Thomas Dew, a professor at William and Mary
College, published an essay in which he laid out the
responsibility of a Southern "lady":
She may pursue her studies toonot however with a view
of triumphing in the senate chambernot with a view to
forensic displaynot with a view of leading armies to
combat, or of enabling her to bring into more formidable
action the physical power which nature has conferred on
her. No! It is but the better to perfect all those
feminine graces, all those fascinating attributes, which


64
render her the centre of attraction, and which delight
and charm all those who breathe the atmosphere in which
she moves. (Dew 406)
Women were to produce an "atmosphere" that would in turn
inspire men. Dew suggests, in rather phallic terms, that a
woman should perfect herself to the point where she "would
make ten thousand swords leaps from their scabbards to avenge
the insult that might be offered to her" (406). The "feminine
graces" which Dew advocated perfecting ultimately accrued to
the benefit of men, in terms of either a fight (which would
provide the venue for a man to prove his worth and honor) or,
more subtly, sexual desire and conguest (which would prove
manliness). Dew's suggested "education," in short, had more
to do with the appropriate performance of femininity and its
consequent effect on masculinity than with any effort to
improve Southern women.
The sense that femininity was a performance to enhance
men's authority gets extended in various religious, legal, and
sociological tracts published in the antebellum South. For
example, a sermon preached at St. Mary's School in Raleigh,
North Carolina, in 1847 (and later published as a pamphlet for
larger circulation) decried the terrible education young
Southern women were getting. For the speaker, Southern women
needed a good Christian upbringing so that they might
proselytize to, and hence, tame, their men. Yet the
"preaching" of women had to be done more by example than
through language:


65
The preaching of the wife to be effectual, and "to
win the husband," must be simply her faithful
exhibition in all her conduct of the beauty and
heavenly influence of religion. It should appear
in her subjection to her husband's authority, in
her affectionate attachment to him, and her evident
wish to make him happy. ("She Hath Done What She
Could". 10)
In addition, a woman could "preach" by her attentiveness to
domestic duties, especially the raising of children and the
maintenance of a harmonious household. Women, through a good
Christian upbringing, would have their performances scripted
for them. Moreover, that performance organized the other
social relations of the household.
Feminine behavior was scripted by not only the household
but also the law. In a series of lectures given in 1845 at
William and Mary College on governmental organization, law
professor N. Beverley Tucker told his audience that women and
men worked symbiotically to form social order:
Is it by chance, or by any necessary consequence of his
sex, that man is bold, hardy, enterprising, contentious,
delighting to struggle with difficulty, delighting in
contests with his fellows, and eager to bear away the
prize of every strife? Woman, on the contrary, timid,
feeble, helpless, shrinks within the domestic sanctuary,
and feels that the great want of her nature is security
for herself and her offspring. This she owes to the
exercise and indulgence of the distinctive powers and
passions of him to whom she looks for protection, while
he, in her trusting helplessness and grateful love, finds
the reward of his toils, the crown of his triumphs and
the consummation of his felicity. (Tucker 295-6)
For Tucker, women's "trusting helplessness and grateful love"
was a necessary component for a just, ordered society because
women's divinely ordained submission justified other forms of
subordination, like slavery. Consequently, women who stepped


66
outside these prescribed bounds threatened the destruction of
social order.
Yet another theorist of Southern society, George
Fitzhugh, also advocated the necessary "weakness" of women.
In Sociology for the South. Fitzhugh denounced the push for
women's rights in the North as "socialist" and dangerous.
Connecting the agitators for women's rights to a larger
conspiracy on the part of abolitionists, Fitzhugh prophesied
dire consequences if such a philosophy took hold in society:
"If ever the abolitionists succeed in thoroughly inbuing the
world with their doctrines and opinions, all religion, all
government, all order, will be slowly but surely subverted and
destroyed" (Fitzhugh 206). Fitzhugh held up the South as the
bulwark against such culturally destructive contagions.
In Fitzhugh's mind, the best way to prevent such
potential social upheaval was to make sure that women knew
their place. In no uncertain terms he maps out that place:
Let her exhibit strength and hardihood, and man, her
master, will make her a beast of burden. So long as she
is nervous, fickle, capricious, delicate, diffident and
dependent, man will worship and adore her. Her weakness
is her strength, and her true art is to cultivate and
improve that weakness. (Fitzhugh 214)
Aggressive women would be cut down; weak women would be
"worshipped" and "adored." Fitzhugh agreed with Tucker that
women's weakness implied a legal responsibility on the part of
men to protect, but, for Fitzhugh, "The right to protection
involves the obligation to obey" (214). Fitzhugh concludes
his discussion of women's need to "cultivate" weakness by


67
sternly advising, "Women would do well to disguise strength of
mind or body, if they possess it, if they would retain their
empire" (215-6) Thus, even intelligent and strong women had
to give the appearance of weakness in order to make the social
system of the South work. Women's "empire," their home and
domestic life, was afforded them only through the largese of
an even more imperious powerSouthern men.3
Such enforced performances of femininity were hardly
endemic to the South. However, Anne Goodwyn Jones points out
in Tomorrow Is Another Day that images of Southern womanhood
played a more significant role in organizing Southern culture
than did other ideas of womanhood in other societies:
Unlike [other ideas of womanhood], the southern lady is
at the core of a region's self-definition; the identity
of thg South is contingent in part upon its tradition of
the lady. Secondly, and perhaps for that reason, the
ideal of southern womanhood seems to have lasted longer
than the other ideas. . Not only has it lasted to
the present, but in a third divergence from other womanly
ideals, southern womanhood has from the beginning been
inextricably linked to racial attitudes. Its very
genesis, some say, lay in the minds of guilty
slaveholders who sought an image they could revere
without sacrificing the gains of racial slavery. And
finally, the image itself seems, if not radically
different from, at least an extreme version of the
nineteenth-century lady. For instance, it emphasizes
fragility and helplessness to the point that protecting
the southern lady seems to the southern gentleman both
essential and appealing. And the classaristocratic
that the image of the lady represents receives a stronger
emphasis in the South than elsewhere. (A. Jones 4-5)
In all these ways, the construct of Southern womanhood
interlocked with the traditions upon which the idea of a
separate Southern nation was based. If Southern men were the
actual warriors of secession, Southern women were expected to


68
form a kind of soldiery as wella collective "body" that
energized men through their passivity and weakness. The
aristocratic leaning of this idea of Southern womanhood helped
bridge the class gap among the soldiers, for even the lowest
class white man could show his honor through service to the
nation.
The War's Changing Script
Certainly most women feared the consequences of war and
did not happily send their men to fight. But many men,
anxious to prove their mettle on the battlefield, constructed
an idea of the Southern matron that not only justified the war
but indeed coerced men who were wavering to fight. Elizabeth
Avery Meriwether recalled her trepidation when her husband
Minor was called to duty: "He was dressed in grey, a leather
belt girded his waist, two pistols were stuck in the belt; he
looked very brave and very handsome, but he was going to war!
And the terrible fear came to me that I was never to see him
again!" (62). Elizabeth Meriwether made the mistake of
looking through the uniform (and the constructions it implied:
soldier, nation) to see her husband. Minor Meriwether, upon
hearing his wife's fears, tried to redirect her thinking about
the task he was about to undertake:
"If I listened to you," he said, "If I stayed
at home like a woman you wouldn't love me. You
couldn't love a coward. I must go. And you
needn't worry. I shall come back. You have our
two boys to comfort you. Be brave. Remember, I am


69
going to fight for you and for the South that we
both love so dearly." (63)
Minor Meriwether makes his wife the excuse for his going to
war. He dictates to her how she should feel: "If I stayed at
home like a woman you wouldn't love me. You couldn't love a
coward." He must fight, he tells her, because she tacitly
demands that he do so. Also, he conflates his wife and the
South in the final sentence, and in so doing he literally
makes his wife embody the Southern nation. He judges that it
is his duty to fight because, in their "weakness," women could
not defend themselves.
Minor Meriwether appropriates to himself the capacity to
"know" what his wife thinks and feels. Though Elizabeth
Meriwether seems more than willing to allow her husband to
remain at home, she is told that she should demand that he not
act "like a woman," i.e., weak and cowardly. What Minor
Meriwether attempted on a personal level Confederate
propagandists tried on a grander scale. As the "weaker" sex,
women were entitled and encouraged to demand protection from
men. As an example, one popular poem, "Wouldst Thou Have Me
Love Thee," written by one Alex B. Meek, featured a female
narrator exhorting her lover to the fight:
Listen! now her trumpet's calling
On her sons to meet the foe!
Woman's heart is soft and tender,
But 'tis proud and faithful too:
Shall she be her land's defender?
Lover! Soldier! up and do! (Simms 61)


70
Unlike Elizabeth Meriwether, this narrator does not fear the
death of her lover. In fact, she sees such a possibility, in
the service of the nation, as honorable:
Should the God who smiles above thee,
Doom thee to a soldier's grave,
Hearts will break, but fame will love thee,
Canonized among the brave!
Listen, then! thy country's calling
On her sons to meet the foe!
Rather would I view thee lying
On the last red field of strife,
'Mid thy country's heroes dying,
Than become a dastard's wife! (Simms 62)
The poem's narrator gives voice to the "country's calling,"
simultaneously denying herself any expression of anxiety for
the safety of her lover. In fact, the narrator invokes "thy
country" twice in the stanza, adding to the impression that
she in fact speaks more as a Confederate propagandist than as
a concerned wife like Elizabeth Meriwether. Given the
definition circulated by such propaganda, women had to "B.
Meek." Yet the narrator of the poem asserts her weakness
definitively. The rhetoric of the poem does not comport with
the message.
In fact, this tension between Southern women's weakness
and the vociferousness with which these same women demanded
that their men serve the Confederate cause appeared in a great
deal of pro-secession propaganda. Women used the assumption
of their own weakness to shame reluctant men into joining the
army. One young woman sent her fiancee one of her hoop skirts
with a note which proclaimed, "Wear these or volunteer"
(quoted in Wiley, Confederate Women, 142). A group of women


71
in Vicksburg, Mississippi, grew tired of young men who
remained in the so-called "Home Guard" rather than joining the
war at the front. These women posted bulletins around town
questioning the honor of such men:
To Arms! To Arms!There will be a meeting of the
young ladies of Warren County, to be held at Bovina on
Thursday, 18th (of June, 1861) for the purpose of
forming themselves into a Home Guard, for the protection
of those young men who will not volunteer for the
country's cause. (Rebellion Record. II, 57r)
In various ways, different women became de facto agents of the
Confederate nation. Their apparent transgressions of specific
gender roles were tolerated and even encouraged because their
ridicule reinforced the ideological necessities of the nation.
Implicit in their ridicule of men was a confirmation of
womanly weakness.
The paradox between the sentiments women were expected to
express and the social space they were expected to occupy
merely reflected the larger paradoxes of the construction of
Southern womanhood. For instance, white Southern women were
thought to be moral exemplars: "More than just a fragile
flower, the image of the southern lady represents her
culture's idea of religious, moral, sexual, racial, and social
perfection" (A. Jones 9). Yet, as Sara Evans has noted, these
examples had no real social relevance given Southern women's
restricted social mobility: "Ultimately it made no sense to
place women in charge of piety and morality and then deny them
access to the public sphere where immorality held sway" (S.
Evans 26). In other words, the lack of an effective public


72
voice limited Southern women to an ineffectual role as
idealized object. The women who speak out against loafers do
the work of the nation. Their ridicule is effective only to
the extent that they are understood as weak. The women in
Vicksburg are permitted to invert gender conventions only to
show how "those young men who will not volunteer for the
country's cause" do not abide by the socially prescribed
gender role for Southern men. In short, their supposed
transgression only works to reinforce the conventions they are
seemingly flouting.
More frequently, stories about faithful, silent
Confederate women were widely circulated as the Civil War
began. Appearing in news reports, poems, popular songs, and
elsewhere, these women became models for female behavior in
the new nation. A typical example of the expected hardihood
of Southern women appeared in the April 16, 1861 issue of the
adline A Home Scene":
She cheered him with pleasant earnestness to show
himself a man, and running on in a gleeful strain,
admonished him not to come back if he were shot in the
back. With incredible fortitude, she bade her child tell
papa good-bye, and to say to him that she would not own
him her father if he proved to be a coward. The echo of
the soldier's footfall through the corridor had hardly
died away, when a ghastly pallor was seen spreading over
the lady's face. In a voice weak and husky she begged a
friend to take her child, and before she could be
supported she fell from her chair prostrate on the floor.
By a tremendous effort the noble woman had
controlled her feelings; but nature could bear no longer,
and she fainted. The swoon was deep, and it was some
time before consciousness returned. At length she opened
her eyes languidly, and looked around upon the
sympathizing group, and in a tremendous tone inquired "if


73
she had fainted before her husband left the room."
(Rebellion Record. I, 44)
This unnamed woman speaks only what the nation needs and wants
her to speak. She demands that her husband behave in a
"manly" way, urging him, somewhat ironically, "not to come
back if he were shot in the back." The news report lauds her
own "incredible fortitude." Despite her own clear misgivings,
this woman does her duty to the nation by urging her husband
to fight.
Even with these "faithful" women, however, ambivalence
about duty seeps through. For example, a poem entitled
"Enlisted Today" which appeared in early 1862 told the story
of a Southern mother who, when appealed to by her son,
consents to his going to war. Nevertheless, her anxiety is
clear:
I smiled on the boy, though my heart it seemed
breaking,
My eyes filled with tears, so I turned them away,
And answered him, "Willie, 'tis well you are
waking
Go, act as your father would bid you, to-day!"
(Simms 64)
As with the faithful wife of "A Home Scene," this mother feels
compelled to hide her true feelings. She urges her son to
follow the "manly" examplehis father. After her son
departs, the narrator continues to try and quash her own
feelings:
I sit in the window, and see the flags flying,
And drearily list to the roll of the drum,
And smother the pain in my heart that is trying,
And bid all the fears in my bosom be dumb.


74
The "flags," the symbol of the nation, compete with the
narrator's anxiety. The narrator resembles Elizabeth
Meriwether, who also felt fear. Yet, while the poem expresses
this mother's fear, it also provides the model of appropriate
female decorumfeeling fear is understandable, expressing
fear is not. By tacitly allowing that Southern men had a more
pressing duty to the nation than to them, women not only
coerced reluctant men into fighting but also participated in
their own disempowerment. Part of what made examples like the
wife in Charleston or the mother in "Enlisted Today"
praiseworthy was the refusal of these women to give direct
voice to their concerns. These and many other women
throughout the Confederacy had been convinced that their
patriotic duty required silence.4
Because women were not granted the right or the space to
articulate their desires (indeed, they were encouraged to
remain silent), they succumbed to the desires offered as
"moral"the desires of the nation-builders. In the words of
Luce Irigaray, Confederate women were employed and implored to
"mimic" a language that they had not produced: the language of
nation.5 Drew Gilpin Faust has persuasively argued that the
drive to nationhood dramatically revised women's role:
The nineteenth-century creed of domesticity had long
urged self-denial and service to others as central to
woman's mission. But war necessitated significant
alterations, even perversions, of this system of meaning;
women's self-sacrifice for personally significant others-
-husbands, brothers, sons, familywas transformed into
sacrifice of those individuals to an abstract and
intangible "Cause." (178, author's emphasis)


75
At least initially, women willingly went along with the
required sacrifice.
As the war began, hopes were high in the Confederacy that
the battle would be a short one. "We have but one motto
Determination," wrote Leora Sims of Columbia, South Carolina,
to a school friend in a letter dated November 14, 1861. "I do
not think this war will last long," she added, "but you know
I am always looking on the bright side" (K. Jones 70) As it
turned out, Sims and others were overly optimistic, and as the
war dragged on, women at the homefront were subjected to more
and more deprivation. Yet, in the early years of the war,
this deprivation became a badge of honor for women.
Shortages of basic staples plagued the Confederacy as
early as the end of 1861. With the Union blockade of most
major Southern ports, conditions got progressively worse.
Basic foodstuffs like coffee, sugar, and butter became harder
and harder to get, and if they were available at all, the
prices for such goods were often prohibitive. Still, in the
early years of the war, morale seemed unaffected, at least to
many people recording their observations. Emma Holmes noted
on May 2, 1861, that in her hometown of Charleston, South
Carolina, "we cannot get [Northern] Goshen butter, upon which
we depend generally, the little in the city being sold at 75
cents per lb. & fresh butter has also risen to 50 cents in
consequence of the high price of hay" (Marszalek 43). Despite
the shortage, Holmes noted people's general good humor: "So


76
every body [sic] has determined to give it up as a luxury we
cannot afford & are willing to do without. It has become
quite a subject of amusement to us" (43).
At the other end of the Confederacy, in Louisiana, Kate
Stone reported similar shortages. But as with the
Charlestonians that Emma Holmes had written about, Stone and
her family accepted their newly imposed diet as another
exigency of the war:
It seems odd to be expecting company and no flour or any
"broughten" delicacy to regale them on, but we have been
on a strict "war footing" for some timecornbread and
home-raised meal, milk and butter, tea once a day, and
coffee never. A year ago, we would have considered it
impossible to get on for a day without the things that we
have been doing without for months. (Anderson 109)
Despite the shortages, Stone reported that most people still
kept their spirits up: "Knowing there is no help for it makes
one content."
The well-to-do had to forego luxuries like new and
fashionable clothing. Kate Stone noted that people in her
community worried very little about the way they dressed.
"Fashion is an obsolete word and just to be decently clad is
all we expect," she reported in a diary entry dated May 22,
1862 (Anderson 109).
"Fashion," in fact, took on a rather negative connotation
in the Confederacy. Songs and poems celebrating the
simplicity of Southern women's dress proliferated, functioning
as a rallying cry in support of the fledgling nation. Perhaps
the most famous song of this genre was "The Homespun Dress,"


77
which directly remarked upon women's contributions to the
Confederate war effort:
My homespun dress is plain, I know;
My hat's palmetto, too.
But then it shows what Southern girls
For Southern rights will do.
We send the bravest of our land
To battle with the foe;
And we will lend a helping hand
We love the South, you know. (I. Silber 68)
Though the song acknowledges that men were doing the actual
fighting, it also provides an avenue of controlled political
action for women. Through the sacrifice of personal vanity,
Southern women could lend "a helping hand." Curiously,
whereas the fight for a Southern nation provided men with
opportunity of expansion and "manliness," that same fight
demanded self-contraction and submission from Southern women.
Around the Confederacy, women were called upon to
demonstrate their loyalty to the Confederacy through the
relinquishment of valuable, fashionable items. A typical
example of such a call appeared in a letter to the editor of
a newspaper in Tupelo, Mississippi. Local resident James H.
Gallard announced on March 29, 1862, that a group of women had
organized themselves into a soldiers' aid society. Their most
recent gathering had produced, in Gallard's estimation, a most
ingenious plan:
At their last meeting they resolved to give their
jewelry, their gold and silver plate to the Confederacy,
and to make an earnest appeal to all the ladies in our
country to do the same, for the purpose of purchasing or
assisting to purchase a navy for the Confederacy.
fRebellion Record, IV, 98)


78
Gallard felt so strongly about his proposition that he urged
the editor to suggest to President Davis "to call upon all the
ladies in the Confederacy to present their jewelry and their
gold and silver plate, as a free-will offering upon the altar
of their bleeding country" (98) .
Though few records exist to suggest that many women
actually did contribute their valuables to the cause of the
Confederacy, "fashion" became a kind of measuring stick to
judge who was and wasn't taking seriously their part in the
war. With this anti-fashion mentality arose a set of
disciplines that those on the homefront were expected to
observe. Women who participated in unseemly entertainments
were severely chastized. For example, an anonymously
published poem entitled "Is This a Time to Dance?" roundly
criticized women who put personal pleasure ahead of the
interests of the Confederacy. In the poem's most graphic
stanza, the narrator ridicules the oblivious:
Oh, lift your festal robes on high!
The human gore that flows around
Will stain their hues with crimson dye;
And louder let your music sound
To drown the dying warrior's cry!
Let sparkling wine your joy enhance,
Forget that blood has tinged its dye,
And quicker urge the maniac dance. (Simms 394)
One of the most widely-read manuals on expected female
behavior was actually a novelAugusta Jane Evans's Macaria.
Published in early 1864, Macaria sought to reinvigorate
Southern nationalism by offering portraits of two Confederate
women passionately committed to the cause. Elizabeth Moss


79
notes that Evans threw herself into the production of Macaria
as her personal effort at revitalizing the sagging morale of
the Confederacy:
Repeatedly and relentlessly Evans struggled to
imprint the ideal of sacrifice and service upon the
hearts and minds of her readers enjoining men and women
throughout the South to follow her example and answer the
call of their country. Drawing upon her extensive
reading and correspondence, she patiently rehearsed the
ideological foundations of the sectional crisis, phrasing
her argument in words and images designed to reach the
broadest possible audience. (Moss 190)
Evans herself corresponded with many prominent Confederate
politicians and generals; in fact, many details about battles
are culled from General P. G. T. Beauregard's field notes.
Moreover, Evans herself toured battlefields and worked in army
hospitals comforting the wounded. Macaria was the synthesis
of Evans's various experiences, with an unequivocal pro-
Confederate slant.6
The novel's subtitle, Altars of Sacrifice, tellingly
exposes Evans's belief in what the duty of Confederate women
truly was. The novel is rife with propagandistic speeches
which in no uncertain terms show women sacrificing their men
and their way of life for the Southern nation. A typical
example of such a speech occurs late in the novel, when Mrs.
Baker, a poor yeoman farmer's wife, tells her story to the
main character in the book, Irene Huntingdon:
Every man has to do his duty now, and every woman, too.
I told Stephen I thought I could take care of the
children and myselfthat I would rather live on acorns,
than that he should not serve his country when it needed
him; and I told Robert, when I fixed him off, that I
never would die contented if he and his father did not


80
both do something to distinguish themselves in this war.
(Evans 312)
Mrs. Baker's comments do the ideological work of the state, as
she encourages her husband and son not only to go to war but
also to "do something to distinguish themselves." Mrs. Baker
does not give voice to any doubts. She sees her duty clearly,
as she tells Irene: "I have no money to lend our government,
but I give my husband and my childand two better soldiers no
state can show" (312).
Irene and her cousin Electra Grey follow Mrs. Baker's
lead in bearing the pain and anxiety caused by the Confederate
"revolution" with resolute indifference. Though her father
and her fiancee are killed in battle, Irene tells Electra (and
the reading audience) that their deaths were not in vain:
Electra, national, like individual life, which is not
noble, free, and honorable, is not worth the living. A
people who can survive their liberty, are beneath
contempt; and to-day, desolate though I am, I would
sooner take my place by my father's side, than recall him
to live a subject of despotic government at Washington.
(365)
Irene's conflation of "national" and "individual" life
underscores the key theme of the novelindividuality was
permissible only insofar as it accrued to the benefit of the
nation. Expressions of individuality had to be expressions of
nationality. Patriotic Confederates on the homefront, those
"debarred from the 'tented-field,'" as Irene calls the
warfront, had to accept the nation as the organizing principle
of their lives, just as Confederate soldiers had.


81
Evans drives home this point in one of the final scenes
of the novel. Irene has encouraged Electra, who is a painter,
to construct "frescoes of some of the most impressive scenes
of our Revolution." Electra responds by painting a large
allegory featuring two women:
One stern, yet noble-featured, crowned with stars
triumph and exultation flashing in the luminous eyes;
Independence, crimson-mantled, grasping the Confederate
Banner of the Cross, who victorious streamed above a
captured battery, where a Federal flag trailed in the
dust. At her side stood white-robed, angelic Peace, with
one hand over the touchhole of the cannon against which
she leaned, and the other extended in benediction.
Vividly the faces contrastedone all athrob with
national pride, beaming with brilliant destiny; the other
wonderfully serene and holy. (411)
The two women in the fresco take their form from Irene (the
passionate patriot) and Electra (the cool-headed artist).
Electra's fresco parallels Evans's novel. Just as Electra
places herself and Irene in her work of art in order to convey
her faith in the Confederacy, Evans also employs Electra and
Irene to tell her story. Evans, in fact, inserts herself into
the novel with both Irene and Electra, each possessing
elements of Evans's own personalitythe passionate patriot
and the cool-headed artist. Evans's metanarrative speaks not
only to the artistic process and her hoped-for result but also
to her own commitment to Confederate nationalism. She wrote
of the novel's embodiment of her patriotism to publisher J. C.
Derby: "Scribbled in pencil while sitting up with the sick
soldiers in the hospital attached to 'Camp Beulah,' my very
heart beat in its pages, coarse and brown though the dear old


82
Confederate paper was" (quoted in Moss, 181). Macaria was not
just Evans's thoughts on secession and the responsibilities of
citizens to the nation. It was, in some sense, Evans herself,
except that Evans the woman was muted in favor of Evans the
embodiment of Confederate nationalism.7
Evans's advocacy of Confederate patriotism proved quite
effective in some circles. In fact, as Elizabeth Moss
reports, "At least one Union general was forced to ban the
book among his troops, and several southerners later claimed
that the novel saved their lives by deflecting bullets or
bayonets" (183). Despite these effects, the onslaught of war
overrode nationalistic feeling in many parts of the
Confederacy. The vehemence with which Evans advocated her
idea of nationalism revealed the deeply unsettling way in
which the war had impacted on the Southern homefront.
As Union forces made headway on several fronts, the
boundary between the dangers of the battlefield and the
relative safety of the homefront disintegrated. By extension,
the neat divisions between male and female spheres collapsed
as well. Confederate women found that the battle for Southern
independence was being carried directly to them. Union
successes cut off food supplies, so women faced the prospect
of having their families starve. More directly, Union
military leaders began a calculated attack on the honor of
Confederate women by calling into question the sexual dynamics
of Confederate nationalism.


83
In April 1862, the Confederacy's chief seaport and
largest city, New Orleans, fell to Union forces. The Union
commander, General Benjamin Butler, tired of the protests and
rudeness of the local women. To curb these indiscretions,
Butler issued Order No. 28, deemed the "woman order," which
hinted that women would no longer be spared harsh treatment
merely because of their gender:
As officers and soldiers of the United States have been
subject to repeated insults from women, calling
themselves ladies, of New Orleans in return for the most
scrupulous non-interference and courtesy on our part, it
is ordered hereafter, when any female shall, by mere
gesture or movement, insult, or show contempt for any
officers or soldiers of the United States, she shall be
regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman about
the town plying her vocation. (quoted in Anderson, 111)
Perceived in the most benign way, Butler's order clearly
challenged the honor and respectability of the women of New
Orleans. It conflated the expression of Confederate
nationalism and sexual deviance by comparing vociferous women,
"calling themselves ladies," to prostitutes. But some saw a
more sinister undertone to the order. Kate Stone, living
upriver in northeastern Louisiana, viewed Order No. 28 as a
license to Union soldiers to rape and pillage: "It is but
carrying out the battle cry 'Bounty and Beauty' with which
they started for New Orleans. May [Butler] not long pollute
the soil of Louisiana" (Anderson 111). What Butler's order
clearly did attempt was the regulation of the bodies of the
women of New Orleans. Punishment could be triggered "by mere
gesture or movement, insult, or show [of] contempt for any


84
officers or soldiers of the United States." The possibility
of arrest or sexual violation loomed as the methodology by
which Butler sought to restore order.
These attacks produced two debilitating effects. First,
Union attacks on Confederate women continually emphasized the
utter impotence of Confederate men, who had claimed such a
supertorian George Rabie notes, "Women soon came to realize
their defencelessness against an invading army, and although
few said so explicitly, the truth was that Southern men could
no longer protect their homes and families. In other words,
they were no longer men" (Rabie 137). In the vacuum left by
the retreat of Southern men, Southern women took up their own
defense. As male authority proved more and more hollow,
injunctions against women speaking out weakened, producing a
second problem for Confederate leaders. Most women did not
speak out against gender inequality; rather, the different
outbreaks of women's vociferousness reflected a protest
against the broken bargain that was the Confederate nation.
Women had been asked to inhabit the role of potential victim,
with the assurance that their menfolk would never allow that
role to beio-economic backgrounds, asked in different ways
that their bargain with the nation-builders be honored or that
the war and all of the chaos it had created be ended.
The defeat shocked and dismayed people throughout the
Southern nation. Judith McGuire of Richmond, Virginia,
recorded in a diary entry dated April 27, 1862, "Oh, it is so


85
hard to see the enemy making such inroads into the heart of
our country! it makes the chicken-hearted men and women
despondent, but to the true and brave it gives fresh stimulus
for exertion" (108). Even the usually sanguine South
Carolinian Mary Chesnut viewed the loss of New Orleans as
catastrophic for the Confederacy. Writing in her diary on the
same day as her countrywoman Judith McGuire, Chesnut placed
the blame for the defeat squarely on the government:
New Orleans goneand with it the Confederacy. Are
we not cut in two? That Mississippi ruins us if lost.
The Confederacy done to death by the politicians. What
wonder we are lost. Those wretched creatures the
Congress and the legislature could never rise to the
greatness of the occasion. (Woodward 330)
Chesnut's outrage with political leadership of the
Confederacy reflected the first signs of doubt as to the
capacity of Southern men. In New Orleans itself, that doubt
took the form of angry recriminations against military leaders
by many women. The most vocal critic, Julia LeGrand,
lambasted the tactics of Confederate General Mansfield Lovell
in a journal entry dated May 9, 1862. LeGrand speculated that
as the Union invasion began, General Lovell was either drunk
or paralyzed with fear. In any event, she identified only one
group of people who kept their heads: "The women only did not
seem afraid. They were all in favor of resistance, no matter
how hopeless that resistance might be" (K. Jones 125).
LeGrand did not confine her criticisms of the Confederate
defense force to just her journal. In this same journal


86
entry, she admitted to hounding some local men whom she saw
loafing around town after the invasion:
The ladies of the town signed a paper, praying that
[New Orleans] should never be given up. We went down to
put our names on the list, and met the marines marching
up to the City Hall with their cannon in front of them.
The blood boiled in my veinsI felt no fearonly anger.
I forgot myself and called out several times: "Gentlemen,
don't let the State Flag come down," and "Oh, how can you
men stand it?" (K. Jones 126)
LeGrand's public questioning of the courage of Southern men
flew in the face of the rhetoric of Southern male honor. Vet
her public outburst was not an isolated occurrence as the
Union occupation took firmer hold. "If the men had half the
spunk which the women had," one local woman asserted to a
visitor from England, "New Orleans would soon be ours again"
(quoted in Rabie, 138).
Left to their own devices, Confederate women in and
around New Orleans continued their defiance. Still, having
for so long been denied public voices, many women had
difficulty in expressing their anger. Sarah Morgan of Baton
Rouge, one of the most lucid and eloquent diarists of the
Civil War period, breathed fire about Butler's order and the
Union invasion force arriving in her hometown in a diary entry
dated May 9, 1862:
Our lawful (?) owners have at last arrived. About
sunset day before yesterday, the Troquois anchored here,
and a graceful young Federal stepped ashore, carrying a
Yankee flag over his shoulder, and asked the way to the
Mayor's office. I like the style! If we girls of B. R.
had been at the landing instead of the men, that Yankee
should never have insulted us by flying his flag in our
faces! We would have opposed his landing except under a
flag of truce; but the men let him alone, and he even


87
found a poor Dutchman willing to show him the road!
(East 63-4)
Morgan's anger at the laxity of the men of Baton Rouge mirrors
Julia LeGrand's anger at the men of New Orleans. Morgan
rejected the orders of "Picayune Butler" prohibiting the
display of the Confederate flag. Vowing to wear one pinned to
the bosom of her dress, she proclaimed, "the man who says take
it off, will have to pull it off for himself; the man who
dares attempt itwell! a pistol in my pocket will fill up the
gap. I am capable, too" (East 64-5)
Despite Morgan's bluster, a diary entry two days later
reveals that the Yankees holding siege in Baton Rouge
confounded Confederate rhetoric about Northern men and, in the
process, caused Morgan to feel ambivalent about her protest.
She begins the entry by admitting, "II am disgusted with
myself." Having gone into town with friends and with her
Confederate flag affixed to her dress, Morgan encountered a
group of Union soldiers being harassed by some locals. This
unexpected encounter with the enemy produced the self-disgust:
I had not expected to meet them, and felt a painful
conviction that I was unnecessarily attracting attention
by an unladylike display of defiance, from the crowd
gathered there. But what was I to do? I felt
humiliated, conspicuous, everything that is painful and
disagreeable; butstrike my colors in the face of an
enemy? Never. (East 68)
Morgan's disgust with her "unladylike display of defiance"
derives largely from her recognition of the civility of
Federal officers: "Fine, noble looking men they were, showing
refinement and gentlemanly bearing in every motion; one cannot


88
help but admire such foes" (68) The "nobility" and
"gentlemanly" nature of the Union officers contrasts not only
with the undignified behavior of the residents of Baton Rouge
(including her own) but also with the supposition that
Northern men were somehow lacking.
Morgan earned the enmity of her fellow residents by her
admiration of the "conquerors." In a journal entry dated May
14, 1862, three days after her encounter with the
"gentlemanly" officers in downtown Baton Rouge, Morgan
admitted that certain locals were questioning her family's
loyalty. Still, she felt that the honor of Southerners
required respect for the Union troops:
Shall I acknowledge that the people we so recently called
our brothers are unworthy of consideration, and are
liars, cowards, dogs? Not I! If they conquer us, I
acknowledge them as a superior race; I will not say we
were conquered by cowards, for where would that place us?
It will take a brave people to gain us, and that the
Northerners undoubtedly are. I would scorn to have an
inferior foe; I fight only my equals. These women may
acknowledge that cowards have won battles in which their
brothers were engaged, but I, I will ever say mine fought
against brave men, and won the day. Which is most
honorable? (East 73)
This entry shows how, with defeat, Confederate women had to
readjust their belief in their men's honor and superiority.
Secessionist rhetoric posited a seemingly natural superiority
for Southern men. The invading Yankees invalidated that
premise, so Morgan links the honor of Southern men to the
bravery of their opponents. Northern men are, for Morgan,
"superior," "brave," and "equals." Yet, Morgan's logic
(clearly a minority view in Baton Rouge) undermines one of the


89
rhetorical premises justifying a separate Southern nation. As
Southern men, the direct embodiment of the Confederacy, proved
unable to overcome their Northern foes, the women of the
Confederacy began to doubt the wisdom of loyalty to a nation
built upon such unstable premises.
A year after the fall of New Orleans, at the other end of
the Confederacy, the women of Richmond found themselves
battling a foe different from invading Yankeeshunger. Union
war successes, particularly the naval blockade, and
unscrupulous merchants who engaged in price-gouging had
contributed to widespread shortages of basic foodstuffs. All
around the Confederacy, signs of unrest percolated to the
surface. In Bladen County, North Carolina, a group of women
sent Governor Zebulon Vance a letter on February 18, 1863, in
which they threatened violence if their food needs weren't
adequately supplied:
[W]e hoos sons brothers & husbands is now fighting for
the big mans negros are determd to have bredd out of
these barns & that at a price that we can pay or we will
slaughter as we go. (Yearns and Barrett 218-9)
The inability of the Confederate government to relieve the
suffering of its citizens and to control black marketeers only
exacerbated the class fissures that Southern nationalism had
initially hnd successfully smoothed over. These women, and
many others around the Confederacy, now perceived that their
enemies included more than just the invading Union soldiers.
Enemies within the Confederacy itself also reared their heads.


90
So-called "bread riots" actually took place in many
cities in the Confederacy. On March 18, 1863, a riot took
place in Salisbury, North Carolina, which the local newspaper
called "one of the gayest and liveliest scenes of the age"
(Yearns and Barrett 219). According to the account published
in the Carol ina Watchman. a group of women, "some 50 or 75 in
number, with axes and hatchets," moved from store to store
looking for flour and salt. One of their reported encounters
with a local merchant typifies the results of their "riot":
They then met a gentleman on the street who they had
been told, had salt, on which, they said he intended to
speculate. He assured them most positively that such was
not the case; that it was sent to him to sell. They
insisted on having a bag. He . said rather than have
the salt impressed, he would make them a present of a bag
and a twenty dollar Confederate note. (Yearns and
Barrett 220)
The more success that the women met with, the more voracious
their appetite became. The riot was apparently allowed to run
its course. The reporter on the scene noted that, at their
last stop, "[The women] took ten barrels [of flour], and
rolled them out and were setting on them, when I left, waiting
for a wagon to haul them away" (Yearns and Barrett 220).
Though the reporter for the Watchman chose to treat the
Salisbury riot comically, other instances were not perceived
as funny by the people who witnessed them. The bread riot in
Richmond on April 2, 1863, drew the most national notice. A
disturbance in the nation's capital, participated in by
President Davis himself and put down by a regiment of
soldiers, further called into question the viability of the


91
Confederate nation. The riot also marked the first organized
protest of national significance by Confederate women. Though
some details of the disturbance remain in dispute, what seems
clear is that a group of women tried to meet with Governor
John Letcher on the morning of April 2 to express their
concerns. Getting no satisfaction through official channels,
a number of women, perhaps over a thousand (Chesson 138) ,
began to break into shops along Cary Street in downtown
Richmond. Confederate war clerk John Beaucamp Jones noted
seeing "a few hundred women and boys" outside his office
shortly after 9 a.m.:
I did not follow, to see what they did; but I learned an
hour after that they marched through Cary Street, and
entered diverse stores of the speculators, which they
proceeded to empty of their contents. They impressed all
the carts and drays in the street, which were speedily
laden with meal, flour, shoes, etc. I did not learn
whither these were driven; but probably they were rescued
from those in charge of them. Nevertheless, an immense
amount of provisions, and other articles, were borne by
the mob, which continued to increase in numbers. (285)
Others on the scene noted that the women working their
way through the streets were prepared for resistance. Dr. J.
W. Anderson recalled that the women were armed with "rusty old
horse pistols, . clubs, . knives, and many carried
bayonets in their belts, and specimens of those huge old home
made knives with which our soldiers were wont to load
themselves down in the first part of the war" (quoted in
Chesson, 144). In its report of the riot, the New York Herald
suggested that violence, though spotty, had occurred:


92
A few individuals attempted to resist the women, but
without success. One man who struck a female was wounded
in the shoulder by a shot from a revolver, and the
threatening attitude of those armed with hatchets, etc.
intimidated others from attempting force. (Rebel 1ion
Record. VI, 523)
The intensity of the women's assault overwhelmed the city
police. The governor called out the Public Guard and,
according to most accounts, gave the rioters five minutes to
disperse or risk being fired upon.
Order was not completely restored until Jefferson Davis
himself appeared on the scene and pleaded with the crowd. The
riot ended roughly two hours after it began. The police
arrested forty-four women and twenty-nine men for their part
in the disturbance (Chesson 155). According to John Beaucamp
Jones, writing in his diary the following day, "The mob
visited most of the shops, and the pillage was pretty
extensive" (286).
Davis's presence at the scene underscored what a serious
political threat the riot constituted. Many people in and
around Richmond sympathized with the plight of the rioters.
North Carolinian Sara Pryor received a letter from a friend in
Richmond which described an encounter with a young woman on
the street as the riot commenced:
The girl turned to me with a wan smile, and as she
rose to join the long line that had now formed and was
moving, she said simply, "Good-by! I'm going to get
something to eat!"
"And I devoutly hope you'll get itand plenty of
it," I told her. (Pryor 238-9)


93
John Beauc.imp Jones had a remarkably similar encounter at
roughly the same moment:
A young woman, seemingly emaciated, but yet with a smile,
answered that they were going to find something to eat.
I could not, for the life of me, refrain from expressing
the hope that they might be successful; and I remarked
they were going in the right direction to find plenty in
the hands of the extortioners. (285)
Even Judith McGuire, a strong Confederate partisan, understood
the motivation behind the disturbance. "Oh that these hard
hearted creatures [speculators] could be made to suffer!" she
wrote in her diary on the day of the riot. "Strange that men
with human hearts can, in these dreadful times, thus grind the
poor" (203).
Of course, not everybody took such a sympathetic view.
Richmond native Sallie A. Putnam characterized the women
involved as "lawless viragoes" and described the riot itself
as inspired not by the hunger of the women but by the greed of
pirates:
More impudent and defiant robberies were never committed,
than disgraced, in the open light of day, on a bright
morning in spring, the city of Richmond. The cry for
bread with which this violence commenced was soon
subdued, and instead of articles of food, the rioters
directed their efforts to stores containing dry-goods,
shoes, etc. (208-9)
Racism and jingoism entered into Putnam's thinking as well.
In her judgment, the unsavory behavior of the rioters could be
explained by the fact that they were "a heterogeneous crowd of
Dutch, Irish, and free negroes" (208) .
The "heterogeneity" of the crowd provided a logic that
Confederate propagandists used to diffuse questions about the


94
Southern nation. In its April 4 editorial, the Richmond
Examiner described the rioters as "A handful of prostitutes,
professional thieves, Irish and Yankee hags, [and] gallows-
birds from all lands but our own." The editors conflated
those outside the law ("prostitutes," "professional thieves")
with those from outside the Confederacy to argue that the riot
in Richmond, as well as the riots in Salisbury and elsewhere,
were the result of a Union conspiracy:
It is impossible to doubt that the concealed instigators
in each case were the same. Having done the work in one
city, they took the cars to the next. That they are
emissaries of the Federal Government, it is equally
difficult to doubt. (Richmond Examiner, April 4, 1863)
The conspiracy theory hatched by the editors of the Examiner
was an effort to reinstate the basic dictates of behavior for
Confederate women. By positing the "enemy" as originating
outside the Southern nation, that is, as "emissaries of the
Federal Government," as well as in the lower classes, the
Examiner tried to create an image of national harmony being
disrupted by "others." The oppositional rhetoric of
Confederate/non-Confederate once again announced clearly what
the nation expected of its women. The Confederacy needed
docile female bodies as much as it needed "heroic" male bodies
to maintain its fictions, and the Examiner editorial worked to
redefine the limits of appropriate Confederate women's
behavior.
Historian Michael B. Chesson has argued that the Richmond
bread riot was not a spontaneous response to dire economic


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THE (RE)CONSTRUCTION OF NARRATIVE:
DECOLONIZATION AND POSTBELLUM SOUTHERN LITERATURE
By
DAVID W. RUSSELL
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1996

This dissertation is dedicated to my mother, Janet Rae
Russell, a woman whose sacrifices made this work possible.
Her model of decency and integrity will stay with me always,
and anything good that I ever do or become will be due almost
completely to her.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
So many people have contributed to this dissertation that
I feel frankly embarrassed in calling it my own. I owe a debt
of gratitude to all of the members of the dissertation reading
group I participated in, particularly Gary MacDonald and
Rhonda Morris. Their comments, discoveries, encouragements,
and subtle decencies propelled me at moments when I wallowed
in self-pity, secure in the knowledge that I would never
finish. Anne Goodwyn Jones, though not my director, provided
stability and comfort as well as acute observations, some just
in passing (as when I had the audacity to invade her lunch
with another graduate student), all of which gave me a sense
of the worth of my ideas and the confidence to pursue them.
Finally, I would not have a dissertation at all without the
tireless efforts of my director, David Leverenz. His
amazingly careful readings, occasional intellectual butt-
kickings, patience through my rantings, and compassion
throughout have made the next chapter in my life possible. He
has also offered me a model of integrity and dignity that I
can only long to emulate.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
page
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS iii
ABSTRACT V
CHAPTERS
INTRODUCTION 1
Notes 11
1 RHETORIC AND THE (DE)CONSTRUCTION OF NATION 14
Notes 54
2 PERFORMING CONFEDERATE NATIONALISM:
WHITE WOMEN'S REJECTION OF BODILY GOVERNMENT 59
Notes 106
3 RECONQUERING OLD TERRAIN: PATRIARCHAL
REPOSITIONING IN AUGUSTA JANE EVANS'S
ST. ELMO Ill
Notes 143
4 THE GEOGRAPHY OF SOUTHERN NATIONALISM . . . 151
Notes 189
5 "YOU CAN'T KILL ME BUT ONCE": THE
CHALLENGE OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN TEXTUALITY . . 196
Notes 260
CONCLUSION 276
Notes 279
WORKS CITED 280
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 295
iv

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
THE (RE)CONSTRUCTION OF NARRATIVE:
DECOLONIZATION AND POSTBELLUM SOUTHERN FICTION
By
David W. Russell
December 1996
Chairperson: David Leverenz
Major Department: English
This project focuses on Southern fiction produced in the
post-Civil War period. Despite the defeat of the Confederacy,
the idea of a Southern nation lingered in the minds of many
whites. White Southern novelists produced a series of works
which reflect a postcolonial commitment to nation-building;
that is, these writers sought to revitalize and redeploy the
organizing principles of the antebellum South. In Benedict
Anderson's phrase, these writers shared the idea of an
"imagined community": a Southern nation, predicated on a
continuity of thought and custom among the white people of the
region. Intervening in this re-creation of white hegemony was
the writing of African Americans. The desire for
"decolonization" is one of the prime forces energizing these
fictions. The drive to decolonize also initiated an argument
about just exactly what the South and being Southern meant.

INTRODUCTION
There are 250 or so countries (flags) in the world, but more
than 3,000 nations (peoples) who want their own country—thus
"small" wars.
—Richard Reeves, "Where we've been in 20
years"
Gainesville Sun. January 3, 1996
"Tell mother I die for my country. I did what I thought was
best."
—purportedly the last words of John Wilkes
Booth1
In a lecture at the Sorbonne in 1882, historian Ernest
Renan tried to answer a simply formulated yet complex
question—"What is a nation?" Defying geographical
determinism, Renan asserted, "A nation is a spiritual
principle, the outcome of the profound complications of
history; it is a spiritual family not a group determined by
the shape of the earth" (18-9). Amplifying his discussion,
Renan explained that a nation needed two supporting premises—
a belief in a common past and "the desire to live together":
A nation is therefore a large-scale solidarity,
constituted by the feeling of the sacrifices that one has
made in the past and of those that one is prepared to
make in the future. It presupposes a past; it is
summarized, however, in the present by a tangible fact,
namely, consent, the clearly expressed desire to continue
a common life. A nation's existence is, if you will
pardon the metaphor, a daily plebiscite, just as an
individual's existence is a perpetual affirmation of
life. (Renan 19)
For Renan, a nation was "a soul, a spiritual principle." In
1

2
detaching the definition of nation from geography, Renan
argued that a nation could exist even if it did not appear on
a map or possess a material presence in the landscape. As
long as citizens continued to "vote" for it, a nation could
live on in perpetuity.
Renan made his case two decades after the Confederate
States of America had been formed, and his definition of
nation has important implications for thinking about the post¬
war Confederacy. Historians and sociologists have long
understood the significance of Southern nationalism when
considering the persistent belief in the region's
distinctiveness. However, when they have analyzed postbellum
Southern fiction, literary critics have not been so scrupulous
in understanding the ideology of nationalism as well as the
way in which the Southern nation became a potent force even in
defeat.2 This study argues that postbellum fiction functioned
as both an effect of and an organizing principle for the
perpetuation of the idea of a Southern nation.
The fiction generated by white Southern writers in the
aftermath of the Civil War reinvigorated the Confederacy and
its organizing precepts. By emphasizing the imperial nature
(at least from their perspective) of Union invasion and
occupation, these writers were able to sell a perception of
the South and Southerners as abused and defamed but
nonetheless heroic. Calling upon a common racial heritage
with Northern whites, these writers subtly but effectively

3
interjected themselves into the debate over black civil
rights, a debate that culminated with the rejection of federal
protections for African Americans. Indeed, the fictions
produced by white Southern writers proved so effective that in
December 1888 novelist and civil rights advocate Albion W.
Tourgee pronounced American literature "not only Southern in
type, but distinctly Confederate in sympathy" (405), and
Thomas Dixon baldly offered a return to "white man's
government," along the lines of the old Confederacy, as the
appropriate model of 20th century American nationhood.
To be sure, the reconsolidation of white power did not go
unchallenged. Tourgee, with A Fool1s Errand (1879) and Bricks
without straw (1880), tried to undermine the revisionist
histories of Southern whites. A more powerful challenge, one
that I consider in Chapter 5, was offered by African-American
writers. Frances Harper's Iola Leroy (1892), Charles W.
Chesnutt's The Marrow of Tradition (1901), and Sutton E.
Griggs's various novels, notably his first, Imoerium in
Imperio (1899), provided counter-histories, giving voice to
the experiences of blacks in the postbellum South. In
challenging the attempt to create a hegemonic (and exclusively
white) historiography of the post-war South, these writers
also tried to map out their idea of 20th century America—an
"imagined community" that would be integrated and respectful
of all voices in the narrative of nation. Ultimately,
however, these writers had their own literary voices drowned

4
out by the racist rhetoric, epitomized by Dixon's novels, that
came to dominate American culture in the latter part of the
19th century. Significantly, none of these writers published
significant fiction after 1908. Iola Leroy proved to be
Harper's only novel, Chesnutt went back into the stenography
business in Cleveland after the commercial failure of The
Marrow of Tradition and The Colonel's Dream (1905), and Griggs
abandoned writing after the publication of his fifth novel,
Unfettered (1908), to concentrate on his Baptist ministry.
The idea of a "post-war Confederacy" still might seem
oxymoronic, particularly given the fact that America has
remained united since the Civil War. As Renan pointed out,
however, and as Benedict Anderson has amplified, a nation is
not merely a geographical entity but rather "a spiritual
principle." As Anderson makes clear with his aforementioned
phrase "imagined community," a nation is by definition a
fictive construct, believed in because its purveyors cultivate
an ideology of commonality among its inhabitants. As Clifford
Geertz has argued, the job of ideology is to engender belief:
The function of ideology is to make an autonomous
politics possible by providing the authoritative concepts
that render it meaningful, the suasive images by means of
which it can be sensibly grasped. (Geertz 63)
Calling upon the work of Geertz, historian John McCardell
argues that Southern nationalism became a viable strategy for
retaining traditions and institutions (most notably slavery)
that seemed under assault from all other quarters of the
American union.3 The central premise of this study is that

5
the ideology of Southern nationalism became so deeply embedded
in those who governed, fought for, and suffered as a result of
the Confederacy that this idea became a basic component part
of Southern identity.4 When that nation was defeated in war,
the idea of it remained strong, providing an ideological
framework for a resuscitation of Southern political power and
the redeployment of antebellum gender and race relations.
Southern nationalism was created by and then sustained the
belief in Southern “difference." The fiction authored by
whites in the postbellum period, rather than mourn the passing
of the Southern nation, fought to keep that "imagined
community" alive and vibrant and politically valid.
The focus of this study is primarily white men and women.
I focus on the ways in which these various white writers set
about the task of creating and sustaining an "imagined
community," a community built upon racist premises. Far from
justifying this racism, I try to understand it as a strategy
of decolonization. As Richard Gray has asserted, the
expansion of the literary canon requires that we now think of
Southern cultures, not a singular culture.5 This study
critiques the attempt on the part of the first generation of
postbellum Southern writers to reconstruct and assert the
exclusivity of a dominant, necessarily white Anglo-Saxon
culture.
Chapter 1 focuses on the ways in which secessionists
sought to link ideas of nation and masculinity to promote the

6
idea of a separate Southern nation and to insure its
viability. Looking at contemporary critical essays, poetry,
letters and diary entries, I contend that the Confederate
nation-builders posited the Southern nation as the phallus,
testing each Southerner's "manhood" by measuring their loyalty
to and willingness to fight for that nation. With this
rhetorical construct, the defeat of Southern troops at the
hands of the Yankees called into question the Confederacy's
efficacy. The ultimate defeat of the Confederacy had a
devastating impact on Southern manhood, requiring significant
efforts on the part of Southern women after the war to recoup
Southern men's self-image.
In Chapter 2, I examine the role white Southern women
were expected to play in the creation of the Confederacy.
Women occupied a seemingly paradoxical double space—they had
to be weak in order to incline their men to fight, but at the
same time they had to be strong to maintain the homefront and
keep up a happy facade for the men in the field. This double
space was merely an extension of the equally paradoxical space
ascribed to Southern womanhood in general—at once the
repository of all that was good and moral and simultaneously
without a voice to advocate such values. Defeat created a
disjunction between rhetoric and reality for both Confederate
men and women. As they suffered increasing and unmitigated
deprivation on the homefront, Southern women rejected their
prescribed role as patient sufferers. They engaged in

7
protests (one of which was attended and disbanded by Jefferson
Davis) and advocated desertion to their men in the field. In
this way, Confederate women had a hand in the final defeat of
their nation, because they began not to identify with it.
Yet, in an ironic twist, these same women were made to believe
that their resubmission to patriarchal authority was crucial
to the reconstruction of Southern political power.
Chapter 3 is a consideration of the South's most
prominent antebellum female novelist, Augusta Jane Evans.
Understanding that Southern men needed to be uplifted after
the war, Evans wrote St. Elmo, a novel in which the main
female character, Edna Earl, devastates her body so badly that
she needs to be rescued by a strong man—St. Elmo Murray. St.
Elmo has assumed all of the qualities previously ascribed to
women—he is religious, moral, and succoring. Considering St.
Elmo (which was Evans's most successful book) as a revision of
her antebellum novel, Beulah. in which Beulah Benton must
rescue her husband from moral nihilism, shows how drastically
Evans revises notions of female character and the female body
in order to reposition Southern men as strong, brave, and
virile. In this way, St. Elmo becomes Evans's attempt to
resuscitate the idea of the Southern nation, an idea that she
clung to passionately.
Whereas Evans reconfigures Southern manhood to
reinvigorate the imagined community of the Confederacy, three
prominent local color writers of a later generation—Kate

8
Chopin, Thomas Nelson Page, and George Washington Cable—
create a revisionary geography to accommodate revisionary
histories. Chopin's At Fault creates a landscape in which
racial diversity gets replaced by a pervasive whiteness. Page
and Cable both produce "chronicles of Reconstruction," but
they also construct imaginative geographical settings that
both confirm the South's repossession of itself and reorganize
social relations, which had been turned upside down by the
war. The Supreme Court's rejection of civil rights
legislation for blacks as unconstitutional in 1883 re-placed
authority for such protections in the hands of local
authorities. This reemphasis on the power of the "local"
allowed local colorists like Chopin, Page, and Cable to create
a local scene that restores antebellum values and premises in
a postbellum world.
Chapter 5 looks at the burgeoning writing of African-
Americans as well as the response to it by Thomas Dixon, who
with The Leopard's Soots (1902) and The Clansman (1905) became
the most widely read author of his day. Dixon's virulent
racism tapped into a national anxiety about "others" at the
turn of the century. Writers like Frances Harper, Charles
Chesnutt, and particularly Sutton Griggs had begun to create
a response of sorts to the widespread notion of the
inferiority of African-Americans. Griggs and Dixon offer
competing versions of "nation" for America at the turn of the
20th century. In his first novel, Imperium in Imperio. Griggs

9
rejects the possibility of separate nations, one white and one
black, and instead offers a plea for integration. Dixon
tacitly offers two potential nationhoods for America—one
prophesying anarchy because of Anglo-Saxon submission to
"dark" races, and the other the Confederate model, a nation
premised on white supremacy. Dixon's success presaged a
struggle for civil rights for African-Americans that would
last for over half a century.
Undoubtedly some might question the appropriateness of
considering white Southerners after the Civil War as
"colonized." After all, their nation stood for a far more
direct form of colonization—slavery. Interestingly, though,
signs of the Confederate nation have been appropriated as
modes of protest and resistance. For instance, in his survey
of the genre of Southern rock music, Paul Wells argues that
Southern musicians strive to create in their music "nostalgic
continuities," mythic connections between the Civil War South
and modern day which constantly invigorate the idea of
Southern distinctiveness. Discussing the way in which
Sherman's burning of Atlanta is a repeated trope in many
Southern rock songs, Wells shows how "the South" becomes a
metonym for resistance:
It is clear that whatever was achieved politically by
"the North" in winning the Civil War, little has changed
psychologically and emotionally in "the South." Southern
rock has thus taken on the mantle of resistance group,
still metaphorically fighting the war by refusing closure
and signifying an enduring alternative culture, perhaps
most significantly embodied in the figure of "the Rebel."
(Wells 118)

10
Oddly, as Wells suggests, Southern rock relied on its own
political incorrectness to attract fans and retain popularity.
Southern rock thus becomes one manifestation in popular
culture of the continued belief in Southern nationalism. As
Wells sums up, "Ironically, in southern rock culture, looking
back eguates with looking forward, and creating an identity
which resists the contradictions of contemporary life. This
construction is its own 'happy ending,' validating the notion
that, even if only at the level of consolidating a place in
popular culture, the South has risen again" (126).6 At least
in its popular manifestations, the Confederacy comes to
represent the very idea of resistance that postbellum white
Southern writers tried to deploy. Rightly or not, the idea
that the South was imposed upon by an imperial power after the
war has become popularly accepted.
Thus, I seek not to trivialize the struggles of people
emerging from colonization by misappropriating postcolonial
theory. Rather, by doing some "creative borrowing," as Edward
Said calls it, I wish to try and understand the reconstruction
of a "national" consciousness and culture at the same time
that the nation in question ceased to exist. Postbellum
Southern fiction is a key venue at which discourses on race,
gender, and class merge to produce a "national" narrative, a
narrative that could assert a coherent Southern identity to
countermand "imperial" discourse and aid in the process of
decolonization. In this way, I propose a new reading strategy

11
for Southern literature which recognizes the importance of
Southern nationalism and which, for good or ill, identifies
significant tropes of this literature, such as racism, a
resurgent patriarchy, and an emphasis on "local color," not as
regional idiosyncracies but as strategies of cultural self-
determination. Our country still struggles with lingering
vestiges of the Confederacy. Only by understanding these
vestiges as embedded cultural phenomena, phenomena dictated by
the imagined community of the Southern nation, can we ever
hope to combat them by offering an alternative model of
nationhood.
NOTES
1There is some debate as to just exactly what, if
anything, Booth actually said. In addition to his reported
message to his mother, Booth is said to have begged, "Kill me-
-kill me!" Booth actually wrote a letter explaining his
actions, writing over his signature, "A Confederate doing duty
upon his own responsibility." Ray Stannard Baker reported in
the May 1897 McClure's Magazine that as Booth rushed out of
the barn he was hold up in, he shouted, "One more stain on the
glorious old banner." Regardless of what Booth said, his
passion derived from his belief in the idea of a Southern
nation. See Albert Furtwangler, Assassin on Stage (Urbana:
University of Illinois Press, 1991), p. 112, and Baker, The
Capture. Death and Burial of J. Wilkes Booth (Chicago: The
Poor Richard Press, 1940).
2Discussing the "post-Rubin" generation of critics of
Southern literature in his introduction to Southern T.iterature
and Literary Theory, Jefferson Humphries concedes that the
Civil War does not play as central a role in modern-day
criticism as it did for the critics of Louis Rubin's
generation. Humphries argues that the Civil Rights movement
of the 1960's (which he sees as an offshoot of the war) more
directly informs the new generation's critical sensibilities.
Thus, Humphries disputes Lewis Simpson's claim that historians
and not literary critics will be more adept at identifying the
complexities of Southern identity:

12
The conflict between Old and New South, the sort of
tensions we lived through, and still feel, while
different from those occasioned by the economic and
material devastation of the Civil War and Reconstruction,
are too powerful to find expression in the quieter,
cooler mode of history alone. Only literature can
accommodate them. (Humphries xii)
Yet Humphries's decentering of the Civil War removes a key
component for understanding the evolution of Southern culture-
-Confederate nationalism. Tellingly, though many different
theoretical approaches get space in Southern Literature and
T.iterary Theory (and Humphries particularly champions
deconstruction), no critic discusses the implications of
Southern nationalism and/or the postcoloniality of the post-
Reconstruction South. Humphries is right to be wary of a
simple recurrence to what he calls an "organicist nationalism"
as an explanation of Southern distinctiveness, but his mere
passing glance at the significance of the Civil War for "post-
Rubin" critics denies the possibilities offered for Southern
cultural studies through post-colonial theory and conceptions
of nationalism(s). See Humphries, "Introduction: On the
Inevitability of Theory in Southern Literary Study," in
Southern Literature aild Literary Theory (Athens: The
University of Georgia Press, 1990), pp. viii-xviii.
3McCardell makes the following argument concerning the
situation of the South in the 1820's and 30's:
The South was becoming increasingly aware of its minority
status within the Union. Compounding the difficulties of
this position were the declining economic fortunes of the
seaboard states coupled with a growing concern over the
future of slavery. Each of these problems—beginning
with the Missouri crisis of 1819-20, continuing with the
social and economic dislocation of the 1820's, and
intensifying with the launching of William Lloyd
Garrison's abolition newspaper The Liberator in 1831—
converged and crystallized during the tariff imbroglio of
the early 1830's. The resulting strain aroused and
sharpened sectional awareness. Many Southerners were
finding, in Geertz's words, their social situation
incomprehensible. And, as a result, they turned to
Southern nationalism to render their situation
meaningful. (McCardell 4)
I want to extend McCardell's argument, suggesting that the
idea of the Southern nation helped defeated Southerners cope
with not only defeat but also the modern world, as exemplified
by the North, a world that had little use for Southern
traditions and economics. See McCardell, The Idea of a

13
Southern Nation (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1979) ,
particularly pp. 3-9.
4Historian David M. Potter notes the paradox of the
increase in Southern nationalistic feeling due to defeat in
war: "The Civil War did far more to produce a southern
nationalism which flourished in the cult of the Lost Cause
than southern nationalism did to produce the war" (469) . As
Ernest Renan suggests, a nation requires an acknowledged and
embraceable common past. Ironically, defeat in war provided
Southerners with just such a past (manifesting itself most
clearly, as Potter points out, in the myths of the Lost
Cause). Thus, to talk of a "post-war Confederacy" is not so
illogical or historically inaccurate as it might initially
seem. See Potter, The Impending Crisis. 1848-1861 (New York:
Harper and Row, 1976). See also Carl N. Degler, Place Over
Time: The Continuity of Southern Distinctiveness (Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State University Press, 1977), pp. 99-132, and J. P.
Radford, "Identity and Tradition in the Post-Civil War South,"
Journal of Historical Geography 18 (1992): 91-103.
5See Richard Gray, "Afterword: Negotiating Differences:
Southern Culture(s) Now," in Dixie Debates: Perspective on
Southern Cultures, eds. Richard H. King and Helen Taylor (New
York: New York University Press, 1996), pp. 218-227.
6In fact, the idea of the Confederacy as resistance
extends beyond the geographical borders of the South. Wells
begins his consideration of Southern rock by describing a
scene in an auditorium in London in 1975 where a local band
was doing a cover of the Lynyrd Skynyrd song "Freebird":
Two young lads from the South (of England) . One,
stetsoned and cowboy-booted, perched precariously on the
shoulders of the other, waving an outsized Confederate
flag. Three guitarists, hair tumbling wildly, united at
the front of the stage, each producing the satisfying
wail and screech of the extended solo at the end of
Lynyrd Skynyrd's rock anthem, "Freebird." Somehow, some
way, the music of the American South had come to mean so
much to an insecure English teenager hundreds of miles
away. (115)
Closer to home, the Montana "Freemen," a group that did not
recognize U. S. sovereignty and proclaimed that they had
seceded from the union, reportedly used the Confederate Stars
and Bars as one of its symbols of defiance. Ironically, all
of the emphasis on "free" locates itself in the symbolism of
a nation which itself was predicated, at least in part, on a
population of unfree.

CHAPTER 1
THE MAKING OF THE CONFEDERACY:
THE FICTIVE BORDERS OF SOUTHERN MASCULINITY AND NATION
At least on the Southern side, the Civil War was about
liberation, fought against what advocates of secession
perceived to be a tyrannical, colonizing Northern government.
"The Constitution, either openly violated or emasculated of
its true meaning and spirit by the subtleties of New England
logic, is powerless for protection," wrote William H. Holcombe
in the February 1861 Southern Literary Messenger. The
election of Lincoln provided merely the final pretext for a
break between the two sections. But Holcombe's own shifting
gender distinctions concerning the Constitution highlight his
chief dissatisfaction with union. The Constitution was
androgynous—susceptible to "violation" (feminine) or
"emasculation" by "the subtleties of New England logic."
Later in his essay advocating "a separate nationality,"
Holcombe describes Northern abolitionists as "that motley crew
of men who should be women and women who should be men" (87) .
What Holcombe and other advocates of secession craved was a
national space that was based on and posited as normative a
bold heterosexual masculinity, a national premise that could
resist violation and emasculation.
14

15
In Nationalism and Sexuality. George L. Mosse traces the
rise of German nationalism that eventually led to the Nazi
state. He notes that heterosexual masculinity became an
important tool in the creation of nation: "Manliness was
invoked to safeguard the existing order against the perils of
modernity, which threatened the clear distinction between what
was considered normal and abnormality. Moreover, manliness
symbolized the nation's spiritual and material vitality" (23).
Strong, heterosexual men exemplified a strong, healthy nation.
Deviances could not be tolerated, and those "perils of
modernity," that is, ideas and behaviors that challenged the
bourgeois status quo, constituted such deviances. Mosse notes
how such deviant characters were portrayed in nationalist
propaganda:
The ugly counter-image of the nervous, unstable
homosexual and masturbator, whose physiognomy was ever
more sharply delineated thanks to medical science's
attribution of moral and aesthetic values, became an
important symbol of the threat to nationalism and
respectability posed by the rapid changes of the modern
age. (31)
Such "counter-images" reflected the supposed results of a lack
of moral control. People who gave in to their lusts sapped
their strength and thus became unproductive; people who
invested themselves in the state channeled their energies
(including their "harmful" desires) into socially positive
acts of nationalism.
Though Mosse was writing about turn-of-the-century
Germany, his ideas can be applied to the Southern United

16
States of the mid-19th century. Just such a normative
heterosexual principle was articulated and deployed in the
rhetoric of secession. In fact, the rhetoric of the "Southern
man" and the rhetoric of Confederate nationalism became
inextricably linked, reinforcing and depending upon one
another. Supporters of secession, calling upon the cavalier
myth of Southern manhood, argued that a Southern nation was
viable because of the superiority of Southern men.
Conversely, the idea of a Southern nation helped organize
gender relations by associating "apporpriate" masculinity with
the willingness to fight for the Confederacy. The rhetoric of
secession thus created two interdependent discourses—one of
"proper" masculinity and one of "proper" nation—that had to
cite one another to verify their respective premises.
The cavalier myth, which purported to explain Southern
"difference" and the superiority of Southern men, existed long
before secession.1 Secession advocates merely exploited the
belief in that superiority to make their case for "a separate
nationality." "We are the land of rulers; fanaticism has no
home here," wrote Georgia planter Charles C. Jones, Jr., to
his father on January 28, 1861. "The sooner we separate the
better" (Myers 43). William Holcombe concurred with such an
opinion:
The word submission, in the sense of political
degradation, does not exist in the Southern vocabulary.
There is no man in the South so stupid, so cowardly, so
base as to be willing to live in the Union as it is.
(Holcombe 86)

17
For Jones and Holcombe and other proponents of the sectional
split, the Southern man's capacity to rule was indisputable.
As one Southern editorialist noted in an essay distinguishing
between Northern and Southern men, lording over an entire race
demonstrated "their particular capacity for executive control"
("The Difference . . . ," 403). A separate nation would
provide the venue that would both protect Southern
institutions and traditions and confirm for the world the
honor of Southern men.
The concept of "honor" organized white Southern society
and self-perception. As Bertram Wyatt-Brown has argued, the
failure of Northerners to recognize the importance of honor in
the make-up of Southern life only exacerbated the sectional
strife. He divides the concept of honor into three
distinctive ideas: "the inner conviction of self-worth," "the
claim of . . . self-assessment before the public," and "the
assessment of the claim by the public, a judgment based upon
the behavior of the claimant" (14). Honor required a public
consensus; it was an ideology which interpellated subjects,
making those subjects understand behavior acceptable to the
state as well as the unacceptability of challenges to that
ideology.2 The North and its attitudes, along with the
possibility of the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, posed
the most serious challenge to Southern society and the
institutions it cherished. As Wyatt-Brown puts it, "pre-Civil
War Southerners had to calculate the value of union when their

18
claims to respect were met in the North with skepticism,
condescension, and finally, contempt" (20-21).
Thus, the Southern nation could be proposed as a viable
idea because of the deeply held belief in the superiority of
Southern men. Once secession gained support, the Southern
nation began to dictate the grounds of "appropriate" Southern
masculinity. Some pro-South advocates tried to connect the
future of the new nation to the storied past of the region.
For example, Joseph Addison Turner, a Georgia planter and
writer, argued in the July 1860 DeBow's Review that
Southerners should boycott Northern-produced goods as a sign
of regional solidarity. Conceding that some economic hardship
might result, Turner used the prominent families of the South
as a model of how his generation's men should comport
themselves:
Are the sons of our fathers so degenerate that they can
sacrifice nothing to the cause of independence? Ar they
willing, for the sake of present ease and luxury, to
remain in a state of virtual vassalage? Is the spirit of
the Habershams, the Mclntoshes, the Tatnalls, the Troups,
and all that gallant host, whose name is legion, extinct?
(Turner 222)
Turner's diction recurs to the cavalier myth—challenging
Southern men not to accept "vassalage," referring to the great
Southern families as "gallant." In this way, Turner both
accepts the mythos of the superior Southern man and sets the
standard for his generation's men. Only by committing
themselves to "the cause of independence" could Southern men
show that they were not "degenerate." Turner's rhetoric thus

19
taps into what Mosse notes as the need of the nation to
present "manliness" as a measure of "the nation's spiritual
and material vitality."
Even more direct challenges to Southern manhood were made
in various public organs. For example, in a propaganda
pamphlet circulated throughout the South in 1860, a
secessionist using the penname Troup challenged Southern men
to join in the building of a Southern nation in order to
refute aspersions cast against the South by the New York
Tribune. The alternative, Troup suggested, was submission:
But if, indeed, we are as impotent as the Tribune
represents us, in the name of all that is decent, I
implore you, my countrymen, to submit quietly. If you
are incapable of a manly resistance, exhibit the next
best proof of manhood, silent endurance. (Troup 6)
"Manly resistance" would refute Northern claims of Southern
male impotence; submission would only confirm such ridicule.
As Troup later claims, "Any thing is better than, without one
manly effort, to take the fate of prostrate Ireland" (7) .
Troup's rhetoric cordons off a very specific space of "true"
masculinity. Only by joining the cause of the Southern nation
could Southern men show their worth and efficacy. This
rhetorical inscription "persuaded" those reluctant to commit
to secession. It also delegitimized protests against
disunion. Objections could be coded as unmanly, objectors as
"impotent."
To this end, women were enlisted as coercive agents for
the state. They literally came to embody the nation; that is,

20
in order to ensure service to the Confederacy, women offered
themselves as prizes for victory. For example, around the
same time that Thornwell was writing his essay, Carrie Bell
Sinclair wrote a song called "The Homespun Dress" which
detailed not only women's sacrifices for the war effort but
also expectations of the men they were sacrificing for:
And now, young man, a word to you;
If you would win the fair,
Go to the field where honor calls,
And win your lady there.
Remember that our brightest smiles
Are for the true and brave,
And that our tears are all for those
Who fill a soldier's grave. (I. Silber 68)
Once again calling on men's honor, Sinclair argues that the
war served a double purpose—to win political sovereignty and
to win women. Even death would be rewarded by women's love,
as long as it was connected to service to the state. But
Sinclair makes quite clear what living, victorious soldiers
could expect:
The soldier is the lad for me—
A brave heart I adore;
And when the sunny South is free,
And fighting is no more,
I’11 choose me then a lover brave
From out the gallant band,
The soldier lad I love the best
Shall have my heart and hand.
What Sinclair suggests reinforced the rhetoric of the superior
Southern man. Only men who had served the state could be
imbued with true manhood, and Sinclair affirms that only these
men were worthy of Southern women. But Sinclair's song also
points to the ultimate marker of Southern manhood—victory.

21
Women will choose soldiers as lovers "when the sunny South is
free." To prove themselves true men, soldiers had to make the
uniform and the nation mean something, and that meaning could
only be achieved through political independence.
The Southern nation gets installed as "the law,"
regulating both the history of the South by playing up the
cavalier myth and the categories of gender. The nation
becomes the iterative mechanism of the "law" of Southern
masculinity. Judith Butler hypothesizes in Bodies That Matter
that "sex" is a product of discourse, a discourse that gains
status as normative and "the law" because of its reiteration
as law:
The force and necessity of these norms ("sex" as a
symbolic function is to be understood as a kind of
commandment or injunction) is thus functionally dependent
on the approximations and citation of the law; the law
without its approximation is no law or, rather, it
remains a governing law only for those who would affirm
it on the basis of religious faith. If "sex" is assumed
in the same way that a law is cited . . . then "the law
of sex" is repeatedly fortified and idealized as the law
only to the extent that it is reiterated as the law,
produced as the law, the anterior and inapproximable
ideal, by the very citations it is said to command.
(Butler 14)
In terms of "the Southern man" as a norm, the Southern nation
dictates "the law" that verifies the norm. In other words,
the rhetoric of secession so closely intertwines the discourse
of masculinity with the discourse of nation that a subject
cannot make reference to the norm without first citing the
nation. In this way, the Southern nation gains status and
viability through its implication in the law of normative

22
Southern masculinity. As that law is "cited" (and, in the
process of citation, in Butler's formulation, "fortified and
idealized as the law"), the Southern nation is cited,
fortified, idealized, and "produced as the law" as well. The
performativity of "proper" masculinity becomes implicated in
the performativity of "proper" citizenship in the Southern
nation.
The Un-Yankee
Much of the basis for the claims of the secessionists
about Southern men rested on comparisons to Northern men.
Such comparisons underscored Northern deficiencies so as to
make the case for separation of South from North more
compelling. Southern men, for example, were depicted as
brave, trustworthy, and honorable; Northern men possessed none
of these qualities. In his letter of January 28, 1861,
Charles C. Jones, Jr. offered his own assessment as to why the
men of the two regions had grown apart:
I have long since believed that in this country have
arisen two races which, although claiming a common
parentage, have been so entirely separated by climate, by
morals, by religion, and by estimates so totally opposite
of all that constitutes honor, truth, and manliness, that
they cannot longer coexist under the same government.
(Myers 43)
For Jones, as for all disunionists, a separate Southern nation
was the only antidote to the Northern contagion of dissipated
morals. Jones conflates "manliness" with the capacity to
rule. In ascribing to Southern men the "true" qualities of

23
"honor, truth, and manliness," Jones described the basis upon
which the Confederacy would be grounded.
Positing Northern men as the "enemy" not only provided a
flashpoint for the creation of nationalism but also helped
divert attention from some potentially fractious issues
confronting the new nation. For example, slavery as a
rationale for disunion might have tended to underscore
regional and class differences. The border states of the
Confederacy relied far less on slavery for agricultural
production than did their deep South neighbors. Thus,
protecting the peculiar institution did not seem as urgent a
necessity in states like Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Further, even by Southern counts, only one in three landowners
possessed slaves, and half of those owned five slaves or fewer
(DeBow 68).
Pro-secessionists tried to harmonize such differences by
recurring to the trope of superior Southern manhood. If, as
they believed, this superiority was "racial" and inherent in
all Southern men, it transcended class boundaries and made all
brethren of a sort. Slavery served only to emphasize the
superiority of Southern men because it elevated all above
menial labor. "The poor white laborer at the North is at the
bottom of the social ladder," wrote J. D. B. DeBow in January
1861, "while his brother here has ascended several steps, and
can look down upon those who are beneath him at an infinite
remove!" (DeBow 74). Though laborers in the North and South

24
might be "brothers," DeBow asserts that the conditions and
institutions of the South served to heighten white Southern
men's advancement. Slavery was coded not as a marker of
economic and class difference but as the sign of collective
white Southern male strength.3
Some secessionists predicted that the class distinctions
between Northern and Southern men would be most in evidence
during battle. In an open letter to the North appearing in
the October 1861 Southern Literary Messenger, one pro-South
advocate suggested that the quality of the men fighting on the
Southern side would prove the decisive factor against Northern
paid "mercenaries":
It is claiming little credit to assume that our
gentlemen and farmers will prove an over-match for your
blackguards; for the total destruction of troops, such as
yours, would be gain to the North; while almost every
death in our ranks will be a real misfortune. ("Boston
Notions," 294)
These Southern "gentlemen" would be fighting for a cause—the
protection of their property and institutions. Northern
troops would be fighting for the right to pillage. For this
writer, the elevation of Southern men and their moral sense of
purpose provided a counter to the North's technological and
numerical superiority.
The protection of tradition became yet another way that
secessionists distinguished Southern men from Northern.
Northern men represented a wrong-headed modernity that, if
allowed to run its course, would have catastrophic
consequences. Joseph Brenan's poem "A Ballad for the Young

25
South," published in February 1861, makes such a point with
the fictional speech by a Northern senator:
"Down with the laws our fathers made!
They bind our hearts no more;
Down with the stately edifice
Cemented by their gore!
Forget the legends of our race—
Efface each wise decree—
Americans must kneel as slaves,
'Till Africans are free!
Out on the mere Caucasian blood
Of Teuton, Celt or Gaul—
The stream which springs from Niger's source
Must triumph over all!"
So speaks a solemn Senator
Within those halls to-day,
Which echoed erst the thunderburst
Of Webster and of Clay! (Brenan 101)
Abolitionists represented a direct threat not merely to
slavery but to the traditions of democratic government—"the
laws our fathers made," "the stately edifice," "the legends of
our race." Brenan's poem lays out the challenge faced by
Southern men, but it also positions those men as "divine"
defenders: "To the Saints of Heaven was Empire given, / And we
alone are Saints!" (100).
William Holcombe sees not just the North but the whole
world in conspiracy against the South. Like Brenan, Holcombe
sees Southern men as divinely chosen interceders: "Let us be
faithful to our sublime trust, and future ages will appreciate
the grandeur and glory of our mission" ("The Alternative,"
82) . For both Holcombe and Brenan, the "mission" of the
Southern nation was to provide an alternative staging area for
tradition. With its industrialization and abolitionist

26
sympathies,, the North became a convenient symbol of the
decadence sure to emerge from modernization.
Northern men were thus a product of a perverted
environment, and as such, they could not hope to compete on
the battlefield with their Southern counterparts. For one
editorialist, writing in November 1860, Northerners were "a
people who display such vicious, unmanly and undignified
qualities in every department of life, public, private, and
religious." They were "mean hermaphrodite creatures, in the
garb of men, participating in the digusting saturnalia"
("Northern Mind and Character," 349). This "unmanliness"
manifested itself most particularly in Northern men's
unwillingness to fight. They might denounce the South and its
institutions, but when challenged by Southern men, they "most
cowardly [claimed] protection of the law, or [fell] back upon
the fact of being non combatants" (349, author's emphasis).
Southern willingness to engage in physical "debate" had
a vivid historical antecedent. In May 1856, South Carolina
Representative Preston Brooks beat Massachusetts Senator
Charles Su mer into unconsciousness after Sumner refused an
invitation to duel. Sumner had made fun of the Southern
commitment to slavery as a question Butler, Brooks's cousin:
The senator from South Carolina has read many books on
chivalry, and believes himself a chivalrous knight, with
sentiments of honor and courage. Of course, he has
chosen a mistress, to whom he has made his vows, and,
who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him;
though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in

27
his sight. I mean the harlot, slavery. (quoted in
Osterweis, 1224-5)
Brooks's impetuousness actually earned the praise of his
fellow Southerners. Looking back on the event in June 1861,
L. Q. C. Lamar told Mary Chesnut that if Sumner "had stood on
his manhood . . . [the] blow need not have been the opening
skirmish of the war" (quoted in Wyatt-Brown, 35). Sumner's
presumed cowardice encouraged secessionists like Lamar to
trust implicitly in the superiority of Southern men.
In a burst of exuberance, Southern writers published
rousing accounts of the exploits and capacities of their
region's men. Typical of such fare was W. H. Holcombe's poem
"The Southern Man," published in the July 1860 issue of the
Southern Literary Messenger. Holcombe extols what he sees as
the chief virtues of Southern men: generosity, integrity,
faithfulness. Holcombe describes the southern man as ready
and capable of fighting and triumphing for any cause:
Is it a fight on hand?
For sacred cause or none—
For a silly word or Fatherland?
With a dozen faces or one?
Clear the ring, my boys!
Battle it while you can;
But for gallant bearing and reckless daring
There's none like the Southern man!
Holcombe's language again taps into the cavalier myth—the
Southern men is "gallant," but he is also "reckless." In
fact, the Southern man is also a "boy," and he fights for
"sacred cause" or "a silly word." The boyish nature, as
exemplified by Brooks's attack on Sumner, prevented the

28
Southern man from falling victim to "New England logic." The
willingness to fight, regardless of the odds ("With a dozen
faces or one?") fulfilled the requirements of honor, but it
also demonstrated why the Southern nation could survive and
flourish. The "manliness" of Southern men would work in the
same way that Mosse identifies manliness working in Nazi
propaganda--"to safeguard the existing order against the
perils of modernity." Only for Holcombe, modernity assumed
the guise of the Yankee.
All of the propaganda about the superior Southern man and
his effeminate Northern counterpart worked to create a sense
of inevitable (and quick) Confederate victory. The editors of
DeBow's Review argued in the July 1861 issue that the
leadership of the "reckless" Confederates was precisely the
quality lacking in the Northern army:
The Yankees have little self-reliance or personal
courage, are submissive and easily drilled, and may make
better common regular soldiers; but they have few men
qualified to make officers. Benedict Arnold was the best
officer the North has produced. ("The Times and the
War," 4)
Such confidence in Southern superiority was echoed by
many of the Confederate soldiers as they went into battle.
For example, 23-year old Robert Moore, a private in the 17th
Mississippi Regiment, was not deterred from duty even after
the death of his cousin. After his aunt remarked that she was
glad that her son had died in service to his country, Moore
observed in a journal entry dated June 2, 1861, "When such
sentiments are felt & expressed by the matrons and men of our

29
country, I should like to know how the Abolitionists of the
North ever expect to conquer the South" (Moore 24).
But there were doubts, too. Some Confederates feared
that the rhetoric of superior Southern manhood may have
succeeded too well. They worried that many people would
underestimate the battle before them. Captain William Dorsey
Pender voiced such concerns in a letter to his wife dated May
18, 1861:
It is hard to say which would be better for us, delay or
immediate action, for there is no doubt that they [the
Union troops] are making tremendous efforts and are
organizing much more rapidly than we. They imagine we
are much better prepared than we are. The fact is, our
people imagine the only thing to do to whip the Yankees
is to form a few volunteer companies and go to Richmond
and the thing is done. (Hassler 23)
Pender did not doubt that the Confederate cause would win out,
but he did fear that people's expectation level was far too
unrealistic. "I have thought for some time," he concluded,
"that a little whipping would be of immense benefit to us, not
that I wish anything of the sort" (24).
Pender's concerns were echoed by his commanding officer,
Robert E. Lee. Lee bemoaned the lack of discipline shown by
the Confederate enlisted men: "Our people are so little liable
to control that it is difficult to get them to follow any
course not in accordance with their inclination" (quoted in
Linderman, 39) . The very quality so applauded by those
constructing the idea of the "Southern man," his impulsiveness
in defense of his principles, proved hard to manage in a
fighting force. The Yankees, whom Pender admitted were far

30
better organized, seemed to be calling into question one of
the basic tenets of Southern masculinity.
The rhetoric of superior Southern manhood, with its
concomitant guarantee of a viable Southern nation, helped
create the conditions necessary for secession. Such rhetoric
had clarified the Southern political situation or, in the
formulation of Clifford Geertz, had made the possibility of an
independent Southern nation "comprehensible." "Whatever else
ideologies may be—projections of unacknowledged fears,
disguises for ulterior motives, phatic expressions of group
solidarity—they are, most distinctively, maps of problematic
social reality and matrices for the creation of collective
conscience," Geertz asserts (64). By installing "the Southern
man" as the distinct expression of the Southern nation,
secessionists tapped into a rich history of myth that they
believed would produce "group solidarity." The war and its
results fractured the ideological wholeness of the "the
Southern man" while, ironically enough, at the same time it
verified the dichotomies that undergirded the Southern nation.
Thus, while Southern men did not live up to the rhetorical
standard set for them, the idea of the Southern nation
ingrained itself in its defeated citizens.
The Coercion of Nation
Mississippian Robert Moore's decision whether or not to
fight for the Confederacy had more or less been predetermined.

31
His last trip home before shipping out to the warfront made
him understand what responsibility was his:
. . . It did seem hard that we should part, but our
country calls & he that would not respond deserves not
the name of man & though we fall, battling for our rights
& are determined to have them or die in the attempt.
(26)
Moore saw his primary duty as being to the Confederacy, which
set the boundaries determining "the name of man." Because
secessionists had convinced many men that their masculinity
was riding on the success of the Southern nation, they were
able to generate initial enthusiasm such as Moore displayed.
The more fully men threw themselves into the effort to create
the Confederacy, the more fully defined as men they could be.
The interlinking discourses of masculinity and nation
thus had a coercive effect on Southern men. Whereas initially
the presumed superiority of the Southern man acted as an
assurance of the viability of the Southern nation, secession
turned the tables, positing the Southern nation and its
success as the true measure of Southern masculinity. In an
essay entitled "Our Danger and Our Duty," appearing in the
May/August 1862 issue of DeBow's Review, Presbyterian minister
James H. Thornwell spelled out the level of obedience
Confederate leaders needed if the nation were to succeed: "It
is implied in the spirit which the times demand, that all
private interests are sacrificed to the public good. The
State becomes everything, and the individual nothing"
(Thornwell 272-3). Thornwell sought to reestablish the nation

32
as the pre-eminent authority in Southern life. The state was
supreme; the legitimacy of the individual, particularly of his
manhood, still flowed from the dictates of the nation.
The military setbacks suffered by the Confederacy in
early 1862 (notably the fall of New Orleans in April) had
sparked some questioning of the rhetoric of superior Southern
manhood. Thornwell used a plethora of phallic signifiers to
reconnect virile manhood and the state:
Do we feel the moral power courage, of resolution, of
heroic will, rising and swelling within us, until it
towers above all the smoke and dust of the invasion?
Then we are in a condition to do great deeds. (278)
In using the collective "we," Thornwell indicates that
individual phallic power has no place in the national life of
the Confederacy. Only collectively, for the state, could such
power make meaning—specifically it could make a nation. He
brings together all of the traits of the "true" Southern man—
"moral power and courage," "resolution," and "heroic will"—
and implies that these should spur on individual acts of
manhood in the service of the state. "Rising and swelling,"
superior Southern manhood eventually "towers" over the
invaders. Defeat had lessened the nation's capacity to make
men; Thornwell sought to reactivate the Confederacy's
tumescent ability.
Other Confederate propaganda acknowledged military loss
but sought to mitigate its impact by reiterating Southern male
superiority and breeding. For example, a Miss I. D. M. of
Columbia, South Carolina, after touring several army hospitals

33
in 1863, made the following observations about the men she
came in contact with:
I never heard one oath or one coarse expression. I never
heard a sentiment of disloyalty or dissatisfaction. I
never heard a doubt thrown upon the right of our cause or
a regret that the war had been begun. I never saw one
man, however wasted by disease or disabled by wounds,
whose chief desire did not seem to be to recover as
speedily as possible so that he might be back at his
place in the field again: and while I encountered many
illiterate, rough, and uncouth men I never met one who
failed in that courtesy which every Southern man, however
humble his station, instinctively accords to womanhood.
("Our Women in the War," no. 1, my emphasis)
Miss I. D. M. served a very specific function for the state.
The wounded she visited, men whose conception of their own
masculinity was intimately tied to their service to the state,
could behave in no other way and hope to retain their manhood.
Thus, when Miss I. D. M. speaks about the "chief desire" of
the wounded, she speaks the desire that the state demands
these men have. When she speaks of the "courtesy" accorded
her, she speaks the ideology of Southern manhood upon which
the Confederacy had been founded and hoped to survive.
Miss I. D. M. very well may have been a fictional
creation, but the fact that the observer of the wounded was
coded as feminine is significant. In Male Subjectivity at the
Margins. Kaja Silverman discusses how post-World War II
American movies tried to reestablish a coherent, dominant,
pre-war male subjectivity. Discussing the 1947 film The Guilt
of Janet Ames. Silverman asserts that women become the agents
of the recuperation of that male subjectivity by denying male
"lack": "[The main male characters] are ultimately shown to be

34
entirely an effect of the way in which they are viewed by the
women around them. Their girlfriends, wives, and daughters
confer the phallus upon them by 'refusing' to see their
inadequacy" (114). Miss I. D. M. would seem to serve the same
function. She does not "see" any male lack; for instance, she
never discusses any of the soldiers' injuries in any detail.
In articulating the soldiers' "chief desire," she creates
these men—they become "an effect of the way in which they are
viewed by the women around them."
Given the fact that the rhetoric of the superior Southern
man was predicated on visible acts that would confirm his
honor, Miss I. D. M.'s "blindness" reinvigorates that rhetoric
by censoring images associated with the setbacks of the war.
In acting as an agent of the state, Miss I. D. M. can confer
the phallus upon the soldiers because, in Lacanian terms, the
Confederate nation was posited as the phallus by its leaders,
the ultimate repository of the Father(land), power, manhood,
the "law," etc.4 Thus, what Thornwell depicted as "rising and
swelling" within men owed its existence to the existence of
the nation. The failure of the nation meant the failure of
their manhood.
Many in the Confederate ranks like Robert Moore
internalized the conflation of manhood and nation and acted
accordingly. Even as the conditions of their loved ones grew
worse, Confederate soldiers continued to place the defense of
their nation above all other matters. For example, Colonel

35
William L. Nugent, upon hearing of the illness of his wife,
wrote her in a letter dated August 8, 1864, that he had to
abide by his sworn duty:
I am too far off and too strongly bound by regulations to
fly to your relief and minister to your comfort; and it
is this thought which adds to the poignancy of feeling.
I sometimes am inclined to kick at the laws which effect
a compulsory separation between man and wife and to
esteem it all wrong. Still, my own precious Nellie, what
can I do? A cruel, relentless war is waged for our
annihilation, and unless we present a bold front to the
enemy, contesting every inch of ground, we may expect
nothing but vassalage and slavery all our lives. Our
rights and privileges will be totally destroyed and
military governors and Yankee judges will govern us,
while our lands will be parcelled out among a horde of
foreign adventurers and mercenary soldiers. (Cash and
Howorth 196)
Nugent's own rhetoric shows the influence of the rhetoric of
his nation. Despite his wife's poor health, he must remain at
the front, defending against the "horde of foreign adventurers
and mercenary soldiers." His characterization of the Union
troops closely resembles the Confederate propaganda that
depicted them as paid mercenaries and "blackguards." Were
Nugent to desert his post, the result might be a Union victory
and "nothing but vassalage and slavery." Nugent positions
himself in the role of traditional cavalier, fending off
attacks by the sullied mob that would lead to the degradation
of Southern culture and traditions. His desire to sustain and
defend the state takes precedence over any emotional or sexual
desire for his wife.
Like Nugent, William Dorsey Pender struggled with the
conflict between his relationship to the state and his

36
relationship to his wife Fanny. Having been promoted to
colonel, Pender felt tremendous responsibility to the
Confederacy. Further, that promotion had instilled in him a
greater sense of his own manhood. To do dishonor to the
nation would taint his own masculinity. Thus, when Pender got
word of Fanny's ill health, he, like Nugent, questioned the
strictures imposed on him by his relationship to the nation,
but he quickly came to his ideological senses:
I sometimes feel that if it were manly and honorable I
would be willing to give up all hopes of distinction and
military ambition, to live quietly with my wife and
children. But anyone with a military education is in
honor bound to come forth these times and defend his
country against the countless thousands of the
unprincipled villains. (Hassler 38)
Again, "honor" plays a key role in Pender's thinking. Like
Nugent, Pender employs the image of the "horde" sweeping over
the Southern landscape—"the countless thousands of the
unprincipled villains." Pender recognizes that the victory of
these "villains" would remove his newly gained position, which
would not be "manly and honorable." In short, Pender
recognized that only in defending his nation could he defend
against encroachments on his manhood.
On the field of battle itself, Confederate officers had
to carry themselves so that their men saw an embodiment of
proper Confederate masculinity. In his study of the combat
experiences of both Union and Confederate troops, Gerald F.
Linderman notes that enlisted men frequently had to be
convinced of their commanding officers' worth through acts of

37
bravery. Linderman cites Stonewall Jackson as the primary
example of an officer who, through his own actions, convinced
his men to follow orders directly:
A Confederate officer spoke of his own "desire to emulate
the action of the best men on the field"; by his
fearlessness, Jackson persuaded more of his soldiers than
did any other in direct command of field forces that he
was the best man on the field. (Linderman 44)
As Linderman points out, rank-and-file soldiers rarely equated
rank to honor or "manliness." "It was as if officers were
required to bank courage, with their deposits compelling equal
contributions by the men and the joint balances then becoming
available to officers to draw down when they thought them
required," Linderman asserts (45). Whereas Miss I. D. M.
refused to "see" the wounds of the soldiers in order to
sustain their manhood, enlisted men at the front needed to see
the manhood of their commanding officers. Honor required a
public performance; so, too, did the manhood of those men who
represented most directly the Confederate nation.
The deaths of prominent Confederate leaders not only
snuffed out models of "appropriate" manhood but also created
doubts in the minds of soldiers about their own capacities.
For example, Jackson's death on May 10, 1863, from wounds
received at. the battle of Chancellorsville caused the soldiers
of his regiment to prophesy the defeat of the Confederacy:
A great many of our boys said then our star of
destiny would fade, and that our cause would be lost
without Jackson, as there was no General who could
execute a flank movement with so much secrecy and
surprise as he could. (easier 153)

38
Writing his reminiscences of the war, John 0. easier, a member
of Jackson's regiment, admitted that "Through the destiny of
a nation may appear to be in one man's hands sometimes, yet
there is One above all who controls both men and nations"
(153). Still, the death of Jackson had a demoralizing effect
on his men. Having believed that God was on their side,
Confederate troops continually witnessed evidence seemingly to
the contrary.
Doubt creeped in in other ways as well. The rhetoric of
Southern manhood dictated an aggressive, "reckless" style of
fighting, but the exigencies of war frequently did not conduce
to such a style. Lacking supplies, manpower, and technology,
Confederate military leaders resorted to a mostly defensive
strategy, one that seemed to many to be "unmanly." "I am
tired of doing nothing," Sergeant Edwin H. Fay confided to his
wife in a letter dated November 13, 1863. "I want an
opportunity of killing the damnable villains who pollute our
land" (Fay 357). Fay's language mirrors that used by Nugent
and Pendep. Characterizing the Yankees as "damnable
villains," Fay positions himself as fearless defender. "I
don't want a position in the Engineering Corps or any Dept,
half as bad as I do an Independent Scout," he proclaimed in
the same letter. "Then I have an opportunity to carry out my
maxim that paroled Yankees never come back to fight" (357).
Yet Fay's regiment was bogged down in Mississippi, due to a
lack of supplies and a well entrenched Union presence. Fay

39
wanted the opportunity to be "reckless" and fulfill the
rhetorical standard of "the Southern man." But he and many
other soldiers came to recognize that their nation's
rhetorical construct had simplified the conditions of war and,
perhaps, had underestimated the capacity of the Yankees as
soldiers.
The situation for Fay's regiment resembled that of other
regiments throughout the Confederacy. The lack of military
action and victory created hostility and self-doubt in and out
of the army. Some of that hostility was expressed in a
parodie catechism about army life originally intended for
publication in an army newspaper but given wider circulation
to civilian audiences in September 1862, in both the Mobile
Register and The Southern Literary Messenger:
Q.—What is the first duty of an army?
A.—To destroy as much private property as possible,
particularly that belonging to its friends.
Q.—What is the second duty?
A.—To parole all prisoners taken from the enemy who are
known to have burned houses, stolen negroes or murdered
women.
Q.—What is the third duty?
A.—Always to act on the defensive and never to invade
the enemy's territory however good may be the
opportunity, although he may be ravaging yours all the
time. (quoted in Harwell, The Confederate Reader. 128)
Such public derision of the army undermined the rhetoric of
moral and combat superiority of Southern men that
secessionists had worked so hard to create. As Mary Chesnut
observed in a diary entry dated August 3, 1864, "An army, by
constantly retreating, loses confidence in itself" (630).
Secessionist rhetoric and the Southern code of honor enforced

40
the idea that retreat meant unmanly inaction, and Union
victories made retreat an increasingly necessary military
maneuver. Confederate troops learned firsthand that rhetoric
meant little on the battlefield.
The rhetoric of superior Southern manhood had also begun
to lose its luster at the homefront. With the increased
deprivations there, women unhinged the bond between Southern
manhood and the Southern nation by agitating for an end to the
war. "What do I care for patriotism?" proclaimed one South
Carolina woman to a friend in 1864. "My husband is my
country. What is country to me if he be killed?" (quoted in
Faust, "Altars of Sacrifice," 192). Because their self-image
was not directly connected to the success of the Confederate
nation, the people at the homefront did not have as much of a
commitment to sustaining it. Martha Revis, a young North
Carolina woman, reported to her husband in a letter dated July
20, 1863, that "The people is all turning to Union here since
the Yankees has got Vicksburg" (Yearns and Barrett 97).
Those at the homefront were uniquely positioned to
observe how meaningless the rhetoric of Southern manhood
really was. Katherine Couse, a South Carolina woman whose
home was constantly robbed by soldiers on both sides, recorded
her despair in a diary entry dated May 20, 1864:
Might makes right here, we wake up in the morning and
find the thing we prize most highly gone. We are
suffering from such lawless times as existed in the dark
ages, but no knights-errant rise up with the times to
protect the helpless and redress grievances. (quoted in
Schultz, 71)

41
Couse's language engages and critiques the tropes of
Confederate national rhetoric. Hoping for the promised
"knights-errant" to save her from the invading horde, Couse
instead finds the rhetoric to be hollow. Couse perceives
herself to be suffering through "such lawless times as existed
in the dark ages." The "law" of the nation, embodied by its
men, had evaporated. The Confederate soldiers who robbed
Couse and her family clearly did not resemble the chivalric
depictions of men offered by secessionist rhetoric. Because
of the interlinking of the rhetoric of manhood and nation, the
degeneration of Confederate men presaged a similar collapse of
the Confederacy.
Even where the law of the nation still possessed great
efficacy, women found themselves having to speak for their own
self-interest. The weakening of the Confederacy exacerbated
class differences which the rhetoric of superior Southern
manhood had glossed over. A Private 0. Goddin wrote to North
Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance on February 27, 1863, "I am
fearful we will have a revolution unless something is done as
the majority of our soldiers are poor men with families who
say they are tired of the rich mans war & poor mans fight"
(Yearns and Barrett 98). One poor woman from Georgia seemed
sincerely pained to ask her husband to desert:
My dear Edward:—I have always been proud of you, and
since your connection with the Confederate army, I have
been prouder of you than ever before. I would not have
you do anything wrong for the world, but before God,
Edward, unless you come home we must die. (Wiley 174)

42
Mary, the letter's author, understood that she was violating
an implicit trust in encouraging her husband to violate the
law, but she and many others were positioned to witness
firsthand the failures of the Confederate nation.5
The rhetoric of superior Southern manhood did not prepare
Confederates for defeat. They had left home confident of
ultimate victory; they returned home physically and
psychologically devastated to a countryside that reflected
their own damage and desolation. For example, Captain John 0.
Dooley, a native of Richmond, expressed shock and dismay when
he discovered on March 30, 1865, that Union troops occupied
his hometown:
This intelligence is the most afflicting I ever received.
I feel bewildered, crushed, by the sudden, fearful fall.
Never before have I felt so desolate, so prostrate, so
hopeless. Farewell, poor burning Richmond! Oh, that
whole seas of blood and treasure, poured out in your
defence, should be rendered of no avail by the disaster
of a single day! (Dooley 176-7)
Though Dooley determines to head farther South to try to join
up with any remaining remnants of the Army of Northern
Virginia, he encounters only the chaos of the disintegrating
nation.
As he moves on foot further south, he sees evidence that,
to his mind, spells the end of the Confederacy:
In the gulleys and along the fences might be seen the
abandoned muskets of the straggling soldiers. Some were
broken, the barrels of others bent and the muzzles choked
with mud. And cap boxes and cartridges lay in sad
confusion along the road side. I had been in retreat
from Boonsboro and Sharpsburg, but never had my eyes
witnessed so sad a sight as this. And my heart sinks
low, for here lie unmistakable evidences of a set

43
determination upon the part of hundreds to fight no more,
and a shameless indifference as to whether the world
knows it or not. By these signs more than by any others
I seem to feel that the Republic is despaired of. (182)
Dooley detects defeat not in military loss but in the
"shameless indifference" shown by retreating and deserting
soldiers. In making such a public display of their dishonor,
these soldiers showed that they no longer linked their own
manhood to the survival of the Confederacy. The "unmanly"
lack of honor is, for Dooley, the surest sign of the defeat of
the Southern nation.
One returning Confederate soldier, Fred Fleet, son of a
prominent planter family in Virginia, noticed the despair that
pervaded the land. "I think there is something lacking in our
people," Fleet observed in a letter to his mother dated
December 30, 1866, "some want of energy or fear to risk
anything in an investment and I am afraid it will take them a
long time to get righted again" (Fleet 22). Continuing with
this train of thought, Fleet told the story of a Confederate
officer and his reaction to the conclusion of the war:
He fought for four years as a cavalry officer and came
home to devastation and desolation but got hold of a mule
which he hitched to a plow as best he could. "Proceed!"
he shouted. Nothing happened. "Advance!" Again nothing
happened. Sinking to his knees, he said, "0 Lord, why
wasn't I killed at the Second Battle of Manassas."
(Fleet 22)
Having lost his belief in the superiority of Southern manhood
when the war was lost, this soldier now experienced a further
erosion of his mastery when the mule would not even obey his

44
commands. Fred Fleet took this story as being emblematic of
the people of his region.
Because secessionist rhetoric had been purely
oppositional, coding South as superior and North as inferior,
the demise of the Confederacy simply inverted this coding.
Now, former Confederates saw themselves as inferior. The
promise of a Southern nation having gone unfulfilled, the
rebels guestioned what had gone wrong. The recurrent answer
was simply that Southern men had overestimated their own
capacities. Emma Holmes of Charleston, South Carolina, noted
in a diary entry at the end of May 1865 that "we could not but
acknowledge the bitter, humiliating truth, which our boys
openly declared, that we had showed we were incapable of self-
government" (Marszalek 438). Holmes's friend Mary Chesnut
declared that, though the men were bearing up under the burden
of defeat well, one subject was not broached: "Of the country
we try not to speak at all" (790) . The war not only deprived
these would-be rulers of their desired nation but also cost
them their sovereignty and their slaves, the one group that
they had successfully ruled over.
The confidence expressed by secessionists leading up to
the war was replaced by a pervasive sense of despair and
inadequacy. Former South Carolina Governor Francis Pickens,
at the convention to rewrite the state constitution, chastized
those unrepentant Confederates who still wished to agitate:
It does n't become South Carolina to vapor or swell or
strut or brag or bluster or threat or swagger; she points

45
to her burned cities, her desolate plantations, her
mourning hearths, her unnumbered graves, her widows and
her orphans, her own torn and bleeding body,—this, she
says, is the work of war; and she bids us bind up her
wounds and pour in the oil of peace,—bids us cover her
great nakedness; and we must do it, even if it needs that
in so doing we go backwards. (Andrews 43)
Pickens's diction directly attacks the basic premises of the
rhetoric of both Southern masculinity and nation. By
denouncing the desire of some unrepentant Confederates "to
vapor or swell or strut or brag or bluster or threat or
swagger," Pickens hits at writers like William Holcombe and
James Thornwell, who privileged "swagger" and "swelling" as
basic components of Southern manhood. In large measure, the
boyish recklessness of secessionists produced the results
Pickens lists: "her burned cities, her desolate plantations,
her mourning hearths, her unnumbered graves, her widows and
her orphans, her own torn and bleeding body."
Yet Pickens's coding of the defeated South Carolina as
female is also a move to reclaim some sense of Southern male
wholeness, even in the face of defeat. Pickens recurs to the
feminine to display the lack produced by defeat in war. This
"body" is "naked," "torn and bleeding." At the same time that
Pickens critiques the braggadocio that undergirded
secessionist rhetoric, he also holds out the possibility of a
reformed Southern masculinity, stripped of its recklessness
perhaps but nevertheless in control. Kaja Silverman has
suggested that historical trauma like war tends to bring male

46
subjects into contact with the "lack" traditionally associated
with the feminine:
That trauma surfaces in the form that will henceforth
prove decisive during the castration complex; it
manifests itself, that is, in the guise of the anatomical
lack to which the female body is subsumed and with which
the male body is threatened. Physical castration
consequently provides the form through which the subject
is ideologically encouraged to live—or not to live—the
loss of being, and all subsequent crises that could
reprise that loss. It is not surprising, then, that when
the male subject is brought into a traumatic encounter
with lack, as in the situation of war, he often
experiences it as the impairment of his anatomical
masculinity. What is really at issue, though, is a
psychic disintegration—the disintegration, that is, of
a bound and armored ego, predicated upon the illusion of
coherence and control. (Male Subjectivity. 62)
Pickens seeks to lead off that "psychic disintegration" and
restore "the illusion of coherence and control" by deflecting
the issue of lack from the Southern man. Like Miss I. D. M. ,
who attempted to restore credibility to the rhetoric of
superior Southern manhood by not seeing the wounds of the
soldiers she visited, Pickens chooses to visit the "lack"
produced by the war upon the site that, ideologically
speaking, had always known it—the feminine. Thus, Pickens's
denunciation of the Holcombe version of Southern masculinity
is an effort to disarm the rhetoric that would, because of the
result of the war, constantly point back to Southern male
lack. He instead tries to consolidate the collective Southern
male psyche, one of many attempts at such a "reconstruction"
in the aftermath of the war. These efforts achieve success
only when a component part of the reconsolidation becomes the
idea of the Southern nation.

47
"Jeff in Patti coats"
Pickens's efforts notwithstanding, no one could deny that
the Confederacy had been defeated and the South would be
reintegrated into the Union. In losing the war, the
Confederacy lost both rhetorical and political control of
itself. Thus, while Pickens and others tried to reconcile
themselves and their countrymen to defeat and to resuscitate
the self-image of Southern men, Northern journalists and
writers emphasized the power of Northern manhood and the
consequent emasculation of the South. For example, Sidney
Andrews, writing for the Boston Daily Advertiser, observed the
goings-on in South Carolina and concluded that the citizens
there were ripe for domination:
Individuals there are who rant and rave and feed on fire
as in the old days, but another war is a thing beyond the
possibilities of time. So far as any fear of that is
concerned we may treat this State as we please,—hold it
as a conquered province or restore it at once to full
communion in the sisterhood of States. The war spirit is
gone, and no fury can re-enliven it. (37)
Andrews ridicules the unrepentant Confederates "who rant and
rave ... as in the old days," a reference to the rhetoric of
superior Southern manhood. He emphasizes the degraded
condition of that rhetoric and the men it made by pointing out
that the North was once again in control. The idea of
treating South Carolina and the other Confederate states as a
"conquered provinces" not only was a political possibility
advocated by Radical Republicans like Charles Sumner but also
underscored the new Northern dominance.

48
Another favorite target for attacks on Southern manhood
was Jefferson Davis, who, as the New York Times reported, when
captured on May 10, 1865, in rural Georgia, was wearing a
dress:
The captors report that [Jefferson Davis] hastily put on
one of Mrs. Davis' dresses and started for the woods,
closely pursued by our men, who at first thought him a
woman, but seeing his boots while running suspected his
sex at once. The race was a short one, and the rebel
President was soon brought to bay. ... He expressed
great indignation at the energy with which he was
pursued, saying that he had believed our Government more
magnanimous than to hunt down women and children,
(quoted in N. Silber, 625)
Whether or not the Confederate president was wearing a
dress is a matter open to some interpretation. Still, at
least according to this report, Davis seems to affirm his
effeminacy and lack of power when he groups himself with
"women and children." Political cartoonists had great fun
with the idea, and an enterprising songwriter, Henry Tucker,
penned a song to memorialize Davis's capture called "Jeff in
Petticoats." Tucker, like the dispatch in the New York Times.
disempowers the image of Davis by infantilizing him:
Jeff Davis was a hero bold,
You've heard of him, I know,
He tried to make himself a king
Where southern breezes blow;
But "Uncle Sam" laid the youth
Across his mighty knee,
And spanked him well, and that's the end
Of brave old Jeffy D. (quoted in I. Silber, 343-4)
The image of Uncle Sam spanking Davis perpetuated the idea of
many Northerners that the Civil War was a disciplinary action-
-that an unruly family member had gotten out of line and had

49
to be punished. Tucker's language also undercuts the term
"hero" used in the first line. Davis, and consequently all
the Southern men he represented, were no better than boys when
compared to Northern men.
Tucker further emphasizes Davis's lack of efficacy
through his feminization. Just as Southern secessionists had
doubted the truthfulness of Northern masculinity, Tucker calls
into question the manhood of the Confederacy's leader in the
last stanza of the song:
The ditch that Jeff was hunting for,
He found was very near;
He tried to "shift" his base again,
His neck felt rather queer;
Just on the out "skirts" of a wood
His dainty shape was seen,
His boots stuck out, and now they'll hang
Old Jeff in crinoline. (I. Silber 345)
Tucker's pun on "skirt" and his reference to Davis's "dainty
shape" work toward a feminization of Davis and the whole
Confederacy. But in his emphasis on Davis's "shift" and his
feeling "queer," Tucker hints in a not very subtle way at
Davis's possible homosexuality. Once again, the standard for
masculinity is coded as heterosexual; Davis's cross-dressing
breeched that standard and suggested a corrupt and immoral
Confederacy.°
As the initial shock of defeat began to wear off, other
prominent Southerners began a reevaluation of the war effort
and its meaning for white Southern manhood. J. D. B. DeBow
began a series of articles entitled in "Times in the
Confederacy" to refute what he saw as scurrilous attacks on

50
the Southern people. In the fifth article of this series,
published in February 1867, DeBow tried to revise the view
that had developed of Cofederate soldiers as brutes, laggards,
and cowards:
You saw [soldiers] in the highways walking in squads,
with their heavy burdens, to their distant homes, upon
furlough or returning promptly to their commands. You
saw them at your door asking for a few crumbs and a
night's shelter upon the floor or in the piazza. You saw
them sleeping upon the hard ground often in the freezing
night without blankets and without fire, but did you ever
hear them complain or wish to evade the calls of duty?
Not often. ("Memories of the War," 142-3)
DeBow, through the offices of his journal, sought to reclaim
Southern manhood from the ashes of defeat. He set in motion
an effort to reconsider the war, to absolve Southern men of
the guilt and stigma of defeat, and to resist Northern
depictions of the "Southern man" as conquered, impotent and
feminized.
Jefferson Davis came to play a significant role in the
resuscitation of white Southern manhood. Appropriated by
Northern writers as "Jeff in Petticoats," Davis received a
boost from some Southern historians. In rejecting the
feminized version of Davis, these historians redeployed Davis
as an embodiment of Southern manliness and honor. In the
booknotes section of the August 1866 issue of DeBow's Review,
the editors reprinted excerpts from a new book entitled Prison
Life of Jefferson Davis. These excerpts showed Davis as
sickly but far from emasculated. In one anecdote, Davis

51
reacts violently when a Union officer orders that he be placed
in leg irons:
At these words, the blacksmith advanced with the
shackles, and seeing that the prisoner had one foot upon
the chair near his bedside, his right hand resting on the
back of it, the brawny mechanic made an attempt to slip
one of the shackles over the ankle so raised; but, as
with the vehemence and strength which frenzy can impart,
even to the weakest invalid, Mr. Davis suddenly seized
his assailant and hurled him half way across the room.
("Editorial Notes, Etc.," 221)
In a later scene, Davis tries to wrestle away a musket from
one of his guards. "Kill me! Kill me!" Davis shouts, "rather
than inflict on me, and on my people through me, this insult
worse than death." Davis is portrayed not as a cross-dressing
wimp or a closet homosexual but as a man defending his and, as
he is purported to have said, his "nation's" honor.
Whereas Northern writers sought to use Jefferson Davis as
a symbol of Southern submission, unrepentant Confederates
utilized their former president not only as a symbol of the
continuing honor and strength of Southern men but also as the
beginning of the argument against Northern occupation.
Davis's unwillingness to be bound sets off a strong Union
response—four soldiers come into his cell to subdue him:
In a moment Mr. Davis was flung upon his bed, and before
his four powerful assailants removed their hands from
him, the blacksmith and his assistant had done their
work—one securing the rivet on the right ankle, while
the other turned the key in the padlock on the left.
(221)
For those former Confederates still embittered by defeat,
Davis and his rough treatment at the hands of his Union
oppressors became a kind of metonym for the condition of the

52
South. Shackled by the Northern military and economic
control, many Southerners feared harsh reunion terms. Still,
though superior Northern power could shackle the South, it
could not destroy its spirit, just as Davis's demand for
recognition of his honor showed his continuing nationalistic
fire.
Still, Davis proved a problematic figure for those who
were rethinking the actions of the Confederate government.
Resuscitating white Southern manhood required that blame for
defeat in war be placed elsewhere, and the government at
Richmond, the government headed by Jefferson Davis, seemed the
most likely culprit. Beginning in May 1868, a series of
articles, unpromisingly titled "Blunders of the Confederate
Government," began to appear in DeBow1s Review. Isolating six
problem areas—political foresight, financial policy,
diplomacy, military administration, principles of
constitutional government, and general strategy—the authors
of the articles laid the blame for Confederate defeat at the
doorstep of the Davis Administration.
Davis becomes a direct target of criticism when the
authors of "Blunders" discuss the military preparedness of the
Confederacy. As the leader of the Southern nation, Davis was
responsible for providing his men with all of the material
they needed to win the war. The authors provide an anecdote
which in their judgment showed that, rather than blame

53
Southern men for defeat, Davis was to blame because he simply
did not understand what fighting a war involved:
While Congress was in session at Montgomery, President
Davis asked General Henningsen how much powder he thought
should be provided against the emergency. The General
suggested 900,000 pounds, and the President laughed at
his extravagant estimate. Yet the President was one of
those who looked forward to war, though little foreseeing
the proportions it would assume. ("Blunders of the
Confederate Government," II, 656)
The criticisms leveled at Davis demonstrate the same shift in
the definition of Southern manhood as Pickens's critique of
the Southern male tendency to "swagger" and "swell." Davis's
incompetent management of the government deprived the troops
of their chance at victory. Though such characterizations
never went so far as "Jeff in Petticoats," the image of Davis
as incompetent bureaucrat helped refute charges of Southern
men's lack of courage and wherewithal.7
Ironically, then, the idea of superior Southern manhood
as well as the nation it represented gained in strength as the
leadership of that nation fell from grace. Unrepentant
Confederates loved the idea of their nation more than the
nation itself, and that idea became a crucial cog in restoring
the self-image of white Southern men and their political
viability. Whereas secession and the Confederacy were made
possible by the belief in the myth of white Southern male
superiority, after the war the reverse was true. White
Southern men could be restored to their former political and
social prominence only if the idea of the Southern nation were
once again made strong and viable. As Reconstruction began,

54
Southern thinkers began their own reconstruction, and the
fiction produced in the post-war South provided a key venue
for the reconfiguration of the imagined community of the
Southern nation. This "reconstruction" was yet another
attempt on the part of those Southerners who perceived
themselves and their region to be different from the rest of
the country to come to grips with a world that they feared and
did not understand. In Geertzian terms, the idea of the
Southern nation provided the ideology to make their situation
"comprehensible."
NOTES
'The best overview of the creation and circulation of the
cavalier myth remains William Taylor's Cavalier and Yankee.
Taylor shows through historical and literary analysis how the
mythological figures of North and South
grew and developed in the first half of the nineteenth
century, what social problems produced the need for this
kind of historical rationalization, what kind of worries
and anxieties attended [their] development, and what kind
of men and women contributed to [their] growth and
dissemination—what sort of mentality, in other words,
created this legendary past and this fictional sociology,
and what sort of needs it satisified. (xvi)
Taylor's analysis is Geertzian in that he traces the "need"
for these myths to anxiety of Southerners concerning their
political place in the nation as westward expansion and the
growth of abolitionist sentiment seemingly imperiled the
institution of slavery. The cavalier myth helped make an
"incomprehensible" situation make sense. See Taylor, Cavalier
and Yankee (New York: G. Braziller, 1961), particularly pp.
xv-xxii, 13-24, and 123-155.
JMy language and ideas intentionally mirror those of
Louis Althusser in his essay "Ideology and Ideological State
Apparatuses." Althusser writes:
Ideology "acts" or "functions" in such a way that it
"recruits" subjects among the individuals (it recruits
them all) , or "transforms" the individuals into subjects

55
(it transforms them all) by that very precise operation
which I have called interpellation or hailing, and which
can be imagined along the lines of the most commonplace
everyday police (or other) hailing: "Hey, you there!"
(95-6)
What Wyatt-Brown identifies when he talks about "honor" is
that ideology which has "recruited" or "transformed"
Southerners into Southerners (i.e., not-Northerners, or, in my
formulation, un-Yankees) . What pro-secessionists like
Holcombe and the editorialist who wrote "Northern Mind and
Character" do is to embody that ideology in a trope—the
Southern man—and then "hail" the men of the South with it, in
this way creating subjects for the new Southern nation. See
Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses," in
Contemporary Critical Theory, ed. Dan Latimer (New York:
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1989), pp. 60-102.
3LeeAnn Whites points out the way in which black
subjugation fueled white power: "Either the black man in his
capacity as slave to the white man would go on making his
master a man, or the white man would lose his slaves and with
them his concept of himself as a free man, while the black man
achieved his own manhood" (10, author's emphasis). The fear
of losing the institution of slavery underscored white
Southern men's fear of losing both the lifestyle made possible
by slave labor and the ability to dominate. The result of the
Civil War not only exploded the rhetoric of superior Southern
manhood but also denied white men the mechanisms to reaffirm
their own efficacy. See Whites, "The Civil War as a Crisis in
Gender," in Divided Houses, eds. Catherine Clinton and Nina
Silber (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 3-21.
’The Lacanian phallus does not equate directly to the
penis, at least for Lacan; rather, the phallus becomes the
ultimate signifier, "a signifier whose function, in the
intrasubjective economy of the analysis, lifts the veil
perhaps from the function it performed in the mysteries. For
it is the signifier intended to designate as a whole the
effects of the signified, in that the signifier conditions
them by its presence as a signifier" (Lacan 285). In other
words, the phallus embodies "the effects of the signified" and
simultaneously "conditions" those effects. The phallus is the
"law" insofar as it commends itself to the attention of
"subjects" as both an "object of desire" and the organizing
principle of that desire.
In his lucid commentary on Lacan's system of
psychoanalysis, Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen provides a clearer
interpretation of the work of the phallus. Discussing the
father's supposed possession of the phallus, Borch-Jacobsen
concludes:

56
On the contrary, he "has" it only to the extent that he
has given it up beforehand by incurring symbolic
castration: the phallus is a title, which he has received
so that he can bestow it in accord with symbolic pact and
law. In other words, the phallus may very well express
masculine power (the power that ultimately explains why
women do not exchange men/phalluses), but it does so only
symbolically (that is, we must understand, not sexually).
The phallus is the penis annulled-castrated-raised to the
function of "scepter," of inherited signifier, which is
passed on according to the law of exchange and kinship.
(213)
The connection between the nation, which I have designated as
the "phallus," and its men becomes somewhat clearer. The
rhetoric of secession deployed two interrelated tropes—the
idea of a Southern nation and the idea of a "Southern man."
The imagined nation posits itself as the ultimate "desire" of
a Southern man at the same time that it organizes that man's
"appropriate" desires. Thus, the imagined Confederacy could
maintain its position as ultimate arbiter of "true" Southern
men, it could maintain such men's belief in its primacy and
necessity.
Borch-Jacobsen further illustrates the method by which
the phallus figures in identity formation:
The child (the boy) really does continue to be the
phallus insofar as he identifies with the one who has it.
The only difference is that now he is it "by not being
it," insofar as he identifies not with the object but
with the signifier of the desire of the mother—namely,
with the object negated by the paternal "no." In short,
he is a "no"-object; in other words, a subject: he
desires himself beyond himself, such as he is not. At
present, the phallus is the signifier of his desire—that
is, of the non-object that he is (or, what amounts to the
same thing, of the object that he is not) for the desire
of the other. Or, again, the phallus is the signifier of
the subject, insofar as the subject identifies himself in
it ("represents his identity" in it) under erasure, in
the mode of a forbidden, barred, repressed
identification: the subject is the phallus insofar as he
is not it, insofar as he "metaphorizes" himself in it and
defers his own identity in it. (224)
The phallus thus becomes the ultimate signifier, and the
subject (such as the "Southern man") is simultaneously not the
phallus but "defers his own identity in it." In this way, the
phallus is perpetuated (perpetuates itself?) as the ultimate
signifier by its capacity to cause subjects to defer to it.
In the case of the Southern nation, the idea of the nation

57
retained the status of phallus only as long as it seemed a
viable "law." As the war dragged on and the nation proved
increasingly incapable of sustaining itself as the ultimate
signifer, Southern men no longer felt bound to the natiion, no
longer "deferred" to it, to sustain their identity as "men."
Thus, with the link between nation and manliness broken, many
soldiers deserted, with no fear of being branded "unmanly."
See Jacques Lacan, Ecrits: A Selection (New York: W. W. Norton
& Company, 1977), pp. 281-291, and Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen,
Lacan: The Absolute Master (Stanford: Stanford University
Press, 1991), pp. 210-230.
5Historian Drew Gilpin Faust has argued that closer
attention to the Southern homefront must be paid in order to
understand completely the causes of Confederate defeat:
Historians have wondered in recent years why the
Confederacy did not endure longer. In considerable
measure, I would suggest, it was because so many women
did not want it to. The way in which their interests in
the war were publicly defined—in a very real sense
denied—gave women little reason to sustain the
commitment modern war required. It may well have been
because of its women that the South lost the Civil War.
(199)
Faust argues that the ideology of the Confederate nation was
not sympathetic to women, so women ultimately felt no guilt
over advocating that their men desert, an action that would
clearly lead to the destruction of the Confederacy. More on
the role of women in the construction and failure of the
Southern nation will be discussed in Chapter 2. See Faust,
"Altars of Sacrifice: Confederate Women and the Narratives of
War," in Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War, eds.
Catherine Clinton and Nina Silber (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1992), pp. 171-199.
6Nina Silber makes much the same point in her essay
"Intemperate Men, Spiteful Women, and Jefferson Davis:
Northern Views of the Defeated South." Though she does not
directly address the question of homosexuality, she
persuasively argues that Northern writers exploited themes of
unstable gender roles in the post-war South to symbolize the
completeness of Confederate defeat: "In the aftermath of the
Civil War, gender was used to signify relationships of power,
in this case to reveal Northern men's belief in the natural
condition of control which they were to exercise over the
South. In the immediate postwar period, these images of
weakened Southern men, hostile Southern women, and a disguised
Jefferson Davis, all of whom were ultimately suppressed by
virile Northern soldiers" (633). The balance of masculine
power had been tipped by the war. Southern men were

58
emasculated while Northern men were virile. Ultimately
Southern writers recurred back to the origin of the
Confederacy to try and refute this Northern ridicule and
"subjugation." See Silber, "Intemperate Men, Spiteful Women,
and Jefferson Davis: Northern Views of the Defeated South,"
American Quarterly 41 (December 1989) : 614-635.
7 Susan Jeffords has made the same kind of argument
concerning the attempt to "remasculinize" American men after
the Vietnam War. She argues that fiction and cinema taking
the war as their theme cast veterans as victims of their
government, their society, and their experiences in the war.
Further, Jeffords observes,
these arguments of victimization are particularly
gendered because the soldier/veteran achieves his renewed
status only in opposition to characters or institutions
defined as feminine. Specifically, the U. S. government
and its loss of the war but in relation to their
inability to retrieve POWs from Vietnam. Through a
posture of negotiation, government figures are shown to
be weak, indecisive, and vulnerable, in clear opposition
to the now strong, determined, and decisive
soldier/veteran. (xiv)
In positing the Davis government as the real weakness during
the war, Confederate sympathizers could "remasculinize"
Southern men. Much of the fiction written by Southerners in
the postbellum period, whether it acknowledged the war or not,
served this ideological purpose as well. This fiction will be
discussed in later chapters. See Jeffords, The
Remasculinization of America (Bloomington: Indiana University
Press, 1989), particularly pp. 144-186.

CHAPTER 2
PERFORMING CONFEDERATE NATIONALISM:
WHITE WOMEN'S REJECTION OF BODILY GOVERNMENT
In her now classic work of feminism, A Room of One1s Own.
Virginia Woolf exposes what she sees as the uses women have
been put to by men. In the most famous passage in the book,
Woolf points out that women have had an inadvertent role in
war-making:
Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses
possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting
the figure of man at twice its natural size. Without
that power probably the earth would still be swamp and
jungle. The glories of all our wars would be unknown.
. . . The Czar and the Kaiser would never have worn
their crowns or lost them. Whatever may be their use in
civilised societies, mirrors are essential to all violent
and heroic action. That is why Napoleon and Mussolini
both insist so emphatically upon the inferiority of
women, for if they were not inferior, they would cease to
enlarge. (35-6)
Woolf suggests that, in "enlarging" men, women fuel male
narcissism, which she sees as a necessary component of the
drive for power. To facilitate and sustain such enlargement,
women had to accept a position of inferiority. Their service
to the state required submission and passivity.
Half a century later, in his investigation of the roots
of German nationalism leading to the Third Reich, George L.
Mosse, while agreeing with Woolf's basic conclusion, extends
this discussion to include his assessment of how women had
specific roles to play in the creation and maintenance of
59

60
national spirit. Mosse notes the distinct role that
nationalism enforced on women: "It almost seems as if women
were transformed into static, immutable symbols in order to
command the admiration of truly masculine men" (100-101).
Women became tools to help distinguish "truly masculine men"
from those who were "weak" and, hence, useless to the nation.
Women also provided bodies that needed protecting. Mosse
quotes Rebecca from Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe to make this
point: "God made women weak and trusted their defence to men's
generosity." Mosse and Woolf reach the same basic conclusion-
-men need women to be weak so that they, by contrast, can be
strong or "enlarged." Indeed, the dictates of nation-building
inscribed such distinct roles upon men and women.
Mosse argues further that the passivity imposed on German
women coincided with the symbolism that German nationalists
wanted to invest in the feminine. Women were to be exemplars
of morality and virtue who would, in turn, demonstrate the
morality and virtue of the German nation. Significantly,
Mosse demonstrates how even German feminists, a group
seemingly likely to contest institutionalized submission, were
co-opted by the forces of nationalism:
The majority of those in the German feminist
movement adopted the prevailing stereotype of
femininity. Society, they said, needed women's
"peculiar gifts," "something of their pure love."
As custodians of morality, women were responsible
for education and helping the poor. Women's
suffrage would open public life to "maternal
influences," not to female politicians. The effort
to remain above politics was important to the
majority of women in the movement, and talk about

61
political parties was brushed aside with the
assertion that the nation came first. (Ill)
Thus, Mosse offers significant amplification of Woolf's
position. Women were complicit in their own disempowerment,
but the ideology of nationalism called on women to accept such
a role. Women willingly became "mirrors" because they were
led to believe that they did the most good for their nation in
this role.
Though both Woolf and Mosse use European examples, much
of what they say can be used to describe the role of white
women in the construction of the Confederate nation. Women
were called upon to be mirrors by the ideology of Southern
honor, and for the most part, they behaved accordingly.
Confederate women occupied a paradoxical position in the idea
of the new nation—at once weak and, hence, in need of
protection and simultaneously brave, courageous, and self-
sacrificial.
As the war exposed the inadequacy of the Southern nation,
women at the homefront began to question the wisdom of
continued loyalty. That questioning often took overt forms:
newspaper reports, bread riots, letters of protest to
government officials, letters to loved ones advocating
desertion. Still other women lodged their protests privately
in diaries. These women were reacting to the assaults that
the war had authorized against their bodies. Hunger,
household upheaval caused by the invading Union army, and lack
of physical contact with husbands and lovers were only a few

62
of the deprivations that Southern women had to live with. Put
simply, Confederate women ultimately rejected the use to which
the fledgling nation had put their bodies. While superior
Union numbers and resources helped the North to triumph in the
war, the rejection by Confederate women of their nationally
prescribed roles also caused the defeat of the Southern
nation.1
The bifurcation between the spheres of men and women was
clearly not a phenomenon limited to the southern United
States. Yet, the split between male and female realms was
more pronounced, especially concerning the role the physical
body played in each. In a society so completely bound up with
the question of honor, white men frequently had to put their
bodies at the forefront of disputes. As Bertram Wyatt-Brown
has suggested, honor had a public component. How a man viewed
himself was inextricably linked to the public's perception of
him. Thus, individuals needed to perform according to "manly"
standards in the public arena in order to be accorded the
honor they felt they deserved. As Wyatt-Brown puts it, "The
internal and external aspects of honor are inalienably
connected because honor serves as ethical mediator between the
individual and the community by which he is assessed and in
which he also must locate himself in relation to others" (14).
Ironically, "ethical" behavior often was violent
behavior. Southern men felt compelled to subject their bodies
to these tests of honor. As Kenneth S. Greenberg has argued,

63
men viewed one another's bodies as texts, and what was or
wasn't written on them contributed greatly to social
perception:
To gouge out an eye or otherwise mutilate the face of an
enemy was the most common object of men involved in fist
fights. With the possible exception of battle wounds,
the mutilation itself was dishonoring, no matter how it
was actually acquired. In a sense, all mutilations were
equal, because men read the character of other men
through the external features of their face and body.
(67)
Thus, in a very direct way, the world of white men in the
South was a bodily world, a world, as Wilbur J. Cash described
it, "which was full of the chip-on-shoulder swagger and brag
of a boy—one, in brief, of which the essence was the boast,
voiced or not, on the part of every Southerner that he would
knock hell out of whoever dared to cross him" (44).
Certainly the world of white Southern women involved the
body, too. However, slavery effectively changed the place of
Southern women, or, at least, the place of those women whose
husbands owned slaves. Removed from much of the labor
required in running a household, these women could be elevated
to the status of "lady." In the May 1835 Southern Literary
Messenger, Thomas Dew, a professor at William and Mary
College, published an essay in which he laid out the
responsibility of a Southern "lady":
She may pursue her studies too—not however with a view
of triumphing in the senate chamber—not with a view to
forensic display—not with a view of leading armies to
combat, or of enabling her to bring into more formidable
action the physical power which nature has conferred on
her. No! It is but the better to perfect all those
feminine graces, all those fascinating attributes, which

64
render her the centre of attraction, and which delight
and charm all those who breathe the atmosphere in which
she moves. (Dew 406)
Women were to produce an "atmosphere" that would in turn
inspire men. Dew suggests, in rather phallic terms, that a
woman should perfect herself to the point where she "would
make ten thousand swords leaps from their scabbards to avenge
the insult that might be offered to her" (406). The "feminine
graces" which Dew advocated perfecting ultimately accrued to
the benefit of men, in terms of either a fight (which would
provide the venue for a man to prove his worth and honor) or,
more subtly, sexual desire and conguest (which would prove
manliness). Dew's suggested "education," in short, had more
to do with the appropriate performance of femininity and its
consequent effect on masculinity than with any effort to
improve Southern women.
The sense that femininity was a performance to enhance
men's authority gets extended in various religious, legal, and
sociological tracts published in the antebellum South. For
example, a sermon preached at St. Mary's School in Raleigh,
North Carolina, in 1847 (and later published as a pamphlet for
larger circulation) decried the terrible education young
Southern women were getting. For the speaker, Southern women
needed a good Christian upbringing so that they might
proselytize to, and hence, tame, their men. Yet the
"preaching" of women had to be done more by example than
through language:

65
The preaching of the wife to be effectual, and "to
win the husband," must be simply her faithful
exhibition in all her conduct of the beauty and
heavenly influence of religion. It should appear
in her subjection to her husband's authority, in
her affectionate attachment to him, and her evident
wish to make him happy. ("She Hath Done What She
Could". 10)
In addition, a woman could "preach" by her attentiveness to
domestic duties, especially the raising of children and the
maintenance of a harmonious household. Women, through a good
Christian upbringing, would have their performances scripted
for them. Moreover, that performance organized the other
social relations of the household.
Feminine behavior was scripted by not only the household
but also the law. In a series of lectures given in 1845 at
William and Mary College on governmental organization, law
professor N. Beverley Tucker told his audience that women and
men worked symbiotically to form social order:
Is it by chance, or by any necessary consequence of his
sex, that man is bold, hardy, enterprising, contentious,
delighting to struggle with difficulty, delighting in
contests with his fellows, and eager to bear away the
prize of every strife? Woman, on the contrary, timid,
feeble, helpless, shrinks within the domestic sanctuary,
and feels that the great want of her nature is security
for herself and her offspring. This she owes to the
exercise and indulgence of the distinctive powers and
passions of him to whom she looks for protection, while
he, in her trusting helplessness and grateful love, finds
the reward of his toils, the crown of his triumphs and
the consummation of his felicity. (Tucker 295-6)
For Tucker, women's "trusting helplessness and grateful love"
was a necessary component for a just, ordered society because
women's divinely ordained submission justified other forms of
subordination, like slavery. Consequently, women who stepped

66
outside these prescribed bounds threatened the destruction of
social order.
Yet another theorist of Southern society, George
Fitzhugh, also advocated the necessary "weakness" of women.
In Sociology for the South. Fitzhugh denounced the push for
women's rights in the North as "socialist" and dangerous.
Connecting the agitators for women's rights to a larger
conspiracy on the part of abolitionists, Fitzhugh prophesied
dire consequences if such a philosophy took hold in society:
"If ever the abolitionists succeed in thoroughly inbuing the
world with their doctrines and opinions, all religion, all
government, all order, will be slowly but surely subverted and
destroyed" (Fitzhugh 206). Fitzhugh held up the South as the
bulwark against such culturally destructive contagions.
In Fitzhugh's mind, the best way to prevent such
potential social upheaval was to make sure that women knew
their place. In no uncertain terms he maps out that place:
Let her exhibit strength and hardihood, and man, her
master, will make her a beast of burden. So long as she
is nervous, fickle, capricious, delicate, diffident and
dependent, man will worship and adore her. Her weakness
is her strength, and her true art is to cultivate and
improve that weakness. (Fitzhugh 214)
Aggressive women would be cut down; weak women would be
"worshipped" and "adored." Fitzhugh agreed with Tucker that
women's weakness implied a legal responsibility on the part of
men to protect, but, for Fitzhugh, "The right to protection
involves the obligation to obey" (214). Fitzhugh concludes
his discussion of women's need to "cultivate" weakness by

67
sternly advising, "Women would do well to disguise strength of
mind or body, if they possess it, if they would retain their
empire" (215-6) . Thus, even intelligent and strong women had
to give the appearance of weakness in order to make the social
system of the South work. Women's "empire," their home and
domestic life, was afforded them only through the largese of
an even more imperious power—Southern men.3
Such enforced performances of femininity were hardly
endemic to the South. However, Anne Goodwyn Jones points out
in Tomorrow Is Another Day that images of Southern womanhood
played a more significant role in organizing Southern culture
than did other ideas of womanhood in other societies:
Unlike [other ideas of womanhood], the southern lady is
at the core of a region's self-definition; the identity
of the South is contingent in part upon its tradition of
the lady. Secondly, and perhaps for that reason, the
ideal of southern womanhood seems to have lasted longer
than the other ideas. . . . Not only has it lasted to
the present, but in a third divergence from other womanly
ideals, southern womanhood has from the beginning been
inextricably linked to racial attitudes. Its very
genesis, some say, lay in the minds of guilty
slaveholders who sought an image they could revere
without sacrificing the gains of racial slavery. And
finally, the image itself seems, if not radically
different from, at least an extreme version of the
nineteenth-century lady. For instance, it emphasizes
fragility and helplessness to the point that protecting
the southern lady seems to the southern gentleman both
essential and appealing. And the class—aristocratic—
that the image of the lady represents receives a stronger
emphasis in the South than elsewhere. (A. Jones 4-5)
In all these ways, the construct of Southern womanhood
interlocked with the traditions upon which the idea of a
separate Squthern nation was based. If Southern men were the
actual warriors of secession, Southern women were expected to

68
form a kind of soldiery as well—a collective "body" that
energized men through their passivity and weakness. The
aristocratic leaning of this idea of Southern womanhood helped
bridge the class gap among the soldiers, for even the lowest
class white man could show his honor through service to the
nation.
The War's Changing Script
Certainly most women feared the consequences of war and
did not happily send their men to fight. But many men,
anxious to prove their mettle on the battlefield, constructed
an idea of the Southern matron that not only justified the war
but indeed coerced men who were wavering to fight. Elizabeth
Avery Meriwether recalled her trepidation when her husband
Minor was called to duty: "He was dressed in grey, a leather
belt girded his waist, two pistols were stuck in the belt; he
looked very brave and very handsome, but he was going to war!
And the terrible fear came to me that I was never to see him
again!" (62). Elizabeth Meriwether made the mistake of
looking through the uniform (and the constructions it implied:
soldier, nation) to see her husband. Minor Meriwether, upon
hearing his wife's fears, tried to redirect her thinking about
the task he was about to undertake:
"If I listened to you," he said, "If I stayed
at home like a woman you wouldn't love me. You
couldn't love a coward. I must go. And you
needn't worry. I shall come back. You have our
two boys to comfort you. Be brave. Remember, I am

69
going to fight for you and for the South that we
both love so dearly." (63)
Minor Meriwether makes his wife the excuse for his going to
war. He dictates to her how she should feel: "If I stayed at
home like a woman you wouldn't love me. You couldn't love a
coward." He must fight, he tells her, because she tacitly
demands that he do so. Also, he conflates his wife and the
South in the final sentence, and in so doing he literally
makes his wife embody the Southern nation. He judges that it
is his duty to fight because, in their "weakness," women could
not defend themselves.
Minor Meriwether appropriates to himself the capacity to
"know" what his wife thinks and feels. Though Elizabeth
Meriwether seems more than willing to allow her husband to
remain at home, she is told that she should demand that he not
act "like a woman," i.e., weak and cowardly. What Minor
Meriwether attempted on a personal level Confederate
propagandists tried on a grander scale. As the "weaker" sex,
women were entitled and encouraged to demand protection from
men. As an example, one popular poem, "Wouldst Thou Have Me
Love Thee," written by one Alex B. Meek, featured a female
narrator exhorting her lover to the fight:
Listen! now her trumpet's calling
On her sons to meet the foe!
Woman's heart is soft and tender,
But 'tis proud and faithful too:
Shall she be her land's defender?
Lover! Soldier! up and do! (Simms 61)

70
Unlike Elizabeth Meriwether, this narrator does not fear the
death of her lover. In fact, she sees such a possibility, in
the service of the nation, as honorable:
Should the God who smiles above thee,
Doom thee to a soldier's grave,
Hearts will break, but fame will love thee,
Canonized among the brave!
Listen, then! thy country's calling
On her sons to meet the foe!
Rather would I view thee lying
On the last red field of strife,
'Mid thy country's heroes dying,
Than become a dastard's wife! (Simms 62)
The poem's narrator gives voice to the "country's calling,"
simultaneously denying herself any expression of anxiety for
the safety of her lover. In fact, the narrator invokes "thy
country" twice in the stanza, adding to the impression that
she in fact speaks more as a Confederate propagandist than as
a concerned wife like Elizabeth Meriwether. Given the
definition circulated by such propaganda, women had to "B.
Meek." Yet the narrator of the poem asserts her weakness
definitively. The rhetoric of the poem does not comport with
the message.
In fact, this tension between Southern women's weakness
and the vociferousness with which these same women demanded
that their men serve the Confederate cause appeared in a great
deal of pro-secession propaganda. Women used the assumption
of their own weakness to shame reluctant men into joining the
army. One young woman sent her fiancee one of her hoop skirts
with a note which proclaimed, "Wear these or volunteer"
(quoted in Wiley, Confederate Women, 142). A group of women

71
in Vicksburg, Mississippi, grew tired of young men who
remained in the so-called "Home Guard" rather than joining the
war at the front. These women posted bulletins around town
questioning the honor of such men:
To Arms! To Arms!—There will be a meeting of the
young ladies of Warren County, to be held at Bovina on
Thursday, 18th (of June, 1861) , for the purpose of
forming themselves into a Home Guard, for the protection
of those young men who will not volunteer for the
country's cause. (Rebellion Record. II, 57r)
In various ways, different women became de facto agents of the
Confederate nation. Their apparent transgressions of specific
gender roles were tolerated and even encouraged because their
ridicule reinforced the ideological necessities of the nation.
Implicit in their ridicule of men was a confirmation of
womanly weakness.
The paradox between the sentiments women were expected to
express and the social space they were expected to occupy
merely reflected the larger paradoxes of the construction of
Southern womanhood. For instance, white Southern women were
thought to be moral exemplars: "More than just a fragile
flower, the image of the southern lady represents her
culture's idea of religious, moral, sexual, racial, and social
perfection" (A. Jones 9). Yet, as Sara Evans has noted, these
examples had no real social relevance given Southern women's
restricted social mobility: "Ultimately it made no sense to
place women in charge of piety and morality and then deny them
access to the public sphere where immorality held sway" (S.
Evans 26). In other words, the lack of an effective public

72
voice limited Southern women to an ineffectual role as
idealized object. The women who speak out against loafers do
the work of the nation. Their ridicule is effective only to
the extent that they are understood as weak. The women in
Vicksburg are permitted to invert gender conventions only to
show how "those young men who will not volunteer for the
country's cause" do not abide by the socially prescribed
gender role for Southern men. In short, their supposed
transgression only works to reinforce the conventions they are
seemingly flouting.
More frequently, stories about faithful, silent
Confederate women were widely circulated as the Civil War
began. Appearing in news reports, poems, popular songs, and
elsewhere, these women became models for female behavior in
the new nation. A typical example of the expected hardihood
of Southern women appeared in the April 16, 1861 issue of the
adline “A Home Scene":
She cheered him with pleasant earnestness to show
himself a man, and running on in a gleeful strain,
admonished him not to come back if he were shot in the
back. With incredible fortitude, she bade her child tell
papa good-bye, and to say to him that she would not own
him her father if he proved to be a coward. The echo of
the soldier's footfall through the corridor had hardly
died away, when a ghastly pallor was seen spreading over
the lady's face. In a voice weak and husky she begged a
friend to take her child, and before she could be
supported she fell from her chair prostrate on the floor.
By a tremendous effort the noble woman had
controlled her feelings; but nature could bear no longer,
and she fainted. The swoon was deep, and it was some
time before consciousness returned. At length she opened
her eyes languidly, and looked around upon the
sympathizing group, and in a tremendous tone inquired "if

73
she had fainted before her husband left the room."
(Rebellion Record. I, 44)
This unnamed woman speaks only what the nation needs and wants
her to speak. She demands that her husband behave in a
"manly" way, urging him, somewhat ironically, "not to come
back if he were shot in the back." The news report lauds her
own "incredible fortitude." Despite her own clear misgivings,
this woman does her duty to the nation by urging her husband
to fight.
Even with these "faithful" women, however, ambivalence
about duty seeps through. For example, a poem entitled
"Enlisted Today" which appeared in early 1862 told the story
of a Southern mother who, when appealed to by her son,
consents to his going to war. Nevertheless, her anxiety is
clear:
I smiled on the boy, though my heart it seemed
breaking,
My eyes filled with tears, so I turned them away,
And answered him, "Willie, 'tis well you are
waking—
Go, act as your father would bid you, to-day!"
(Simms 64)
As with the faithful wife of "A Home Scene," this mother feels
compelled to hide her true feelings. She urges her son to
follow the "manly" example—his father. After her son
departs, the narrator continues to try and quash her own
feelings:
I sit in the window, and see the flags flying,
And drearily list to the roll of the drum,
And smother the pain in my heart that is trying,
And bid all the fears in my bosom be dumb.

74
The "flags," the symbol of the nation, compete with the
narrator's anxiety. The narrator resembles Elizabeth
Meriwether, who also felt fear. Yet, while the poem expresses
this mother's fear, it also provides the model of appropriate
female decorum—feeling fear is understandable, expressing
fear is not. By tacitly allowing that Southern men had a more
pressing duty to the nation than to them, women not only
coerced reluctant men into fighting but also participated in
their own disempowerment. Part of what made examples like the
wife in Charleston or the mother in "Enlisted Today"
praiseworthy was the refusal of these women to give direct
voice to their concerns. These and many other women
throughout the Confederacy had been convinced that their
patriotic duty required silence.4
Because women were not granted the right or the space to
articulate their desires (indeed, they were encouraged to
remain silent), they succumbed to the desires offered as
"moral"—the desires of the nation-builders. In the words of
Luce Irigaray, Confederate women were employed and implored to
"mimic" a language that they had not produced: the language of
nation.5 Drew Gilpin Faust has persuasively argued that the
drive to nationhood dramatically revised women's role:
The nineteenth-century creed of domesticity had long
urged self-denial and service to others as central to
woman's mission. But war necessitated significant
alterations, even perversions, of this system of meaning;
women's self-sacrifice for personally significant others-
-husbands, brothers, sons, family—was transformed into
sacrifice of those individuals to an abstract and
intangible "Cause." (178, author's emphasis)

75
At least initially, women willingly went along with the
required sacrifice.
As the war began, hopes were high in the Confederacy that
the battle would be a short one. "We have but one motto—
Determination," wrote Leora Sims of Columbia, South Carolina,
to a school friend in a letter dated November 14, 1861. "I do
not think this war will last long," she added, "but you know
I am always looking on the bright side" (K. Jones 70) . As it
turned out, Sims and others were overly optimistic, and as the
war dragged on, women at the homefront were subjected to more
and more deprivation. Yet, in the early years of the war,
this deprivation became a badge of honor for women.
Shortages of basic staples plagued the Confederacy as
early as the end of 1861. With the Union blockade of most
major Southern ports, conditions got progressively worse.
Basic foodstuffs like coffee, sugar, and butter became harder
and harder to get, and if they were available at all, the
prices for such goods were often prohibitive. Still, in the
early years of the war, morale seemed unaffected, at least to
many people recording their observations. Emma Holmes noted
on May 2, 1861, that in her hometown of Charleston, South
Carolina, "we cannot get [Northern] Goshen butter, upon which
we depend generally, the little in the city being sold at 75
cents per lb. & fresh butter has also risen to 50 cents in
consequence of the high price of hay" (Marszalek 43). Despite
the shortage, Holmes noted people's general good humor: "So

76
every body [sic] has determined to give it up as a luxury we
cannot afford & are willing to do without. It has become
quite a subject of amusement to us" (43).
At the other end of the Confederacy, in Louisiana, Kate
Stone reported similar shortages. But as with the
Charlestonians that Emma Holmes had written about, Stone and
her family accepted their newly imposed diet as another
exigency of the war:
It seems odd to be expecting company and no flour or any
"broughten" delicacy to regale them on, but we have been
on a strict "war footing" for some time—cornbread and
home-raised meal, milk and butter, tea once a day, and
coffee never. A year ago, we would have considered it
impossible to get on for a day without the things that we
have been doing without for months. (Anderson 109)
Despite the shortages, Stone reported that most people still
kept their spirits up: "Knowing there is no help for it makes
one content."
The well-to-do had to forego luxuries like new and
fashionable clothing. Kate Stone noted that people in her
community worried very little about the way they dressed.
"Fashion is an obsolete word and just to be decently clad is
all we expect," she reported in a diary entry dated May 22,
1862 (Anderson 109).
"Fashion," in fact, took on a rather negative connotation
in the Confederacy. Songs and poems celebrating the
simplicity of Southern women's dress proliferated, functioning
as a rallying cry in support of the fledgling nation. Perhaps
the most famous song of this genre was "The Homespun Dress,"

77
which directly remarked upon women's contributions to the
Confederate war effort:
My homespun dress is plain, I know;
My hat's palmetto, too.
But then it shows what Southern girls
For Southern rights will do.
We send the bravest of our land
To battle with the foe;
And we will lend a helping hand
We love the South, you know. (I. Silber 68)
Though the song acknowledges that men were doing the actual
fighting, it also provides an avenue of controlled political
action for women. Through the sacrifice of personal vanity,
Southern women could lend "a helping hand." Curiously,
whereas the fight for a Southern nation provided men with
opportunity of expansion and "manliness," that same fight
demanded self-contraction and submission from Southern women.
Around the Confederacy, women were called upon to
demonstrate their loyalty to the Confederacy through the
relinquishment of valuable, fashionable items. A typical
example of such a call appeared in a letter to the editor of
a newspaper in Tupelo, Mississippi. Local resident James H.
Gallard announced on March 29, 1862, that a group of women had
organized themselves into a soldiers' aid society. Their most
recent gathering had produced, in Gallard's estimation, a most
ingenious plan:
At their last meeting they resolved to give their
jewelry, their gold and silver plate to the Confederacy,
and to make an earnest appeal to all the ladies in our
country to do the same, for the purpose of purchasing or
assisting to purchase a navy for the Confederacy.
fRebellion Record, IV, 98)

78
Gallard felt so strongly about his proposition that he urged
the editor to suggest to President Davis "to call upon all the
ladies in the Confederacy to present their jewelry and their
gold and silver plate, as a free-will offering upon the altar
of their bleeding country" (98) .
Though few records exist to suggest that many women
actually did contribute their valuables to the cause of the
Confederacy, "fashion" became a kind of measuring stick to
judge who was and wasn't taking seriously their part in the
war. With this anti-fashion mentality arose a set of
disciplines that those on the homefront were expected to
observe. Women who participated in unseemly entertainments
were severely chastized. For example, an anonymously
published poem entitled "Is This a Time to Dance?" roundly
criticized women who put personal pleasure ahead of the
interests of the Confederacy. In the poem's most graphic
stanza, the narrator ridicules the oblivious:
Oh, lift your festal robes on high!
The human gore that flows around
Will stain their hues with crimson dye;
And louder let your music sound
To drown the dying warrior's cry!
Let sparkling wine your joy enhance,
Forget that blood has tinged its dye,
And quicker urge the maniac dance. (Simms 394)
One of the most widely-read manuals on expected female
behavior was actually a novel—Augusta Jane Evans's Macaria.
Published in early 1864, Macaria sought to reinvigorate
Southern nationalism by offering portraits of two Confederate
women passionately committed to the cause. Elizabeth Moss

79
notes that Evans threw herself into the production of Macaria
as her personal effort at revitalizing the sagging morale of
the Confederacy:
Repeatedly and relentlessly Evans struggled to
imprint the ideal of sacrifice and service upon the
hearts and minds of her readers enjoining men and women
throughout the South to follow her example and answer the
call of their country. Drawing upon her extensive
reading and correspondence, she patiently rehearsed the
ideological foundations of the sectional crisis, phrasing
her argument in words and images designed to reach the
broadest possible audience. (Moss 190)
Evans herself corresponded with many prominent Confederate
politicians and generals; in fact, many details about battles
are culled from General P. G. T. Beauregard's field notes.
Moreover, Evans herself toured battlefields and worked in army
hospitals comforting the wounded. Macaria was the synthesis
of Evans's various experiences, with an unequivocal pro-
Confederate slant.6
The novel's subtitle, Altars of Sacrifice, tellingly
exposes Evans's belief in what the duty of Confederate women
truly was. The novel is rife with propagandistic speeches
which in no uncertain terms show women sacrificing their men
and their way of life for the Southern nation. A typical
example of such a speech occurs late in the novel, when Mrs.
Baker, a poor yeoman farmer's wife, tells her story to the
main character in the book, Irene Huntingdon:
Every man has to do his duty now, and every woman, too.
I told Stephen I thought I could take care of the
children and myself—that I would rather live on acorns,
than that he should not serve his country when it needed
him; and I told Robert, when I fixed him off, that I
never would die contented if he and his father did not

80
both do something to distinguish themselves in this war.
(Evans 312)
Mrs. Baker's comments do the ideological work of the state, as
she encourages her husband and son not only to go to war but
also to "do something to distinguish themselves." Mrs. Baker
does not give voice to any doubts. She sees her duty clearly,
as she tells Irene: "I have no money to lend our government,
but I give my husband and my child—and two better soldiers no
state can show" (312).
Irene and her cousin Electra Grey follow Mrs. Baker's
lead in bearing the pain and anxiety caused by the Confederate
"revolution" with resolute indifference. Though her father
and her fiancee are killed in battle, Irene tells Electra (and
the reading audience) that their deaths were not in vain:
Electra, national, like individual life, which is not
noble, free, and honorable, is not worth the living. A
people who can survive their liberty, are beneath
contempt; and to-day, desolate though I am, I would
sooner take my place by my father's side, than recall him
to live a subject of despotic government at Washington.
(365)
Irene's conflation of "national" and "individual" life
underscores the key theme of the novel—individuality was
permissible only insofar as it accrued to the benefit of the
nation. Expressions of individuality had to be expressions of
nationality. Patriotic Confederates on the homefront, those
"debarred from the 'tented-field,'" as Irene calls the
warfront, had to accept the nation as the organizing principle
of their lives, just as Confederate soldiers had.

81
Evans drives home this point in one of the final scenes
of the novel. Irene has encouraged Electra, who is a painter,
to construct "frescoes of some of the most impressive scenes
of our Revolution." Electra responds by painting a large
allegory featuring two women:
One stern, yet noble-featured, crowned with stars—
triumph and exultation flashing in the luminous eyes;
Independence, crimson-mantled, grasping the Confederate
Banner of the Cross, who victorious streamed above a
captured battery, where a Federal flag trailed in the
dust. At her side stood white-robed, angelic Peace, with
one hand over the touchhole of the cannon against which
she leaned, and the other extended in benediction.
Vividly the faces contrasted—one all athrob with
national pride, beaming with brilliant destiny; the other
wonderfully serene and holy. (411)
The two women in the fresco take their form from Irene (the
passionate patriot) and Electra (the cool-headed artist).
Electra's fresco parallels Evans's novel. Just as Electra
places herself and Irene in her work of art in order to convey
her faith in the Confederacy, Evans also employs Electra and
Irene to tell her story. Evans, in fact, inserts herself into
the novel with both Irene and Electra, each possessing
elements of Evans's own personality—the passionate patriot
and the cool-headed artist. Evans's metanarrative speaks not
only to the artistic process and her hoped-for result but also
to her own commitment to Confederate nationalism. She wrote
of the novel's embodiment of her patriotism to publisher J. C.
Derby: "Scribbled in pencil while sitting up with the sick
soldiers in the hospital attached to 'Camp Beulah,' my very
heart beat in its pages, coarse and brown though the dear old

82
Confederate paper was" (quoted in Moss, 181). Macaria was not
just Evans's thoughts on secession and the responsibilities of
citizens to the nation. It was, in some sense, Evans herself,
except that Evans the woman was muted in favor of Evans the
embodiment of Confederate nationalism.7
Evans's advocacy of Confederate patriotism proved quite
effective in some circles. In fact, as Elizabeth Moss
reports, "At least one Union general was forced to ban the
book among his troops, and several southerners later claimed
that the novel saved their lives by deflecting bullets or
bayonets" (183). Despite these effects, the onslaught of war
overrode nationalistic feeling in many parts of the
Confederacy. The vehemence with which Evans advocated her
idea of nationalism revealed the deeply unsettling way in
which the war had impacted on the Southern homefront.
As Union forces made headway on several fronts, the
boundary between the dangers of the battlefield and the
relative safety of the homefront disintegrated. By extension,
the neat divisions between male and female spheres collapsed
as well. Confederate women found that the battle for Southern
independence was being carried directly to them. Union
successes cut off food supplies, so women faced the prospect
of having their families starve. More directly, Union
military leaders began a calculated attack on the honor of
Confederate women by calling into question the sexual dynamics
of Confederate nationalism.

83
In April 1862, the Confederacy's chief seaport and
largest city, New Orleans, fell to Union forces. The Union
commander, General Benjamin Butler, tired of the protests and
rudeness of the local women. To curb these indiscretions,
Butler issued Order No. 28, deemed the "woman order," which
hinted that women would no longer be spared harsh treatment
merely because of their gender:
As officers and soldiers of the United States have been
subject to repeated insults from women, calling
themselves ladies, of New Orleans in return for the most
scrupulous non-interference and courtesy on our part, it
is ordered hereafter, when any female shall, by mere
gesture or movement, insult, or show contempt for any
officers or soldiers of the United States, she shall be
regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman about
the town plying her vocation. (quoted in Anderson, 111)
Perceived in the most benign way, Butler's order clearly
challenged the honor and respectability of the women of New
Orleans. It conflated the expression of Confederate
nationalism and sexual deviance by comparing vociferous women,
"calling themselves ladies," to prostitutes. But some saw a
more sinister undertone to the order. Kate Stone, living
upriver in northeastern Louisiana, viewed Order No. 28 as a
license to Union soldiers to rape and pillage: "It is but
carrying out the battle cry 'Bounty and Beauty' with which
they started for New Orleans. May [Butler] not long pollute
the soil of Louisiana" (Anderson 111). What Butler's order
clearly did attempt was the regulation of the bodies of the
women of New Orleans. Punishment could be triggered "by mere
gesture or movement, insult, or show [of] contempt for any

84
officers or soldiers of the United States." The possibility
of arrest or sexual violation loomed as the methodology by
which Butler sought to restore order.
These attacks produced two debilitating effects. First,
Union attacks on Confederate women continually emphasized the
utter impotence of Confederate men, who had claimed such a
supertorian George Rabie notes, "Women soon came to realize
their defencelessness against an invading army, and although
few said so explicitly, the truth was that Southern men could
no longer protect their homes and families. In other words,
they were no longer men" (Rabie 137) . In the vacuum left by
the retreat of Southern men, Southern women took up their own
defense. As male authority proved more and more hollow,
injunctions against women speaking out weakened, producing a
second problem for Confederate leaders. Most women did not
speak out against gender inequality; rather, the different
outbreaks of women's vociferousness reflected a protest
against the broken bargain that was the Confederate nation.
Women had been asked to inhabit the role of potential victim,
with the assurance that their menfolk would never allow that
role to beio-economic backgrounds, asked in different ways
that their bargain with the nation-builders be honored or that
the war and all of the chaos it had created be ended.
The defeat shocked and dismayed people throughout the
Southern nation. Judith McGuire of Richmond, Virginia,
recorded in a diary entry dated April 27, 1862, "Oh, it is so

85
hard to see the enemy making such inroads into the heart of
our country! it makes the chicken-hearted men and women
despondent, but to the true and brave it gives fresh stimulus
for exertion" (108). Even the usually sanguine South
Carolinian Mary Chesnut viewed the loss of New Orleans as
catastrophic for the Confederacy. Writing in her diary on the
same day as her countrywoman Judith McGuire, Chesnut placed
the blame for the defeat squarely on the government:
New Orleans gone—and with it the Confederacy. Are
we not cut in two? That Mississippi ruins us if lost.
The Confederacy done to death by the politicians. What
wonder we are lost. Those wretched creatures the
Congress and the legislature could never rise to the
greatness of the occasion. (Woodward 330)
Chesnut's outrage with political leadership of the
Confederacy reflected the first signs of doubt as to the
capacity of Southern men. In New Orleans itself, that doubt
took the form of angry recriminations against military leaders
by many women. The most vocal critic, Julia LeGrand,
lambasted the tactics of Confederate General Mansfield Lovell
in a journal entry dated May 9, 1862. LeGrand speculated that
as the Union invasion began, General Lovell was either drunk
or paralyzed with fear. In any event, she identified only one
group of people who kept their heads: "The women only did not
seem afraid. They were all in favor of resistance, no matter
how hopeless that resistance might be" (K. Jones 125).
LeGrand did not confine her criticisms of the Confederate
defense force to just her journal. In this same journal

86
entry, she admitted to hounding some local men whom she saw
loafing around town after the invasion:
The ladies of the town signed a paper, praying that
[New Orleans] should never be given up. We went down to
put our names on the list, and met the marines marching
up to the City Hall with their cannon in front of them.
The blood boiled in my veins—I felt no fear—only anger.
I forgot myself and called out several times: "Gentlemen,
don't let the State Flag come down," and "Oh, how can you
men stand it?" (K. Jones 126)
LeGrand's public questioning of the courage of Southern men
flew in the face of the rhetoric of Southern male honor. Vet
her public outburst was not an isolated occurrence as the
Union occupation took firmer hold. "If the men had half the
spunk which the women had," one local woman asserted to a
visitor from England, "New Orleans would soon be ours again"
(quoted in Rabie, 138).
Left to their own devices, Confederate women in and
around New Orleans continued their defiance. Still, having
for so long been denied public voices, many women had
difficulty in expressing their anger. Sarah Morgan of Baton
Rouge, one of the most lucid and eloquent diarists of the
Civil War period, breathed fire about Butler's order and the
Union invasion force arriving in her hometown in a diary entry
dated May 9, 1862:
Our lawful (?) owners have at last arrived. About
sunset day before yesterday, the Troquois anchored here,
and a graceful young Federal stepped ashore, carrying a
Yankee flag over his shoulder, and asked the way to the
Mayor's office. I like the style! If we girls of B. R.
had been at the landing instead of the men, that Yankee
should never have insulted us by flying his flag in our
faces! We would have opposed his landing except under a
flag of truce; but the men let him alone, and he even

87
found a poor Dutchman willing to show him the road!
(East 63-4)
Morgan's anger at the laxity of the men of Baton Rouge mirrors
Julia LeGrand's anger at the men of New Orleans. Morgan
rejected the orders of "Picayune Butler" prohibiting the
display of the Confederate flag. Vowing to wear one pinned to
the bosom of her dress, she proclaimed, "the man who says take
it off, will have to pull it off for himself; the man who
dares attempt it—well! a pistol in my pocket will fill up the
gap. I am capable, too" (East 64-5)
Despite Morgan's bluster, a diary entry two days later
reveals that the Yankees holding siege in Baton Rouge
confounded Confederate rhetoric about Northern men and, in the
process, caused Morgan to feel ambivalent about her protest.
She begins the entry by admitting, "I—I am disgusted with
myself." Having gone into town with friends and with her
Confederate flag affixed to her dress, Morgan encountered a
group of Union soldiers being harassed by some locals. This
unexpected encounter with the enemy produced the self-disgust:
I had not expected to meet them, and felt a painful
conviction that I was unnecessarily attracting attention
by an unladylike display of defiance, from the crowd
gathered there. But what was I to do? I felt
humiliated, conspicuous, everything that is painful and
disagreeable; but—strike my colors in the face of an
enemy? Never. (East 68)
Morgan's disgust with her "unladylike display of defiance"
derives largely from her recognition of the civility of
Federal officers: "Fine, noble looking men they were, showing
refinement and gentlemanly bearing in every motion; one cannot

88
help but admire such foes" (68) . The "nobility" and
"gentlemanly" nature of the Union officers contrasts not only
with the undignified behavior of the residents of Baton Rouge
(including her own) but also with the supposition that
Northern men were somehow lacking.
Morgan earned the enmity of her fellow residents by her
admiration of the "conquerors." In a journal entry dated May
14, 1862, three days after her encounter with the
"gentlemanly" officers in downtown Baton Rouge, Morgan
admitted that certain locals were questioning her family's
loyalty. Still, she felt that the honor of Southerners
required respect for the Union troops:
Shall I acknowledge that the people we so recently called
our brothers are unworthy of consideration, and are
liars, cowards, dogs? Not I! If they conquer us, I
acknowledge them as a superior race; I will not say we
were conquered by cowards, for where would that place us?
It will take a brave people to gain us, and that the
Northerners undoubtedly are. I would scorn to have an
inferior foe; I fight only my equals. These women may
acknowledge that cowards have won battles in which their
brothers were engaged, but I, I will ever say mine fought
against brave men, and won the day. Which is most
honorable? (East 73)
This entry shows how, with defeat, Confederate women had to
readjust their belief in their men's honor and superiority.
Secessionist rhetoric posited a seemingly natural superiority
for Southern men. The invading Yankees invalidated that
premise, so Morgan links the honor of Southern men to the
bravery of their opponents. Northern men are, for Morgan,
"superior," "brave," and "equals." Yet, Morgan's logic
(clearly a minority view in Baton Rouge) undermines one of the

89
rhetorical premises justifying a separate Southern nation. As
Southern men, the direct embodiment of the Confederacy, proved
unable to overcome their Northern foes, the women of the
Confederacy began to doubt the wisdom of loyalty to a nation
built upon such unstable premises.
A year after the fall of New Orleans, at the other end of
the Confederacy, the women of Richmond found themselves
battling a foe different from invading Yankees—hunger. Union
war successes, particularly the naval blockade, and
unscrupulous merchants who engaged in price-gouging had
contributed to widespread shortages of basic foodstuffs. All
around the Confederacy, signs of unrest percolated to the
surface. In Bladen County, North Carolina, a group of women
sent Governor Zebulon Vance a letter on February 18, 1863, in
which they threatened violence if their food needs weren't
adequately supplied:
[W]e hoos sons brothers & husbands is now fighting for
the big mans negros are determd to have bredd out of
these barns & that at a price that we can pay or we will
slaughter as we go. (Yearns and Barrett 218-9)
The inability of the Confederate government to relieve the
suffering of its citizens and to control black marketeers only
exacerbated the class fissures that Southern nationalism had
initially hnd successfully smoothed over. These women, and
many others around the Confederacy, now perceived that their
enemies included more than just the invading Union soldiers.
Enemies within the Confederacy itself also reared their heads.

90
So-called "bread riots" actually took place in many
cities in the Confederacy. On March 18, 1863, a riot took
place in Salisbury, North Carolina, which the local newspaper
called "one of the gayest and liveliest scenes of the age"
(Yearns and Barrett 219). According to the account published
in the Carol ina Watchman. a group of women, "some 50 or 75 in
number, with axes and hatchets," moved from store to store
looking for flour and salt. One of their reported encounters
with a local merchant typifies the results of their "riot":
They then met a gentleman on the street who they had
been told, had salt, on which, they said he intended to
speculate. He assured them most positively that such was
not the case; that it was sent to him to sell. They
insisted on having a bag. He . . . said rather than have
the salt impressed, he would make them a present of a bag
and a twenty dollar Confederate note. (Yearns and
Barrett 220)
The more success that the women met with, the more voracious
their appetite became. The riot was apparently allowed to run
its course. The reporter on the scene noted that, at their
last stop, "[The women] took ten barrels [of flour], and
rolled them out and were setting on them, when I left, waiting
for a wagon to haul them away" (Yearns and Barrett 220).
Though the reporter for the Watchman chose to treat the
Salisbury riot comically, other instances were not perceived
as funny by the people who witnessed them. The bread riot in
Richmond on April 2, 1863, drew the most national notice. A
disturbance in the nation's capital, participated in by
President Davis himself and put down by a regiment of
soldiers, further called into question the viability of the

91
Confederate nation. The riot also marked the first organized
protest of national significance by Confederate women. Though
some details of the disturbance remain in dispute, what seems
clear is that a group of women tried to meet with Governor
John Letcher on the morning of April 2 to express their
concerns. Getting no satisfaction through official channels,
a number of women, perhaps over a thousand (Chesson 138),
began to break into shops along Cary Street in downtown
Richmond. Confederate war clerk John Beaucamp Jones noted
seeing "a few hundred women and boys" outside his office
shortly after 9 a.m.:
I did not follow, to see what they did; but I learned an
hour after that they marched through Cary Street, and
entered diverse stores of the speculators, which they
proceeded to empty of their contents. They impressed all
the carts and drays in the street, which were speedily
laden with meal, flour, shoes, etc. I did not learn
whither these were driven; but probably they were rescued
from those in charge of them. Nevertheless, an immense
amount of provisions, and other articles, were borne by
the mob, which continued to increase in numbers. (285)
Others on the scene noted that the women working their
way through the streets were prepared for resistance. Dr. J.
W. Anderson recalled that the women were armed with "rusty old
horse pistols, . . . clubs, . . . knives, and many carried
bayonets in their belts, and specimens of those huge old home¬
made knives with which our soldiers were wont to load
themselves down in the first part of the war" (quoted in
Chesson, 144). In its report of the riot, the New York Herald
suggested that violence, though spotty, had occurred:

92
A few individuals attempted to resist the women, but
without success. One man who struck a female was wounded
in the shoulder by a shot from a revolver, and the
threatening attitude of those armed with hatchets, etc.
intimidated others from attempting force. (Rebel 1ion
Record. VI, 523)
The intensity of the women's assault overwhelmed the city
police. The governor called out the Public Guard and,
according to most accounts, gave the rioters five minutes to
disperse or risk being fired upon.
Order was not completely restored until Jefferson Davis
himself appeared on the scene and pleaded with the crowd. The
riot ended roughly two hours after it began. The police
arrested forty-four women and twenty-nine men for their part
in the disturbance (Chesson 155). According to John Beaucamp
Jones, writing in his diary the following day, "The mob
visited most of the shops, and the pillage was pretty
extensive" (286).
Davis's presence at the scene underscored what a serious
political threat the riot constituted. Many people in and
around Richmond sympathized with the plight of the rioters.
North Carolinian Sara Pryor received a letter from a friend in
Richmond which described an encounter with a young woman on
the street as the riot commenced:
The girl turned to me with a wan smile, and as she
rose to join the long line that had now formed and was
moving, she said simply, "Good-by! I'm going to get
something to eat!"
"And I devoutly hope you'll get it—and plenty of
it," I told her. (Pryor 238-9)

93
John Beauc.imp Jones had a remarkably similar encounter at
roughly the same moment:
A young woman, seemingly emaciated, but yet with a smile,
answered that they were going to find something to eat.
I could not, for the life of me, refrain from expressing
the hope that they might be successful; and I remarked
they were going in the right direction to find plenty in
the hands of the extortioners. (285)
Even Judith McGuire, a strong Confederate partisan, understood
the motivation behind the disturbance. "Oh that these hard¬
hearted creatures [speculators] could be made to suffer!" she
wrote in her diary on the day of the riot. "Strange that men
with human hearts can, in these dreadful times, thus grind the
poor" (203).
Of course, not everybody took such a sympathetic view.
Richmond native Sallie A. Putnam characterized the women
involved as "lawless viragoes" and described the riot itself
as inspired not by the hunger of the women but by the greed of
pirates:
More impudent and defiant robberies were never committed,
than disgraced, in the open light of day, on a bright
morning in spring, the city of Richmond. The cry for
bread with which this violence commenced was soon
subdued, and instead of articles of food, the rioters
directed their efforts to stores containing dry-goods,
shoes, etc. (208-9)
Racism and jingoism entered into Putnam's thinking as well.
In her judgment, the unsavory behavior of the rioters could be
explained by the fact that they were "a heterogeneous crowd of
Dutch, Irish, and free negroes" (208) .
The "heterogeneity" of the crowd provided a logic that
Confederate propagandists used to diffuse questions about the

94
Southern nation. In its April 4 editorial, the Richmond
Examiner described the rioters as "A handful of prostitutes,
professional thieves, Irish and Yankee hags, [and] gallows-
birds from all lands but our own." The editors conflated
those outside the law ("prostitutes," "professional thieves")
with those from outside the Confederacy to argue that the riot
in Richmond, as well as the riots in Salisbury and elsewhere,
were the result of a Union conspiracy:
It is impossible to doubt that the concealed instigators
in each case were the same. Having done the work in one
city, they took the cars to the next. That they are
emissaries of the Federal Government, it is equally
difficult to doubt. (Richmond Examiner, April 4, 1863)
The conspiracy theory hatched by the editors of the Examiner
was an effort to reinstate the basic dictates of behavior for
Confederate women. By positing the "enemy" as originating
outside the Southern nation, that is, as "emissaries of the
Federal Government," as well as in the lower classes, the
Examiner tried to create an image of national harmony being
disrupted by "others." The oppositional rhetoric of
Confederate/non-Confederate once again announced clearly what
the nation expected of its women. The Confederacy needed
docile female bodies as much as it needed "heroic" male bodies
to maintain its fictions, and the Examiner editorial worked to
redefine the limits of appropriate Confederate women's
behavior.
Historian Michael B. Chesson has argued that the Richmond
bread riot was not a spontaneous response to dire economic

95
circumstances but rather an organized, premeditated protest
against the war. Individual women might have had various
agendas. For example, one of the leaders of the riot, Mary
Jackson, described by a reporter for the Examiner as "a good
specimen of a forty year old Amazon, with the eye of the
Devil," had been unsuccessful in her attempt to get her oldest
son discharged from the army. The key point for Chesson was
the radical nature of the women's actions:
But many Richmond women, some of whom were quite
respectable and solidly middle-class and some who were
admittedly less genteel, were not acting within their
traditional roles. This surprising behavior appeared
throughout the Confederacy but most embarassingly in its
capital. Men at the time did not know what to make of
such behavior. (174)
Chesson's analysis logically dovetails into how the riot
was eventually treated by the press and by government leaders.
The women of Richmond (and elsewhere) did indeed step outside
the "traditional roles" that the Confederate nation had
imposed on them. Their riot expressed their own bodily needs
and desires, which the nation had asked them, in the spirit of
patriotism, to suppress. Thus, it isn't all that surprising
that women stole not only food but also jewelry, shoe leather,
fine fabric, and other luxury items. Having been denied these
items for so long, and sensing that the Confederacy could not
(or would not) live up to its promises regarding their safety
and comfort, the women of Richmond took matters into their own
hands. What the women of Richmond engaged in on April 2,
1863, was a kind of bodily anarchy. They resisted the

96
impositions, dietary and otherwise, of the nation on their
bodies and instead asserted the legitimacy and immediacy of
their own desires.
Chesson might well be right that "Men at the time did not
know what to make of such behavior," but in the aftermath of
the riot, many leaders understood that the very legitimacy of
the Confederacy had been challenged. Not surprisingly, swift,
manly resolve took the place of anxiety and confusion. The
editors of the Richmond Examiner proclaimed, "It is greatly to
be regretted that this most villainous affair was not punished
on the spot," suggesting that the rioters should have been
shot on sight. A week later, the editors of the Richmond Whig
argued that the riot provided a key opportunity for the Davis
Administration to reassert its "manliness":
The people are manly; so should their government be, and
put a bold, calm face on every thing. . . . Have we
gotten so deep in the mire of a sneaking, evasive,
alternately truckling and bullying policy, as not to be
able to turn round and face Yankees and females combined?
Or shall it go to the country that the confederate
government is scared out of its wits because a parcel of
women broke open a store and stole a pair of shoes?
(Rebellion Record. VI, 524)
The editors of the Whig wanted the Davis government to make
some gesture at re-deploying the basic constraints on women.
In asserting that "The people are manly" and conflating
"Yankees and females," the editors suggested that unless
subjected to the disciplinary mechanisms of the nation,
Confederate women could become another "enemy."

97
No widespread rebellion ever took place within the
Confederacy. Still, as the war news grew worse and worse,
even the most staunch believers in the Southern nation grew
despondent. For example, Kate Cumming, from a well-to-do
family in Mobile, Alabama, acted on her patriotic impulse and
volunteered for service as a nurse in Confederate army
hospitals. After a year and a half on the job, she wrote in
her journal on December 31, 1863, of her and her fellow
citizens' determination to be free and independent. "In the
past year we have suffered disaster after disaster," she
admitted, "but nothing is worth having which does not cost a
struggle" (Harwell 184). Despite various military setbacks,
Cumming felt deep confidence in the men of the Confederacy:
We have many true and determined men yet, who will
never yield as long as the life-blood streams through
their veins. I have no fear for our cause; our martyrs
have not offered up their lives in vain. (184)
Exactly one year later, Kate Cumming was still a nurse.
Confederate prospects had grown ever worse, and the butchery
of the war had dampened Cumming's previous enthusiasm. She
still believed in ultimate Confederate victory, but the price
of that possibility, she admitted, had increased
exponentially:
If it were not for the knowledge that there is an end to
all things, and that some day there will be an end to
this, it would be unbearable. The past year has equaled
[sic] any of its predecessors for carnage and bloodshed.
Our land is drenched with the blood of martyrs! Her fair
hills and valleys, lit by blazing homesteads, and echoing
to the booming of artillery and the roar of musketry.
The very air is rent with the groans of the wounded and
dying, and the wail of the widow and orphan. (246)

98
Cumming's tone drastically changed from just a year before.
On December 31, 1863, she asserted, "I have no fear"; a year
later, her entry is full of fear. Living, determined patriots
peopled her first entry; "the wounded and dying" populate the
latter. At the end of 1863, Cumming put her faith in "true
and determined men"; at the end of 1864, she demands, "Lord,
turn not thy face from us, and save, 0, save us from this
terrible scourge!" (246). Even among the faithful, the belief
that Southern men could win the war and prove their
superiority was slipping.
As confidence in ultimate victory slipped, more and more
women tried to reclaim their men from the Confederacy. Women
had been encouraged to write upbeat letters as a way of
lifting up the morale of men at the warfront. One Virginia
woman wrote to her husband in early 1863, "Donte be uneasy
about ous. We will try and take of [our]selves thebest we
can. I donte mind what I have to do [just] so you can get
backe safe" (quoted in Wiley, Confederate Women. 176) .
Another woman, writing to her husband from their home in North
Carolina, assured him, "I would not have you leave your
country's service as long as she needs you and you can serve"
(quoted in Wiley, Embattled Confederates. 183). In these and
many other cases, the women involved did precisely what the
Confederacy needed them to do—they placed themselves in the
background and emphasized nation over self. Such spirit of
self-sacrifice insured that men would remain at their posts

99
because they had no excuse to leave. Deserters could thus be
branded cowards and deserve the enmity of all loyal
Confederate women.
Such sexual blackmail worked only if women at the
homefront willingly sustained the fiction of their own well¬
being. As the war dragged on and the Confederacy continued to
prove itself incapable of defending its borders and taking
care of civilians, more and more women let the truth slip out
in their letters. Desertions increased in large measure
because Confederate women withdrew their sanction against
them. "Desertion takes place because desertion is
encouraged," one North Carolina man admitted. "And though the
ladies may not be willing to concede the fact, they are
nevertheless responsible . . . for the desertion in the army
and the dissipation in the country" (quoted in Faust, 195) .
When men understood that the women back home would not look
angrily at their desertion, in other words, when the men no
longer had to serve the state's interests to be considered
men, they took advantage of their opportunities.
The letters from Confederate women encouraging desertion
often have an apologetic tone. Many women seemed to realize
that what they asked of their husbands would be considered
disloyal and unpatriotic. For example, a woman from Nansemond
County, Virginia, sent a letter to her husband dated December
17, 1864, which offered him a deal of sorts:
I don't want you to stop tighten them yankees till you
kill the last one of them, but try and get off and come

100
home and fix us all up some and then you can go back and
fight them a heep harder than you ever fought them
before. (K. Jones 348)
This woman hoped that the temporary nature of her reguest
might meet the national standards of patriotic self-sacrifice.
Yet, she made it clear that her situation demanded immediate
attention: "if you put off a-comin' 'twon't be no use to come,
for we'll all hands of us be out there in the garden in the
old graveyard with your ma and mine" (348).
Women who had sacrificed so much and endured bodily
deprivation now refused to put the nation ahead of their
needs. One Louisiana woman whose youngest son had been
drafted into the Confederate army eloguently summarized the
feelings of so many of her countrywomen in a letter to her
husband dated November 27, 1863:
I know my country needs all her children and I had
thought I could submit to her reguisitions. I have given
her cause my prayers, my time, my means and my children
but now the last lamb of the fold is to be taken, the
mother and helpless woman triumph over the patriot,
(guoted in Faust, 191)
The refusal to "submit" increasingly characterized women's
responses to the Confederate nation during the last eighteen
months of the war. In not remaining silent, Confederate women
discarded their nationally imposed roles and acted in the
interest of themselves and their families.
Not all of the women who yearned for the return of their
menfolk were in dire need. Long tours of duty in distant
spots of the Confederacy separated lovers for extended periods
of time. Thus, sexual desire played a role in some of the

101
requests made by women. For example, in a letter dated July
8, 1864, Mary Bell, the wife of a yeoman farmer in North
Carolina, wrote to her husband of her fantasy rendezvous:
... If you would come riding or walking up I would give
you some nice light bread, butter, and milk, for supper,
and then invite you to sleep with me, do you suppose you
would take the invitation as an insult? if you did I
would ask your pardon and invite you as politely as I
could to take a bed up stairs. (Yearns and Barrett 267)
The "insult" Mary Bell feared giving involved her "unladylike"
display. She immediately promised to return to "polite"
behavior if she had indeed given offense. But Bell was
motivated to write her letter because of her loneliness.
Later in the same letter she assured her husband, "we have
beans and potatoes to eat now, will have plenty if we can have
rain occasionally" (268) .
The conduct of Confederate women became more and more a
topic of discussion in the Southern press during the last year
of the war. Increasingly, women were attacked as immoral and
licentious, and their conduct (as opposed to the conduct of
the armies in the field) was portrayed as the chief force
undermining the Confederacy's stability. A female
correspondent for the Mobile Advertiser and Register suggested
that too many Confederate women concerned themselves only with
their own pleasure:
There are noble hearts among us, whose every throb
thrills with patriotic devotion, and whose every breath
is a prayer for victory; but how many are joined to their
idol [sic] pleasure and forget every noble impulse in
bowing at the shrine of vanity. ("Confederate Women and
the War," 127)

102
Another Mobile newspaper, the News. published an
editorial on April 10, 1864, condemning the behavior of "women
of fashion." These women, the editorial argued, indulged
their desires to the detriment of the nation:
We can hope for no good results from trivial and light
conduct on the part of our women. Instead of adorning
their persons for seductive purposes, and tempting our
officers to a course alike disgraceful and unworthy of
women, whose husbands and brothers are in our armies,
they had better exhort them to well-doing, than act as
instruments of destruction to both parties. (Rebellion
Record, vm, 62)
Like sirens luring the ship of the Confederacy onto the rocks
and utter destruction, these women augured ill for the nation.
As such, argued the editorial, these women had to be
combatted. "We have no laws to reach such a class but public
opinion," it concluded; "then let that be used without mercy."
The fact that women were "adorning their persons"
indicated that at least some had rejected the admonishments of
their national government and taken control of their own
bodies. Their "seductive purposes" represented a privileging
of their own desires and, as the editors of the Mobile News
seemed to feel, a dereliction of their duty to the
Confederacy. In fact, in the eyes of some diehard
Confederates, Southern women were culpable for the poor
showing of the Confederate army. Kate Cumming, in the
introduction to her diary, asserted that "very much of this
failure is to be attributed to us. I have said many a time
that, if we did not succeed, the women of the South would be
responsible" (Cumming 4). Such scapegoating helped protect

103
the honor of Southern men. If Confederate women had only
worked harder and sacrificed more, people like Cumming seemed
to suggest, the war would not have gone so badly. Ironically,
after all of the sacrifice offered by the women of the
Confederacy during the war, Cumming and others seemed to
suggest that they had to sacrifice still more. Confederate
women were asked to sacrifice their own dignity and integrity
by admitting that they were responsible for military failure.
Such a sacrifice would once again be in the service of
Southern men.
Reports of vituperative Confederate women became the
stuff of legend. As Nina Silber has noted, such stories got
magnified by the Northern press in an attempt to feminize and
ridicule the post-war South (N. Silber 621). Seen another
way, though, these stories represent a response on the part of
Confederate women to their purported disloyalty. In one
instance, a Vermont private, part of an occupying force
marching through Culpeper, Virginia, recorded the abuse
suffered by his commanding officer:
A window was raised and a thing that probably called
itself [a] lady Spat Sguare in the face of Captain George
D. Davenport, and screamed, "Take that Yankee son-of-a-
b and slammed the window down. (quoted in Wiley,
Embattled Confederates, 177)
Other encounters proved less violent but no less steeped in
Confederate nationalism. Journalist John Dennett, writing for
the Nation, observed one such occurrence in Lynchburg,
Virginia:

104
A lady called from an upper window to a little girl on
the sidewalk: "Julia, come in this minute child. That
Yankee will rub against you if you stay there." The
Yankee referred to was a soldier, a dull-looking fellow,
who appeared confounded at this attack upon him.
(Dennett 279)
These and other reported incidents can be seen as not
merely the assaults of bitter crones but as confirmation of
Confederate women's patriotism. In her recollections of the
war, Elizabeth Avery Meriwether offered her theory as to why
Confederate women remained bitter for so long, even after
their men had reconciled themselves to defeat:
The Southern men were too busy trying to retrieve their
fallen fortunes, but the women—they had more time to
brood over the wrongs that had been done them, they had
not had the excitement of battle to sustain them, they
suffered even more than their husbands and sons and
brothers. (Meriwether 162)
Meriwether’s analysis points out the effects of women's
restricted place in Southern society on their response to the
war. Their assaults on the invading Yankees gave them the
chance not only to articulate the anger that they had so long
suppressed but also to demonstrate publicly their patriotism,
which had been dismissed or denigrated by apologists for
Southern men. Tellingly, many women described their
resistance to the occupying Union forces in military terms.
For example, Richmond resident Phoebe Yates Pember, commenting
on the aftermath of the Union invasion of the Confederate
capital, noted in her diary on April 2, 1865, "There were few
men in the city at this time; but the women still fought their
battle for them; fought it resentfully, calmly, but silently!"

105
(K. Jones 395). Confederate women might not have had "the
excitement of battle to sustain them," but when the enemy
arrived at the homefront, they had a chance for a different
kind of battle.
When he published his recollections of the Confederacy in
mid-1881, Jefferson Davis dedicated his work to the women of
the Confederacy,
whose pious ministrations to our wounded soldiers
soothed the last hours of those
who died far from the objects of their tenderest love;
whose domestic labors contributed
much to supply the wants of our defenders in the field;
whose zealous faith in our cause
shone a guiding star undimmed by the dark clouds of war;
whose fortitude
sustained them under all the privations to which they
were subjected;
whose annual tribute
expresses their enduring grief, love, and reverence
for our sacred dead;
and
whose patriotism
will teach their children
to emulate the deeds of our revolutionary sires;
THESE PAGES ARE DEDICATED
by their countryman,
Jefferson Davis.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Davis's dedication replays the basic
rhetoric of the script of Southern womanhood. Confederate
women were (and remained) "pious," "domestic," possessed of
"zealous faith," "fortitude," "reverence," and "patriotism."
Moreover, Davis again assigns the pedagogical task of the
Southern nation to women, encouraging them to "teach their
children to emulate the deeds of our revolutionary sires."

106
Davis's dedication once again calls upon women to submit
themselves to the dictates of their men. Given the task of
reconstruction facing the defeated Confederates, Davis's
"request" made some sense.8
Confederate women never organized on any large scale to
protest their lack of political power. In fact, many longed
to return to the lifestyle of antebellum days. Still, defeat
in war caused many men severe anxiety about the stability of
gender roles. As diehard Confederates searched through the
wreckage of their fallen nation, one strategy for the
reconstitution of dominant white male political rule required
the short-circuiting of any political aspirations that women
might have. To do this, women's bodies had to be made less
dangerous and more politically malleable. The fiction
generated in the post-war Confederacy provided a methodology
by which the subduing of women could be accomplished.
NOTES
'Historian Drew Gilpin Faust, in an essay considering the
role of women in the Confederate war effort, has reached the
following provocative conclusion:
Historians have wondered in recent years why the
Confederacy did not endure longer. In considerable
measure, I would suggest, it was because so many women
did not want it to. The way in which their interests in
the war were publicly defined—in a very real sense
denied—gave women little reason to sustain the
commitment modern war required. It may well have been
because of its women that the South lost the Civil War.
(199)
Faust notes that Southern women were written out of any
substantive role in making of the Confederate nation. They
instead assumed the role of potential victims, to be saved by
strong, superior Southern men. When that victimization became

107
an actuality, and no subsequent rescue occurred, women rocked
the social structure of the Confederacy by speaking out,
arguing that their needs (and bodies) mattered. In doing
this, Southern women contributed to the collapse of the myth
of the superior Southern man and, by association, the collapse
of the Confederacy. Put simply, during the Civil War, the
"mirror" cracked. See Faust, "Altars of Sacrifice:
Confederate Women and the Narratives of War," in Divided
Houses: Gender and the Civil War (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1992), pp. 171-199.
2Judith Butler is the preeminent critic when it comes to
the question of the performativity of gender conventions.
Butler argues that gender is "scripted" by the expectations of
the dominant (which, for Butler, is synonomous with
heterosexual) culture, and any violation of that script cannot
be tolerated:
Gender is, thus, a construction that regularly conceals
its genesis; the tacit collective agreement to perform,
produce, and sustain discrete and polar genders as
cultural fictions is obscured by the credibility of those
productions—and the punishments that attend not agreeing
to believe in them; the construction "compels" our belief
in its necessity and naturalness. The historical
possibilities materialized through various corporeal
styles are nothing other than those punitively regulated
cultural fictions alternately embodied and deflected
under duress. (140)
Butler's formulation puts into better perspective the
widespread acceptance of the idea of the Southern lady.
Instructed to perform in such a way as to increase the status
and honor of their men, Southern women were "compelled" to
believe in the necessity of the role.
As Elizabeth Fox-Genovese makes clear in her summary of
expected female gender conventions, the most significant
portion of the performance of Southern womanhood required
passivity or weakness:
The emphasis on female delicacy and frailty implicitly
recognized the positive value of male strength. In a
dangerous world ladies required protection against unruly
men, white as well as black. The emphasis on leisure and
civility identified social classes freed from the labor
afforded by slaves. Above all, as the religious and
secular proslavery polemics tirelessly declared, the
subordination of women to the men upon whom they
acknowledged their dependence confirmed inequality among
all members of society. (197)

108
Thus, this performance of Southern womanhood was connected
closely to other narratives of Southern culture, narratives
that ultimately were employed to argue for and justify
secession and the creation of a separate Southern nation. In
particular, women's "subordination" not only provided Southern
men with the opportunity to be chivalrous and honorable but
also proved the legitimacy of a hierarchically organized
society dependent on the subjection of a whole race of people.
See Butler, Gender Trouble (New York: Routledge, 1990) ,
particularly pp. 134-140, and Fox-Genovese, Within the
Plantation Household (Chapel Hill: University of North
Carolina Press, 1988), pp. 192-241.
3Anne Firor Scott summarizes the restrictions imposed on
Southern women in the first chapter of The Southern Lady.
Scott points out that what education was afforded to Southern
women inclined them to believe in the "myth" of the antebellum
lady:
By the time they arrived at their teens most girls
had absorbed the injunctions of the myth. One young
woman wrote in her diary that she longed to die because
she had not found a husband, adding, "I know I would make
a faithful, obedient wife, loving with all my heart,
yielding entire trust in my husband." (7)
Scott also points out that some women began to feel discontent
about their status, but by and large, most women bought into
the myth. See Scott, The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to
Politics. 1830—1930 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press,
1970), pp. 3-21 and pp. 45-79.
4Anne Goodwyn Jones notes how voicelessness was a
component part of Southern womanhood:
To have a voice is to have some control over one's
environment. To have the vote, for example, is to have
a voice in and therefore some power over the political
world. But in another sense—a sense familiar to
writers—to have a voice is to have a self. Learning to
express the self in language is intimately related to
learning to be. Thus voicelessness may imply
selflessness both in the familiar and in the more
sinister meaning. For southern women, particularly, the
quality of voice reveals the condition of selfhood. (37)
The faithful wife in Charleston is less concerned with her own
physical well-being than with whether or not her husband saw
her faint. The mother in "Enlisted Today" smiles and turns
away her eyes so that her son Willie cannot see her fear. Put
simply, these women forego their voices and opt to perform a

109
particular scene so as to endorse and encourage their
respective man's sense of his own bravery and honor. Jones
later suggests that some sense of voice might be recouped for
Southern women in writing, but that these women were forced to
"speak through the mask" which covered up that which was
considered "unutterable ... in the larger world" (37) . See
Jones, Tomorrow Is Another Day (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State
University Press, 1981), pp. 3-50.
5In This Sex Which Is Not One, Irigaray discusses how, in
her judgment, the phallocentric nature of Western culture
requires and provides mechanisms for the commodification of
the feminine. One of those mechanisms is language, which is
enforced on women and which they must "mimic":
Sociaily, [women] are "objects" for and among men and
furthermore they cannot do anything but mimic a
"language" that they have not produced; naturally, they
remain amorphous, suffering from drives without any
possible representatives or representations. For them,
the transformation of the natural into the social does
not take place, except to the extent that they function
as components of private property, or as commodities.
(189)
Irigaray's speculations seem to apply especially well to the
conceptions of Southern womanhood articulated by advocates of
the Confederacy. Women "mimic" the language of the nation.
Even those moments of possible disruption work with, not
against, the script of nation. Southern women "remain
amorphous" in the sense that, as Anne Goodwyn Jones suggests,
"Rather than a person, the Confederate woman is a
personification, effective only as she works in others'
imaginations. Efforts to join person and personification, to
make self inot symbol, must fail because the idea of southern
womanhood specifically denies the self" (A. Jones 4).
Confederate women thus become "private property" to the extent
that they are made to embody the tenets of the Southern
nation. See Irigaray, This Sex Which Is Not One, trans.
Catherine Porter, with Carolyn Burke (Ithaca: Cornell
University Press, 1985), pp. 170-191.
bEvans's expression of political opinions marks Macaría.
for Elizabeth Moss, as a departure from the conventions of
antebellum fiction by Southern women:
For in a literary tradition that was conceived as an
outlet for indirect political commentary, Macaria was
overtly political. In a tradition designed to resolve
sectional conflict through emphasizing similarities
between northerners and southerners, Macaria argued that
compromise was impossible. In a tradition that depended

110
upon an ending with the heroine's marriage and assumption
of conventional women's roles, Macaria ended with its
hero dead, its heroines unmarried. (190)
Moss ascribes this "inability to conform to the conventions of
antebellum southern domestic fiction" to Evans's anxiety about
the future of the Confederacy. Yet, in fact, Evans's
"transgression" of the conventions of southern domestic
fiction is permitted and encouraged by the Southern nation
makers. Just as women could step outside their designated
passive roles to criticize loafing men, Evans, in the name of
the nation, could get political in order to remind people what
the Confederacy expected and needed from them. In short,
Evans's "transgression" is underwritten by the exigencies of
Southern nationalism. As Moss herself notes, many of Evans's
suggested political reforms, such as limited suffrage for
"foreigners," are inherently conservative, not radically
transgressive. See Moss, Domestic Novelists in the Old South
(Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992) , pp.
171-221.
7Moss suggests that Evans's own accounts of her personal
sacrifice might be somewhat exaggerated. Nevertheless, the
textualization of the female body is a significant trope
throughout most of Evans's major fiction. Such a textualizing
process, as I will argue in Chapter 3, allowed Evans to
construct female bodies that were more amenable to the
political necessities of the immediate post-war period in the
South. See Moss, pp. 181-3, for a consideration of Evans's
own wartime sacrifices.
8Significantly, Davis's "request" happens in 1881, after
Reconstruction had officially ended. As home rule was
restored to the South, Davis recognized that redeploying the
rhetorical premises of the Confederacy could reinvigorate
Southern patriotism. Put simply, by re-placing Southern women
in their antebellum social space, Davis took the first
rhetorical steps toward reimagining the Southern nation. See
Chapter 3 for a discussion of the ways in which Augusta Jane
Evans manipulates and disfigures the female body to restore
Southern male political efficacy and Chapter 4 for an
examination of the ways in which prominent local color writers
in the last decade of the 19th century provided an imaginative
geography to complement the discursive contours of the
imagined Southern nation.

CHAPTER 3
RECONQUERING OLD TERRAIN:
PATRIARCHAL REPOSITIONING IN AUGUSTA JANE EVANS'S ST. ELMO
To say that Augusta Jane Evans was an unrepentant
Confederate might be an understatement. In early 1861, Evans
responded to a letter from fellow writer L. Virginia French of
Tennessee requesting that she endorse a pro-Union memorial
with a definitive rejection:
You have warmly espoused the "Union" cause, while I, am
an earnest and uncompromising Secessionist. Your
predicate of "Southern rights in the Union," I now
regard as more than paradoxical; and prompt and separate
state action, I believe to be the only door of escape
from the worse than Egyptian bondage of Black Republican.
("Augusta J. Evans on Secession," 65)
Once the war began in earnest, Evans was no less an
advocate of the Confederacy. In a letter to General P. G. T.
Beauregard dated August 4, 1862, Evans conceded that as a
woman, her contributions to the war effort were "feeble" but
her heart was faithful:
It is not my privilege to enter the ranks, wielding a
sword, in my country's cause, but all that my feeble,
womanly pen could contribute to the consummation of our
freedom, I have humbly, but at least, faithfully and
untiringly endeavored to achieve. ("Augusta Evans
Wilson: Confederate Propagandist," 354)
Evans's letter carefully marks out the terrain of gender as
configured by the new nation. Unable to wield a sword, Evans
relies on a far less phallic "feeble, womanly pen" to help
with "the consummation of [Southern] freedom." Though anxious
111

112
to do her part, Evans tacitly acknowledges that Confederate
men literally and figuratively wield the big stick. Evans
includes in her letter a short stanza from a poem which
further illustrates her willing submission:
Man for the field, and woman for the hearth;
Man for the sword, and for the needle she:
Man with the head, and woman with the heart:
Man to command, and woman to obey!
The end of the war did not lessen Evans's Confederate
patriotism. Nearly two years after Lee's surrender at
Appomattox, she still refused to meet with a Federal officer
commended to her attention by a friend (A. Jones 59). In a
letter to Beauregard dated March 30, 1867, Evans's fiery
belief in her nation and her anger over the mistreatment
exercised against it were still evident:
More pitiable than Poland and Hungary, and quite as
helpless as were the Asia Minor provinces when governed
by the Persian Satraps, we of the pseudo "territories,"
sit like Israel in the Captivity; hiding the day of
retribution,—the Dies Trae, that must surely dawn in
blood upon the nation that oppressed us. (Griffith 105)
The various nations Evans mentions had suffered or were
suffering through periods in which their right to self-rule
had been dissolved. For Evans, the Confederacy suffered
similarly. In her mind, and in the minds of many die-hard
rebels, the Confederacy was defeated but not dead.
Yet, Evans perceived an encroachment on the identity of
Southerners with the destruction of national sovereignty.
Living in "pseudo 'territories'" produced a kind of pseudo

113
citizenship, a political limbo that designated Confederates as
non-entities.1 She rejected the alternative of the reunion of
the two regions in that she still viewed Northern society as
corrupt:
The men are effeminate, selfish, most unscrupulously
grasping, and utterly devoid of national pride, or
disinterested patriotism;—the women are masculine,
Amazonian,—strong-minded, imbued with heinous heresies,
both social and religious;—the children—heaven help
them! are not children, but miniature women of fashion
and "progress." (Griffith 106)
These charges reprise many of the arguments made by pro¬
secessionists before the war to legitimize separation. Evans
clearly sought to retain the idea of the Confederate nation,
going as far as to sign her letter to Beauregard, "Sincerely
your friend & Grateful countrywoman.1,2
Despite Evans's own wartime adventures,3 her willingness
to submit to Confederate men manifested itself in her first
post-war novel St. Elmo (1867) . Reading St. Elmo in
connection with both Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre (to which
critics consistently compared St. Elmo! and her first
successful novel, Beulah (1859), shows how Evans's thinking
about the role of women in the post-war Confederacy had
reverted back to the antebellum ideal of Southern womanhood.
Yet this reversion carried with it a virulence as well. Evans
seemed to have grasped that in order to resuscitate Southern
manhood and, with it, Southern political viability, Southern
women once again had to carry the freight. St. Elmo involves
not only the submission of Edna Earl, the novel's main

114
character, but also the utter devastation of her body. In
this way, Edna's weakness (supposedly self-inflicted through
grasping ambition) necessitates a strong man—in this case,
St. Elmo Murray. Edna's bodily deprivation deflects guestions
of Southern male bodily defects. In Edna's weakness, St. Elmo
(and, by inference, Southern manhood in general) swells in
power, virility, and, most significantly, national (meaning
Confederate) efficacy.
While Evans remained unrepentant in defeat, elsewhere in
the Confederacy, despair pervaded the countryside. "I try to
dwell as little as possible on public events," Judith White
Brockenbrough McGuire wrote in late April 1865. "I only feel
that we have no country, no government, no future" (357) .
Kate Stone, whose great faith in the Confederate cause
resounded throughout her diary, admitted her anguish in an
entry dated May 15, 1865:
There is a gloom over all like the shadow of Death. We
have given up hope for our beloved Country and all are
humiliated, crushed to the earth. A past of grief and
hardship, a present of darkness and despair, and a future
without hope. Truly our punishment is greater than we
can bear. (Anderson 340)
Words like "submission" and "subjugation" appear frequently in
many of the diary entries of women throughout the Confederacy
after news of Lee's surrender reached them. Far from having
Evans's continued enthusiasm, many women simply welcomed their
men home and got down to the business of reconstructing their
lives.4 In the process they left behind the idea of nation.

115
The physical and emotional devastation wreaked by war
caused some to speculate subtly about the efficacy of Southern
men. In Ghosts of the Confederacy. Gaines M. Foster locates
the source of such speculation in the ideology of Southern
honor:
Defeat on the battlefield must have led soldiers raised
in a culture that celebrated personal bravery and martial
skills to question whether they had lived up to
expectations, to question whether they had behaved
honorably. (25)
The Confederate army had been plagued by high levels of
desertion, particularly during the last eighteen months of the
war. However, the question of whom to blame for the defeat of
the Confederacy expanded to include not only those men who had
not fought at all but also those men who had perhaps not
fought well enough. Harmonizing the tension between the ideal
of honor and the reality of defeat proved difficult.
All around them, returning soldiers saw signs of their
own inadequacy. Unable to defend their country against Union
invasion, these soldiers could see the destruction of the
landscape (often coded as "rape") as well as the danger that
had threatened the people, mostly women, at the homefront. In
short, they had failed in their chief duty—protection of
their country's and (so many thought) their women's
"territorial integrity."
The effects of defeat showed themselves in the behavior
of men throughout the Confederacy. Traveling through the
South in 1865 and 1866, Whitelaw Reid witnessed firsthand the

116
devastation wrought by the war. While in Wilmington, North
Carolina, Reid observed a scene that he perceived to be
emblematic of the situation throughout the former Confederacy:
While I was riding over the city with Captain Myers, a
young Ohio artillerist, a formerly wealthy citizen
approached him to beg the favor of some means of taking
his family three or four miles into the country. The
officer could only offer the broken "Southron" a pair of
mules and an army wagon; and this shabby outfit, which
four years ago he would not have permitted his body
servant to use, he gratefully accepted for his wife and
daughter! (Reid 49)
This former Wilmington socialite could not afford Evans's
haughtiness toward the Federáis. With such reduced
circumstances, many returning rebels despaired of retrieving
their lost lives. In a letter dated January 25, 1867, Maria
Louisa Wacker Fleet responded to a letter from her son by
noting that men were not effectively attempting
reconstruction, citing an example from a neighboring county:
"The peopl* in King William [County] are doing worse than in
King and Queen [County]. I fear the secret is the men for the
most part ere dispirited and are drinking very hard" (Fleet
23) .
Signs of lack had also been inscribed on the bodies of
many of the soldiers. Many had been maimed, losing limbs or
eyes. One Virginia woman observed that the physical lack that
many men labored with made them ill-suited to reassume
leadership roles in Southern society: "the empty sleeve and
the crutch made men who had unflinchingly faced death in
battle impotent to face their future" (quoted in Scott, 91).

117
Conflating "the empty sleeve" and "the crutch" with impotence
underscored a still deeper anxiety felt by many Confederate
men—that defeat carried with it sexual as well as political
consequences.5
On the question of mastery and loss for white men in the
postbellum South, historian LeeAnn Whites argues that the war
produced "a crisis in gender relations." She points out that
one of the reasons that the institution of slavery was so
highly prized was its underwriting of white men's manliness.
"Either the black man in his capacity as slave to the white
man would go on making his master a man," Whites contends, "or
the white man would lose his slaves and with them his concept
of himself as a free man, while the black man achieved his own
manhood" (10, author's emphasis). With emancipation, white
men had only white women under their direct control and thus,
women replaced slaves as the chief vehicle by which white men
established their claims to manliness.
In fact, Whites further argues, the breakdown in racial
hierarchy required that white men get their women under
control. Defeat in war and the consequent emancipation of
blacks signalled a limit to white male mastery, and without
some control over women, they, too, might disrupt social
organization. One southern minister made what seemed to be
the logical argument about the consequences of even more
social upheaval: "If you are tame enough to submit,
abolitionist preachers will be at hand to consúmate [sic] the

118
marriage of your daughters to black husbands" (quoted in
Whites, 10). Thus, southern men needed to regain mastery in
order to prevent a further erosion of the Southern way of
life, which was predicated first and foremost on white
superiority.6
In early 1867, Robert Dabney, a prominent Virginian and
apologist for the Confederacy, proposed a strategy for
reestablishing some form of white male political hegemony.
Understanding that Radical Republicans in Congress had wrested
control of Reconstruction from President Andrew Johnson,
Dabney knew that political reconsolidation was a must. That
reconsolidation could take h to reinvigorate the manhood of
their men:
If our women do not sustain them, they will sink. Unless
the spirits which rule and cheer their homes can re¬
animate their self-respect, confirm their resolve, and
sustain their personal honor, they will at length become
the base serfs their enemies desire. (quoted in Foster,
29)
In losing the war, men had lost the moral authority to justify
the patriarchal ordering of Southern society. Dabney asked
that women willingly submit to patriarchal dictates in order
to reinflate the collective Southern male ego. In doing so,
Dabney suggested, women would be doing what was within their
domain (carefully coded by Dabney as the home) to confirm the
legitimacy of the ideals of the Confederacy and to help their
men fight back against the colonizing, enslaving politicians
of the North. In order to overcome male "lack," it became

119
specifically necessary to efface the very thing that could
draw attention to that lack—the female body.7
As a fiery partisan of the Confederacy, Augusta Jane
Evans was more than willing to take part in such an
effacementi In fact, in her Civil War novel Macaria. Evans
advocated that women (particularly single women) allow
themselves to be consumed by the cause of the Confederate
nation. One of the novel's two main female characters, Irene
Huntingdon/ goes so far as to say that, because women could
not fight tor their country, they were obliged to sacrifice
everything else, including their desires. She explains the
story of Macaria, the mythological figure she has taken as her
model, to her would-be lover Russell Aubrey, as she encourages
him to return to battle:
Of old, when Eurystheus threatened Athens, Macaria,
in order to save the city and the land from invasion and
subjugation, willingly devoted herself as a sacrifice
upon the altar of the gods. Ah, Russell! that were an
easy task, in comparison with the offering I am called
upon to make. I cannot, like Macaria, by self-
immolátion, redeem my country; from that great privilege
I am debarred; but I yield up more than she ever
possessed. I give my all on earth—my father and
yourself—to our beloved and suffering country. (329, my
emphasis)
Unable to fight in the war, Irene fights on her own front. In
1867, two ^ears removed from the war itself, Evans sensed a
new phase beginning in the battle to keep the idea of the
Confederacy alive. In this battle, women could, and in fact,
had to engage in "self-immolation." Evans's contribution to
this battlé was St. Elmo.

120
"St.. Elmo11.'. The Art of Submission
st. Eimo itself is, in a sense, the phoenix that rose
from the ashes of Evans's own intellectual self-immolation.
Evans wanted to write a history of the Confederacy, but she
discovered that Alexander Stephens, former Vice President of
the Confederacy, was already at work on such a project. In a
letter to General P. G. T. Beauregard dated November 20, 1867,
Evans wrote about her reaction once she discovered Stephens's
intentionsi
I humbly put my fingers on the throat of my ambitious
daring design of becoming the Confederate Xenophon and
strangled it. . . . I confess it cost me a severe
struggle to relinquish the fond dream . . . but abler
hands snatched it from my weak womanly fingers and waved
me to humbler paths of labor. (quoted in Faust, xxvi)
Evans's situation dictates that she commit a form of
intellectual suicide. The "weak womanly fingers" incapable of
grasping and holding political ambition are nevertheless
strong enoggh to strangle her "ambitious daring design of
becoming the Confederate Xenophon." Though she struggles to
deny her own ambition, Evans does what she considers her duty.
She accedes to the "humbler path," fiction, that is open to
her. Evans's letter (written, interestingly enough, to one of
those defeated Confederate generals) makes clear the
debilitating nature for women of the reestablished patriarchal
order: men insisted on the submission of women, an insistence
that also demanded that women acknowledge themselves as "weak"
and "humble."

121
Still, though Evans might have struggled to crush her
ambition, she did it nonetheless, and her blitz on female
ambition in St. Elmo takes the form of effacement of and, at
times, outright attack on the body of the novel1 s main
character Edna Earl. Edna, a young woman who becomes an
enormously successful author, has clear autobiographical
connections with Evans; thus, Edna becomes a kind of surrogate
for Evans in the novel. At the same time Evans tries to write
Edna's body out of the text, concluding the novel by merging
Edna with the novel's main male character and namesake, St.
Elmo Murray, a merger that "heals" Edna and makes St. Elmo "a
man." The result is a novel which is complicit with Robert
Dabney's basic political goal: a dis-embodied womanhood which
poses no obstacles or challenges to the fragile, reconstructed
patriarchy.9
The novel begins with an extended observation of Edna,
who is twelve years old at the time. When Edna first comes
into the line of the reader's sight, she is carrying a bucket
of water on her head:
The large black eyes held a singular fascination in
their mild sparkling depths, now full of tender living
light and childish gladness; and the flexible red lips
curled in lines of orthodox Greek perfection, showing
remarkable versatility of expression; while the broad,
full, polished forehead, with its prominent, swelling
brows, could not fail to recall, to even casual
observers, the calm, powerful face of Lorenzo de'
Medicis, which, if once looked on, fastens itself upon
heart and brain, to be forgotten no more. Her hair,
black, straight, waveless as an Indian's, hung around her
shoulders, and glistened as the water from the dripping
bucket trickled through the wreath of purple morning-
glories and scarlet cypress, which she had twined about

122
her head, ere lifting the cedar pail to its resting-
place. She wore a short-sleeved dress of yellow striped
homespun, which fell nearly to her ankles, and her little
bare feet gleamed pearly white on the green grass and
rank dewy creepers that clustered along the margin of the
bubbling spring. Her complexion was unusually
transparent, and early exercise and mountain air had
rouged her cheeks till they matched the brilliant hue of
her scarlet crown. (6)
The narrator focuses very specifically on Edna's head and
face, providing a clear frame of reference for each detail so
that her head becomes quite vivid. Her lips are "flexible"
and "red" and "of orthodox Greek perfection"; her face
resembles Lorenzo de Medici's; her hair is like an Indian's.
Little actual description of Edna's body is offered. Her
yellow homespun dress covers it down to her ankles, and after
reaching the bottom of Edna's body, the reader's gaze is
redirected to her head—"her complexion," "her cheeks," "her
scarlet crown."
Edna's lack of a fully described body is immediately
contrasted with the very bodily world of men. As she is
walking, she stumbles upon the last seconds of a duel. She
witnesses the killing of a man and then gets a close-up view
of the dead body:
The hazel eyes stared blankly at the sky, and the hue of
life and exuberant health still glowed on the full cheek;
but the ball had entered the heart, and the warm blood,
bubbling from the breast, dripped on the glistening
grass. (7)
The penetration of the bullet not only draws blood but also
draws into relief the body itself. Violence and disease
become the primary modes for enacting the body in the novel.

123
Evans brings a body fully into view only when it is in a
debilitated condition.
Indeed, Evans materializes Edna's body only when she
wants to do violence to it.10 After her grandfather dies, Edna
decides to travel to Columbus, Georgia, to look for factory
work. However, the train Edna is riding crashes, causing a
great deal of damage to Edna's body, as her attending
physician describes: "I am obliged to hurt you a little, my
child, for your shoulder is dislocated, and some of the bones
are broken in your feet" (31). Edna passes out from the pain.
She returns to consciousness to discover "her feet and ankles
were tightly bandaged" (32). Edna's injuries destroy her
ability to gain some measure of self-sufficiency through work.
Unable to move, and being an orphan, Edna is rescued by the
philanthropic Mrs. Murray and taken to the Murray estate, Le
Bocage, where she falls under the domain of the novel's hero,
St. Elmo Murray.
Many critics who have written about St. Elmo have noted
its similarity to Jane Eyre.11 The novels do have several key
similarities: a poor orphan (Jane/Edna) who, through education
and determination, advances in life; the flawed hero
(Rochester/St. Elmo), whose professions of love and proposal
of marriage are initially rejected by the heroine; the
"change" that takes place in the hero, allowing the marriage
finally tó occur. Yet the similarities, upon closer
inspection, are quite superficial. In some very specific ways

124
(beginning with the title of the novel), Evans rewrites Jang
Evre. positing ultimate power for defining Edna's self not in
Edna's own hands but in the hands of men.
The most obvious difference between the two novels is
their respective narrative strategies. Jane Eyre is a first-
person account in the words of Jane herself. In fact,
Charlotte Bronte not only initially published the novel under
the pseudonym Currer Bell, but Jane Evre was also subtitled
"An Autobiography," an ascription that many contemporary
critics believed. The book became Jane's incarnation of her
self, her representation of events unmediated by any
narrator/filter. And with the ability to use language came a
form of power—the power to achieve self-actualization, a
self-actualization not informed by any of the qualities
(family, socioeconomic position, physical appearance) used to
determine "legitimate" social subjects. Nancy Armstrong and
Leonard Tennenhouse contend that Jane's power constitutes a
"violence of representation" in that, after being abused and
discounted by those around her, Jane must perform a similar
"violence" when she takes up the task of self-narrativization:
"The same process that creates Jane's 'self' positions
'others' in a negative relationship to that self. The
violence of representation is the suppression of difference"
(8). Thus, Jane's power is revolutionary in that she calls
into question all the old modalities of power which, working

125
together, constitute not only subjects but also the way those
subjects see and are seen.
Evans employs a third-person omniscient narrator who
consistently frames Edna and her experiences. Like Jane, Edna
becomes a writer, but her Christian piety dictates that her
subject matter be religion, not herself. She envisions her
books "wandering like evangels among the people, and making
some man, woman or child happier, or wiser, or better—more
patient or more hopeful—by their utterances" (126). The
narrator assures readers that "The fondest hope of Edna's
heart was to be useful in 'her day and generation'—to be an
instrument of some good to her race" (179). Whereas Jane Eyre
aims at self-actualization and personal empowerment, Edna Earl
seeks to be an "instrument" for the larger goal of educating
society. The power of "the violence of representation"
remains firmly in Evans's hands, and she utilizes that power
in several instances.
As she tries to enter the profession of literature, Edna
seeks the guidance of a haughty but eminent literary critic,
the appropriately named Douglass Manning. Edna submits a
manuscript to Manning, whose comments seemingly condemn the
manuscript and Edna's ambitions to death:
The subject you have undertaken is beyond your capacity—
no woman could successfully handle it—and the sooner you
realize your over-estimate of your powers, the sooner
your aspirations find their proper level, the sooner you
will succeed in your treatment of some theme better
suited to your feminine ability. Burn the inclosed MS.,
. . . and write sketches of home life—descriptions of
places and things you understand better. (176)

126
If texts constitute extensions of the author's self, Manning's
comments are as brutal an attack on Edna as the train wreck.
Manning advocates a kind of intellectual "self-immolation"
when he advises Edna to burn her manuscript. Manning's
position as protector of literary and patriarchal norms cedes
to him the power to use language violently, and he does.
Edna's need for "submission" in order to enter the profession
of letters places her in a disempowered position from the
start.
Like Jane, Edna decides to press ahead: "To abandon her
right to erudition formed no part of the programme which she
was mentally arranging" (177). Through hard work, Edna builds
up a corpus of work. Just as she is about to achieve her
greatest triumph, the publication of her first book, Evans
once again intervenes with an attack on Edna's body, this time
in the form of disease. After a dizzy spell, Edna discovers
that she has a dangerous heart condition. Her doctor advises
a drastic prescription:
You must have rest and quiet; rest for mind as well as
body; there must be no more teaching or writing. You are
over-worked, and incessant mental labor has hastened the
approach of a disease which, under other circumstances,
might have encroached very slowly, and imperceptibly.
. . Refrain from study, avoid all excitements, exercise
moderately, but regularly, in the open air; and, above
all things, do not tax your brain. (334)
Edna is seemingly a victim of biology. The doctor speculates
that her condition is hereditary; Edna's "nature" does not
allow for her to hold onto the one instrument that potentially
provides access to power—the pen. The doctor also says in no

127
uncertain terms that Edna is herself to blame for her bodily
distress—"incessant mental labor has hastened the approach of
[the] disease." Evans suggests that had Edna only known her
place (a place that carries a distinct socioeconomic overtone-
-Edna, the child of poor parents, suffers from her
"inheritance"), she would not suffer so much. Just as Edna is
building up a formidible body of writing, her physical body
deteriorates. Edna initially ignores her doctor's orders, but
her health becomes so bad that she must finally desist from
her literary work. At that moment, she needs a rescuer, and
one presents himself in the person of St. Elmo Murray.
When Jane Eyre reencounters Edward Rochester at the end
of her novel, their respective situations have been reversed.
Formerly a poor orphan, Jane has in the interim discovered a
family and a fortune. Rochester, in the meantime, has lost a
great deal of his wealth, his mansion, his right eye and hand,
and (most importantly, to facilitate the happy ending), his
first wife, Bertha Mason. The change in their respective
circumstances also changes the roles they play for one
another. No longer afraid of being consumed by Rochester,
Jane agrees to marry him. "I love you better now, when I can
really be useful to you," Jane tells him, "than I did in your
state of proud independence, when you disdained every part but
that of the giver and protector" (392). Rochester's injuries,
his need "to be helped—to be led," conduce to Jane's newfound
sense of autonomy. Their marriage can take place because, as

128
Nancy Pell writes, "[Rochester] no longer acts the role of
master exclusively because he has learned something about the
limits of his own power" (417).
In St. Elmo, the Jane/Rochester relationship has been
inverted. St. Elmo had been in need of saving when he first
proposed marriage to Edna. "Edna, as you value your soul, my
eternal welfare, give yourself to me!" he begs. "Give your
pure, sinless life to purify mine" (250) . St. Elmo is
corrupt—he has killed a man in a duel, was complicit in the
death of that man's sister, and had committed various other
violent acts against women because he had discovered his
former fiancee to have been unfaithful. Edna, on the verge of
leaving Le Bocage for New York to pursue her promising writing
career, rejects St. Elmo's pleas directly:
Mr. Murray, I can never be your wife. I have no
confidence in you. Knowing how systematically you have
deceived others, how devoid of conscientious scruples you
are, I should never be sure that I, too, was not the
victim of your heartless machinations. (250)
Like Jane, Edna fears being consumed by her lover. This
statement is the clearest declaration of independence that
Edna makes in the novel. She rejects St. Elmo, the embodiment
of the patriarchy, for the possibility of her own self-
fulfillment.
By the end of the novel, Evans has seen to it that Edna
cannot achieve any independence on her own. Her body is not
strong enough. St. Elmo, meanwhile, has found God. His
spirit renewed, St. Elmo once again proposes marriage, and

129
Edna accepts. Far from needing help himself now, St. Elmo
instead proclaims his intention to rescue Edna:
Today I snap the fetters of your literary bondage.
There shall be no more books written! No more study, no
more toil, no more anxiety, no more heart-aches! And
that dear public you love so well, must even help itself,
and whistle for a new pet. You belong solely to me now,
and I shall take care of the life you have nearly
destroyed, in your inordinate ambition. (435-6)
Edna offers no word of protest. In fact, when St. Elmo
asks if she is well enough to go to the church to be married,
she replies, "Yes, sir; the pain has all passed away. I am
perfectly well again" (436). Edna's health is restored only
when she submits to the patriarchy. And whereas St. Elmo
"cures" Edna, Edna, in her submission, confirms the manhood of
St. Elmo. The novel ends with this poem:
My wife, my life. Oh! we will walk this world.
Yoked in all exercise of noble end,
And so through those dark gates across the wild
That no man knows. My hopes and thine are one,
Accomplish thou my manhood, and thyself
Lay thy sweet hands in mine and trust to me. (438)
The language of the poem works to limit Edna's individuality—
she is "yoked" to St. Elmo; her "hopes" necessarily merge with
his, and in the merger, Edna helps "accomplish" St. Elmo's
manhood. At the end of Jane Eyre, Rochester's dimmed vision
dictates that he be led by Jane. At the end of St. Elmo.
Edna's devastated body requires that she "lay [her] sweet
hands in [St. Elmo's] and trust to [him]." Edna is so weak
that St. Elmo must carry her into the church in order for them
to be married.

130
Nina Baym, in her extended discussion of the novels of
Augusta Jane Evans, argues that Evans's heroines "are the
strongest, most brilliant, and most accomplished in the long
line of woman's heroines" (278). Yet Edna Earl's heroism is
tempered by her ultimate defeat. In a sense, that defeat is
prefigured by the very title of the novel. Whereas Jane
Eyre's "autobiography" bears her name, Evans chooses to name
her novel after the main male character despite the fact that
the action in the book unquestionably centers around Edna.
Edna has already been enclosed within the realm of the male,
and her various bodily sufferings merely reflect Evans choking
off of Edna's ambitions for her. In her zeal to see some
reconstitution of her "nation," Evans sadistically makes Edna
a site at which male dominance is reestablished. Evans
concedes that in the remaking of the Confederacy, the only
bodies that matter are male bodies.12
st. Elmo was a tremendous best seller. Evans's
biographer William Perry Fidler concludes that, despite the
fact that sales records for the time period are scarce, "it
is safe to say that before the advent of book-of-the-month
clubs, St. Elmo ran a close third to Uncle Tom's Cabin and
Ben-Hur" (129). Thus, Edna Earl became a widely circulated
model of official womanhood in the South. One young woman,
Anna Maria Green of Milledgeville, Georgia, was most impressed
by Evans's text. In a diary entry dated March 29, 1867, she
wrote, "I know nothing of the rules of criticcism [sic] and am

131
incompetent to pronounce upon it as a critic, yet found the
book deeply interesting and think it calculated to do good, by
its tone of exalted female heroism" (Bonner 111) . Green
promises to follow Edna's example of self-improvement and
returns to the study of her Latin. Yet her journal ends with
a remarkable passage that closely parallels the end of St.
Elmo. Engaged to be married to a Samuel A. Cook, Green
determines again to improve herself, but for a specific
purpose: "Mr. Cook leaves in January and I often wonder how I
can endure his absence, it will be a great trial, but I will
try to improve and be more worthy of him when he comes to
claim me as altogether his" (127-8). Evans seems to have
taught her lesson well.
A Pre-War Rehearsal—Beulah Benton
Despite the similarities (and telling differences)
between St. Elmo and Jane Eyre, the magnitude of Edna Earl's
obliteration can best be understood by comparing her fate to
that of another of Evans's female heroines—Beulah Benton, the
title character of Evans's 1859 novel Beulah. Like Edna,
Beulah begins life as a poor orphan who, through fortuitous
circumstances, becomes a prominent, well-respected writer and
thinker. Also like Edna, Beulah marries a tyrannical man, Guy
Hartwell, and in the process agrees to give up her writing
career. But Beulah's ultimate physical state is far different
from Edna's. Hartwell returns from a sojourn in the Far East

132
in time to rescue Beulah from the physical decimation sure to
arise from her unchecked ambition. Moreover, while Edna must
be carried bodily to the chapel by St. Elmo, Beulah shrugs off
her doubts, marries Hartwell, and takes upon herself the task
of rescuing her husband from his atheism. While critics of
Beulah point out the seeming inappropriateness of the novel's
conclusion, compared to Edna Earl's situation of the end of
st. Elmo. Beulah actually fares pretty well.13 Evans uses
Beulah to chart possible formations of southern womanhood and
Beulah's transgressions from standard female behavior (her
flirtation with atheism, her belief in the need for women to
be self-sufficient) are contained and can be ascribed to
youthful exuberance. Eight years later, after a war that
devastated Southern men, Evans could not allow Edna Earl such
transgressive steps.
Like Edna, Beulah recoils at the thought of ceding
personal autonomy to anyone. When her benefactor, Dr. Guy
Hartwell, tries to pressure her into allowing him to adopt
her, Beulah angrily rebels. "He wants to rule me with a rod
of iron, because I am indebted to him for an education and
support for several years," Beulah concludes. "As I hope for
a peaceful rest hereafter, I will repay him every cent he has
expended for music, drawing and clothing!" I Beulah 174).
Beulah ultimately pays that debt not with money, and not as
Hartwell's daughter, but with religious proselytizing as his
wife:

133
To save her husband from his unbelief is the labor of
future years. She had learned to suffer, and to bear
patiently; and though her path looks sunny, and her heart
throbs with happy hopes, this one shadow lurks over her
home and dims her joys. (417-8)
Beulah's marriage to Hartwell is not only the repayment of a
"debt" but also Evan's correcting of any possible sexual
misconduct on the part of Beulah. By marrying Hartwell,
Beulah fulfills her destiny—"Beulah" is actually Hebrew for
"married woman" (A. Jones 90) . She also sustains the economy
of heterosexual desire despite her flirtations with other
women.14
Beulah's "transgressive" sexual desire is signalled in
her first meeting with Clara Sanders, who, like Beulah, is an
orphan and dependent on the kindness of others. Meeting in
school, Clara leads Beulah to her desk, "which was constructed
for two persons." As Clara takes hold of Beulah's arm, "The
touch of her fingers sent a thrill through Beulah's frame, and
she looked at her very earnestly" (72).
Later, after Beulah denounces Hartwell for trying to rule
her "with a rod of iron," she sits with Clara and finishes a
drawing of a beast that she had dreamed had tried to snatch
away Clara. When Clara asks her to put that portrait away,
Beulah complies beginning to work on an image of Sappho, the
"Lesbian Muse." "Ah, Clara!" Beulah confides, "how
connoisseurs would carp at this portrait of the 'Lesbian
Muse.' My guardian, for one, would sneer superbly" (176).
Beulah recognizes that society, particularly Hartwell, would

134
not accept her interest in a figure like Sappho, who connoted
not just lesbianism but also the strength and will of
individual women. Beulah correctly lines up Sappho and
Hartwell as the competing gods for her soul.
Late in the novel, Clara Sanders is about to marry, and
Beulah receives an invitation to the wedding. However, she
decides not to attend:
I could not leave home now. Eugene's [her longtime
friend from her orphanage days] illness had prevented my
accomplishing some necessary work, and as I consign him
to other hands to-day, I must make amends for my long
indolence. ... I cannot think of going. (359)
Beulah's refusal to attend Clara's wedding is her final
rejection of Clara's conception of womanhood. "Woman was
intended as a pet plant, to be guarded and cherished," Clara
candidly asserts; "isolated and uncared for, she droops,
languishes and dies" (116). Clara, thus, betrays the
sisterhood of Sappho by looking for a caretaker. Beulah
responds harshly: "If you concluded that you belong to that
dependent family of plants, I pity you sincerely and beg that
you will not put me in any such category" (116) . By refusing
to go to Clara's wedding, Beulah resists seeing Clara's final
degradation, her submission to the "rod of iron."
In the meantime, Beulah has set up housekeeping with
another woman, Mrs. Williams, the retired mistress of the
orphanage where Beulah had once been a resident. Beulah
actually invites herself into Mrs. Williams's home when she
learns of her retirement plans:

135
"Do you intend to live alone?"
"Yes, child; except a servant, I suppose I shall be
quite alone. But you will come to see me often. . . . "
"No, I shall not come to see you at all! I mean to
come and live with you—that is, if I may?" cried Beulah,
springing up and laying her hand on the matron's.
"God bless you, dear child, how glad I shall be!"
She wound her arms round the slender form, and laughed
through her tears.
Beulah gently put back the gray locks that had
fallen from the border of her cap, and said hopefully:
"I am sick of boarding—sick of town! Let us get a
nice little house, where I can walk in and out to my
school." (297-8)
Beulah's desire to get out of town reflects the constrained
nature of her life there. Operating on the outskirts of town,
Beulah can remove herself from the dictates of "appropriate"
society. Significantly, when Mrs. Williams dies, Dr. Asbury,
Hartwell's chief colleague, insists that Beulah move back to
town.
Whether or not Beulah's actions are read as homosexual or
not, without a doubt they speak to her sense of the need for
women to be empowered. At her high school graduation, Beulah
gives a valedictory talk on female heroism, discussing what
she perceived as necessary components for successful
womanhood:
Crumpling the paper in one hand, she extended the other
toward her companions and in thrilling accents conjured
them in any and every emergency, to prove themselves true
women of America—ornaments of the social circle, angel
guardians of the sacred hearthstone, ministering spirits
where suffering and want demanded succor. Women
qualified to assist in a council of statesmen, if dire
necessity ever required it; while, in whatever positions
they might be placed, their examples should remain
imperishable monuments of true female heroism. (140)

136
Beulah certainly does not reject outright traditional female
roles—"ornaments of the social circle," "angel guardians of
the sacred hearthstone," "ministering spirits." As Elizabeth
Moss notes, the ideology of domestic novelists provided that
women could be heroic in the domestic sphere: "Firmly
convinced, like the majority of Victorian Americans, that men
and women were fundamentally with unique abilities and
obligatiions, the southern domestic novelists saw no
contradiction in defining independent heroines in domestic
terms" (Moss 55).
Beulah does not confine her ideal to the purely domestic
realm. She also perceives women to have a place "in a council
of statesmen," albeit in "dire necessity." Nevertheless,
Beulah's conception of an extended space for Southern women
contrasts markedly with Edna Earl's position. Despite her own
intelligence, Edna rejects female suffrage, ascribing such an
idea to radical Northern women:
I think, sir, that the noble and the true women of this
continent earnestly believe that the day which invests
them with the elective franchise would be the blackest in
the annals of humanity, would ring the death-knell of
modern civilization, of national prosperity, social
morality, and domestic happiness! and would consign the
race to a night of degradation and horror infinitely more
appalling than a return to primeval barbarism. Then
every exciting political canvass would witness the
revolting deeds of the furies who assisted in storming
the Tuileries; and repetitions of scenes enacted during
the French Revolution, which mournfully attest how
terrible indeed are female natures when once perverted.
God, the Maker, tenderly anchored womanhood in the
peaceful, blessed haven of home; and if man is ever
insane enough to mar the divine economy, by setting women
afloat on the turbulent, roaring sea of politics, they
will speedily become pitiable wrecks. (301)

137
In fact, Beulah finds Clara Sanders's assertion that women are
like "pet plants" laughable, so Edna's contention that men
should not "mar the divine economy" by giving women political
freedom seems, at least from Beulah's perspective, equally
laughable. Edna marks "the noble and true women" as those who
reject additional freedoms as threatening (as she herself
does). Once again, Beulah is permitted more latitude in terms
of rethinking the traditional space of women.
For Edna, "God, the Maker" provides the organizing
principle for not just "tender womanhood" but also for society
in general. Beulah's investigations into metaphysical thought
incline her toward atheism, an attitude which Hartwell and his
surrogates fight against. Declaiming against Beulah's
intellectual pride, Hartwell tells his ward, "it will take
long years of trial and suffering to tame you" (204) . Later,
as Beulah tries to prove her maturity, Hartwell again warns
her against a reliance on intellect:
Yes, my little Beulah, and your woman's heart will
not be satisfied long with these dim abstractions, which
now you chase so eagerly. Mark me, there surely comes a
time when you will loathe the bare name of metaphysics.
You are making a very hot-bed of your intellect, while
your heart is daily becoming a dreary desert. Take care,
lest the starvation be so complete, that eventually you
will be unable to reclaim it. Dialectics answer very
well in collegiate halls, but will not content you.
(265)
Even in his language, Hartwell attempts to minimize and subdue
Beulah. Referring to her as "little Beulah" (after she had
proclaimed her womanhood) , Hartwell positions himself as God¬
like with his diction ("Mark me"). In fact, he repeats this

138
invocation with his final words to Beulah on the subject:
"Very well; mark me though, your intellectual pride will yet
wreck your happiness" (265). Given his own atheism, Hartwell
is hardly trying to bring Beulah back to Christianity.
However, he is trying to revive her respect for patriarchal
authority, positing himself as the deity she needs to submit
to.
Hartwell's surrogates likewise attempt to show Beulah the
error of her ways. Dr. Asbury, for instance, holds up his
wife, a God-fearing Christian woman, as a model to thwart
modern conceptions of womanhood:
Why, from my boyhood, Saturday has been synonymous with
scouring, window-washing, pastry-baking, stocking¬
darning, and numerous other venerable customs, which this
age is rapidly dispensing with. My wife had a lingering
reverence for the duties of the day, and tried to excuse
herself, but I suppose those pretty wax dolls of mine
have coaxed her into "receiving," as they call it.
Beulah, my wife is an exception, but the mass of married
women nowaday, instead of being thorough housewives (as
nature intended they should), are delicate, do-nothing,
know-nothing, fine ladies. They have no duties. (243)
What women do not know, for Dr. Asbury, is their duty, their
place. Mrs. Asbury, the "exception," knows what her Saturday
duty is and, in fact, what her appropriate sphere is, despite
having been coaxed out of it by her daughters (whom Dr. Asbury
tellingly refers to as "those pretty wax dolls of mine"). The
message Beulah receives from these quarters is clear—
intellectual pride, an unwillingness to submit to "duty,"
disrupts not only patriarchal authority but also the society
contingent on it.

139
Not surprisingly, after Mrs. Williams's death, Beulah,
who has mysteriously accepted God again, comes to town to live
with the Asburys. Only a short while later, Hartwell returns
from his exile and claims Beulah, a claim she this time
submits to. Various readers of Beulah have been perplexed by
Beulah's sudden conversion back to faith. For instance, poet
Henry Timrod, in a letter to Evans's friend Rachel Lyons,
remarked, "Beulah's transition from scepticism to Faith is
left almost unaccounted for. How much X should like to have
my own doubts settled in the same satisfactory, yet most
inexplicable manner!" (quoted in A. Jones, 68). Responding to
these criticisms in a letter to Lyons dated October 17, 1859,
Evans tried to fill in the gaps:
Beulah constituted her Reason the sole criterion of
truth, but found on all sides insolvable mysteries—found
that unaided by that Revelation which her reason had
ignored that she was utterly incapable of ever arriving
at any belief. She found that erudition and tireless
research availed nothing; that without Divine aid, Man as
Man was too finite to cope with the secrets of the
Universe, to solve the great questions of God! Eternity!
Destiny! and discarding the belief that Reason alone
could discover the truth, she rested her spent soul in
the Ark of Faith! whereby she was enabled to receive the
sublime teachings of Inspiration. (quoted in Fidler, 64-
5)
In basically recapitulating Hartwell's argument against
"intellectual pride," Evans shows where her sympathies lay.
Only in recognizing the ultimate puniness of her own intellect
can Beulah accept her appropriate position in Southern life.

140
The patriarchal repositioning of Beulah is complete when
Hartwell returns and demands that she declare her ultimate
loyalty:
"Beulah Benton, do you belong to the tyrant
Ambition, or do you belong to that tyrant, Guy Hartwell?
Quick, child, decide."
"I have decided," said she. Her cheeks burned; her
lashes drooped.
"Well!"
"Well, if I am to have a tyrant, I believe I prefer
to belonging to you?" (411)
Beulah does not seem to question the rightfulness of having to
accept a "tyrant" (though the question mark closing her last
sentence adds some measure of ambiguity). She submits, and as
G. M. Goshgarian notes, Hartwell, far from "compromising," as
Nina Baym claims, has what he has wanted all along:
First, Beulah must signify that she has taken to heart
Hartwell's prescient warning to keep her hands off his
godless books. In effect, she has to affirm that she
accepts her appointment as God's agent of MORALITY, and
will now try to convert rather than emulate the "avowed
infidel" Hartwell redux still is. . . .
The other thing she must do is sit down, which is
what Hartwell wanted her to do in the first place.
(Goshgarian 130)
In both instances, Beulah accepts a subservient positioning.
The final scene in the novel reflects Beulah's "sitting down":
She had laid her Bible on his knee; her folded hands
rested upon it, and her gray eyes, clear and earnest,
looked up reverently into her husband's noble face.
(420)
Beulah's looking up with reverence at Hartwell at the end
of the novel only replicates her relationship to her
guardian's portrait. Receiving the portrait from the Asburys

141
after Hartwell leaves for the Far East, Beulah symbolically
positions it in her room:
She hung the portrait on a hook just above her desk, and
then stood, with streaming eyes, looking up at it. It
had been painted a few weeks after his marriage, and
represented him in the full morning of manhood, ere his
heart was embittered and his clear brow overshadowed.
The artist had suffered a ray of sunshine to fall on the
brown hair that rippled round his white temples with
careless grace. There was no moustache to shade the
sculptured lips, and they seemed about to part in one of
those rare, fascinating smiles which Beulah had often
watched for in vain. The matchless eyes looked down at
her with brooding tenderness in their hazel depths, and
now seemed to question her uncontrollable grief. (340)
In positioning this portrait, Beulah really positions herself
as well. She puts herself under the constant gaze of her
guardian. She, in fact, enshrines Hartwell as her God just as
the artist, with his "ray of sunshine," had positioned
Hartwell as God-like. Thus, when the "real" Hartwell returns,
Beulah can more easily assume her practiced position.
Yet despite Beulah's final submission, her fate differs
in large detail from Edna Earl's. Beulah gets a pedagogical
function; that is, she is charged with restoring Hartwell's
religious faith and, hence, restoring the Hartwell of the
portrait—the man whose heart was not "embittered" and whose
brow was not "overshadowed." Though Beulah ends before any
clear indication of the effect of her teaching can be seen,
the novel seems to end on a positive note: "His soft hand
wandered over her head, and he seemed pondering her words"
(420). While Beulah's work is clearly in the service of the
patriarchy, her intellectual capacity is not totally stymied.15

142
In the later novel, St. Elmo Murray, unlike Hartwell,
needs no spiritual instruction. He himself has become an
ordained minister and, in fact, he "saves" Edna, rather than
vice versa. But St. Elmo has another goal in mind as well.
Early in the novel, Edna castigated him for being godless.
Now, at the end of the novel, St. Elmo looks to exact
"revenge":
"Ah my darling! do you recollect also that I told you
then that the time would come when your dear lips would
ask pardon for what they uttered that night, and that
when that hour arrived I would take my revenge? My wife!
my pure, noble, beautiful wife! give me my revenge, for
I cry with the long-banished Roman:
Oh! a kiss—long as my exile,
Sweet as my revenge!
He put his hand under her chin, drew the lips to
his, and kissed them repeatedly. (437)
Though St. Elmo's "revenge" is clearly comical, this diction
reveals Edna's role at the end of the novel. She must embody
total submission. Unlike Beulah, Edna has been physically
decimated by her intellectual exertions. With St. Elmo fully
redeeming himself and returning to Le Bocage literally a new
man, Edna can serve no other purpose than further bolstering
St. Elmo's manhood.
Ultimately the distinction between the respective fates
of Beulah Benton and Edna Earl might seem simply a matter of
semantics. Clearly Evans, neither before the war nor
certainly after it, could sustain a femal character outside
the control of the patriarchy for long. But the devastation
of the Civil War and Evans's continued commitment to Southern

143
nationalism cemented and, in fact, heightened Evans's espousal
of patriarchal order. Having submitted her own artistic
desires to the greater good of the Southern nation, Evans
makes Edna Earl the symbol and the site of ultimate
subjection. By making Edna the "spirit" that Robert L. Dabney
and others wanted Southern women to be, Evans perceived
herself to be doing her patriotic duty.
NOTES
1 Julia Kristeva asks a provocative question, generated
from her reading of the work of Hannah Arendt, that fits this
context: "what happens to people without nations, without
territories—Russians, Poles, Jews? Are they human beings if
they are not citizens?" (26). The same kind of question could
be posed regarding the United States's immigration policy for
Haitians and Cubans. Whereas Kristeva wants to break down
national barriers and "recognize ourselves as strange in order
better to appreciate the foreigners outside us instead of
striving to bend them to the norms of our own repression"(29),
Evans very much wants to maintain the idea of the Confederate
nation in order to enforce the difference between North and
South that she feels so strongly. See Kristeva, Nations
Without Nationalism, trans. Leon S. Roudiez (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1993), pp. 1-47.
2Benedict Anderson has suggested that "nation" is by
definition a fictional construct, an "imagined community" that
a group of people accede to. Anderson suggests, "[The nation]
is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation
will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or
even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of
their communion" (6). Because I proceed on the idea that a
nation is a construct and that the idea of nation can be
harbored even when it has no sovereign basis (no centralized
government, for example, churning out laws, bureaucratic
paperwork, and other texts confirming the nation's "life"), I
use a term like "post-Civil War Confederacy" which may seem
illogical and/or unsustainable. Evans's list of Northern
faults is designed to underscore the need for a Southern
nation, as she can imagine no "communion" with the people of
the North. See Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso,
1991), pp. 1-8.
3Elizabeth Moss details Evans's various trips to the
warfront (some of which were unauthorized) in Domestic

144
Novelists in the Old South. In late June 1861, for example,
Evans was present at Norfolk, Virginia, when Union troops
fired on Fortress Monroe:
Mesmerized, Evans stood her ground until the officers
almost forcibly removed her from the line of fire; even
so she continued to exult in her near brush with death.
"I longed for a secession flag to shake defiantly in
their teeth at every fire: and my fingers fairly itched
to touch off a red hot ball in answer to their chivalric
civilities," the self-styled paragon of southern
femininity boasted to [friend Rachel] Lyons. (176)
Evans clearly exulted in combat—perhaps, as Moss hints, even
got an erotic thrill from it. See Moss, pp. 175-184, for a
more comprehensive overview of Evans's travels and
observations during the war.
4Anne Firor Scott contends that "Defeat and postwar
conditions in the South undermined the patriarchy. Slavery,
which had provided the original need for the idea, was gone,
and many men came home to face conditions which proved
unmanageable" (96-7). Various historians, prominent among
them Suzanne Lebsock, George Rabie, and Gaines Foster, dispute
the idea that the war disrupted patriarchal practices that
much. Foster summarizes his contentions (and those of other
historians) neatly in the following passage:
Women felt concern and compassion for their loved ones
and wanted to comfort, not confront, them in their
anguish. A deep fear of the free black male encouraged
white females to turn to their men for protection and
thereby hindered any feminine revolt. The destruction
and despair of defeat also discouraged the development of
a women's movement, for females had to join with mates to
solve more basic problems of survival. (31)
My own view tends to be more in line with Foster's, though he
rightfully admits that the war did make many women aware of
the social limitations of their world. After the war some
were not content to return to antebellum standards. I contend
that women were made to believe their patriotic duty was to
submit, in order to keep the idea of the Confederate nation
alive. Augusta Jane Evans was instrumental in creating such
a belief. See Scott, The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to
Politics 1830-1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1970), pp. 80-102. See also Suzanne Lebsock, "Radical
Reconstruction and the Property Rights of Southern Women,"
Journal of Southern History. 43 (May 1977): 195-216; Rabie,
Civil Wars: Women and the Crisis of Southern Nationalism
(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989), pp. 226-7;
Foster, Ghosts of the Confederacy, pp. 26-33.

145
5It is hard to say how many men suffered from
psychological disorders caused by the war. It is safe to
assume that a good number of men on both sides suffered from
some form of shell shock, and interesting in this context is
the work of several scholars on the effects of World War I on
the soldiers who fought in it. Elaine Showalter points out
that shell shock took different forms depending on the class
and rank of the man, but she does note that "Sexual impotence
was widespread in all ranks" (62). She concurs with Sandra
Gilbert's observations about how male protagonists in
modernist literature all seem "unmanned":
From Lawrence's paralyzed Clifford Chatterley to
Hemingway's sadly emasculated Jake Barnes to Eliot's
mysteriously sterile Fisher King, the gloomily bruised
modernist antiheroes churned out by the war suffer
specifically from sexual wounds, as if, having traveled
literally or figuratively through No Man's Land, all have
become not just No Men, nobodies, but not men, unmen.
The twentieth century Everyman, the faceless cipher,
their authors seem to suggest, is not just publicly
powerless, he is privately impotent. (Gilbert 198)
Though not as technologically sophisticated, the Civil War
proved to be a No Man's Land for many, the ultimate result for
Confederate men being a true No Man's Land: their nation
literally became defunct. Adding to a sense of Southern male
"impotence" was the fact that all loyal Confederates were
disenfranchised by Radical Reconstruction. Also, slavery,
which had affirmed a sense of mastery for so many white men,
was destroyed. Ultimately only women remained as a site at
which men could reestabish dominance, but that dominance could
only occur if women chose to ignore male "lack" and submitted
to patriarhcal authority on their own. This, I will argue, is
exactly the scenario that Augusta Jane Evans enacts in St.
Elmo. See Elaine Showalter, "Rivers and Sassoon: The
Inscription of Male Gender Anxieties," and Sandra M. Gilbert,
"Soldier's Heart: Literary Men, Literary Women, and the Great
War," both in Behind the Lines: Gender and the Two World Wars,
eds. Margaret Randolph Higonnet, Jane Jenson, Sonya Michel,
and Margaret Collins Weitz (New Haven: Yale University Press,
1987), pp. 61-69 and 197-226, respectively.
6Historian Martha Hodes has uncovered suppressed evidence
of numerous sexual relationships between white women and black
men during slave times. Quoting extensively from testimony
given to the American Freedmen's Inquiry Commission, which was
set up in 1863 to determine ways of incorporating soon-to-be
emancipated slaves into American society, Hodes notes that
several men testified to knowledge of such liaisons, almost
always initiated by the white women. One witness, James
Redpath, testified that, in talking with various black men in

146
the South, "I have often heard them talking and laughing about
the numerous cases that have occurred in which white women
have had colored children" (233). Major George Stearnes
testified to a similar set of observations:
I have often been amused that the planters here in
Tennessee have sometimes to watch their daughters to keep
them from intercourse with the negroes. This, though of
course exceptional, is yet common enough to be a source
of uneasiness to parents. (233)
Hodes points out that these portions of the testimony were
excised when the final report was delivered to the War
Department. "Ultimately, it was the conflation of politics
and sex in the minds of white southerners that would generate
so much of the Reconstruction-era violence in the South,"
Hodes asserts (240), and this conflation gets demonstrated in
the South Carolina minister's fear of miscegenation resulting
from emancipation. See Hodes, "Wartime Dialogues on Illicit
Sex: White Women and Black Men," in Divided Houses: Gender and
the civil War, eds. Catherine Clinton and Nina Silber (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 230-242.
7Kaja Silverman suggests that the female body becomes the
site in psychoanalysis at which male lack is displaced. She
writes:
Freud's insistence that the little girl experiences
a direct and immediate apprehension of what the little
boy is obliged to confront only indirectly and at a later
date is extremely telling. So is his stress upon the
defensive mechanisms—disavowal and fetishism—whereby
the male subject can further protect himself from the
knowledge of loss. Perhaps most revealing of all,
though, is the malice Freud himself exhibits toward the
female subject in the course of his essay on anatomical
difference—the "triumphant contempt" he encourages the
male subject to entertain for the "mutilated creature"
who is his sexual other. This set of emotions attests to
nothing so much as a successfully engineered projection,
to the externalizing displacement onto the female subject
of what the male subject cannot tolerate in himself:
castration or lack. (16)
Silverman's analysis is relevant here, though I would add the
corollary that because Southern men's "lack" was so public,
simply displacing it onto women was impossible. Instead,
Dabney and others recognized that only by subduing the bodies
of women, eliminating the possibility of that lack being
constantly reiterated, could Southern men regain any potency
in the political realm. Significantly, in his speech Dabney
refers to women as "spirits," already imparting to them a

147
quality of disembodiment. See Silverman, The Acoustic Mirror.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.
sGerda Lerner underscores the way in which the concepts
of "honor" and "autonomy" go hand-in-hand in patriarchal
society:
The very concept of honor, for men, embodies
autonomy, the power to dispose of oneself and decide for
oneself, and the right to have that autonomy recognized
by others. But women, under patriarchal rule, do not
dispose of themselves and decide for themselves. Their
bodies and their sexual services are at the disposal of
their kin group, their husbands, their fathers. (80)
In ceding priority for writing history to a man, Evans affirms
Lerner's basic contention. Evans has no autonomy as a writer;
she operates under the authority of the state and men (like
Stephens) who embody that state. See Lerner, The Creation of
Patriarchy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 76-
100.
9Nina Baym suggests that Evans tends to create characters
who are uneasy with pleasure:
Evans takes a profoundly ambivalent stance toward
pleasure and self-sacrifice; she distrusts the easy and
soft so thoroughly that she creates characters who are
acutely uncomfortable with pleasure. Pleasure is not
pleasurable to them; they are at ease in the strenuous,
martial atmosphere of deprivation and combat. (280)
While I disagree that Evans is at all ambivalent toward self-
sacrifice, Baym makes an important point about Evans's
displeasure with pleasure. Pleasure would incline these
characters to be more inwardly focused, thus limiting their
political value as committed to the cause of the Confederate
nation. Further, pleasure would potentially signify at the
body, and Evans was particularly concerned about writing the
female body out of her text. Thus, when Baym notes that
Evans's characters "are at ease in the strenuous, martial
atmosphere of deprivation and combat," she actually draws
attention to the way that Evans revises the conventions of
"woman's fiction" to meet the needs of her region. See Baym,
Woman's Fiction: A Guide to Novels By and About Women in
America. 1820-1870 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press,
1993), pp. 276-299.
10I use the word "materialize" advisedly, though I base
my thinking loosely on the ideas of Elaine Scarry. In her
introduction to the anthology Literature and the Body. Scarry
suggests, "The human voice, the written word, continually

148
regulate the appearance and disappearance of the human body"
(ix). This capacity of writing is one that Evans consistently
exploits, and in making Edna's body "appear" only to victimize
it, Evans sadistically enacts the patriarchal imperative of
creating a non-threatening female presence. See Literature
and the Body, ed. Elaine Scarry (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1988) , pp. vii-xxvii.
uSee Montrose J. Moses, The Literature of the South. New
York: Thomas Y. Crowell & Company, 1910, pp. 335-6 and Jay B.
Hubbell, The South in American Literature 1607-1900 (Durham:
Duke University Press, 1954), pp. 610-616 for representative
views on the similarities as well as general thoughts about
St. Elmo itself.
12I purposely appropriate the title of Judith Butler's
book to suggest that the same technologies of power that
dictate what bodies matter also determine the contours of
nation. Relying heavily on Foucault, Butler asserts,
if power orchestrates the formation and sustenance of
subjects, then it cannot be accounted for in terms of the
"subject" which is its effect. And here it would be no
more right to claim that the term "construction" belongs
at the grammatical site of subject, for construction is
neither a subject nor its act, but a process of
reiteration by which both "subjects" and "acts" come to
appear at all. There is no power that acts, but only a
reiterated acting that is power in its persistence and
instability. (9)
I take Butler to say that "subjects" don't create
"constructions" (or reconstructions?); rather, the
construction (say, a nation or a novel) is the "process of
reiteration" that embodies power and at the same time throws
into relief "subjects" (like bodies, genders, "sex," etc.).
Thus, Edna's ultimate fate is circumscribed by more than
simply the title of the novel; the iteration and reiteration
that is power does not allow for a space whereby the female
body can be seen as a body that matters, particularly in terms
of the construction of nation. See Butler, Bodies That Matter
(New York: Routledge, 1993), pp. 1-55.
13Nina Baym suggests that the conclusion of Beulah shows
the new flexibility of both Beulah and Hartwell:
Hartwell's return finds each of them finally ready for
the other. For both of them marriage will be a
compromise, as it must be; but Hartwell is prepared to
compromise at last, and Beulah no longer equates
compromise with defeat. (286)

149
At the other end of the critical spectrum, G. M. Goshgarian
sees Baym's reading as wishful thinking: "Baym forces Beulah
to be limit-breaking; Evans, no less, forces it to be limit-
enforcing" (132). Anne Goodwyn Jones agrees with Goshgarian's
observations, arguing that Evans's conclusion is befuddling
unless it is seen as an effort to fit Beulah into an approved
standard of the Southern community:
The end does not just turn the tables; it turns back the
forward motion of the novel, denying the implications of
the previous 430 pages rather than fulfilling them. For
in Beulah. Evans had articulated an early version of the
southern woman's vision of the self and the world. The
force of narrative is centrifugal. It presents polar
opposites, then draws in, centers, unifies. (57)
My own view of the conclusion of Beulah is more in line with
Goshgarian's and Jones's, yet again, Beulah's final
positioning seems relatively mild (despite its dramatic denial
of her autonomous self) when compared to that of Edna Earl.
See Baym, pp. 282-286, G. M. Goshgarian, To Kiss the
chastening Rod (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992), pp.
121-155, and Jones, pp. 55-91.
14The incestuous overtones of the Beulah/Hartwell
relationship have not gone unnoticed by critics. In an
extended discussion of this aspect of the novel, G. M.
Goshgarian suggests that this theme of incest must be present
to give Belli ah its energy and, at the same time, that theme
must be contained in order to retain the novel's
respectability:
Beulah cannot exclude its middle (where incest manifests
itself as a possibility) because it cannot exclude
Beulah's: the pulsation that contaminates woman's—and
woman's fiction's—purity is also the textual energy
driving fiction toward truth. That is why the novel must
contain the womanly desire that motivates its incestuous
deference to the Word; but that is also why it must
contain it. Beulah needs all of Beulah to entice Beulah
(back) to Beulah. (155)
Goshgarian argues that Evans creates a narrative that seeks to
indulge in the prurient in order to point to the falsity of
that narrative and the appropriateness of the "true" Word—
Scripture: "Disavowing this work [of writing], Beulah
advertises Beulah1s aspiration to replace the fictitious with
the true, to reduce original and therefore errant scribbling
to Scripture" (154) . In other words, Beulah must give up her
writing career and commit herself to God/Hartwell so that the
"fictitious" (in this case, the incestual) can be cleansed and
replaced by the "truth." Goshgarian thus reads Evans's

150
conclusion as a logical disavowal of the fiction(s) that might
disrupt and overturn "truth"—whether that "truth" gets
registered as Scripture or as that set of constructs endorsed
by and required for Southern community.
150n this point I differ somewhat with Anne Goodwyn Jones.
She asserts, "No longer will Beulah teach or write; instead
she will do 'holy' work, fulfilling a responsibility to others
that came with submission, the submission to Christ. Finally,
no longer is her work of the intellect. It is a work of love,
of the heart—of, in fact, the 'woman's heart'" (56). While
I agree that Beulah is doing the work of the patriarchy, to
characterize that work as not "of the intellect" seems
somewhat harsh. Hartwell, in fact, finds Beulah's discussion
of religion interesting (and perhaps credible) because of her
intellectual rigor. Thus, while Beulah might be using her
intellect for a cause that ultimately undercuts the value of
that intellect, she is using it nonetheless.

CHAPTER 4
THE GEOGRAPHY OF SOUTHERN NATIONALISM
The Supreme Court's rejection of the Civil Rights Act of
1875 as unconstitutional on October 15, 1883, removed the
final post-war federal intrusion into the South. While
Northern newspapers and periodicals greeted the decision with
relative silence, the Southern press reacted favorably. Part
of the Atlanta Constitution's headline in its October 16
coverage of the story proclaimed, "A Radical Relic Rubbed
Out." The New Orleans Picayune commented that "The opinion is
marked by a just respect for State and individual rights, and
between the lines one may read a conviction that the folly of
party zealots cannot set aside the immutable laws of nature
and entirely abolish the distinctions of race." The logic of
the Court's 8-1 decision did indeed revolve around the
question of states' rights. For the majority (only John
Harlan, a former slave owner, dissented), the limiting powers
of the Tenth Amendment made the issue of civil rights a local
matter.
This preference for the "local" also manifested itself in
the production of literature. To be sure, "local color"
writing did not get invented because of the Civil Rights
decision, nor was all local color writing Southern. But the
amount of post-civil War Southern local color writing
151

152
accelerated after the Civil Rights decision, as the most
prominent practitioners of the genre had their most productive
years during the last decade and a half of the 19th century.1
C. Vann Woodward sees this boom as resulting from the
"prospecting" of Northern magazine editors:
With a zeal approaching that of the speculators who
were combing the Piedmont for mining stakes, the literary
prospectors began a veritable gold rush to the unexpected
corners of that region—and much they unearthed that
glittered. Scratch the surface, they believed, and one
would find "local color," picturesqueness, quaintness.
Provided with the divining rod of current literary
fashion, they could not have wished for richer deposits
of the material they sought. (Woodward 166)
Woodward's extended metaphor conflating local color writing
and resources culled from the land emphasizes his sense of a
cultural exploitation of the South commensurate with the
economic and political exploitation of the Reconstruction
period. Unquestionably some local color writers looked to
cash in on Southernness as a resource that had seemingly been
devalued by the result of the war.
Yet, some local color writers managed to turn a
potentially exploitative situation into a venue for the
reclaiming of Southern national identity. They did this by
utilizing depictions of the landscape to present a politics of
resistance to Northern "imperialistic" incursions. In the
introduction to his anthology Landscape and Power. W. J. T.
Mitchell argues that landscape, as depicted in various art
forms—painting, literature, photography—must be conceived of
as a "medium"; that is, landscape "is a material 'means' (to

153
borrow Aristotle's terminology) like language or paint,
embedded in a tradition of cultural signification and
communication, a body of symbolic forms capable of being
invoked and reshaped to express meanings and values" (Mitchell
14). Simply put, landscapes offer a system of signification
that can be put to use by an artist "to express meanings and
values." Three local colorists of note—Kate Chopin, Thomas
Nelson Page, and George Washington Cable—use landscape to
emphasize and empower the local and to offer to their
respective audiences an argument in favor of the Confederate
nation. Whereas Woodward perceived local color writing to be
an instance of exploitation, Chopin, Page, and Cable make it
an opportunity of Southern nationalism, a counter-discourse to
challenge the various forms of "knowledge" in circulation
about the South. Thus, "local color" becomes more than a
simple designation; Chopin, Page, and Cable utilize the basic
tenets of the genre to produce strategies of decolonization
that confirms the South in possession of its lands and offers
a picture of how the authority returned to local jurisdictions
by the Supreme Court would be deployed.
Like the Civil Rights decision of 1883 (as well as Plessy
v. Ferguson in 1896), local color writing as practiced by
Chopin, Page, and Cable worked to subdue and politically
disarm people of color. In the terminology of Raymond
Williams, these writers make blacks a landscape, denying them
specific individualized consciousness. Williams takes the

154
"country people" of George Eliot's major novels as a singular
example of such a "landscape," noting that such characters
become mere concepts, not individualized characters:
When Adam and Dinah and Hetty talk in what is supposed to
be personal crisis—or later, in a more glaring case,
when Felix Holt talks—we are shifted to the level of
generalised attitudes or of declamation. Another way of
putting this would be to say that though George Eliot
restores the real inhabitants of rural England to their
places in what had been a socially selective landscape,
she does not get much further than restoring them as a
1 andscape. (Williams 168, author's emphasis)
Williams contends that this "landscape" acts as a venue for
Eliot to offer a conservative politics undercutting calls for
radical political change.
For Williams, such a strategy of representation works to
create what he calls "knowable communities." These fictional
communities simultaneously create and cite an imaginary or
selectively culled past, seemingly offering a model of action
that trumps modern progressive efforts at change:
The "modern world," both in its suffering and, crucially,
in its protest against suffering, is mediated by
reference to a lost condition which is better than both
and which can place both: a condition imagined out of a
landscape and a selective observation and memory.
(Williams 180)
The knowable community represents what people wish to know as
opposed to what could be or is known. It relies on a
landscape peopled with, indeed, constructed with the bodies of
ciphers—a landscape that those who wish to celebrate the past
and install it as normative of national life construct as they
"discover."

155
Such landscapes populate the texts of Southern local
colorists. The bodies put to the task of creating these
landscapes are by and large black ones. To help merge blacks
into their invented landscapes, local colorists reinvigorated
the stock character of the lovable loyal "darky." These
characters had no personal or political consciousness;
instead, they appear and recede as needed, underscoring the
goodness of their "masters" and hearkening back to the
antebellum days when blacks were docile, loved members of the
family.3 The knowable community made manifest in local color
writing posited an alternative nationhood that
America could accept and embrace—the Confederacy, the nation
that was the ultimate expression of white supremacy.
Yet the landscapes depicted in the works of Chopin, Page,
and Cable did not concern themselves exclusively or even
primarily with questions of racial placement. Rather, each
writer depicts a landscape that maps out an alternative South
and, in the process, confirms the South's repossession of
itself. Local color writing enacted a kind of reclamation
project, an effort to produce a landscape that imaginatively
regenerated that Southern nationhood which had been denied in
war. In an extended discussion of how William Butler Yeats
created such imaginative landscapes in his poetry as an effort
to resist the totalizing impact of British imperialism on
Irish culture, Edward Said notes the geographical component in
such a project of reclamation:

156
Now if there is anything that radically distinguishes the
imagination of anti-imperialism it is the primacy of the
geographical in it. Imperialism after all is an act of
geographical violence through which virtually every space
in the world is explored, charted, and finally brought
under control. For the native, the history of his or her
colonial servitude is inaugurated by the loss to an
outsider of the local place, whose concrete geographical
identity must thereafter be searched for and somehow
restored. From what? Not just from foreigners, but also
from a whole other agenda whose purpose and processes are
controlled elsewhere. (Said, "Yeats and Decolonization,"
77)
While it is true that the North never subjected the South
to "colonial servitude," defeat in the Civil War and the
consequent political and economic intrusion into the South,
largely controlled and encouraged by Northerners, threatened
"the loss to an outsider of the local place." As C. Vann
Woodward notes, the cult of the Lost Cause sprang up as a kind
of counter-argument to visions of Northern-like
industrialization taking place in the South:
[A]long with the glittering vision of a "metropolitan"
and industrial South to come there developed a cult of
archaism, a nostalgic vision of the past. One of the
most significant inventions of the New South was the "Old
South"—a new idea in the eighties, and a legend of
incalculable potentialities. (154-5)
The "Old South" thus becomes a way to resist the "outsider,"
and the local color writing of Chopin, Page, and Cable seeks
to restore a geography of the "Old South" which further
resists Northern imperialism. By returning control of the
production of geography to "local" hands, Chopin, Page, and
Cable tried to marginalize those agendas "controlled
elsewhere" which seemingly desired only the exploitation of
the South and its material resources.

157
With their counter-mapping projects, Chopin, Page, and
Cable could invent the geography necessary for the reiteration
of the Southern nation. That such a geography was imaginative
did not matter given the fact that the nation itself (like all
nations) was imagined. Each text, in fact, is a Southern
version of the history of Reconstruction, with an emphasis on
the ways in which defeat and degradation only made the idea of
a Southern nation stronger. The cartographic project engaged
in by each of these writers works to create a distinctly
Southern terrain, one unsullied by Northern intrusions and
mapping projects. The imaginative geography of Chopin, Page,
and Cable circulates a "knowledge" about the South that
counters Northern-generated histories, beginning with Stowe's
Uncle Tom's Cabin.-1
In late 1888 novelist and civil rights activist Albion
W. Tourgee, in an essay entitled "The South as a Field for
Fiction," surveyed the state of American literature and
arrived at a curious conclusion: "Our literature has become
not only Southern in type, but distinctly Confederate in
sympathy" (405). Tourgee hypothesized that defeat in war had
created "a swift ensuing excitation of the mental faculties"
of Southern writers who were determined to alleviate as much
as possible the humiliation of defeat (407). Though each of
the novels considered here—Chopin's At Fault (1890), Page's
Red Rock (1898), and Cable's John March. Southerner (1894)—
appeared after Tourgee's essay, each verifies his

158
observations. In fact, each novel exhibits not only an effort
to revise the historical perception of the Confederacy but
also a sustained argument questioning its actual defeat.
Tourgee's intuition that the South was "a field for fiction"
identifies the significance of the geographical in local color
writing. But in large measure, fiction became the "field" for
landscapes that narrated a politics of Southern nationalism,
a politics that increasing found a home outside the South as
well.
The Terrain of Race: Kate Chopin's "At Fault"
In his critical biography of Kate Chopin, Per Seyersted
suggests that Chopin's work should not be characterized as
mere "local color." "She was not interested in a dying
civilization, and she had no wish to rescue the past,"
Seyersted asserts (80). Yet Chopin's first novel, At Fault,
published at her own expense in 1890, seems to belie
Seyersted's claim. At Fault engages the conflict between the
antebellum Southern past and the Northern industrial
capitalist future. That conflict specifically manifests
itself in the depictions of the landscape, particularly at
Place-Du-Bois, Therese LaFirme's plantation. Also, the
landscape plays an active role in the organization of racial
relations in the novel. Chopin constructs that landscape to
reflect a commitment to white supremacy. Blacks are dominated
by, in fact literally swept away by, the landscape, in effect

159
naturalizing their status as "other." Though At Fault appears
ahistorical, Kate Chopin maps out a geography sympathetic to
the idea of the Confederate nation.
The first chapter of At Fault provides a specific
geographical placement of the action of the novel. Though a
few scenes take place in St. Louis, most occur on and around
Place-Du-Bois. The plantation itself is isolated, located
inside a kind of natural fortification:
The short length of this Louisiana plantation
stretched along Cane River, meeting the water when that
stream was at its highest, with a thick growth of cotton¬
wood trees; save where a narrow convenient opening had
been cut into their midst, and where further down the
pine hills started in abrupt prominence from the water
and the dead level of land on either side of them. These
hills extended in a long line of gradual descent far back
to the wooded borders of Lac du Bois; and within the
circuit which they formed on one side, and the irregular
half circle of a sluggish bayou on the other, lay the
cultivated open ground of the plantation—rich in its
exhaustless powers of reproduction. (741-2)
The landscape reflects a specific, conservative social order
in the South. The plantation is geographically located ("this
Louisiana plantation stretched along the Cane River"). The
landscape itself is undeveloped, "sluggish." It has been
nearly untouched by the outside world. The plantation
represents the area of "cultivation," both in terms of its
specifically organized use of the landscape and its
development in comparison to the rest of the landscape.
Chopin presents a hierarchical geography in which the
plantation gets restored as the primary unit of social

160
organization in the South. The rest of the landscape acts as
a buffer against outside intrusions.
The mistress of Place-Du-Bois, Therese LaFirme, organizes
readers' perceptions of the landscape through her own gaze.
For example, when she rebuilds her mansion after a railroad
line comes too close to her property, she resists the
possibility of throwing off the past:
In building, she avoided the tempations offered by modern
architectural innovations, and clung to the simplicity of
large rooms and broad verandas: a style whose merits had
stood the test of easy-going and comfort-loving
generations. (742)
The modern represents "temptation," innovations that might
eject Therese from her private Eden. Instead, she embraces
the style that had been embraced by "easy-going and comfort-
loving generations" of the past. Therese takes the
responsibility of her inheritance, which symbolically amounts
to the whole of antebellum idealism, very seriously.
Therese organizes not just her own living space but also
the entire landscape. Her plantation's layout is based on
racial deployment. Immediately after the description of the
new plantation house, the focus shifts to the design of the
rest of the property. It, too, shows a commitment to "easy¬
going and comfort-loving generations" of the past:
The negro quarters were scattered at wide intervals
over the land, breaking with picturesque irregularity
into the systematic division of field from field; and in
the early spring-time gleaming in their new coat of
whitewash against the tender green of the sprouting
cotton and corn. (742)

161
The "scattering" of the negro quarters corresponds to the
effort on the part of white Southerners to diffuse the
potential political power of blacks. The organization of the
landscape at Place-Du-Bois separates blacks from both the
mansion itself and from one another.
Moreover, the "picturesque irregularity," which
represents a potential disruption in the landscape, is
harmonized neatly. The irregularity becomes a basis for "the
systematic division of field from field." The cabins
themselves are pleasant to observe, but the system embodied in
the landscape absorbs the irregularity, rendering it impotent.
This absorption offers a false political pretense—the idea
that difference is tolerated and permitted to exist
independently. The landscape gives the illusion of diversity
while enforcing systemic conformity.
To emphasize even more fully just who is in control, the
cabins have had a fresh coat of whitewash. Whiteness now
coats and subsumes blackness, further eliminating any
articulation of difference. Moreover, the whiteness of the
quarters is set in relief against "the tender green of the
sprouting cotton and corn." This "greenness" is the product
of the plantation, possessed of those "exhaustless powers of
reproduction." Only in direct proximity to this product are
the negro quarters "seen." Blackness, in fact, becomes
another product of the plantation, except that it is a
blackness that has been ideologically "whitewashed.1,5

162
Therese, described as possessing "a warm whiteness,"
frequently frames views of the landscape which include the
presence of blacks. Nearly always, however, these people are
at labor, maintaining the plantation. For example, at the
beginning of the novel, Therese witnesses the following scene:
Looking through the wide open back doors, the picture
which she saw was a section of the perfect lawn that
encircled the house for an acre around, and from which
Hiram was slowly raking the leaves cast from a clump of
tall magnolias. Beneath the spreading shade of an
umbrella-China tree, lay the burly Hector, but half-awake
to the possible nearness of tramps; and Betsy, a piece of
youthful ebony in blue cottonade, was crossing leisurely
on her way to the poultry yard; unheeding the scorching
sun-rays that she thought were sufficiently parried by
the pan of chick feed that she balanced adroitly on her
bushy black head. (743)
Significantly, the plantation mansion acts as a framing device
for Therese's "picture." As Raymond Williams suggests in his
critique of English novelists' depictions of the rural
landscape and its inhabitants, constructing "knowable
communities" requires a specific vantage point: "For what is
knowable is not only a function of objects—of what is there
to be known. It is also a function of subjects, of observers-
-of what is desired and what needs to be known" (Williams
165) . What needs to be known, for the purposes of sustaining
Southern political autonomy, is the idea of a contented black
population being treated fairly and compassionately by whites.
Thus, Hiram rakes "slowly"; Betsy walks "leisurely" to the
poultry yard, "unheeding the scorching sun-rays." Therese's
"picture" shows not hard, demanding labor but laborers working
under nearly ideal conditions.

163
Worth mentioning is the curious ordering of beings in the
picture. Hiram and Betsy are clearly human beings, though
Betsy alone is given some physical description ("a piece of
youthful ebony," "her bushy black head"). But Hector, also
mentioned in the passage, is actually one of Therese's dogs.
Thus, while Hiram and Betsy operate willingly and peacefully
in the service of the landscape, their conflation with Hector
provides a subtle but specific political message—blacks who
work so peacefully understand the necessity of obedience.
Such obedience begins in silence, with no articulation of
dissent.6
Those elements of the landscape not under the direct
control of the plantation represent a threat to white hegemony
and produce a bit of anxiety. Therese perceives the train
station opposite her property as "a brown and ugly intruder
within her fair domain" (742). The station, not having been
whitewashed, is "ugly," not picturesque like the cabins for
the black workers. The station's color speaks of the
difference that had been so vigorously repressed on the
plantation proper.
An even more ominous intruder also ensconces itself in
the landscape of Place-Du-Bois—David Hosmer's sawmill.
Coming from St. Louis, Hosmer sees profit in Therese's
property, and he asks for and receives permission to build his
mill. In granting permission, Therese seems to be opening up
the landscape and, indeed, the whole social system of Place-

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Du-Bois to potentially revolutionary reshaping.7 However,
Hosmer proves an unfit agent of change. He falls in love with
Therese and the land (the two consistently get conflated by
him) , to the point where he literally becomes part of the
scene. The sawmill, far from impeding the ideological
production of the plantation, actually aids in the racial
stratification by destroying the last "wild," uncontrolled
areas of the landscape. Hosmer enters the novel as a
capitalist on the make; his subseguent marriage to Therese
represents a successful co-opting of capitalism in the service
of perpetuating the Southern social structure.0 At Fault
represents an idealized union between North and South which
facilitates the construction of a "knowable community" that
embodies and justifies white supremacy.
With his initial appearance, Hosmer hardly seems a fit
suitor for Therese. He is aloof, "serious," "A man who has
never learned to laugh or who has forgotten how," according to
Therese. Hosmer's coldness can be attributed to many factors-
-his unhappy marriage, the death of his young son. A
geographical explanation also presents itself as plausible.
Having come from a large city, Hosmer is as closed off as the
landscape of St. Louis itself. Whereas Place-Du-Bois offered
uncorrupted access to nature, St. Louis offered only suspended
possibilities:
Where formerly had been the vacant lots "across the
street," the Sunday afternoon elysium of the youthful
base ball fiend from Biddle Street, now stood a row of
brand new pressed-brick "flats." Marvelous must have

165
been the architectural ingenuity which had contrived to
unite so many dwellings into so small a space. Before
each spread a length of closely clipped grass plot, and
every miniature front door wore its fantastic window
furnishing; each set of decorations having seemingly
fired the next with efforts of surpassing elaboration.
(776)
The previously open spaces are now built upon, and the
material used ("pressed-brick") corresponds to the
claustrophobic nature of the neighborhood. Whereas Therese
had rejected "modern architectural innovations" in building
her mansion, "architectural ingenuity" is the culprit in
creating the overcrowded conditions of the city. Hosmer
emerges from a landscape where history had been erased and
personal space had been minimized.
Hosmer's fitting in at Place-Du-Bois would seem to be
undermined by the fact that his sawmill is designed ostensibly
to destroy. However, the mill does not dramatically reshape
the landscape. In fact, it helps to supplement the
ideological function of the plantation, particularly in the
area of race relations, by obliterating potential spaces for
opposition in the landscape. On a visit to the mill, Therese
happily notes that the frantic pace of activity occupies the
workers, including the troublesome Jocint, the half Native-
American, half black son of a long-time plantation worker:
The unending work made her giddy. For no one was there
a moment of rest, and she could well understand the open
revolt of the surly Jocint; for he rode the day long on
that narrow car, back and forth, back and forth, with his
heart in the pine hills and knowing that his little
Creole pony was roaming the woods in vicious idleness and
his rifle gathering an unsightly rust on the cabin wall
at home. (747)

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The mill becomes a kind of prison for Jocint. The
construction of the passage reflects a strategy of containment
as well as a justification for such a strategy. In the mill,
Jocint is confined to a "narrow car," on which he goes " back
and forth, back and forth." Jocint's freedom of movement is
restricted just as the commas and the repetition restrict the
movement of the passage. However, when the focus becomes
where Therese imagines Jocint would like to be, the passage
becomes a run-on, with no punctuation, short of the closing
period, to slow down the flow. Outside of the mill, Jocint
represents the uncontained "blackness" that could potentially
disrupt the reemerging political landscape of the South. He
is "open revolt," and Hosmer's sawmill helps contain that
revolt.
No space in the landscape of Place-Du-Bois is safe or
stable for the blacks living there. Any reshaping of the
landscape carries with it a simultaneous erasure of an
African-American presence. For example, late in the novel,
Hosmer's wife Fanny and Therese's old nursemaid Marie Louise
get swallowed up by the swollen Cane River, which erodes the
land upon which Marie Louise's cabin sits. Hosmer witnesses
the destruction from a barge in the middle of the river:
What [he] saw was the section of land on which stood
Marie Louise's cabin, undermined—broken away from the
main body and gradually gliding into the water. It must
have sunk with a first abrupt wrench, for the brick
chimney was shaken from its foundation, the smoke issuing
in dense clouds from its shattered sides, the house
toppling and the roof caving. (867)

167
The river literally sweeps the cabin and its occupants from
the scene. Significantly, this view of the landscape is seen
not through Therese's eyes but through Hosmer's. What he sees
and what escapes his gaze highlight his adoption of the racial
hierarchy in the landscape.
As Hosmer continues to watch, he sees the drunken Fanny
emerge from the wreckage: "The leaning house was half
submerged when Fanny appeared at the door, like a figure in a
dream; seeming a natural part of the awfulness of it" (867, my
emphasis). Fanny, a wreck of a woman, seems to be meeting a
symbolically appropriate end. Hosmer initially takes no
action: "He only gazed on" (867) . But he is quickly roused to
action and attempts, albeit unsuccessfully, to save Fanny.
Hosmer's actions indicate that Fanny does not "naturally"
merge with the landscape. Her appearance in the wreckage of
the cabin highlights the fact that she deserves a rescue
effort.9
On the other hand, Fanny's companion in the cabin, Marie
Louise, never comes into Hosmer's line of sight. One sentence
ends her presence in the novel: "Of Marie Louise there was no
sign." What makes Marie Louise's non-appearance all the more
questionable is the fact that her initial appearance in At
Fault highlighted her considerable girth. She is described as
"coal black and so enormously fat that she moved with evident
difficulty" (806). Yet she merges "naturally" with the
landscape; Hosmer never sees her, and her body, dead or

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otherwise, never gets recovered. Marie Louise's blackness, in
effect, effaces her bodily presence. A body so much in
evidence literally becomes part of the landscape, swept away
like the land that had supported the cabin. The white body of
Fanny occupies the scene; there is no sign of Marie Louise
because she herself is reduced to only a sign, an unstable
presence whose very existence requires a reader in the proper
political position. Having adopted Therese's view of the
landscape, Hosmer cannot distinguish blackness from the
landscape itself. Marie Louise's existence, like Jocint's and
all of the black characters in the novel, is as tenuous as
that of the land obliterated by "nature."
Despite the convergence of Therese's and Hosmer's
respective views of the landscape and their marriage, a
curious separation of their individual spheres gets enforced
at the end of the novel. Hosmer decides to spend less time at
the sawmill, but he also rejects Therese's suggestion that he
help her run the plantation:
"No, no, Madame Therese," he laughed, "I'll not rob
you of your occupation. I'll put no bungling hand into
your concerns. I know a sound piece of timber when I see
it; but I should hardly be able to tell a sample of Sea
Island cotton from the veriest low middling." (874)
Chopin biographer Peggy Skaggs makes the point that in
being left to run the plantation on her own, Therese retains
a space where she can fully express her autonomy: "And so
Therese finds it possible to satisfy her need for love
without, like the other women in At Fault, sacrificing the

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fulfillment of one of her other needs, those for a place where
she feels that she belongs and for a sense of herself as a
discrete individual in control of her own life" (Skaggs 87).
Yet, while Therese might well run the plantation, far from
being autonomous, she is beholden to the tradition that she
inherited along with the land. She cannot nor does she seem
to desire to make radical changes at Place-Du-Bois, in
deference to those "easy-going and comfort-loving generations"
of the past. Significantly, Hosmer, the industrialist,
imposes the division. Despite his conversion to a
particularly Southern perspective, the union between the two
is not universal. Therese, the "true" Southerner, gets
unhindered control of the area of Southern ideological
production, insuring a faithfulness to the precepts of
Southern nationalism.
In fact, At Fau1t can be seen as a novel about
appropriate and inappropriate unions. Therese feels herself
to be "at fault" for thoughtlessly reuniting Fanny and Hosmer,
a reunion that produces only friction and hatred and, if not
for a dens ex machina, might have meant another disastrous
split. Chopin herself commented on Therese's "fault" in a
response to a review of the book which she considered faulty:
Therese LaFirme, the heroine of the book, is the one who
was at fault—remotely, and immediately. Remotely—in
her blind acceptance of an undistinguishing, therefore
unintelligent code of righteousness by which to deal out
judgments. Immediately—in this, that unknowing of the
individual needs of this man and this woman, she should
yet constitute herself not only a mentor, but an
instrumental in reuniting them. (quoted in Toth, 194)

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The parallels between the Fanny/Hosmer marriage and the
reunion of the North and South after the Civil War are clear.
Forced reunions, based on an "unintelligent code of
righteousness," produce only dismay. The union between
Therese LaFirme and David Hosmer provides a model of non¬
interference that white Southerners, hopeful of reconstituting
the Southern nation, could heartily endorse.
Remapping Dixie: Page and Cable
Therese LaFirme's ownership of Place-Du-Bois underscores
a significant point about the semiotics of landscape—those
who possess the land have the power to make it signify. As
Edward Said points out, ownership itself derives in large
measure from signification:
The main battle in imperialism is over land, of course;
but when it came to who owned the land, who had the right
to settle and work on it, who kept it going, who won it
back, and who plans its future—these issues were
reflected, contested, and even for a time decided in
narrative. (Said, Culture and Imperialism, xii-xiii)
Therese is able to narrate her plantation—including its
racial divisions—and convince David Hosmer to "read" that
narration as authoritative because she owns the land. Thus,
were legitimate title to Place-Du-Bois to be called into
question, Therese's narrative would be as well.
Thomas Nelson Page and George Washington Cable, Kate
Chopin's contemporaries, produce their own novels about land
ownership and the narratives emerging from possession. Page's
Red Rock. published in 1898 (though Page had completed an

171
initial draft of the novel as early as 1885)10 and Cable's John
March. Southerner, published serially in 1894, tell similar
stories of young Southern men who are swindled out of their
respective property, only to recoup their losses and reclaim
possession. In order to tell their stories, both Page and
Cable eschew specific, geographically locatable settings and
instead create "imaginary homelands" that are nevertheless
distinctly Southern. Both authors engage in a kind of mythic
map-making which demonstrates their own possession and, hence,
legitimizes their respective narratives. The ownership
questions that form the basis of the conflict in each novel—a
conflict that has a decidedly North vs. South tone—are
resolved in favor not just of each novel's main hero but also
of the South itself. Page and Cable each create a map of the
South which, despite identifying "new" territory, actually
functions as Graham Huggan suggests all traditional maps
produced in the Western world have functioned: "as a visual
paradigm for the ontological anxiety arising from frustrated
attempts to define a national culture" (Huggan 124) . Put
simply, Page and Cable sketch the imaginary geographical
boundaries of the Southern nation.
In 1892, six years before the publication of Red Rock.
Thomas Nelson Page published an essay entitled "The Want of a
History of the Southern People." In it Page bemoans the fact
that the history of the South, including interpretations of
the Confederacy's motives, was being written almost

172
exclusively by Northerners, people who had no special sympathy
for the South:
It is to this section, heretofore inherently
incapable of comprehending her, that the South has left
the writing of the history of her civilization. It may
appear to be not a matter of importance who writes the
story of this country. Manifestly the South has regarded
it. It is, however, a sad fallacy. ("The Want of a
History," 360)
Page's reference to "this country" is unclear; he could mean
the United States as a whole or simply the South. In any
event Page worried that the South would go down in history as
"the breeder of tyrants, the defender of slavery, the fomentor
of treason" (363).
Page's fears about who would be telling the story of the
South reflect a keen perception about the role of narrative in
the process of cultural self-assertion. As Edward Said
claims, "The power to narrate, or to block other narratives
from forming and emerging, is very important to culture and
imperialism, and constitutes one of the main connections
between them" (Culture and Imperialism, xiii). As long as
Southerners did not narrate themselves, Page feared, they
would always be imposed upon by the North. He challenged
Southern intellectuals to produce a history of their own, to
confront Northern intellectual "imperialism" and "discover
truth amid all the heaps of falsehood, though they were piled
upon it like Pelion on Ossa" (369).
Red Rock is Page's most direct attempt to give voice to
the Southern view of Reconstruction. In his preface to the

173
novel, Page makes clear that more than simply the perspective
in his novel has changed. Traditional geography cannot be
called upon to describe the setting of the novel. Instead,
says Page, locating Red Rock, the plantation owned by one of
the main characters, Jacquelin Gray, requires a new kind of
map:
The Region where the Grays and Carys lived lies too
far from the centres of modern progress to be laid down
on any map that will be accessible. And, as "he who maps
an undiscovered country may place what boundaries he
will," it need only be said, that it lies in the South,
somewhere in that vague region partly in one of the old
Southern States and partly in the yet vaguer land of
Memory. fRed Rock vii)
Like Place-Du-Bois, Red Rock "lies too far from the centres of
modern progress." Page, as the "historian" for the Grays and
Carys (the subtitle of the novel is "A Chronicle of
Reconstruction"), is the mapper, readily admitting that he
installs the boundaries. Empowered in this way, Page can tell
the story he chooses to tell. Page's "chronicle" requires his
imaginative geography. Page literally creates a new place in
order that he might create a new narrative.
George Washington Cable also maps out a new place in John
March. Southerner. Cable originally intended to title the
novel Widewood, the name of John March's plantation (Turner
292-3), paralleling Page's emphasis on place. Even Cable's
eventual title reflects a commingling of character and place.
John March. Southerner is a novel consistently preoccupied
with land and place. Cable provides his mythical setting with
the very first sentence:

174
In the State of Dixie, County of Clearwater, and
therefore in the very heart of what was once the
"Southern Confederacy," lies that noted seat of
government of one county and shipping point for three,
Suez. (John March. 1)
Cable, like Page, provides a vague geographical anchoring—
"the very heart of what was once the 'Southern Confederacy.'"
But as is clear from the "imagined community" that Cable
names, he, too, will be relying on the "vaguer land of
Memory." Cable had set his best known novels and short
stories in and around New Orleans but now sought an
imaginative geography for telling the life story of a
"Southerner.1,11
Cable's mythic town of Suez cannot be found on a
traditional map. For example, in noting the proximity of the
Swanee River to Suez, Cable asserts that the river he is
talking about is "that true Swanee River, not of the maps, but
which flows forever, 'far, far away,' through the numbers of
imperishable song" (2). Traditional maps, like traditional
histories, cannot signify the hidden and denigrated narratives
of the South. Maps ensure no permanence; indeed, the
"Southern Confederacy," according to maps, no longer existed.
Songs and novels, like the one Cable was writing, could prove
"imperishable," mostly because their narratives could be
reiterated over and over. Thus, imaginative geography, once
embedded in the minds of readers, would have a permanence that
no war or history could ever erase. The imagined "Southern

175
Confederacy" and its history required the "body" that such a
geography, as mapped out by Page and Cable, could provide.
Like Kate Chopin, both Page and Cable create landscapes
that are themselves narrative spaces, venues that endorse
Southern nationalism. By creating their own "homelands," each
writer avails her/himself of a "means" that has a tremendous
impact on the construction of a national identity. As W. J.
T. Mitchell asserts, landscape creates "knowable" surroundings
and entices viewers into knowing:
Landscape . . . doesn't merely signify or symbolize power
relations; it is an instrument of cultural power, perhaps
even an agent of power that is (or frequently represents
itself as) independent of human intentions. Landscape as
a cultural medium thus has a double role with respect to
something like ideology; it naturalizes a cultural and
social construction, representing an artificial world as
if it were simply given and inevitable, and it also makes
that representation operational by interpellating its
beholder in some more or less determinate relation to its
givenness as sight and site. Thus, landscape (whether
urban or rural, artificial or natural) always greets us
as space, as environment, as that within which "we"
(figured as "the figures" in the landscape) find—or
lose--ourselves. (Mitchell 1-2)
By deploying specific conventions of landscape, artists can
create associations that become "imperishable." Page and
Cable both utilize the medium of landscape to argue for the
legitimacy and desireability of Southern nationalistic
identity.
Page begins Red Rock with a specific description of the
landscape around the Gray plantation. The origin of the
plantation's name "Red Rock," in fact, has a basis in the
surrounding landscape:

176
As everybody in the country knew, who knew anything, it
took its name from the great red stain, as big as a
blanket, which appeared on the huge bowlder [sic] in the
grove, beside the family graveyard, at the far end of the
Red Rock gardens. And as was equally well known, or
equally well believed, which amounted almost to the same
thing, that stain was the blood of the Indian chief who
had slain the wife of the first Jacquelin Gray who came
to this part of the world. . . . fRed Rock 1)
Before he had ever built his mansion, the first Jacquelin Gray
had literally written on the landscape, using the blood of the
murderous Indian chief for his ink. That writing led to the
name of the Gray plantation and served "as a perpetual
memorial of the swift vengeance of the Jacquelin Grays" (1).
Jacquelin Gray's purported hieroglyphics produce
"belief" in their meaning. When that belief gets challenged
with another possible interpretation of that writing, the
second interpretation is rejected as geographically
impossible:
Steve Allen, who was always a reckless talker,
however, used to say that the stain was nothing but a bit
of red sandstone which had outcropped at the point where
that huge fragment was broken off, and rolled along by a
glacier thousands of years ago, far to the northward; but
this view was to the other children's minds clearly
untenable; for there never could have been any glacier
there—glaciers, as they knew from their geographies,
being confined to Switzerland, and the world having been
created only six thousand years ago. (2)
His schoolmates reject Steve Allen's scientific explanation
because their experience of the land had been grounded in the
legend of the "Indian-killer." Their "geographies" add
"scientific" backing to the story of the first Jacquelin Gray.
The landscape provided the canvas upon which the legend could
be written, and at the same time the legend became

177
"naturalized" and passed down. In its constant reiteration,
the legend becomes "true," just as knowledge and belief get
conflated by the narrator of the novel.
To sustain the "Indian-killer" legend, the Grays must
retain possession of the land. Though the reasons for the
Indian's act of murder are never explained, his blood
signifies not only the spot of his death but also the moment
that his claim to the land ended. Jacquelin Gray's triumph
permits Red Rock to begin, and the circulation of the "Indian-
killer" legend merely reinforces the Grays' claim to the land.
Edward Said has remarked upon the fact that possession of land
often engenders stories about the owned terrain. In fact, in
Said's view, the narratives are necessary for acquiring and
maintaining control over land:
The geographical sense makes projections—imaginative,
cartographic, military, economic, historical, or in a
general sense cultural. It also makes possible the
construction of various kinds of knowledge, all of them
in one way or another dependent upon the perceived
character and destiny of a particular geography.
(Culture and Imperialism. 78)
Narratives, or "projections," map out a piece of land. These
narratives make the land knowable and show clear-cut
possession. At the same time, such narratives cancel out or
deny legitimacy to other possible narratives. Jacquelin
Gray's triumph wiped out any possible narrative of the Indian,
and the more embedded the "Indian-killer" legend became, the
more easily alternative readings of the landscape, like Steve
Allen's, could be dismissed.

178
The major tension in the novel thus becomes the question
of ownership of the land. After the war, the defeated rebels
fear that they might lose control of their land and, hence,
their destiny. The Union commander of the Red Rock region,
Jonadab Leech, hits upon a plan to repossess land from
destitute owners and distribute it among free blacks. When
one landowner objects to the plan as "robbery," Leech seeks to
change the terms of the debate:
You have been the robbers! You robbed the Indians of
these lands, to start with. You went to Africa and stole
these free colored people from their happy homes and made
them slaves. You robbed them of their freedom, and you
have robbed them ever since of their wages. Now you say
we cannot pay them a little of what you owe them? We
will do it, and do it by law. fRed Rock 212)
With the law on his side, Leech seeks to revise the history of
Red Rock. Rather than seeing the "Indian-killer" as brave and
honorable, Leech codes him as a thief. Having lost the war,
Southerners had lost the legitimating power of geographical
possession. The remainder of the novel revolves around the
various characters' attempts to reclaim their land and restore
their family and "national" reputation.
Cable in John March. Southerner also emphasizes the
significance of the landscape. As the novel opens, Cable uses
the landscape around Suez to narrate the devastation wrought
by the Civil War:
The turnpike, coming northward from Suez, emerged, white,
dusty, and badly broken, on the Southern border of this
waste, and crossed the creek at right angles. Eastward,
westward, the prospect widened away in soft heavings of
fallow half ruined by rains. The whole landscape seemed
bruised and torn, its beauty not gone, but ravished. Off

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on the right a thin green mantle that only half clothed
the red shoulder of a rise along the eastern sky was
cotton, the sometime royal claimant, unsceptred, but
still potent and full of beauty. CJohn March, 11)
The landscape reflects the condition of the South—"bruised
and torn," "ravished." The invading army had raped the
landscape, but the potential for regeneration remains.
Cotton, the economic backbone of the Old South, though
"unsceptred" in war, remains "potent and full of beauty." The
landscape reflects the attitude of one returning soldier:
"we've got stuff enough left to make a country of yet" (16).
The March plantation, Widewood, becomes a key component
of various schemes of reconstruction in Suez. But John's
father, Judge Powhatan March, "reads" his estate in a way that
is contrary to the visions of developers. Judge March
articulates his reading when he explains to Jeff-Jack Ravenel,
Suez's newspaper editor, that he and John eschew traditional
"book learning" for what they find in the land:
"We're only schoolmates togetheh, sir—in the school of
Nature, sir. You know, Mr. Ravenel, all these things
about us here are a sort of books, sir."
Ravenel smiled and answered very slowly, "Ye-es,
sir. Very good reading; worth thirty cents an acre
simply as literature." fJohn March. 79)
Ravenel's affixing of a price to the "literature" of Powhatan
March highlights the two readings of the land that come in
conflict throughout the novel. The Marches are land poor;
they own 100,000 acres of land but don't have any money to
develop it. Ravenel, along with patron John Wesley Garnet,

180
yearns to develop Suez, but to bring their development plan to
fruition, they need Widewood.
Garnet offers his vision for Suez while showing a young
Northern businessman and potential investor, Henry Fair,
around Clearwater County. Garnet enthusiastically describes
the potential of the land:
"There's enough mineral wealth in Widewood alone to make
Suez a Pittsburg [sic], and water-power enough to make
her a Minneapolis, and we're going to make her both,
sir!" The monologue became an avalanche of coal, red
hematite, marble, mica, manganese, tar, timber,
turpentine, lumber, lead, ochre, and barytes, with signs
of silver, gold, and diamonds. (John March. 139)
Garnet's desire is literally to put Suez on the map, the same
map as Pittsburgh and Minneapolis. His vision for Widewood
involves an altogether different kind of "writing" from what
Powhatan March liked to read. Garnet reads in the land the
litany of exploitable resources. Rather than create in Suez
an original, regenerative narrative about the South, Garnet
wants to make Suez a palimpsest. In the process, Garnet, a
major in the Confederate army, would perform an act of
cultural imperialism by making Suez signify Pittsburgh and
Minneapolis.
Unlike Jacguelin Gray, John March has no tradition, no
"Indian-killer" legend that confirms his possession of
Widewood. In fact, the only legacy left behind by Judge March
at his death are the mortgages on the property, mortgages
which, as John jokes with Henry Fair, are so deeply embedded
as to have become an organic part of the land: "The mortgages

181
ain't so mortal much, but they've been on so long we'd almost
be afraid to take them off. They're dried on sir!—grown in!"
(183-4). Thus, the only narratives about Widewood, rather
than proclaiming the Marches' right of ownership, instead
undermine such a claim. When John later loses Widewood in a
land swindle, he, like his counterpart in Red Rock, needs to
reacquire his land in order to make a living as well as to
countermand the vision for the South of developers like
Garnet.
In both Red Rock and John March. Southerner, marriages
play a key role in organizing geographical relations.
Marriage between Northerners and Southerners, frequently seen
by Northern reading audiences as symbols of national reunion,
actually effect a Southern primacy when the Northern
characters "convert" to a Southern lifestyle. Marriage
literally becomes a way for people to declare loyalty to the
South. Moreover, at least in the case of Cable's novel,
John's marriage to Barbara Garnet, the daughter of one of the
land developers, helps John win back the land that is
rightfully his.
No one understood better than Thomas Nelson Page what
Northern book editors wanted in Reconstruction fiction. His
now-famous advice to aspiring novelist Grace King offered a
specific formula for getting published:
Just rip open and insert a love story. It is the easiest
thing to do in the world. Get a pretty girl and name her
Jeanne, that name always takes! Make her fall in love

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with a Federal officer and your story will be printed at
once! (King 378)
In Red Rock. Page varies this formula a bit, but he does use
love stories and marriage to validate Southern values. Just
as the marriage of Therese LaFirme and David Hosmer in At
Fault represents the culmination of Hosmer's embracing of the
Southern landscape, the marriages in Red Rock represent a
conversion of sorts for the Northern characters involved to
Southernness.
The marriage of Ruth Welch and Steve Allen helps bring
Red Rock to closure. Ruth, the daughter of a Union officer,
proposes to Allen, a former Confederate, in order to avoid
testifying against him in a criminal trial. Rumors of a love
affair between the two spark a debate among the people at Red
Rock about the appopriateness of a Southern man wooing a
Northern woman:
Why should he have to go off after a Yankee girl, whose
people were all against them, when there were plenty of
their own girls just as pretty and more attractive?
Others took Steve's part. If a man fell in love he fell
in love, that was all; and if he was in love, he had a
right to do as he chose—there was no Mason and Dixon
line in love. (562-3)
Steve Allen's defenders argue that love transcends geography:
"there was no Mason and Dixon line in love." Yet the
consequences of the marriage of Ruth Welch and Steve Allen are
intertwined with the geographical destiny of Red Rock. By not
testifying, Ruth insures Steve's acquittal, effectively ending
the political stranglehold on Red Rock of Jonadab Leech. As
Leech loses political power, so, too, do his cronies, and

183
Jacquelin Gray (the great-great grandson of the "Indian-
killer") is able to regain control of Red Rock plantation.
Ruth Welch's father, a major in the Union army during the
war, had previously purchased a part of Red Rock from Hiram
Still, the Grays' former plantation overseer, but, finding out
that the plantation had been acquired through dubious means,
Major Welch turned his portion back over to Jacquelin Gray.
At the end of the novel, Ruth's efforts to save Steve are
rewarded by Jacquelin:
The day after her marriage, Ruth received a deed
which had just been recorded, conveying to her the part
of Red Rock which Major Welch had bought of Still and
restored to Jacquelin, and with the deed a letter from
Jacquelin, asking her, as Steve's wife, to accept it from
him and [his brother] Rupert as a wedding present. (583)
Jacquelin had been asked by his father never to sell any land.
"Landholding is one of the safeguards of a gentry," the elder
Gray tells his son before heading off to war. "Our people,
for six generations, have never sold an acre, and I never knew
a man who sold land that throve" (47). Thus, in deeding a
portion of Red Rock to Ruth, Jacqueling makes a symbolic
gesture. Ruth is accepted into the Southern "gentry"—her
credentials as a "true" Southerner at heart are affirmed. On
the surface the marriage of Ruth Welch and Steve Allen seems
to acknowledge the reunion of regions. But that reunion is
clearly grounded in Southern terrain and Southern values.
Geography also plays a significant role in the romance
between and eventual marriage of John March and Barbara
Garnet. The two first become attracted to one another while

184
in New England. Their common heritage gives them a
transcendent sense of the South that overpowers their current
location:
"But, Mr. March, what is it in the South that we
Southerners love so? Mr. Fair asked me this morning and
when I couldn't explain he laughed. Of course I didn't
confess my hu-mil-i-a-tion; I intimated that it was
simply something a North-ern-er can't understand. Wasn't
that right?"
"Certainly! They can't understand it! They seem to
think the South we love is a certain region and
everything and everybody within its borders."
"I have a mighty dim idea where its Northern border
is sit-u-a-ted."
"Why, so we all have! Our South isn't a matter of
boundaries, or skies, or landscapes. Don't you and I
find it all here now, simply because we've both got the
true feeling—the one heart-beat for it?"
Barbara's only answer was a stronger heart-beat.
"It's not," resumed March, "a South of climate, like
a Yankee's Florida. It's a certain ungeographical South-
within-a-South—as portable and intangible as—as—"
"As our souls in our bodies," interposed Barbara.
"You've said it exactly! It's a sort o' something—
social, civil, political, economic—"
"Romantic?"
"Yes, romantic! Something that makes—"
"'No land like Dixie in all the wide world over!"'
fjohn March. 326-7)
"The South" becomes more than a mere geographical designation-
-it transcends geography to become an ideology. Both John and
Barbara perceive the South as "portable and intangible,"
something that has written itself onto their "souls." As
ideology, the South is unbounded, not "a matter of boundaries,
or skies, or landscapes." But this South "exists" only for
those properly positioned to read it. Thus, Henry Fair seeks
to understand from Barbara the true essence of Southernness,
yet his question underscores his lack of the "true feeling."
That "true feeling" results from the series of narratives—

185
social, civil, political, economic, romantic—that
interpellate Southerners like John and Barbara.12
While John March eschews geography and landscapes as the
bounding principle of Southernness, both he and Barbara
consistently resort to the register of geography to affirm
their loyalty to the South. Even as they talk about a South
not bounded by geography, Barbara resorts to the land to
proclaim Southern distinctiveness—"No land like Dixie in all
the wide world over!" The last half of John March. Southerner
revolves around the ways in which John tries to redeem
Southern control over Southern land and "resources." He seeks
to reacquire his land from developers determined to turn Suez
into another Pittsburgh or Minneapolis. At the same time,
John wants to turn his townspeople away from the greed and
self-interest spawned by the invasion of Northern capitalist
practices. Finally, John tries to win the love of Barbara so
that she, as a "true" Southern woman, can be restored to
Southern terrain.13
Barbara is in Connecticut at the behest of her father,
who hopes that she will wed the young Northern businessman
Henry Fair. For Major Garnet, Barbara is yet another Southern
resource, like all of those mineral resources in the ground at
Widewood to be offered up to Northern investors. Barbara
herself longs to return south. Her time in Connecticut had
been pleasing, but she cannot allow herself to be lured away
from her Southern roots:

186
Yet for all the sudden beauty of the land and season
Miss Garnet was able to retain enough of her "nostalgia"
to comfort her Southern conscience. She had arrived in
March and caught Dame Nature in the midst of her spring
cleaning, scolding her patient children; and at any rate
her loyalty to Dixie forbade her to be quite satisfied
with these tardy blandishments. Let the cold Connecticut
turn as blue as heaven, by so much the more was it not
the green Swanee? (John March. 419)
Barbara Garnet relies upon "nostalgia" and "loyalty to Dixie"
to fend off challenges to her Southernness. Geography helps
contextualize this patriotism—"the cold Connecticut" River is
"not the green Swanee." Hence, Barbara knows who she is and
who she must be because her preferred geographical location
has, at least in part, scripted her identity. Geography
informs her desire.
John March possesses the same reliance on place as
identity. After he is swindled out of his estate by Major
Garnet, Henry Fair offers him a job in Connecticut. John
rejects the proposition, arguing, "when our value is not mere
wages, it isn't every man who's got the unqualified right to
pick up and put out just whenever he gets ready." For John,
the proper placement of men is of paramount importance, and he
sees his remaining in Suez as the only way to rescue the town
from its moral decline:
Mr. Fair, right down there in those streets truth and
justice are lying wounded and half-dead, and the public
conscience is being drugged. We Southerners, Fair, don't
believe one man's as good as another; we think one man in
his right place is worth a thousand who can't fill it.
My place is here! (483)
Implicit in John March's idea of place is a criticism of the
disruptive nature of capitalism. The residents of Suez,

187
"drugged" by the endless profiteering that accompanies
Northern schemes of development, have permitted their town to
lose its Southern identity. Led by Major Garnet, they
willingly accede to a resignification of their town and the
surrounding landscape. Garnet, the former Confederate, has
lost his "place"—he has betrayed his Southernness. John
cannot agree to do the same thing by retreating north to
Connecticut. Instead, he sees his "right place" in the South.
Like Barbara, John March is a product of his geography.
Though he proclaims Southernness to be "portable," he settles
himself into Dixie, the place that confirms his identity.
When John March first starts out in the world, he rents
an office in Suez and hangs up a small sign with only his
name. The sign is emblematic of the fact that John seems
suited for no true position. While he is away one day, some
mischievous boys scratch the word "Gentleman" on the sign.
Cable goes one step further with the title of the book—he
scratches "Southerner" on that sign, and John March becomes a
professional Southerner. His place becomes his profession, a
kind of counter-capitalist resistance to the idea that
profession determines place. John's marriage to Barbara
Garnet (after she symbolically rejects Henry Fair's proposal)
further enforces the primacy of place. The marriage unites
the two largest estates in Clearwater County, putting the land
back under Southern control. John can thus begin his

188
redemption of Suez from the pillaging forces of capitalism
which had been marshalled by Major Garnet.
Page's and Cable's emphasis on land and its possession
highlights a strategy of narrative-making connected to
cultural self-assertion. The imaginative geography created by
both provides for a reinvigoration of Southern nationalism
that "discovered" a localism ignored by traditional history
and geography. The "knowable community" that emerges from Red
Rock and John March. Southerner as well as At Fault not only
critiques the "knowledge" about the South circulating in the
culture but also supplements contemporary political discourse
about race relations and the future course of American
nationhood. Yet, while Chopin, Page, and Cable were mapping
a "new" geography dedicated to Southern nationalism, another
Southern writer, Thomas Dixon, would at the turn of the
century step outside the bounds of "local color" and become a
national bestseller. His basic premise extended the mapping
project of his predecessors to the entire nation, positing
Southern nationalism as an appropriate model of nationhood for
America as a whole. Dixon's racialized geography competed
with a burgeoning African-American writing, which sought to
carve out a space in national life for blacks and, in the
process, offered its own vision of 20th century American
nationhood

189
NOTES
'only a partial listing of these authors and their works
underscores the dovetailing of the genre of local color and
the historical moment. Mark Twain completed Huckleberry Finn
in 1885 after a four-year battle with writer's block over how
to close the novel. George Washington Cable's The
Grandissimes was published in 1880, the year the Supreme Court
agreed to hear the Civil Rights cases. Cable's most
productive period climaxed in 1894 with the publication of
John March. Southerner, which is dealt with more extensively
in this essay. Kate Chopin published extensively in the last
decade of the nineteenth century: At Fault (1890) , Bayou Folk
(1894), A Night in Acadie (1897), and her best known work, The
Awakening (1899) . Thomas Nelson Page had a draft of his most
prominent novel Red Rock completed in early 1885, finally
publishing it in 1898. In the meantime he published his most
famous short story, "Marse Chan," in 1884, as well as In Ole
Virginia (1887) and Two Little Confederates (1888). This list
is hardly exhaustive. See The History of Southern Literature,
eds. Louis D. Rubin, Jr., et. al (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State
University Press, 1985), pp. 177-257 for various accounts of
post-bellum Southern writing.
2Williams's term "knowable communities" can profitably be
compared to Benedict Anderson's term for nations, "imagined
communities." For Anderson, nations are "imagined" "because
the members of even the smallest nation will never know most
of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet
in the minds of each lives the image of their communion" (6) .
This "imagined" fellowship allows the creation of "knowable
communities" in that, given the lack of familiarity that
members of a nation have with each other, fictionalized
histories and landscapes work to create a sense of community
that allows individuals to bind themselves together.
Williams's discussion of "knowable communities," then,
identifies one of the chief mechanisms in the creation of
nation. Moreover, it identifies the fact that the actualities
of various groups (in the case of George Eliot, "country
people," in the case of Southern white local colorists like
Kate Chopin, blacks) must be sacrificed, erased, or, at the
very least, distorted, in order to create an "imagined
community." See Anderson, Imagined Communities. London: Verso
Books, 1983, particularly pp. 1-7.
3The desire for a return to such a past did not manifest
itself only in local color fiction. In the November 1877
issue of North American Review. Louisiana historian Charles
Gayarre lamented the passing of the slave/master relationship
because blacks had gained much from whites:

190
In the South the population was divided into two parts,—
the whites, who, rich or poor, ignorant or educated,
constituted the privileged class, the Caucasian nobility,
like the Magyar element of Hungary; then, the blacks who
were slaves, and who, proud of their daily intercourse
with the superior, the godlike race in their eyes, and
exulting in a sort of good-natured familiarity in which
they were indulged, were conscious at the same time of
the importance which they derived from the social
position of their masters, and enjoyed a protection and
an exemption from the anxieties of life which made them
look down upon the free negro, of pure or mixed blood,
with a sense of great superiority. (475)
As free people, blacks had to seek their own reputation and
social place, and, for Gayarre, "emancipation has made the two
races more distinct and antagonistic" (486). Gayarre
advocated a return to white supremacy in order to "protect"
blacks, who "[did] not know what offered capacity, fitness, or
adaptation means" (489). See Gayarre, "The Southern
Question," in North American Review. CXXV (November 1877):
472-498.
Chopin directly confronts Stowe in At Fault. As Therese
LaFirme's nephew Gregoire explains some of the legends of
Place-Du-Bois to David Hosmer's sister Melicent, he mentions
one of the former owners of the plantation, MacFarlane, and
his reputation:
"The meanest w'ite man thet ever lived, seems like.
Used to own this place long befo' the Lafirmes got it.
They say he' s the person that Mrs. W' at' s her name wrote
about in Uncle Tom's Cabin." (751)
MacFarlane*s previous ownership gets set in contrast to
Therese's more leisurely model of management, the model of the
South that Chopin wishes to circulate to refute "Mrs. Wat's
her name." Robert D. Arner suggests that this reference shows
Chopin grappling with guilt over the brutality of the Southern
past, "A guilt that has not been expiated and that transforms
the wilderness into an over-ripe and terrifying wasteland
[that] broods over the Southern landscape" (Arner 150). Yet,
MacFarlane's grave, like the blacks who tell the stories about
his ghost roaming the plantation, is relegated to the margins
of Place-Du-Bois, and any guilt Chopin might feel does not
manifest itself in her creation of the fictional landscape.
Her treatment of blacks, while less brutal than MacFarlane's
methodology, is repressive nonetheless. See Arner, "Landscape
Symbolism in Kate Chopin's At Fault" Louisiana Studies 9
(1970): 142-153.

191
5Helen Taylor expands on this point when she discusses
the way in which black characters in At Fault ultimately
recede into the background of the novel:
By the novel's conclusion, the black characters have all
retreated into quaint perspective, a background to frame
the white marriage that restores social order and a
racial harmony that depends on the speechlessness of the
black community. (169)
That "speechlessness," in fact, gets enforced throughout the
entire novel. Taylor asserts that the patronizing attitude
toward blacks can be connected to the attitudes of Northerners
like Hosmer and that Therese adopts such an attitude after her
marriage. But Therese's own demeanor tends to be imperious,
and the organization of the landscape at Place-Du-Bois, I
would argue, reflects an antebellum Southern attitude toward
blacks that is shared by Northerners like Hosmer. See Taylor,
Gender. Race, and Region in the Writings of Grace King. Ruth
McEnery Stuart, and Kate Chopin (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State
University Press, 1989), pp. 166-172.
6The taming of the racial other in Chopin's novel follows
a pattern documented by Toni Morrison in various texts of
American literature. Morrison calls this repression "the
sycophancy of white identity," asserting that for whites to
enjoy fully their freedom, they needed a population of
"unfree" to displace their anxieties onto. Commenting on the
effect of African slavery on the genre of romance, Morrison
argues:
Black slavery enriched the country's creative
possibilities. For in that construction of blackness and
enslavement could be found no only the not-free but also,
with the dramatic polarity created by skin color, the
projection of the not-me. The result was a playground
for the imagination. What rose up out of collective
needs to allay internal fears and to rationalize external
exploitation was an American Africanism—a fabricated
brew of darkness, otherness, alarm, and desire that is
uniquely American. (38)
As white Southerners, in the aftermath of the Civil War, tried
to rekindle Southern nationalism, they resorted to a version
of American Africanism. Free blacks clearly embodied
recurring proof of Southern defeat in war. Moreover, the
freedom accorded blacks worked toward erasing the "me/not me"
dichotomy between blacks and whites. Therese's servants
represent both an effort "to allay internal fears" by subduing
any disruptive political component to blackness and a
rationalization for "external exploitation"—Hiram and Betsy,
it seems, are far better off on Place-Du-Bois, where their

192
lives are relatively easy, than out in the world where they
could be harmed or taken advantage of. See Morrison, Playing
in the Dark. New York: Vintage Books, 1993, particularly pp.
29-59.
7In fact, Pamela Glenn Menke sees Hosmer and his sawmill
as enacting the same violence on the land that Hosmer himself
inflicts upon his dissolute wife Fanny. Menke argues that
Hosmer works as a "civilizing" agent, helping reconstruct the
social fabric ripped apart by war:
The cultural messages are clear. The land and society's
less advantaged victims must be destroyed. Social
convention must be preserved through whatever violent
tools. The land must be ravished to reconstruct society,
but the destruction and the ravishing establish woman and
unconventional other as victims of their intensity,
passion, water power. (57)
Menke suggests that Chopin constructs two narratives—the
"mistress narrative," which endorses the "order" that Hosmer
brings to Place-Du-Bois, and the "demonic text," in which the
stories of transgressive characters like Gregoire Santien and
Jocint can be told. But in trying to save Chopin from the
charge of endorsing "hierarchal order," Menke ignores the fact
that Hosmer's sawmill does damage only to those areas of the
landscape that house potentially disruptive elements. His
cutting down trees has virtually no impact on the plantation
proper, except in enriching he and Therese. The plantation,
thus, is made even more clearly the locus of patriarchal power
by the sawmill. See Menke, "Fissure as Art in Kate Chopin's
At Fault" Louisiana Literature 11 (Spring 1994): 44-58.
8This assertion runs counter to Lewis Leary's belief that
one of the "faults" detailed by the novel is the South's
inability to respond to Northern encroachment: "The fault may
be interpreted as that of an agrarian, land-preserving South,
lulled by traditions of ease and morality and religion, as it
fails to respond to the industrial, land-destroying North
whose morality is modern and utilitarian" (62). See Leary,
"Kate Chopin's Other Novel," Southern Literary Journal 1
(1968): 60-74.
9Jane Hotchkiss reads Fanny Hosmer quite sympathetically,
suggesting in the process that the happy ending effected by
her demise is an implicit critique by Chopin of the moral
dishonesty of Hosmer's efforts to gain Therese's love.
Pointing out the moments in the text when Fanny actually comes
off sympathetically, Hotchkiss contends, "The characterization
of Fanny adds a crucial element of confusion to the moral
puzzle that Chopin constructs; the 'happy ending' can satisfy
only the reader who is willing to consider Fanny's life

193
expendable" (38). While evidence of Chopin's disdain for
Hosmer and Therese's scheme seems spotty in the text (though
she did write an explanatory letter to one of At Fault's
critics, quoted later in the chapter, condemning Therese's
efforts to play God with the lives of Hosmer and Fanny), the
unease that Fanny's death produces is, in my judgment,
directly related to the unease Chopin feels conflating her
ultimate fate with that of a black woman. See Hotchkiss,
"Confusing the Issue: Who's 'At Fault'?" Louisiana Literature
11 (Spring 1994): 31-43.
10For composition and publication history of Red Rock, see
Wayne Mixon, Southern Writers and the New South Movement.
1865-1913. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,
1980, p. 35.
“Grouping Cable, long considered a liberal Southerner,
with Page, who clearly sought to protect Southern conservative
traditions, might seem wrong-headed. Yet, John March.
Southerner becomes a vehicle for Cable to reestablish his
Southern credentials. Those credentials had been called into
question by representatives of both the "New" and the "Old
South." For instance, in a letter dated January 18, 1885,
poet Paul Hamilton Hayne wrote to his friend, historian
Charles Gayarre, that they needed to stand up for the
traditions that Cable was perceived to be attacking. Hayne
saw in Gayarre the perfect spokesman for the Old South:
It is right, it is imperative that a man of your
exalted social, & intellectual position should thus
vindicate the character of his People, against attacks
from men who are far more dangerous than any Aliens could
possibly be; because such persons are aliens in heart,
soul, affection, & principle, while pretending to be "to
the manor born." (quoted in Anderson, 226)
Cable came under attack as an "alien," too, from Henry W.
Grady, who, in his reply to Cable's "The Freedman's Case in
Equity," hinted that Cable's lineage might make him less
disposed to various Southern points of view:
Born in the South, of Northern parents, he appears to
have had little sympathy with his Southern environment,
as in 1882 he wrote, "To be in New England would be
enough for me. I was there once—a year ago,—and it
seemed as if I had never been home till then." It will
be suggested that a man so out of harmony with his
neighbors as to say, even after he had fought side by
side With them on the battle-field, that he never felt at
home until he had left them, cannot speak understandingly
of their views on so vital a subject as that under
discussion. (Grady 909)

194
Cable heightened such suspicions by moving his family north to
Connecticut in July 1884. "My wife's health and my own
superior working-power were the inducements that led to the
change of residence, Cable himself asserted (Bikle 122).
Significantly, in early 1889 Cable had written an essay
entitled "My Politics" in which he tried to defend his
Southern heritage. In it Cable detailed his own record of
loyalty to the Confederacy. His political beliefs at the time
of secession matched those of any "true" Southerner:
At sixteen I was for Union, Slavery, and a White
Man's Government! Secession, when it came, seemed a
dreadful thing and I wondered at men and women, even if
it was a necessity, rejoicing in it. Yet I had not
really begun to think for myself and I soon learned to
hurrah with a devout fervor for Jeff. Davis and the
"Stars and Bars." ("My Politics," 3)
Cable's editors in New York, however, never published "My
Politics" because they perceived it to be too personal. See
Anderson, "Charles Gayarre and Paul Hayne: The Last Literary
Cavaliers," in American Studies in Honor of William Kenneth
Boyd (Durham: Duke University Press, 1940) , pp. 221-281;
Grady, "In Plain Black and White," Century Magazine XXIX
(April 1885): 909-917; Lucy Leffingwell Bikle, George W. Cable
(New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1928) ; and Cable, "My
Politics," in The Negro Question, ed. Arlin Turner (Garden
City, New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1958), pp. 1-27.
12Michel Foucault has suggested that geography plays a
significant role in creating and sustaining the "frontiers" of
nationalism as well as its various discourses. The
"patriotism" resulting from these discourses "has as its
effects the constitution of a personal identity, because it's
my hypothesis that the individual is not a pre-given entity
which is seized on by the exercise of power. The individual,
with his identity and characteristics, is the product of a
relation of power exercised over bodies, multiplicities,
movements, desires, forces" (Foucault 73-4). One of the
primary forces exerted over bodies, for both Page and Cable,
as well as Foucault, is geography. See Foucault, "Questions
on Geography," in Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and
Other Writings. 1972-1977. ed. Colin Gordon (New York:
Pantheon Books, 1980), pp. 63-77.
13ln contrasting Cable's The Grandissimes and John March.
Southerner to Kate Chopin's At Fault and The Awakening, Pamela
Glenn Menke links the desire of Cable's male characters to
control land to Cable's male characters to control land to
Cable's implicit desire to restore social order:

195
Cable's white men must be in control. They must dominate
and transform the land and must subjugate the water's
power for their own purposes. They successfully contain
or ignore the primitive, violent force represented by
water. (79)
Menke contrasts the land, which she suggests Cable perceives
as "readily available for male domination and control," with
the water, which, in its fluidity, represents "chaos, the
potentially disastrous results of a disordered society" (79).
Indeed, early in the novel John tries to develop a plan of
"colonization" for Widewood which would allow him to develop
the property. Having lost his land, John turns his attention
toward Barbara Garnet, represented in the novel as another
Southern "resource." John's reacquisition of his land (as
well as some additional territory) with his marriage to
Barbara not only reinforces the conflation of female and land
but also gives Cable another venue for emphasizing John's (and
his own) Southernness—a Southern man wins the hand of a
Southern woman (from a Northern man, no less) and reacquires
his Southern patrimony, upon which he intends to redeploy
Southern values. See Menke, "Chopin's Sensual Sea and Cable's
Ravished Land: Sexts, Signs, and Gender Narrative" Cross-
Roads; A Journal of Southern Culture 3 (Fall/winter 1994-5):
78-102.

CHAPTER 5
"YOU CAN'T KILL ME BUT ONCE":
THE CHALLENGE OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN TEXTUALITY
Early in Frances Harper's Iola Leroy, a Union general
sees the young Iola, about to be released from slavery, and
cannot believe that his country had permitted her enslavement
in the first place:
The General was much impressed by her modest demeanor,
and surprised to see the refinement and beauty she
possessed. Could it be possible that this young and
beautiful girl had been a chattel, with no power to
protect herself from the highest insults that lawless
brutality could inflict upon innocent and defenseless
womanhood? Could he ever again glory in his American
citizenship, when any white man, no matter how coarse,
cruel, or brutal, could buy or sell her for the basest
purpose? Was it not true that the cause of a hapless
people had become entangled with the lightnings of
heaven, and dragged down retribution upon the land?
(Harper, Iola Leroy. 39)
The general recognizes that what differentiated him from Iola
(the child of a legally "black" mother and a white father) was
his "American citizenship." Lacking such a recourse, Iola
became simply another body brutalized by Southern nationalism,
ruled over by various white tyrants who perceived themselves
to be superior.
Harper thus sketches out both the cause of the previous
oppression of blacks and the solution for ending such
oppression—full American citizenship. Guaranteed citizenship
by the 15th Amendment, African-Americans witnessed the erosion
196

197
of their civil rights. Iola Leroy was published in the same
year, 1892, that lynchings of black men reached their peak.
Having had the political gains of Reconstruction rolled back,
African Americans needed new strategies for political
empowerment. Through the person of Iola Leroy, Harper tried
to impart such strategies.1
Also writing in 1892, Thomas Nelson Page published a
short untitled sketch in the September Harper's New Monthly
Magazine. Set in the post-war South, the story depicted the
"education" of the main character, Uncle Jack Scott, a former
slave. Against his employer's wishes, Uncle Jack leaves his
job in the stable of Colonel Trigg's plantation for an
opportunity in the classroom. However, Uncle Jack just as
quickly returns to the stable after being whipped by the
schoolmistress, Miss Barr, for not learning his grammar
lessons. "I got 'nough edication," Jack tells his "master."
"I tell you de fac', Marse Conn. I is too ole to be whupt by
a ooman, an' a po' white ooman at dat" (643). Uncle Jack's
"education" proves to be more painful than his former
servitude, and he bristles, too, at the gender and class
barriers violated by his experience in the classroom.
Encouraged to go by his "citified" wife. Uncle Jack prefers to
restore the old, pre-war relationship with Colonel Trigg and
forego learning how to read.
At the end of the story, Uncle Jack's hostility to
education manifests itself in a short conversation with his

198
son Johnnie. Informed by Johnnie that Miss Barr has ordered
all of her students to purchase a geography textbook. Uncle
Jack hesitates for a moment and then offers a different
reading material:
I say, boy, you tell de teacher I say you better stick to
you' a-b abs an' you' e-b ebs, an' let geog'aphy alone.
You knows de way now to de spring an' de wood-pile an' de
mill, an' when you gits a little bigger I's gwine to show
you de way to de hoe-handle an' de cawn furrer, an' dats
all de geog' aphy a nigger's got to know. (643)
Uncle Jack rejects the textual for the material, but the
"geography" he advocates is both limited and under the control
of whites. In trying to read, Jack learned his "a-b abs, e-b
ebs," but he could not transpose those letters and learn his
"b-a bas, b-e bes." Language proved too shifty and
impermanent for Jack, so he opts to return to what he had
previously known—laboring under the control of a "master."
Uncle Jack is thus the perfect example of the "old time darky"
that Page had elsewhere praised,2 and in limiting his
knowledge of "geography," Jack limits his and Johnnie's
potentiality for any advancement that might threaten white
hegemony.
Page's recourse to geography in his sketch about Uncle
Jack Scott stands in sharp contrast to his imaginative
geography in Red Rock. In the novel, geographical knowledge
undergirds Page's version of Reconstruction history. In
possessing the terrain, Jacquelin Gray and Steve Allen elevate
themselves to their rightful (as the novel would have it)
place as political and social leaders. In contrast, Uncle

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Jack Scott possesses only a knowledge of how to move in the
geography of Colonel Trigg's plantation. His movements are
conditioned by the work he must do—at the spring, the
woodpile, the mill, and the cornfield. Far from being an
element that promotes his own narrativization, the geography
that Uncle Jack knows confines him. Yet he accepts such
limitation (and rejects access to literacy) because he
understands his "place." Uncle Jack rejects the citified
notions of his wife and in the process determines to teach
Johnnie "all de geog'aphy a nigger's got to know." For Page,
that limited geography also lessens the possible political
threat of African Americans. The model of Uncle Jack insures
that blacks will remain beholden to the Colonel Triggs of the
world, the possessors of a wider-ranging geography.
Whether Page knew of Iola Leroy when he penned his sketch
is debatable, but Harper and Page in their respective texts
draw two distinctly different ideas about black participation
in the nation. These competing visions helped shape national
debate about race relations well into the 20th century. For
Harper as well as for other African-American writers, nothing
less than full "citizenship," a place in the national
narrative, would be satisfactory. Harper, Charles W.
Chesnutt, and Sutton Griggs all produce fictions which not
only agitate for such citizenship but also attempt to expose
the methodology by which "knowledge" about blacks got
circulated in the culture. In ceding for so long the arena of

200
literature to white writers, blacks lost out on opportunities
for self-expression and legitimation in the eyes of an
increasingly skeptical, predominantly white reading public.3
Thus, in writing their respective novels, Harper, Chesnutt,
and Griggs had a pedagogical motive in mind, too—refuting the
stereotypes so deeply embedded in the national consciousness
and, in doing so, making a coherent case for African-American
integration into mainstream American society.4
Page's example of Uncle Jack Scott shows his desire to
return to an antebellum organization of the nation—whites
fully in charge of the means of production, economic as well
as cultural, with blacks inhabiting an inferior social
position, dependent upon their "superiors." Page follows
through on this idea of social order in Red Rock. expelling
blacks and poor whites from their ill-gotten positions of
power, acquired during Radical Reconstruction, and returning
the landed aristocracy to its rule. Yet it was left not to
Page but to Thomas Dixon to articulate the ramifications of a
commitment to Southern nationalism for the American nation.
Picking up where Page left off with Uncle Jack Scott, Dixon
maps two possible futures for America. In one scenario, the
boundaries of racial integrity are destroyed and the nation
becomes "mulatto," deteriorating into anarchy. In the second,
the Anglo-Saxon race asserts its unquestioned superiority and
recaptures control of the government of the nation. With his
first novel, The Leopard1s Spots, published in 1902, Dixon

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advocates the Southern nation as an appropriate model for 20th
century American nationhood, the only model, in fact, that
could protect the integrity of the white race and the
institutions that race had created to rule with.
The competition between these two visions of American
nationhood could hardly be called fair. The Supreme Court's
decision in Plessv v. Ferguson in 1896 completed the political
disempowerment of blacks begun in 1883 with the Court's
rejection of the Civil Rights Act of 1875. Even before Harper
and Page had published their respective texts in 1892, others
saw the difficult task that faced African Americans. In late
1888, novelist and civil rights advocate Albion W. Tourgee
noted that only had American literature become "Confederate in
sympathy" but also that sympathy had drastically limited
possible depictions of blacks:
In one he figures as the devoted slave who serves
and sacrifices for his master and mistress, and is
content to live or die, do good or evil, for those
to whom he feels himself under infinite obligation
for the privilege of living and serving. There
were such miracles no doubt, but they were so rare
as never to have lost the miraculous character.
The other favorite aspect of the Negro character
from the point of view of the Southern fictionist,
is that of the poor "nigger" to whom liberty has
brought only misfortune and who is relieved by the
disinterested friendship of some white man whose
property he once was. There are such cases, too,
but they are not so numerous as to destroy the
charm of novelty. (409)
For neoplantation white writers, black did not qualify as
citizens. However patently false such representations of free
blacks might be, they helped to produce a "knowledge" about

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African-Americans that corresponded to the increasing
hostility in the courts and in public opinion to civil rights
protection for the former slaves. As Tourgee summed up,
"About the Negro as a man, with hopes, fears, and aspirations
like other men, our literature is very nearly silent" (409).
Thus, texts written by Harper, Chesnutt, and other
African Americans posed a unique threat to the "Confederate
sympathy" Tourgee detected in that they narrated spaces made
silent in the work of white writers. They called into
question that "knowledge" about blacks that formed the bedrock
of Southern nationalism. These texts functioned, in Derridean
terms, as "supplements."5 In effect, novels like Tola lerov.
The Marrow of Tradition, and Imperium in Imperio opened up new
ways of conceiving "nation." These texts (as well as texts
like Pudd'nhead Wilson, for instance) spoke the otherness that
was so ruthlessly and completely repressed by the logic of
Southern nationalism. As Barbara Johnson points out in her
gloss of Derridean supplementarity, the "supplement" in its
very function disrupts seemingly clear-cut identity
categories:
The logic of the supplement wrenches apart the neatness
of the metaphysical binary oppositions. Instead of "A is
opposed to B" we have "B is both added to A and replaces
A." A and B are no longer opposed, nor are they
equivalent. Indeed, they are no longer even equivalent
to themselves. They are their own difference from
themselves. (Johnson xiii)
By adding their voices, these African-American writers hope to
subvert the racist logic of "A is opposed to B." Harper and

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Chesnutt go so far as to employ mulattoes as their respective
main characters, directly pointing at the miscegenation
practiced by white slaveholders but which had been
conveniently forgotten by rabid segregationists.
Segregationists insisted that "white man's government” had
to be maintained and that no intermingling of white and black
bodies could be countenanced for fear of a resulting social
disintegration. For example, Atlanta Constitution editor
Henry W. Grady argued in an editorial in the April 1885
Century Magazine that segregation of the races protected the
white race from genetic holocaust:
Without [segregation], there might be a breaking
down of all lines of division and a thorough
intermingling of whites and blacks. This once
accomplished, the lower and the weaker elements of
the races would begin to fuse and the process of
amalgamation would have begun. This would mean the
disorganization of society. An internecine war
would be precipitated. The whites, at any cost and
at any hazard, would maintain the clear integrity
and dominance of the Anglo-Saxon blood. (Grady
911)
Grady feared that “amalgamation” might fuel a new civil war,
one to be fought along racial rather than regional lines. For
segregationists like Grady, the health and viability of the
nation reguired the purity of “Anglo-Saxon blood.”
The supplemental function of African-American textuality
put into question the newly placed boundaries of the nation by
providing a viable alternative political voice originating
from the “outside.” These texts resisted the attempt to
implement racial borders that would define the American nation

204
as necessarily white. Homi Bhabha, extrapolating from the
idea of Derridean supplementarity, points out that a nation,
because it is usually defined as the negation of another
space, needs a homogeneous narrative that speaks with one
voice:
Counter-narratives of the nation that
continually evoke and erase its totalizing
boundaries—both actual and conceptual—disturb
those ideological manoeuvres through which
"imagined communities" are given essentialist
identities. For the political unity of the nation
consists in a continual displacement of its
irredeemably plural modern space, bounded by
different, even hostile nations, into a signifying
space that is archaic and mythical, paradoxically
representing the nation's modern territoriality, in
the patriot atavistic temporality of
Traditionalism. Quite simply, the difference of
space returns as the Sameness of time, turning
Territory into Tradition, turning the People into
One. (Bhabha 300)
When minority discourses try to interject themselves into the
"essential" narrative of nation, what Bhabha calls the
"pedagogical" function of nation asserts itself, denying the
legitimacy of such discourses by re-marking them as "other."
By excluding African-Americans as citizens, white Southern
writers relied on the "essential identities" produced by
racial categorization. In this way, they could turn "the
People into One" because only whites counted as "the People."
In trying to write their way into American citizenship, black
writers threatened the concept of the Southern nation because
one of the primary boundaries of that nation—white racial
superiority—was getting erased.

205
In fact, Thomas Dixon seems to have understood the
necessity of unifying the white race to sustain the idea of
the Southern nation. The Leopard's Spots works with the
premise that the future of the American nation rests with the
purity of Anglo-Saxon blood. The main racial propagandist of
the novel, the Reverend John Durham, makes this point to his
protege, Charlie Gaston, the future governor of North
Carolina:
This racial instinct is the ordinance of our life. Lose
it and we have no future. One drop of Negro blood makes
a Negro. It kinks the hair, flattens the nose, thickens
the lip, puts out the light of intellect, and lights the
fires of brutal passions. The beginning of Negro
equality as a vital fact is the beginning of the end of
this nation's life. There is enough Negro blood here to
make mulatto the whole Republic. (Dixon, The Leonard's
Spots. 244)
Durham's solution to the erosion of racial/national boundaries
is simple--separate the races into two different "nations."
"Can you bjiild, in a Democracy, a nation inside a nation of
two hostilp races?" Durham asks rhetorically. "We must do
this or become mulatto, and that is death" (244).
When Charlie Gaston announces as his political platform
the restoration of a "white man's government," he unites the
Anglo-Saxon race: "Again the Anglo-Saxon race was fused into
a solid mass. The result [of the election] was a foregone
conclusion". (450) . Dixon thus works to restore the narrative
of nation that posits "essentialist identities" and transforms
"Territory into Tradition" and fuses "the People into One."
Calling on the racist predisposition of the country (and, in

206
fact, citing the mining of the Maine as the historical moment
when the disparate factions of the white race reunited), Dixon
attempts to extend Southern nationalism to the whole nation,
making the political as well as the literary realm
"Confederate in sympathy." Though other writers joined him,
none was as wildly popular as Dixon. Through the success of
The Leopard's Soots and The Clansman (both selling over a
million copies) as well as D. W. Griffith's popular Birth of
a Nation, based on Dixon's second novel, Dixon circulated his
imagined community of Southern/American nationalism to a wide
and, for the most part, accepting audience.
What critics6 do not credit in the fiction of Harper,
Chesnutt, and Griggs is its cumulative supplemental effort,
its effort to show "evidence of a more profound America."
This fiction forms one aspect of the cultural debate about the
meaning of the American "nation." Whereas Harper, Chesnutt,
and Griggs seek to deconstruct the dichotomies enforced by
racial taxonomy, making the debate not two sided but
integrative, Thomas Dixon, with his massive popular appeal,
fought to keep the dichotomies in place so that his vision of
"nation," made up of pure white bodies and blood, could remain
dominant. As Harper and Chesnutt both came to realize the
political potential in a writing career, they each tried, in
their own respective ways, to supplement the national debate

207
on the proper "place" of the African American and whether the
latter portion of the appellation had any meaning whatsoever.
Reading Lessons; Frances Harper and Charles W. Chesnutt
Except for a fourth version of o decades after the Civil
War (Bell 56). Beginning in the mid-1880's and continuing
through the turn of the century major novels by prominent
black writers did get published. These novels were more than
responses to the writings of white novelists. They
constituted specific efforts on the part of blacks to
insinuate themselves into the narrative of nation. By
detailing both the flourishing African-American culture and
the efforts on the part of whites to suppress knowledge of
that culture, black writers made the case for their race's
right to "citizenship."
Hazel Carby begins her analysis of Frances Harper's Iola
Leroy with a simple question: Why write a novel? Harper had
written poetry, lectures, journalistic pieces, and
abolitionist tracts, but at the age of 67, she chose to write
a novel. Carby concludes that Harper intended to put her
various experiences to use by producing a text that could
effect social change:
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper produced Tola Leroy:
or. Shadows Uplifted in an attempt to morally rearm
the black intellectual and to contest the terrain
of racist retrenchment. We may debate how
effective her novel was in "the development of a
national conscience," but we need to recognize that
Harper intended to hand her readership a political
weapon. (Carby 94)

208
Carby's revisionary view of Iola Leroy opens up the political
possibilities articulated in it. Iola Leroy advocates the
need for blacks to become literate in order to combat
discrimination and historical distortion. But the novel also
discloses the various other types of literacy that percolate
among the characters. Tola Leroy presents a series of
insurgent literacies which not only offer the African-American
perspective of the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction
but also work toward destabilizing the racial premises of the
narratives written by whites, including the imagined community
of America. The novel thus contests the premise that "nation"
necessarily meant "white."
Harper had been and continued to be a political agitator
after the publication of Iola Lerov. Speaking at a meeting
of the World's Congress of Representative Women in Chicago in
May 1893, Harper told her audience that women needed political
power because they had a pedagogical function to perform for
the nation:
In coming into her political estate woman will find a
mass of illiteracy to be dispelled. If knowledge is
power, ignorance is also power. The power that educates
wickedness may manipulate and dash against the pillars of
any state when they are undermined and honeycombed by
injustice. (Harper, "Woman's Political Future," 434)
Harper recognized that "illiteracy" posed a major obstacle to
the moral advance of America, and with this assertion Harper
provides another answer to the guestion, Why write a novel?
In forcing her audience to participate in Iola Leroy by

209
reading it, Harper could instruct her readers and dispell
"illiteracy." By including in her novel those "texts" which
had been either discarded or discredited, Harper could
reanimate "knowledge" that ran counter to the stereotypes
propagated by many white writers. Iola Leroy is, in fact, an
effort at subverting a whole pattern of reading "blackness,"
substituting in its stead a pedagogy focused on black
achievement and intellect. In offering her reading lesson,
Harper sought to combat the "injustice" which she marked in
her speech as a primary force in maintaining the power of
determining the contours of "nation" in only a few hands.
Though not as politically active as Harper, Charles W.
Chesnutt also recognized the political potential of fiction.
At the age of 22, Chesnutt mulled over these possibilities as
he set about trying to make writing his career. Admiring the
fame and wealth acquired by Albion Tourgee with the success of
his novel A Fool's Errand. Chesnutt perceived that, as a black
man who grew up in the South, he was positioned to write about
the same material in a more authoritative way. In a journal
entry dated May 29, 1880, Chesnutt noted that his purpose in
writing would involve not just money but social change as
well:
The object of my writings would be not so much the
elevation of the colored people as the elevation of the
whites,—for I consider the unjust spirit of caste which
is so insidious as to pervade a whole nation, and so
powerful as to subject a whole race and all connected
with it to scorn and social ostracism—I consider this a
barrier to the moral progress of the American people; and
I would be one of the first to head a determined,

210
organized crusade against it. Not a fierce
indiscriminate onslaught; not an appeal to force, for
this is something that force can but slightly affect; but
a moral revolution which must be brought about in a
different manner. (Chesnutt, The Journals. 139-140)
Like Harper, with her scene of the Union general questioning
the value of his citizenship, Chesnutt saw racism as
afflicting not just blacks but whites as well. He stakes out
as one of his goals the writing of fiction that conduces to
"the moral progress of the American people." Far from
advocating violent revolution, Chesnutt prefers literature as
an agent of social change because of its ability to effect
subtle, incremental change: "The negro's part is to prepare
himself for social recognition and equality; and it is the
province of literature to open the way for him to get it—to
accustom the public mind to the idea; and while amusing them
to lead them on imperceptibly, unconsciously, step by step to
the desired state of feeling" fThe Journals. 140).7
Harper, too, conceives of a "desired state of feeling"
that she wants her readers to have. In a note appearing at
the end of Iola Leroy, Harper admits to the pedagogical
purpose of her writing:
From threads of fact and fiction I have woven a
story whose mission will not be in vain if it awaken in
the hearts of our countrymen a stronger sense of justice
and a more Christlike Humanity in behalf of those whom
the fortunes of war threw, homeless, ignorant and poor,
upon the threshold of a new era. Nor will it be in vain
if it inspire the children of those upon whose brows God
has poured the chrism of that new era to determine that
they will embrace every opportunity, develop every
faculty, and use every power God has given them to rise
in the scale of character and condition, and to add their

211
quota of good citizenship to the best welfare of the
nation. (XL, 282)
Like Chesnutt, Harper wanted to appeal to both black and white
readers. She wishes to inculcate "a stronger sense of justice
and a more Christlike humanity" in whites and to encourage
African Americans to "embrace every opportunity, develop every
faculty, and use every power God has given them." Her
fundamental project involves a redefinition of "citizenship"
and, by implication, of "nation" to include African Americans.
The history of the title character of Harper's novel
reflects the embedded traditions in the South that prevented
black citizenship. Ida's father Eugene manumits one of his
slaves, Marie, in order to marry her. His cousin Alfred
Lorraine chastises Eugene for his anti-social behavior:
Why, Eugene, what has come over you? Talking of the
virtue of these quadroon girls! You have lived so long
in the North and abroad, that you seem to have lost the
cue of our Southern life. Don't you know that these
beautiful girls have been the curse of our homes? (IL,
70)
Eugene's audacity to suggest that quadroon girls like Marie
might have virtue skews the dynamic of the antebellum South.
In Lorraine's words, Eugene has "lost the cue of .
Southern life." Thus, Ida's existence, along with that of
her brother Harry and her sister Grace, represents a direct
challenge to the Southern social order.
Eugene's "indiscretion" takes on added significance given
the political situation of the time. Secession appears

212
imminent, and as he tells Marie, Eugene's sympathies are
distinctly un-Southern:
My heart is with the Union. I don't believe in
secession. There has been no cause sufficient to justify
a rupture. The North has met us time and again in the
spirit of concession and compromise. (XL, 88)
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Eugene's view differs greatly from
Lorraine's. Once again, Eugene gives his cousin reason to
fear that the Leroy family represents an unacceptable
challenge to the now forming Southern nation.
Thus, at Eugene's death, Iola and her family are recoded
as "black" by Lorraine and sold into slavery. Lorraine tells
Marie that the law is on his side:
Judge Starkins has decided that your manumission is
unlawful; your marriage a bad precedent, and inimical to
the welfare of society; and that you and your children
are remanded to slavery. (XL, 96)
By using the law, Lorraine restores the social balance
necessary for the newly formed Southern nation. He succeeds
in redeploying "blackness" by getting Marie and her children
sold as slaves, despite the fact that, as one of Lorraine's
cohorts admits of Iola, "She is just as white as we are, as
good as any girl in the land, and better educated than
thousands bf white girls" (XL, 100). The law's capacity to
resignify Iola and her family represents not only the
political disempowerment of blacks in the Southern nation but
also the textual mechanisms that create the parameters of
reading fot that nation. Iola and her family are read as
"black" because of the law that conditions that reading.

213
Harper seeks to challenge the law by getting her readers to
see its arbitrariness and, by inference, the arbitrariness of
the boundaries put in place by that law, such as "race" and
"nation."
Harper points out, however, that the Southern nation was
not alone in its reading of the inferiority of blackness.
Even in the North, light-skinned blacks are advised to pass
and author themselves as white. Iola's Uncle Robert Johnson,
having escaped from slavery and joined the Union army, is
given such encouragement by his commanding officer in order to
gain the opportunities that will be denied him as a "black"
man:
"Johnson," said a young officer, Captain
Sybil, of Maine, who had become attached to Robert,
"what is the use of your saying you're a colored
man, when you are as white as I am, and as brave a
man as there is among us. Why not quit this
company, and take your place in the army just the
same as a white man? I know your chances for
promotion would be better." (XL, 43)
Robert has a "place" waiting for him—a place that requires
him to deny his blackness. Yet Robert refuses this advice:
"Well, Captain, when a man's been colored all his life it
comes a little hard for him to get white all at once" (XL,
43). Robert turns down the "reading lesson" offered by
Captain Sybil. Such lessons in traditional reading strategies
threatened to efface African heritage as well as prevent
Robert from achieving his ultimate goal—reuniting his family.
Though not treated as brutally as in the South, blackness,
even in the North, possessed a limited signification.

214
Opportunities to pass present themselves to other members
of the Leroy family. Ida's brother Harry, living in the
North at the time of his father's death, decides to join the
Union army as well, but like his Uncle Robert, he refuses to
pass as white despite the advice of his college mentor and the
enlistment officer. For the officer, Harry's insistence on
his blackness is "a new experience":
He had seen colored men with fair complexions anxious to
lose their identity with the colored race and pose as
white men, but here was a man in the flush of his early
manhood, to whom could come dreams of promotion from a
simple private to a successful general, deliberately
turning his back upon every gilded hope and dazzling
opportunity, to cast his lot with the despised and hated
negro! (II, 126-7)
Iola, too, has her chances to pass—to marry a prominent
Northern doctor, to obtain jobs and earn promotions. What is
significant is both the consistent refusal of the Leroy family
to pass and the consistent demand from their nation (that is,
America) that they do so. Harper highlights the way in which
both the Southern and American nations anchor blackness at the
bottom of the social hierarchy. In this way, both versions of
"nation" read blackness as inferior, not supplemental. By
employing mulattoes as her main characters and making them
assert rather than suppress their blackness, Harper challenges
the "national" reading of "black" and offers her own
substitute pedagogy for reading, a pedagogy that reimagines
"nation" as an inclusive term and space, not a term that
relies upon ideas of racial purity.8

215
Thus, mulatto-ness becomes a significant counter-text
employed by Harper in her effort to offer a new strategy of
reading blackness. In her discussion of the depiction of
African-American heroines in post-Reconstruction novels,
Claudia Tate suggests that contemporary readers tend to
misunderstand the term "mulatto," missing the political
significance of the trope:
Rather than regard "mulatto" as a generic term for
designating the emancipated population and their heirs,
indeed a race of new Negroes, as did [Pauline] Hopkins
and her black contemporaries, we twentieth-century
readers have generally viewed mulattoes as racially
ambivalent African Americans who rely on their light skin
color to bolster their self-esteem and bourgeois
ambitions. Whereas Hopkins saw mulattoes as the racial
stock of a new people, we have viewed this group not as
representative of but antagonistic to the black
population. By historicizing the racial construction of
mulatto, we can not only discern a fundamentally
different meaning of the designation but clarify what
seems to have been at least one of Harper1s purposes in
characterizing Iola as a mulatta as well. Tola T.eroy
does not validate the presumed social privilege
associated with mulattoes that contemporary readers have
come to expect; rather the novel uses the mulatto's
inherent transitional racial and class status to
construct emancipatory resocialization, grounded in
virtue, education, and hard work. (Tate 146-7)
Tate's historical reading places mulatto-ness at the point of
"transition."9 Tate denies that Harper was motivated to make
Iola a mulatto in order to appeal to white readers. Instead,
Ida's commitment "to self and group development transform[s]
the old racist ideological imperatives into new stories of
African-American success" (144). Accorded educational
privileges because of her light skin, Iola makes the issue of

216
skin color almost moot by choosing to uplift the black race
rather than passing and living as a white woman.
Other critics are not as sanguine about Harper1s use of
mulattoes. For example, Vashti Lewis argues that Harper
unknowingly "perpetuates an image of black women in this
country that suggests that those who have dark skin and whose
hair is not straight are not only ugly but also never
experience tragedy in their lives" (Lewis 322) . Barbara
Christian suggests that white women composed the largest
segment of Harper's readership and that these readers "could
identify with the beautiful woman who looked as white as they
did" (Christian 26) . In a different essay on Iola Lerov.
Christian contends that Harper's choice of the genre of
romance, and the expectations of readers of that genre, forced
her hand in terms of her artistic choices:
If Harper were to write a successful romance,
one "that would awaken her countrymen to a more
Christian-like humanity," she would have to
construct such an ideal and discard her knowledge
of black women's lives in 1892. One reason for
this is that black women were not beautiful
according to the norms of the day; another is that
most black women, because they had to work, were in
contact with the sullied world and could scarcely
be "pure" in their attitude toward life. Finally,
refinement or the state of being well-bred could
hardly be claimed, since the majority of them had
been slaves. (Christian, "The Uses of History,"
169)
What critics like Lewis and Christian sense about Tola Leroy
is that it permitted a counter-reading that defended the
racist argument of civilizing "white blood." The concessions
Harper had to make given her expected readership compromised

217
the pro-African-American sentiments that the novel strives to
convey. In an odd way, these critics argue, though Harper
does not allow her main characters to "get white," she as a
novelist had to.
In defending Harper's choice, Hazel Carby argues that the
figure of the mulatto must be seen as a mediating presence.
The mulatto bridges the gap between two seemingly disparate
worlds:
After the failure of Reconstruction, social
conventions dictated an increasing and more
absolute distance between black and white as
institutionalized in the Jim Crow laws. In
response, the mulatto figure in literature became a
more frequently used literary convention for an
exploration and expression of what was increasingly
socially proscribed. (Carby 89)
The hardships Iola encounters, placed in her path by white
characters when Iola admits her "black blood," indict white
readers (as well as successful blacks), according to Carby,
rather than make them sympathetic to Iola, as Christian
suggests. Iola distinguishes herself as a capable actor in
the white world, and through her Harper shows the
indiscriminate discrimination of racial prejudice. For Carby,
the mulatto is a mediative presence because it provides a
starting point for coming to grips with the relationship
between black and white. The mulatto figure dulls the edges
of racial opposition.
Yet the figure of the mulatto plays an absolutely
critical róle in Harper's efforts to revise standard reading
practices and, in the process, the borders of "nation." When

218
each of the mulatto characters is advised to pass so as to be
able to partake of the benefits of American citizenship,
Harper exposes the arbitrary nature of the mechanisms of power
which provide the contours of "America." In this way, Harper
asks a question very much like the one posed by Albion Tourgee
in his legal brief for Homer Plessy: "Is not the question of
race, scientifically considered, very often impossible of
determination?" (Olsen 81). "Mulatto-ness," thus, is no mere
lark on the part of Harper, nor is it a concession to the
superiority of whiteness. Rather, the mulatto disallows a
singular reading; the trope is the very embodiment of
Derridean supplementarity. The figure of the mulatto, a third
term in a previously binary debate, belies simplistic racial
(and, by extension, national) taxonomy. Harper strove to
create the conditions for the kind of racial chaos that
segregationists like Henry W. Grady feared so that citizenship
could no longer be based on the false idea of white "purity."
In challenging the discursive mechanisms that created the
"law" of the nation, Harper hoped to open an avenue for the
intervening of blacks in the nation, thereby forcing a
reimagining of the borders of America. Iola Leroy constructs
a pedagogy for reading the post-war America, a kind of primer
for helping readers see (and possibly accept) alternatives to
their traditional readings and, hence, their idea of the
American nation.10

219
When Charles W. Chesnutt looked at that same nation in
1901, he perceived that Harper's "reading lessons" had not
taken hold. America distinguished itself as a world power
with its quick victory in the Spanish-American War, and
Chesnutt, in The Marrow of Tradition, conflates the drive
toward colonial acquisition with the lingering racism in
America:
The nation was rushing forward with giant strides toward
colossal wealth and world-dominion, before the exigencies
of which mere abstract ethical theories must not be
permitted to stand. The same argument that justified the
conquest on an inferior nation could not be denied to
those who sought the suppression of an inferior race.
(MI, 238)
Colonization would enrich America and verify its status as a
"superior" nation. In the same way, the suppression of
blacks, through various textual mechanisms (not the least of
which was Plessv v. Ferguson, handed down four years after the
publication of Iola Leroyi as well as simple violence would
verify the "superiority" of the Anglo-Saxon race. With this
connection, Chesnutt points directly to the way in which
"nation" as defined at the turn of the 20th century required
"the suppression of an inferior race."
With The Marrow of Tradition, Chesnutt, like Harper
before him, tried to expose the discursive mechanisms that
wrote African Americans out of the American nation. Also like
Harper, Chesnutt located the strongest impetus behind these
mechanisms in the South. Writing in the Cleveland Press
shortly after the novel's publication in October 1901,

220
Chesnutt asserted "that 'The Marrow of Tradition' is the plea
of an advocate. I can only hope that it is based upon the
evidence, and that it will make out a case before an impartial
jury" (quoted in Andrews, 205). Himself a lawyer, Chesnutt
positions his novel as a legal argument for black civil
rights. "Every phase of the southern white view has been ably
presented in fiction," he contended in the same newspaper
piece, "and I thought it only fair that the Negro's side
should be given a hearing." Given that five years earlier,
the Supreme Court's Plessv v. Ferguson decision had seemingly
closed the door on such legal arguments, Chesnutt's metaphor
discloses his effort to reengage some of the same issues via
literature.
Chesnutt made his strategy, as well as who he considered
argued the "southern white view," more clear in a letter to
Booker T. Washington dated November 5, 1901:
The writings of Harris and Page and others of that
ilk . . . have furnished my chief incentive to
write something upon the other side of the very
vital question. I know I am on the weaker side in
point of popular sympathy, but I am on the stronger
side in point of justice and morality, and if I can
but command the skill and power to compel
attention, I think I will win out in the long run,
so far as I am personally concerned, and will help
the cause, which is vastly more important. (quoted
in Render, 82)
Chesnutt's announced intention closely aligns his novel with
other types of resistance literature. Barbara Harlow suggests
that "Resistance literature calls attention to itself, and to
literature in general, as a political and politicized

221
activity. The literature of resistance sees itself
furthermore as immediately and directly involved in a struggle
against ascendant or dominant forms of ideological and
cultural production" (Harlow 28-9). Despite his cautious
formulations, Chesnutt clearly believed in the interventionary
capacity of literature. In naming Page and Harris as his
rivals, Chesnutt was taking on two of the best-selling authors
of the time and, hence, two major forces of "ideological and
cultural production," particularly on questions of race.
Chesnutt takes as his starting point for the novel an
actual event—the race riot that occurred in Wilmington, North
Carolina, on November 10, 1898, during which angry whites
"overthrew" the local government, especially the black officer
holders. Estimates ranged between eight and thirty dead
blacks. Yet, as the title of the book suggests, Chesnutt
tries to show that the riot in Wellington (his fictional
setting) is really the residue of an embedded "tradition" of
racial division and presumed white superiority. That
"tradition" is literally invented; that is, to justify their
hold on power, Wellington's white elite, led by newspaper
publisher Major Carteret and his cronies Captain McBane and
General Belmont, offer a version of history that confirms
their right to rule. Moreover, in control of the textual
mechanisms operative in the town (Carteret controls the
dissemination of news from Wellington as the official
Associated Press outlet and Belmont is the town's most

222
prominent lawyer), these men can quash any attempt at a
counter-history which calls into question "tradition."
Historian Eric Hobsbawn, in his definition of an
"invented tradition," notes that such constructions prove most
effective when linked to an equally idealized version of the
past:
"Invented tradition" is taken to mean a set of
practices, normally governed by overtly or tacitly
accepted rules and of a ritual or symbolic nature, which
seek to inculcate certain values and norms of behaviour
by repetition, which automatically implies continuity
with the past. In fact, where possible, they normally
attempt to establish continuity with a suitable historic
past. (Hobsbawm 1)
By rootincj a nation in a set of historically verifiable
practices, its members can feel a sort of cohesion through
repetition. Thus, for the sustaining of the nation, a
suitable history must be constructed that supports
"tradition." As Chesnutt bores in on "the marrow of
tradition," he locates and exposes the specious history that
supports it. In this way, Chesnutt can show that the "nation"
these men and, presumably, men like them, imagine mandates the
exclusion Of blacks. This continued exclusion both verifies
the "history" of white supremacy and heads off any possible
disruption of that "tradition" by "outsiders."
In fact, the racism proffered by the "tradition" Chesnutt
wishes to critique installed itself as the primary argument
against historical change. In castigating and demonizing an
"other," "tradition" depicted a potentially chaotic and
assuredly undesireable future. As George L. Mosse asserts in

223
Nationalism and Sexuality, racism permits a reactionary
critique of his historical change as well as a justification
of a seemingly discredited past:
The consciousness of change, of the new speed of
time, of the possible loss of control over one's
life, were basic issues to which racism addressed
itself. Through its appeal to history and nature
it attempted to make time stand still, to provide
men and women not only with a usable racial past
but also with a piece of eternity that would give
them support. The outsider fulfilled a crucial
function as the anti-type—a warning of what the
future might hold if society relaxed its controls
and abandoned its quest for respectability. (Mosse
150-1)
The "outsider" provides definitional support for the nation in
that his position marked the boundary of acceptable
citizenship. To sustain his "otherness," a "usable racial
past" had to be created that enforced distinctions, brought
them to the surface, literally and figuratively, and at the
same time made them seem natural.
The America Chesnutt sees and writes about uses blackness
as its primary term for representing otherness, and blackness
becomes subject to the machinations of those trying to sustain
their "invented tradition." Arguing that "mongrelization"
would result from the erasure of lines of distinction between
black and white, segregationists succeeded in denying full
citizenship to African-Americans. Chesnutt shows how easily
ideas about blackness could be manufactured:
Statistics of crime, ingeniously manipulated, were made
to present a fearful showing against the negro. Vital
statistics were made to prove that he had degenerated
from an imaginary standard of physical excellence which
had existed under the benign influence of slavery.

224
Constant lynchings emphasized his impotence, and bred
everywhere a growing contempt for his rights. (Ml, 238)
The body of the black man becomes the text that "proves" the
legitimacy of the past. With freedom, African Americans had
become degenerate, both morally (as criminals) and physically.
Using these "statistics" to show "the benign influence of
slavery," whites recurred to a "usable racial past" that both
provided a model for effective future nationhood and
demonstrated the folly of radical historical change—in this
case, emancipation. Even the lynchings of black men,
society's literal and violent writing of discipline on the
bodies of the other, get read as "proof" of black degeneracy
and a justification for restricting the rights of the race in
its entirety.
Such a characterization of "black" also permitted
unscrupulous whites to use blackness as a cover for their own
misdeeds. The case of Tom Delamere in The Marrow of Tradition
provides a capsule version of the way in which, in Chesnutt's
view, racial distinction gets manipulated to verify racial
hierarchy. Tom dresses up in blackface, posing as his
grandfather's manservant Sandy Campbell (described by the
elder Delamere as "a gentleman in ebony") , and kills and robs
Polly Ochiltree to pay gambling debts. Tom's "performance"
successfully diverts suspicion from himself, and though there
is evidence to indicate Sandy's innocence, Captain McBane,
another of Major Carteret's race-baiting partners, argues for
the need to carry out the execution anyway:

225
"Burn the nigger," reiterated McBane, "We
seem to have the right nigger, but whether we have
or not, burn a nigger. It is an assault upon the
white race, in the person of old Mrs. Ochiltree,
committed by the black race, in the person of some
nigger. It would justify the white people in
burning any nigger. The example would be all the
more powerful if we got the wrong one. It would
serve notice on the niggers that we shall hold the
whole race responsible for the misdeeds of each
individual." (ffl, 182)
McBane's bald racism reveals his perception of blackness as a
catch-all for degeneracy. For McBane, as for Carteret and the
other white supremacists of Wellington, individual "niggers"
are interchangeable. The black race committed the crimes
against Polly Ochiltree "in the person of some nigger." What
makes McBane's assertion ironic is that the "person" in
question is not a "nigger" at all but rather a white man
impersonating a black. The example McBane wants to make
symbolizes the dilemma faced by African Americans. Whether or
not they possessed any legal rights, blacks had had an
identity invented for them which, because they could neither
embrace nor deny it, left them vulnerable to white incursions
and then white "justice."
Such violence constituted the most drastic effort of
whites to inscribe otherness onto black bodies.11 As Chesnutt
makes clear, whites need to maintain control over the
production and performance of blackness in order to sustain
their definition of "nation." Any effort whatsoever, whether
intentional or not, to disrupt the certainty of racial
difference gets denounced quickly by the white men in charge

226
of Wellington, the fictional setting for the novel. Examining
an ad for "skin bleach" which appears in the local black-run
newspaper, General Belmont, one of the town agitators for
white supremacy, remarks upon the ramifications for his
segregationist campaign if such a potion actually worked:
We'd better hurry, or there'll be no negroes to
disfranchise! If they don't stop till they get the
color they desire, and the stuff works according to
contract, they'll all be white. (M, 84)
The possible erasure of the color line would destroy the basis
for the signification of the General's political views. If
the "skin bleach" were successful, the distinction between
"inside" and "outside" the nation would be lost. With the
loss of distinctive otherness upon which a law regulating the
borders of the nation could be based, General Belmont and his
compatriots would lose their best claim to political
privilege.
When Major Carteret, the publisher of Wellington's white-
run newspaper and cohort of General Belmont, discovers that
his manservant Jerry Letlow has been using the advertised
"skin bleach," he immediately moves to put Jerry back in his
proper place:
"Jerry," said Carteret sternly, "when I hired
you to work for the Chronicle, you were black. The
word 'negro' means 'black.' The best negro is a
black negro of the pure type, as it came from the
hand of God. If you wish to get along well with
the white people, the blacker you are the better,—
white people do not like negroes who want to be
white. A man should be content to remain as God
made him and where God placed him." (MI, 245-6)

227
Major Carteret attempts to restore the one-to-one
correspondence of signifier to signified—"black" equals
"negro." He invokes God twice in the passage, telling Jerry,
in effect, that tampering with his blackness is tampering with
God's "placement." Carteret himself seeks to "place" Jerry—
"the blacker you are the better." He needs Jerry to accept
that place so that his imagined community and his political
egomania can be sustained.
What makes Carteret's anxiety ironic is the fact that
Chesnutt characterizes Jerry Letlow as "a white man's nigger."
Sensing that his employer and his friends are about to crack
down on Wellington's black population, Jerry decides "ter keep
my mouf shet an' stan' in wid de Angry-Saxon race" (MI, 90).
As novelist John Wideman notes in his reappraisal of The
Marrow of Tradition, "In a perverse display of subterfuge and
imagination, Jerry and the white men literally create one
another each time they meet" (Wideman 129). Jerry's
subservience reinforces Carteret's own feeling of superiority
as well as his "disgust" with blacks in general. Jerry in
turn learns what Carteret and his friends expect of him and
then performs accordingly. Jerry enacts a kind of blackface
minstrelsy in which his performance as obsequious "darky"
verifies for whites the tenets of their own politics.12
Carteret's politics, of course, derive in large measure
from Southern nationalism. Yet the nation that he and his
partners conceive is not limited to the South. As Chesnutt

228
argues, Southern nationalism as practiced by the Carterets of
the world was being offered as an appropriate model for the
American nation. For example, when a group of Northerners
visit Wellington to explore business opportunities, "generous"
hosts (none of whom are named) lead carefully orchestrated
tours. By controlling their guests' point of view, these
hosts create the perspective that they need and desire:
The visitors were naturally much impressed by
what they learned from their courteous hosts, and
felt inclined to sympathize with the Southern
people, for the negro is not counted as a
Southerner, except to fix the basis of
congressional representation. There might of
course be things to criticise here and there,
certain customs for which they did not exactly see
the necessity, and which seemed in conflict with
the highest ideals of liberty; but surely these
courteous, soft-spoken ladies and gentlemen,
entirely familiar with local conditions, who
descanted so earnestly and at times pathetically
upon the grave problems confronting them, must know
more about it than people in the distant North,
without their means of information. (Ml, 116)
During their tours, the Northerners "had no opportunity to
meet or talk alone with any colored person in the city except
the servants at the hotel" (Ml, 116). The perspective offered
to this Northern audience (symbolic of the larger reading
audience in the North that had embraced the works of Harris,
Page, and later, Dixon) is purely white. The manifestations
of blackness that this audience is privy to—reports of black
brutality, church celebrations, laborers—endorse the white
Southern point of view. The visitors accept the distinction
between "negro" and "Southerner," accepting that blacks are
outside of the privileges of citizenship. In fact, that

229
distinction had been endorsed nationally as well with Plessy
v. Ferguson. In short, Chesnutt argues that as long as
African Americans have no voice in the making of the
narratives that regulate their lives, or have their narratives
ignored or debased, the signification of blackness would
remain a tool of repression rather than an expression of
diversity.
Chesnutt discovered that his own narratives were not
having the impact that he had hoped for. Having gotten
positive reviews for two books of short stories. The Conjure
Woman and The Wife of His Youth, both published in 1899,
Chesnutt sought to escape from the constraints of the genre of
local color by writing what he termed "Afro-American novels"—
books that dealt directly with the color line and the zealous
guarding of it by whites. Richard Brodhead notes in Culture
of Letters how Chesnutt recognized that his fame and career as
an author was predicated on his making "passable" the lives of
blacks for white readers. Rather than smuggling blacks into
mainstream culture, as he thought possible when writing in his
journal, Chesnutt recognized that his stories were instead
reifying racial difference. As Brodhead observes,
The exchange suggests his rueful recognition that he
could win his place in authorship on the condition of
playing to habits of vicarious consumption and
sympathetic expropriation unmodified by his authorship—
that the structure of social and literary interests that
established regionalism as a genre for the elite both
made a place for him as a writer in elite culture and
constrained his work to serve the imaginative agenda of
that culture, the agenda not of dismantling prejudice but

230
of feeding an appetite for consumable otherness.
(Brodhead 206)
Chesnutt's dream of becoming a professional writer could be
achieved only if he participated in the degradation of the
black race—something that Harper, for example, never allowed
any of her mulatto characters in lola Lerov to do. Chesnutt
rejects this path.13
In Brodhead's formulation, Chesnutt turned his attention
more directly to issues of race. In his first novel, The
House Behind the Cedars. published in 1900, and then again a
year later with The Marrow of Tradition. Chesnutt documents
the mechanisms enforcing a strict color line and the impact
upon educated black professionals, DuBois's "Talented Tenth,"
of that line. Brodhead argues that Chesnutt shifts his focus
from being a commercially successful author to being a kind of
historian:
In embracing this new subject Chesnutt proposed a
new work for himself as a writer. He strove to be the
historian of an unrecorded phase of black experience, and
so to bring the variegations of American racial life to
public acknowledgement. And Chesnutt clearly wished to
found his literary identity on this mission. (Brodhead
207)
Like Harper, then, Chesnutt wished to give voice to that
African-American history that traditional historiography had
overlooked or discarded. Brodhead points out that this focus
cost Chesnutt the status of "major writer," because the
material he wished to write about was too controversial: "But
for Chesnutt this is a time of literary blockage—not because
he lacked projects or the will to make them public but because

231
the organs of official literary culture refused those projects
public life" (208)
Chesnutt's role as historian seems particularly apt
because The Harrow of Tradition shows how potentially deadly
an African-American counter-history can be to white supremacy.
What makes Josh Green such a radical force in the novel is not
merely hid demand for racial justice but the history he
remembers that informs that demand. After hearing Josh's
story of hdw his family had been massacred in an attack by the
Ku Klux Klán, William Miller "realize[s], too, for a moment,
the continuity of life, how inseparably the present is woven
with the past, how certainly the future will be but the
outcome of the present" (MI, 112). Miller recognizes that
most Africin-Americans are not vindictive, which is another
way of saying that they are ahistorical: "Absorbed in the
contemplation of their doubtful present and their uncertain
future, they gave little thought to the past,—it was a dark
story, whicth they would willingly forget." In his moment of
clarity, Miller understands that the "doubtful present" and
"uncertain future" are products of the forgotten past. Josh
Green represents a revolutionary mode of social protest in
that he remembers:
Here was a negro who could remember an injury, who
could shape his life to a definite purpose, if not
a high or holy one. When his race reached the
point where they would resent a wrong, there was
hope that they might soon attain the stage where
they would try, and, if need be, die, to defend a
right, (Ml, 112)

232
Thus, Chesnutt articulates a key part of his "plea"—the need
for a more complete, inclusive "historical memory," one that
African-Americans themselves participated in. When Miller
advises Josh to "forgive and forget" as the Bible suggests,
Josh scoffs, "I've heared de preachers say it time an' time
ag'in. But it 'pears ter me dat dis fergitfulniss an'
fergiveniss is mighty one-sided" (MI, 113) .15
Yet in his position as historian, Chesnutt must
acknowledge that such dangerous embodiments of African-
American memory as Josh Green are few and far between.
Rather, "new" blacks, like the novel's main character William
Miller, survive the travails of racism by "forgetting"; that
is, Miller, despite his education and professional status,
assumes the role of loyal "darky" at the end of The Marrow of
Tradition. As the only available doctor in Wellington in the
aftermath of the riot, Miller goes to the Carteret house to
save "Dodie" Carteret, the Major's only son. Miller's
willingness to attend to the Carteret baby is predicated on
his and hi# wife's forgetting of the murder of their own son
during the riot, a riot fostered (though ultimately not
controlled! by Carteret. When he enters the Carteret house
(from which he had been debarred earlier in the novel), Miller
assumes the role previously held by Mammy Jane Letlow, Dodie's
old nurse who, ironically, is also killed during the riot.
Whereas Jane had used "conjure" to ward off illness, Miller
uses modern medicine, but they occupy the same space in

233
relation to the Carterets. They each protect the literal
embodiment of the "New" South, the South which retained its
old values and attitudes toward African-Americans.16
Because of Chesnutt1s own professional status, many
critics of The Marrow of Tradition have suggested that
Chesnutt employs William Miller as a model black for effecting
racial rapprochement. For instance, Eric Sundquist considers
The Marrow of Tradition a "conciliatory" novel, arguing that,
with the exception of the Millers' son, the other African-
American characters who are killed "are deliberately
sacrificed by Chesnutt in his own act of ideological healing"
(Sundquist 447). Suggesting that Chesnutt undercuts the
political power of the "folk" characters, Sundquist reads The
Marrow of Tradition as an articulation of a new politics of
blackness:
In a book governed throughout by stark polarities,
there seems little room for paradox: the new
African American order, if it is to have a place in
society at all, will of necessity pass beyond—
forsake, perhaps—the world of the folk and its
survivals of slave culture. (Sundquist 449)
Though eschewing a simple association between Miller and
Chesnutt, Sundquist sees the choice of Miller over Josh Green
as Chesnutt's logical concession to political reality: "But it
is certain that Chesnutt intended his novel to be
conciliatory, that he intended it to contain an anguished cry
of righteous protest moderated by the hopeful voice of
compromise" (449).

234
Sundquist's interpretation conflicts with Brodhead's
characterization of Chesnutt as historian. Chesnutt must
"sacrifice" some African-Americans to save others. He must
enact the kind of erasure of historical memory with such a
"sacrifice" that elsewhere in the novel he points to as a
chief cause of African-American disempowerment. "Progress"
requires replication, and, hence, Miller replaces Mammy Jane
in the production process of the New South.
Sundquist's interpretation points up the choices Chesnutt
faced as he tried to construct a historical narrative about
African Americans. Far from endorsing Miller as a model of
compromise, Chesnutt resigns himself to Miller as the only
"hero" who could survive the political reality of the "New"
South. Chesnutt ends the novel before Miller actually tends
to Dodie Carteret—a small protest of the ultimate closure
that he knew Southern society (with the tacit blessing of the
North) demanded of African Americans. Sundquist's
interpretation celebrates the very compromise that Chesnutt
wished to highlight as the most insidious remaining vestige of
"tradition1'—the required subservience of blacks to the
dominant white social order.
Sundquist's assertion that Chesnutt's politics "pass
beyond" the folk culture highlights the cultural mangling
African-Americans had to endure to gain a "place" in the
national narrative. Given that Sundquist's ultimate goal is
to "pass" Chesnutt into the American literary canon, the

235
elisions required for such a move cast a significant light on
the embedded bigotries of canon-makers. In a sense,
Sundquist's interpretation demonstrates how the American
literary canon replicates and informs the racism of the larger
culture—that it is, in a very specific sense, still
"Confederate in sympathy." Chesnutt qualifies for
canonization because he throws off part of his culture
heritage. Put another way, the canon requires a regulated
blackness just as the Southern nation did (though these ideas
of blackness are starkly different) . The Marrow of Tradition
argues that the exclusion from narrative-making leads to an
exclusion of national voice for blacks. By refusing to grant
readerly sanction to African-American texts that refuse to
"pass," canon-makers also restrict the circulation of black
narratives, further devaluing the development of black voices
to intervene in and supplement the narration of nation.
Chesnutt's novel deliberately offers up William Miller as a
"model" African American for 20th century America because of
his inadequacies. Accepting that model at face value (either
to praise Chesnutt, as Sundquist dues, or to ridicule him, as
Leroi Jones, Robert Bone, Richard Wright, and others have) is
to miss the point of Chesnutt's parodie "acceptance" of the
color line.
Harper and Chesnutt, then, both set about projects of
historical revision. In doing so, they each hope to effect
meaningful change in the way that the public read blackness.

236
They perceive their task to be intervening in the discursive
mechanisms that produced the composite narrative of the
American nation. Each evinces some anxiety about the fitness
of the "Talented Tenth" to remain faithful to their heritage—
both Iola Leroy and William Miller come off at times in their
respective novels as unenlightened elitists. But the larger
problem they faced was resignifying blackness in order to
change the minds of a predominantly white reading public.
"The subject of your excellent work is not one that will
commend it to the general public," wrote Chicago's state
attorney and longtime Chesnutt confidante Charles Deneen on
November 5, 1901, regarding The Marrow of Tradition. "The
truths you portray are unwelcome ones" (quoted in Andrews,
205) . So it proved to be. With the emergence of Thomas
Dixon, the question of the contours of the nation, especially
regarding race and citizenship, seemed to be settled. Yet
Sutton Griggs contested Dixon's racist polemics with his own
model of nation—a model that rejects radical separatism and
instead maps out the possibility of a racially integrated
American nation.
The Birth /and Death) of Nations
As contemporaries, novelists Sutton Griggs and Thomas
Dixon could not have been more diametrically opposed on the
question of the interconnectedness of race and nation. Yet,
by reading Griggs's Imperium in Imperio (1899) in relation to

237
Dixon's The T.eooard's Spots (1902), the differences in
perspective illuminate the competing conceptions of "nation"
offered by African-American and white writers. Imperium in
Tmperio actually refers to a secret black nation that develops
in turn-of-the-century America as a response to the injustices
suffered by blacks. Griggs critiques this idea of "nation,"
recognizing that such radical segregation fosters rather than
assuages racial animosity. The ultimate destruction of the
Imperium carries with it a plea for the unity of mankind.
Dixon, on the other hand, argues for the necessity of
radical segregation. One of the main characters in The
leopard's Soots, the Reverend John Durham, articulates the
simple premise under which Dixon operates: "Can you build, in
a Democracy, a nation inside a nation of two hostile races?
We must do this or become mulatto, and that is death" (Dixon,
ls. 244). Dixon's attack on African Americans serves two
purposes. First, it underscores his conception of "nation" as
racially bounded—more specifically, his conception of America
as necessarily white. Secondly, by gathering a consensus in
support of his definition, Dixon pays the ultimate tribute to
and reempowers the idea of the Southern nation, a nation
which, after all, had defined itself as exclusively white. In
fact, this "competition" between Sutton Griggs and Thomas
Dixon, via their respective first novels, offers insight into
not only the history of race relations in post-civil War
America but also the enduring attraction of the post-war

238
Confederacy—the nation America remembered it could have been.
Both Griggs and Dixon wish to map out their respective
versions of nation. Griggs recognizes, however, that before
he can produce his new mapping, he must confront the old map.
Early in Imperium in Imperio. Belton Piedmont, the main
character of the novel, enters Stowe University to prepare for
a career of uplifting the black race. At the first student
assembly, Belton studies a map that depicts the burgeoning of
African-American colleges:
A map of the United States was hanging on the wall,
facing the assembled school. On this map there were
black dots indicating all places where a school of
learning had been planted for the colored people by their
white friends of the North. (Griggs, XX, 50)
This map, with its "black dots," would seem to signify the
beginning stages of a movement toward integration. A black
presence gets registered in a symbolic representation of the
imagined community of America.
Yet this map ultimately represents not African-American
advancement but rather liberal white self-congratulation. The
president of Stowe University, "a venerable white minister
from the North," sets the tone for the meeting with his
opening remarks: "He did not on this occasion preach a sermon,
but devoted the hour to discoursing upon the philanthropic
work done by the white people of the North for the freedmen of
the South" (XI, 50). The map, and indeed, Stowe University
itself, act as evidence of white benevolence, but neither
institution radically changes the nation's racial equation.

239
In fact, Griggs uses the symbol literally to map out the
infantilization of African-Americans. As J. B. Harvey has
noted in his provocative readings of the rhetoric of
cartography, most maps reflect the belief systems of the
communities that produce them:
Both in the selectivity of their content and in their
signs and styles of representation maps are a way of
conceiving, articulating, and structuring the human world
which is biased toward, promoted by, and exerts influence
upon particular sets of social relations. (Harvey 278)
The map at Stowe University reflects the new masterdom that
these Northern white philanthropists wish to assume. They map
out an America in which the black presence is carefully
regulated and constantly subject to revision.
In using the metaphor of the map with "black dots,"
Griggs subtly hints at the impossibility of peaceful racial
integration without reimagining the ideological borders of the
nation. Projecting blackness into a space prefigured as
white, Griggs suggests, is a sure recipe for disaster. The
schools symbolized by the black dots had come under direct
assault by forces unwilling to cede any territory, ideological
or physical, to an incursion of blackness:
Ridicule, vinification [sic], ostracism, violence,
arson, murder were all employed to hinder the progress of
the work. Outsiders looked on and thought it strange
that they should do this. But, just as a snake, though
a venomous animal, by instinct knows its enemy and fights
for its life with desperation, just so the Old South
instinctively foresaw danger to its social fabric as then
constituted, and therefore despised and fought the
agencies that were training and inspiring the future
leaders of the Negro race in such a manner as to render
a conflict inevitable and of doubtful termination. (XI,
51-2)

240
Unwilling to have its "social fabric" reconfigured, the "Old
South" resists even the modest remapping exemplified in the
Stowe University map. Significantly, though Griggs ridicules
white Northern philanthropists for their hidden racism, he
locates the main resistance to his cartographic project in the
South. Griggs thus identifies the "nation" that his imagined
community will compete with. Imperium in Imperio becomes a
project of counter-mapping, employing Belton Piedmont as the
pioneer of black decolonization.
In The Leopard's Spots. Thomas Dixon also broaches the
question of mapping the post-war world. The novel opens as
the Civil War ends, and Dixon notes, "The earth had been
baptised in the blood of five hundred thousand heroic
soldiers, and a new map of the world had been made" (LS, 4).
Yet the defeat of the Confederacy and the consequent reunion
of the country had, in fact, restored the old map of the
United States. Dixon's sense of the map created by the
Confederacy's defeat extends to the social and political. No
longer could whites expect the full submission of blacks, as
the Reverend John Durham discovers when he encounters a
drunken black Union League member who refuses to surrender the
right of way on a public walk. Durham takes this encounter to
be emblematic of what defeated Southern whites could expect in
the new post-war world:
Gradually in his mind for days this towering figure of
the freed Negro had been growing more and more ominous,
until its menace overshadowed the poverty, the hunger,
the sorrow and the devastation of the South, throwing the

241
blight of its shadow over future generations, a veritable
Black Death for the land and its people. (L£, 33)
The various images of darkness ("overshadowed," "shadow,"
"Black Death") create the impression of a pervasive blackness
dramatically changing the social and political landscape of
the South. In a sense, these images function in much the same
way as the black dots on the Stowe University map, except
that, for Dixon, this blackness, far from being confined,
threatens to overwhelm the prostrate South. Blackness becomes
a kind of contagion that only the unity of the Anglo-Saxon
race can combat.
The Leopard's Spots becomes Dixon's own effort at a kind
of remapping, but unlike Griggs, Dixon did not have to create
anew the borders of this ideal nation. Rather, it had already
existed and, in fact, existed still in the minds of many
Southerners—the Confederate States of America. Dixon
conceives of "nation" as a racially bounded community that
ceases to exist if and when those boundaries get violated.
Dixon thus appears to cross one border (the North/South
dichotomy) to enforce another (black/white), as he appeals to
the Anglo-Saxon race to unify. In fact, Dixon simply deploys
the imagined Southern nation as the antidote to the
"infection" of the freedmen released by the result of the
Civil War and as a substitute version of American nationhood.
The chief premise enacted in The Leopard's Spots is the utter
folly of the "new" map and the necessity of returning to the
old.

242
As Walter Benn Michaels points out, Dixon's fiction
functions in a way similar to Lothrop Stoddard's racial maps
in his 1920 book The Rising Tide of Color against White World-
Supremacy. "Stoddard's mission in The Rising Tide was to
teach white men the importance of a ' true race-consciousness'
before it was too late," Michaels asserts, "before, that is,
the white world was overrun by browns, blacks, reds, and
yellows" (Michaels 194). Dixon's mapping, too, serves a
pedagogical purpose. In fact. The Leopard's Spots prophesies
a destabilization of the nation from the infiltration of its
borders by "foreigners." In a conversation with a clergyman
from Boston, John Durham argues that the South provides a
bulwark against "invasion":
I've studied your great cities. Believe me, the
South is worth saving. Against the possible day when a
flood of foreign anarchy threatens the foundations of the
Republic and men shall laugh at the faiths of your
fathers, and undigested wealth beyond the dreams of
avarice rots your society, until it mocks at honour, love
and God—against that day we will preserve the South!
(LS, 337)
Durham envisions the South as the repository of "honour, love
and God," in the process replaying much of the rhetoric of
secessionists. More significantly, the South will also act as
a repellant of "foreign anarchy." Thus, like Lothrop
Stoddard, Dixon constructs two maps—one that charts out a
future of "foreign" dissipation, in which America becomes
progressively less American, and one that reaffirms the
borders of race and white supremacy.

243
Dixon himself proclaimed that The Leopard's Soots
reflected the beliefs of most white Southerners. Defending
his novel against criticism that it was historically suspect,
Dixon wrote a short piece published in the August 9, 1902, New
York Times in which he suggested that detractors were a
geographically insignificant force:
If eighteen millions of Southern people, who, at present
rule, believe what my book expresses, is it not well to
know it? I assert that they do believe it, and that the
number of Southern white people today who disagree with
"The Leopard's Spots" could all be housed on a half-acre
lot. (Dixon, "An Author's Answer," 538)
Dixon measures political efficacy in terms of occupied space—
a kind of geographical "might makes right." At the same time
that he suggests that "white" dissenters would fit "on a half¬
acre lot," he also suggests that a united South could
determine the political future of the country: "[Southern
whites] are so situated geographically that they control
enough votes to elect the President with the aid of but two
Northern States" (538). The map Dixon most assiduously
advocates might well defend the integrity of the Anglo-Saxon
race, but it also clearly re-places the South in a position of
political eminence.
Late in Imperium in Imperio, the President of the
Imperium, Bernard Belgrave, denounces whites as a race of
tyrants looking to lord over blacks: "[Whites] have apparently
chosen our race as an empire, and each Anglo-Saxon regards
himself as a petty king, and some gang or community of negroes
as his subjects" (II, 218). As Belton Piedmont discovers,

244
white tyranny enacts itself most directly on the bodies of
African-Americans, subjecting them once again to colonization.
Black bodies form the terrain upon which whites map out their
own sense of power and superiority. Belton's own effort to
revise the map of the nation to include the space for African-
Americans is nearly compromised when his own body becomes a
fetishized object that various white men wish to possess and
penetrate.
While at Stowe University, Belton and his classmates are
encouraged to see themselves as healthy supplements for a sick
world. The president of Stowe, Dr. Lovejoy, counsels his
listeners to make themselves "nourishers":
The world is like unto a wounded animal that has run
a long way and now lies stretched upon the ground, the
blood oozing forth from gaping wounds and pains darting
through its entire frame. The huntsman, who comes along
to secure and drink the feverish milk of this animal that
is all but a rotting carcass, seriously endangers his own
well being. So, young men, do not look upon this dying,
decaying world to feed and support you. You must feed
and support it. Carry fresh, warm, invigorating blood in
your veins to inject into the veins of the world. (XI,
65)
Lovejoy advises an active role for his African-American
students. Rather than waiting to be fed, they should "feed
and support" the world. Yet by suggesting that his students
ought to "inject" their blood into the veins of the world,
Lovejoy suggests a mixture that the white world could not
countenance. "Black blood" in any amount carried with it a
taint, an uncivilized aspect that, for rabid segregationists,
would lead to the mongrelization and eventual obliteration of

245
the white race. Thus, while Lovejoy urges Belton and his
classmates to cultivate their penetrative capacities, the
world into which they journeyed feared such efforts and was
prepared to repulse any effort at an admixture of "black" and
"white" blood.
Moreover, as Belton discovers, black bodies become sites
to be appropriated and penetrated by whites. As he travels to
Cadeville, Louisiana, to become head of a small black college
there, his body elicits a great deal of interest from the
locals. In particular, the local coroner, Zackland, wants
Belton as a "specimen":
"I'll be durned if that ain't the finest lookin' darkey
I ever put my eye on. If I could get his body to
dissect, I'd give one of the finest kegs of whiskey in my
cellar." (II, 145)
Zackland confides this desire to the local postmaster, the
head of a group called the "Nigger Rulers." From the moment
Belton arrives in Cadeville, any autonomy that he perceived
himself to have over his own person immediately ends. He is
made the "empire" that Zackland and his cronies attempt to
rule over.
Eventually, through repeated offenses (including urging
young black men to vote), Belton gets into trouble with the
"Nigger Rulers." He is shot, hanged, and left for dead, his
body handed over to Zackland for dissection. Yet Belton
miraculously stays alive, feigning death as Zackland begins
his incisions and looking for an opportunity to escape:

246
Dr. Zackland cut off the hair in the neighborhood of the
wound in the rear of Belton's head and began cutting the
skin, trying to trace the bullet. Belton did not wince.
"The nigger is dead or else he would show some sign
of life. But I will try pricking his palm." This was
done, but while the pain was exceedingly excruciating,
Belton showed no sign of feeling. (XX, 156)
This dissection scene acts as an allegory of Griggs's
perception of race relations. Blacks must accept such
incisions, their bodies appropriated and probed while they,
like Belton, must "[show] no sign of feeling."
In order to escape from Zackland, Belton enacts a
counter-penetration—he stabs the coroner to death with his
own knife. To effect his escape, Belton substitutes
Zackland's body for his own on the dissection table, attaching
a short note:
Doctors:
I have stepped out for a short while. Don't touch
the nigger until I come. (XI, 158)
Belton commits the most unpardonable of crimes—killing a
white man. Yet more significantly, Belton's method makes
Zackland a "nigger." Admittedly, Belton is not following Dr.
Lovejoy's advice to be a nourisher. But his "injection" into
Zackland underscores the white horror of black penetrative
power. In asserting his rights over his own person and in
violating the bodily integrity of a white man, Belton
threatens the cartography of white power by threatening racial
distinctions based on the capacity to penetrate. Even
when Belton disguises his body, he finds himself the object of
white men's desires. For example, in an attempt to learn more

247
about what whites think of his people, Belton cross-dresses,
taking a job as a maid for a prominent Richmond family.
However, he soon discovers that the borders of black women's
bodies are as little respected as those of black men's:
Midnight carriage rides were offered and refused.
Trips to distant cities were proposed but declined.
Money was offered freely and lavishly but to no avail.
Belton did not yield to them. He became the cynosure of
all eyes. He seemed so hard to reach, that they began to
doubt his sex. (XI, 134)
Eventually, several of his "suitors" kidnap Belton and
discover his "true" sex. What Belton discovers during this
moment of transvestism, however, is that, for white men, black
women by definition are easily penetrable. In an odd way,
Belton confirms this racist logic by proving to be a man. A
"normal" black woman would have submitted; while Belton's
"true" gender does cause some outrage in Richmond's prominent
social circles, the fact that the "truth" about black women
did not get challenged eases any definitional anxiety.17
The attacks on Belton lead him to see the nation as
conspiring against his and his family's bodily integrity. For
example, when his newborn son's skin remains white, Belton
concludes (incorrectly, as it turns out) that his wife
Antoinette has been unfaithful. Rather than blame her,
though, Belton blames the nation for the supposed white
incursion:
His feelings toward his wife were more of pity than
reproach. Like the multitude, he supposed that his
failure to properly support her had tempted her to ruin.
He loved her still; if anything, more passionately than
ever. But ah! what were his feelings in those days

248
toward the flag which he had loved so dearly, which had
floated proudly and undisturbed, while color prejudice,
upheld by it, sent, as he thought, cruel want with drawn
sword to stab his family honor to death. (XX, 137-8)
Having been unable to penetrate the strict boundaries of the
nation, Belton perceives that nation to have underwritten a
penetrative assault on his "family honor." Belton assumes
Antoinette literally to have been penetrated, and the nation
itself was culpable for underwriting the "cruel want" that
used its "drawn sword" to "stab."18
The Leopard1s Snots charts a different cartography of the
black body, making the case that such bodies must be subdued
and written out of the idea of nation in order for whites,
particularly white women, to be safe. Dixon chronicles the
representational change of black bodies, from inanimate object
to threatening penetrator. For instance, at the beginning of
the novel, the faithful Nelse, manservant to Charles Gaston,
Sr. , tells young Charlie Gaston how he used his skill at
playing the banjo to prepare the Confederate troops for
battle:
I make out lak I doan' see [our troops] tall, des playin'
ter myself. Den I make dat banjer moan en cry en talk
about de folks way down in Dixie. De boys creep up
closer twell dey right at my elbow en I see 'em cryin',
some un 'em—den I 'gin 'er juk! en way she go pluckety
plunck! en dey 'gin ter dance and laugh! Sometimes dey
cuss me lak dey mad en lam me on de back. When dey hit
me hard den I know dey ready ter gimme all dey got. (X£,
54)
Nelse uses his body as a measure of the preparedness of the
troops. The more pain they inflict on him, the more ready he
perceives them to be. As a further measure of Nelse's

249
submission of his person to the cause of the South, after the
war ends and the elder Gaston has been killed, Nelse still
returns South, passing through Union lines to do so, in order
to put himself under the command of Mrs. Gaston and young
Charlie.
The end of the war, however, unleashes the threat of
black penetration on the South, in the person of the black
rapist.19 Two different scenes, both involving daughters of
Tom Camp, a disabled Confederate veteran, highlight Dixon's
use of the image of the black rapist. The first involves
Camp's daughter Annie, who is kidnapped by drunken black Union
troops on her wedding night. In the fracas that follows,
Annie is shot to death by one of the white men pursuing her
and her kidnappers. Nevertheless, Tom Camp expresses his
gratitude to the men who helped "save" his daughter:
"Tom, you don't know how broke up we all are over
this. Poor child, we did the best we could."
"It's all right boys. You've been my friends
tonight. You've saved my little gal. I want to shake
hands with you and thank you. If you hadn't been here—
My God, I can't think of what would 'a' happened! Now
it's all right. She's safe in God's hands." (L£, 127)
Tom takes solace in the fact that, though his daughter is
dead, she died through violent penetration by a white man's
bullet. Despite intervening on her wedding night, none of the
"black brutes," as Tom refers to them, usurped the spot of her
legal husband Hose Norman.
Many years after this incident, Tom's youngest daughter
Flora is not as lucky as her sister. Kidnapped by the

250
symbolically named Dick, a childhood friend of Charlie Gaston,
Flora suffers what for her father is the ultimate indignity—
penetration by a black man:
Flora lay on the ground with her clothes torn to
shreds and stained with blood. Her beautiful yellow
curls were matted across her forehead in a dark-red lump
beside a wound where her skull had been crushed. The
stone lay at her side, the crimson mark of her life
showing on its jagged edges.
With that stone the brute had tried to strike the
death blow. She was lying on the edge of the hill with
her head up the incline. It was too plain, the terrible
crime that had been committed. (L£, 375)
The more obvious "wound" from the jagged rock tells of the
other penetration that Flora has suffered. She dies shortly
after being discovered, and her father, made mad with grief,
quickly follows.
Dick's crime leads to a coalescing of the Anglo-Saxon
race. Dixon bases his argument for the restoration of the
"old map," the one in which black bodies fell under the
regulation and discipline of superior whites, on the
atrocities permitted by black "exploration" of spaces
previously off limits. Despite the pleas of Charlie Gaston
for a fair trial, Dick gets burned alive. Contemplating the
meaning of the crime the following day, Charlie discerns a
historical pattern when tracing the outbreak of black
lawlessness:
Such crimes as Dick had committed, and for which he
had paid such an awful penalty, were unknown absolutely
under slavery, and were unknown for two years after the
war. Their first appearance was under Legree's regime.
Now, scarcely a day passed in the South without the
record of such an atrocity, swiftly followed by a

251
lynching, and lynching thus had become the punishment for
all grave crimes. (L£, 385)
In Charlie's mind, only with the advent of Radical
Reconstruction did the black rapist emerge and, with his
appearance, the lynch mob emerged as well. Freed from the
fetters imposed by the Southern nation, blacks had become too
aggressive in their explorations. Charlie thus determines to
run for political office on a platform of restoring order
(racial and cartographic) by restoring white supremacy.20
Thus, Griggs and Dixon form the borders of their
respective imagined nations by enforcing the primacy and
integrity of black and white bodies, respectively. "The Negro
finds himself an unprotected foreigner in his own home,"
Belton Piedmont tells the soon-to-be President of the
Imperium, Bernard Belgrave. As a result, a black nation
becomes a necessity:
Whatever outrages may be perpetrated upon [the Negro] by
the people of the state in which he lives, he cannot
expect any character of redress from the General
Government. So in order to supply this neede protection,
this conspiracy of which I have spoken has been formed to
attempt to unite all Negroes in a body to do that which
the whimpering government childishly but truthfully says
it cannot do. (XI, 182-3)
The Imperium, the result of Belton's "conspiracy," relies for
its borders not on any specific geography (though later Belton
suggests taking over the state of Texas as a homeland) but
rather on the bodies of blacks who had been written out of
United States citizenship. The Imperium allows for blacks to
reclaim their bodies, which had been appropriated and mapped

252
out by white supremacists seeking a "pure" nation. To end the
"foreignness" or alien status of blacks, Belton and his co¬
conspirators seek to change the definition of the place they
occupy. Their "nation" thus becomes a strategy of
decolonization—it allows them to go from "outsider" to
"insider," from powerless to empowered, from penetrable to
shielded.
Dixon cites the sinking of the Maine and the consequent
war with Spain as the moment when reunion between the Anglo-
Saxons of the North and the South was finally concluded.
Southerners joined with Northerners not only to defend the
national honor but also to put to rest remaining suspicions
engendered by the Civil War:
Sectionalism and disunity had been the most terrible
realities in our national history. Our fathers had a
poet leader whose soul dreamed a beautiful dream called
E Pluribus Unum. But it had remained a dream. New
England had threatened secession years before South
Carolina in blind rage led the way. The Union was saved
by a sacrifice of blood that appalled the world. And
still millions feared the South might be false to her
plighted honour at Appomattox. The ghost of Secession
made and unmade the men and measures of a generation.
Then came the trumpet call that put the South to the
test of fire and blood. The world waked next morning to
find for the first time in our history the dream of union
a living fact. There was no North, no South—but from
the James to the Rio Grande the children of the
Confederacy rushed with eager, flushed faces to defend
the flag their fathers had once fought. (L£, 410)
The goal of the war is "to wipe the empire of Spain from the
map of the Western world" (L£, 409), thus restoring Anglo-
Saxon primacy. The distinction between North and South
disappears, though Dixon emphasizes the role of "the children

253
of the Confederacy." Those "children" rush to defend the
American flag when that flag had been sullied by a
"foreigner," an other who had had the audacity to attack an
American warship.
As the Anglo-Saxons of both regions reunite, they agree
that blacks, insofar as they had demonstrated themselves to be
a burden, did not merit a place in the newly reformed American
nation:
From the first, it was seen by thoughtful men that the
Negro was an impossibility in the new-born unity of
national life. When the Anglo-Saxon race was united into
one homogeneous mass in the fire of this crisis, the
Negro ceased that moment to be a ward of the nation.
(L£, 413)
Bernard's desire to turn the Imperium into a machine for
armed resistance leads him to order and participate in the
execution of his longtime friend Belton Piedmont. This
execution, however, turns out to be the beginning of the end
of the Imperium. Fearing the consequences of Bernard's
megalomania, Berl Trout, whose personal papers form the basis
of the novel's narrative, betrays the secret of the Imperium's
existence to the national government at Washington, D. C.
Trout argues that "When [Belton Piedmont] fell the spirit of
conservatism in the Negro race, fell with him" (XX, 262).
With a free hand, Bernard presented a danger to the entire
world. Still, Trout's reasoning exposes some class sentiment
as well:
Henceforth Bernard Belgrave's influence would be
supreme. Born of distinguished parents, reared in
luxury, gratified as to every whim, successful in every

254
undertaking, idolized by the people, proud, brilliant,
aspiring, deeming nothing impossible of achievement, with
Viola's tiny hand protruding from the grave pointing him
to move forward, Bernard Belgrave, President of the
Imperium In Imperio, was a man to be feared. (XI, 262-3)
Trout fears the creation of a cult of personality around
Bernard, permitting possibly unnecessary bloodshed. But Trout
also draws a clear distinction between Belton Piedmont, "the
spirit of conservatism," and Bernard. Bernard's privileged
upbringing, Trout seems to argue, makes him a dangerous
radical. The idea of "nation" is co-opted, charting not a
new, expansive community but rather a mechanism for personal
revenge garbed in racial unity. Put simply, Bernard's
"nation" maps out a far too radicalized conception of
blackness. Trout's betrayal is an effort to restore the
conservatism which had apparently died with Belton Piedmont,
and critics of Imperium in Imperio read this ending as
signaling Griggs's own accommodationist stance.21
Trout's logic (and, in the minds of some, Griggs's, too)
comes dangerously close to the white prejudice against
"uppity" blacks. Yet the sacrificing of Bernard Belgrave and
his vision of "nation" actually opens an avenue for Griggs to
argue for a more expansive, inclusive idea of nation.
Marginalizing Bernard as radical makes the more conservative
Belton/Berl less threatening. In his final words to the
world, Trout makes a plea to his readership for racial unity:
I die for mankind, for humanity, for civilization. If
the voice of a poor Negro, who thus gives his life, will
be heard, I only ask as a return that all mankind will
join hands and help my poor down-trodden people to secure

255
those rights for which they organized the Imperium, which
my betrayal has now destroyed. I urge this because love
of liberty is such an inventive genius, that if you
destroy one device it at once constructs another more
powerful. (II, 264-5)
In an odd way, Griggs employs a process of "othering" in order
to extract "conservative" blacks from their status as other.
Bernard comes to embody the "bad" black, and Trout by contrast
can associate himself with "mankind," "humanity," and
"civilization." Thus, while Trout sacrifices himself for
humanity, Griggs sacrifices Bernard Belgrave and his "nation"
as a sign of good faith with the white world. In this way,
Griggs is susceptible to the charge of modern critics of being
overly deferential to whites. Critic Raymond Hedin
suggests that Griggs employs a conservative narrator like
Trout in order to discuss potentially explosive racial issues.
Calling Trout a "double-agent" narrator who has internalized
restrictions imposed by whites, Hedin argues that Trout's
betrayal of the Imperium makes him the ideal narrator to
convey African-American political unrest:
For having framed the story by both his own introductory
disavowal of it and a concluding reaffirmation of his
disenchantment, [Trout] is sufficiently credentialed as
"civilized" to let the story emerge unscathed, its
inherently angry force relatively intact. (Hedin 199)
Hedin suggests that Trout is a narrator "who can pass for
white in order to keep the tale black" (199). For instance,
Trout can warn readers of potentially devastating "devices" of
black nationalism without seeming threatening himself. For
Hedin, Trout's conservatism actually facilitates an

256
articulation of African-American politics. By extension,
Trout picks up Belton Piedmont's mapping project by attempting
(albeit by stealth) to "inject" blackness into the white
nation.
However, to see Bernard Belgrave as solely the embodiment
of black radicalism is too limiting. He is Griggs's direct
critique of the cartography of race. Like the white nation—
makers who wished to limit citizenship by excluding blacks,
Bernard sought to do the same thing in the Imperium. His
thinking about the racial borders of his nation is guided by
the admonition of his late fiancee Viola, who, in her suicide
note, urged Bernard to work for the separation of the races:
If miscegenation is in reality destroying us, dedicate
your soul to the work of separating the white and colored
races. Do not let them intermingle. Erect moral
barriers to separate them. If you fail in this, make the
separation physical; lead our people forth from this
accursed land. (IX, 175)
Viola's fear of miscegenation mirrors that of white
segregationists who insisted that racial intermingling would
mean the death of the Anglo-Saxon race. In short, Bernard
Belgrave is Griggs's parodie depiction of the whites who
sought to make America a "pure" nation. Berl Trout's
denunciation of Bernard's radicalism is at the same time an
implicit critique of any mapping project which relies upon
race. Finally, Griggs proposes no specific boundaries for his
idea of "nation," yet that is the point. The production of
boundaries necessarily requires/produces an "inside" and an
"outside," citizens and "others." Griggs's map, then, seeks

257
integration, not segregation. His idea of "nation" proves
unmappable in any conventional sense. In its very resistance
to cartographic inscription lies its revolutionary
redefinition of "nation."
This resistance to traditional mapping forms the basis
for a new cultural cartography. As Edward Said suggests,
resistance can and must be seen not merely as an effort to
throw off an imperial force but as "an alternative way of
conceiving human history":
It is particularly important to see how much this
alternative reconception [of resistance] is based on
breaking down the barriers between cultures. Certainly,
as the title of a fascinating book has it, writing back
to the metropolitan cultures, disrupting the European
narratives of the Orient and Africa, replacing them with
either a more playful or a more powerful narrative style
is a major component in this process. (Culture and
Imperialism. 216)
Griggs's use of the conservative Berl Trout confuses the issue
of "inside" the nation and "outside," but even more directly,
in rejecting the Imperium as a model of "nation," Griggs urges
a "breaking down [of] the barriers between cultures." Griggs
seeks to alter the map of nation by interjecting the
supplementary presence of blackness. Far from just black dots
on a page, this presence disallows the strategy of containment
that traditional maps insist upon.22 Instead, it supplements,
effaces, replaces the dominant presence in the national
cartography offered by segregationists—whiteness. In
challenging the racial premises of "nation"—both America and
the Imperium—Griggs offers a supplementary view of the map

258
which permits "nation" to be expansive, inclusive, and
unchartable, at least in traditional cartographic terms.
Whereas Griggs disavows the Imperium and the separatism
such a conception of nation entails, Dixon embraces the idea
of a racially bounded "white man's" nation when Charlie Gaston
gets elected Governor of North Carolina. Gaston contemplates
a limited role for blacks in the South—as agricultural
workers. However, Gaston's surrogate father John Durham
argues that any effort to educate blacks is sure to fail and
not worth the effort:
The more you educate, the more impossible you make
his position in a democracy. Education! Can you change
the colour of his skin, the kink of his hair, the bulge
of his lips, the spread of his nose, or the beat of his
heart, with a spelling book? The Negro is the human
donkey. You can train him, but you can't make of him a
horse. Mate him with a horse, you lose the horse, and
get a larger donkey called a mule, incapable of
preserving his species. What is called our race
prejudice is simply God's first law of nature—the
instinct of self-preservation. (L£, 464)
Durham proposes removing blacks altogether from the nation.
In his mind, the bodily "corruption" of blacks—evidenced in
their skin, hair, lips, and nose—represents a far greater
threat to the white race and, thus, to the integrity of the
nation. Durham advises Charlie to give up his plans for
education: "The Negro must ultimately leave this continent.
You might as well begin to prepare for it" (LS, 463) .
Durham's radical remapping removes blacks from the
geographical boundaries of the nation, completing the exile
begun with their loss of civil and political rights.

259
Significantly, Durham recurs to the site of the black body for
proof of his claims.
Far from espousing a crackpot radicalism, Durham clearly
expresses Thomas Dixon's conception of nation as the
embodiment of white superiority. In an essay which appeared
in The Saturday Evening Post shortly before the publication of
his second novel, The Clansman, in 1905, Dixon denounced the
work of Booker T. Washington's Tuskegee Institute as making
African Americans unfit for their place in America. That
place, Dixon hoped, would soon be elsewhere, as he suggested
spending money to colonize blacks in Liberia. For Dixon, the
contours of the nation had been mapped by white men, and for
that reason, they had the right to determine who could reside
within its borders:
One thought I would burn into the soul of every
young American (and who thinks of a Negro when he says
"American?")—this: Our Republic is great not by reason
of the amount of dirt we possess, or the size of our
census roll, but because of the genius of the race of
pioneer white freemen who settled this continent, dared
the might of kings, and blazed the way through our
wilderness for the trembling feet of liberty. ("Booker
T. Washington and the Negro," 2)
Dixon recurs to the "old map," that drawn by "pioneer white
freemen," to argue for the removal of the African-American
from the map of turn-of-the-century America. The Leopard's
Spots argues for the creation of two nations—one white and
one black—under the assumption that the black nation would,
of its own ineptitude and degeneracy, disintegrate.

260
Dixon's dichotomous cartography also works to the benefit
of white "manliness." "The Anglo-Saxon is entering the new
century with the imperial crown of the ages on his brow and
the scepter of the infinite in his hands," Charlie Gaston
proclaims as he announces his candidacy for governor (L£,
439). Dixon conflates the capacity to rule, to be "imperial,"
with phallic capacity ("the scepter of the infinite"). In
this way, Dixon's concept of "nation" not only reinforced the
idea of white supremacy but also demonstrated white
"manliness." Dixon denounced "opportunists, politicians,
weak-minded optimists, or female men" who disagreed with him
that blacks posed any threat at all ("Booker T. Washington and
the Negro," 1). The Spanish-American War, which Dixon saw as
the event that unified the Anglo-Saxons of the North and the
South, had provided the United States with colonies and people
of color to rule over. Dixon's own vision of nation placed
blacks in a similar position. The devastation wrought against
Southern men routed in the Civil War could be repaired by such
a vision of nation, restoring them as "citizen kings," in the
words of Charlie Gaston.23
NOTES
xLauren Berlant suggests that Harper incorporates
"political self-impeachments by whites" like the General's "to
reinvent a truly African American-centered American
citizenship" (468). Incorporating various elements of
African-American culture which were consistently minimized by
whites, Harper creates the conditions for the reunion of black
community. Once unified, this community, through debate and
literary accomplishment, can create a space for itself in the
American nation: "All of these speeches and the conversations
about them focus on uplifting the race and rethinking history;

261
and the conditions of uplifting require imagining a just
America, an America where neither race nor sexuality exists as
a mode of domination" (469). Though Berlant is not as
concerned with issues of nationalism, her discussion opens up
one of the key discursive strategies of Harper's novel.
Harper tries to unify the black community around the moments
of its history that had been discarded and then, once that
unity had been accomplished, she pushes for a literature of
racial uplift that stakes out a claim for full American
citizenship for African Americans. See Berlant, "The Queen of
America Goes to Washington City: Harriet Jacobs, Frances
Harper, Anita Hill," in Subjects & Citizens: Nation. Race, and
Gender from Oroonoko to Anita Hill, eds. Michael Moon and
Cathy N. Davidson (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995), pp.
455-480.
2In The Old South, also published in 1892, Page included
an essay entitled "The Race Question" in which he argued that
history proved that blacks were uneducable:
Since the dawn of history, the Negro has been in one
place or another, in Egypt, in Rome, in other European
countries, brought in contact with civilization, yet he
has failed to receive the vitalizing current under which
other races have risen in greater or less degree. (253)
Page thus justifies the depiction of Uncle Jack Scott, at
least indirectly. In a later collection of essays entitled
The Negro: The Southerner's Problem (1904), Page actually
bemoans the loss of "the old-time negro": "Indeed, he has
become so rare that even now when a gray and wrinkled survivor
is found he is regarded as an exceptional character, and he
will soon be as extinct as the dodo" (163). See Page, The
Negro: The Southerner's Problem (New York: Charles Scribner's
Sons, 1904), pp. 163-285.
3William L. Andrews argues that postbellum slave
narratives such as Booker T. Washington's Up From Slavery
differ dramatically from antebellum narratives in that,
whereas writers like Frederick Douglass believed in the
efficacy of literacy, Washington and his proteges preferred
men of action. Andrews suggests that Washington created a
"Tuskegee realism" that "chain[ed] the signifier to a
preexistent signified and thus [made] the word merely
reflective, rather than constitutive, of reality" (70).
Andrews praises writers like Charles Chesnutt and James Weldon
Johnson for escaping the dictates of Tuskegee realism and
making language an effective tool for creating and refining
reality. Extrapolating from Andrews's argument, I would
contend that the sketch of Uncle Jack Scott reflects Page's
anxiety about the disruptive potentiality of African-American
writing. By rejecting education, Uncle Jack plays right into

262
the hands of Southern nationalists like Page (just as some
accused Booker T. Washington of doing with his
accommodationism) . Page and especially Thomas Dixon tried to
create images of blacks that would reinforce racist
stereotypes and invalidate the arguments of African-American
writers. Put simply, the overt racism of Dixon was more than
mere bluster—it was part of a calculated strategy to insure
the predominance of white textuality (novels, laws, etc.).
See Andrews, "The Representation of Slavery and the Rise of
Afro-American Literary Realism, 1865-1920," in Slavery and the
Literary Imagination, eds. Deborah E. McDowell and Arnold
Rampersad (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press,
1989) , pp. 62-80.
4John Ernest uses the term "cultural pedagogy" in
connection with Iola Lerov. Ernest argues that Harper
envisions her novel as a teaching tool to help white readers
learn about the African-American culture that white writers
had consistently repressed:
[T]his novel is primarily a study of discursive systems,
one that recognizes the ability of one discursive system
to inscribe its impressions on another. Certainly, this
is a novel intended to teach, a novel in which meaning is
important, but its meaning cannot be separated from its
manner. Harper, who began her career as a teacher,
identified education not only with what she called the
"power of knowledge" but also with civic responsibility
and moral character, a "feeling heart" joined with a
"devising brain" in a mutually modifying relationship.
(500)
For Ernest, two kinds of pedagogy are available in Tola Leroy.
First, Harper articulates directly the need for blacks to
become literate so that they can fully perform their civic and
cultural obligations. Secondly, Harper seeks to instruct her
white readers morally, showing them the injustice of racial
discrimination. Ultimately, Ernest claims, Harper wants
blacks to become "components in the ruling cultural formula"
(505). See Ernest, "From Mysteries to Histories: Cultural
Pedagogy in Frances E. W. Harper's Tola Leroy" American
Literature 64 (September 1992): 497-518.
JIn Derrida's formulation, writing itself is
supplementary of speech, and writing is actually just a series
of supplements, intersecting and interacting with one another.
For Derrida, the supplement serves two distinct and seemingly
contradictory functions:
The supplement adds itself, it is a surplus, a plenitude
enriching another plenitude, the fullest measure of
presence. It cumulates and accumulates presence. It is

263
thus that art, techne. image, representation, convention,
etc. , come as supplements to nature and are rich with
this entire cumulating function. . . .
But the supplement supplements. It adds only to
replace. It intervenes or insinuates itself in-the-
place-of; if it fills, it is as if one fills a void. If
it represents and makes an image, it is by the anterior
default of a presence. Compensatory and vicarious, the
supplement is an adjunct, a subaltern instance which
takes-(the)-place. As substitute, it is not simply added
to the positivity of a presence, it produces no relief,
its place is assigned in the structure by the mark of an
emptiness. (Derrida 144-5)
When Page or Dixon depict African Americans as an "absence,"
writing by Harper or Chesnutt "fill a void." When Page or
Dixon map out the identity of their nation as all white, these
African-American texts supplement the "emptiness" and demand
a reconfiguration of that "national" textuality. Thus, rather
than see these sets of texts in competition with one another
(thereby setting up another dichotomy), I suggest that they
supplement one another, despite the best efforts of Page and
Dixon to cast off the African-American presence.
The argument could be made that given the poor sales of
these African-American novels (particularly when compared to
Dixon's popularity), the idea of the supplement is a non-
sequitur in that readers would not "see" the supplementing
presence of these texts. Yet, for Derrida, "blindness" to the
supplement is the norm:
Blindness thus produces that which is born at the same
time as society: the languages, the regulated
substitution of signs for things, the order of the
supplement. One goes from blindness to the supplement.
But the blind person cannot see, in its origin, the very
thing he produces to supplement his sight. Blindness to
the supplement is the law. And especially blindness to
its concept. Moreover, it does not suffice to locate its
functioning in order to see its meaning. The supplement
has no sense and is given to no intuition. We do not
therefore make it emerge out of its strange pneumbra. We
speak its reserve. (149)
The supplement is "dangerous" in that it cannot be controlled
or monitored. Thus, it threatens discursive systems
(including Nature) that require blindness to the supplement to
make meaning. "Blindness" is a condition of knowing, but, for
Derrida, that "knowledge" (like that produced by white writers
about blacks) is incomplete, faulty, and yet contains at least
traces of the supplement, its own annihilation. In other
words, the African-American texts function as a visible (and
only partial) supplement to the work of white writers, but

264
they are not necessary (that is, they need not be "known") to
supplement the texts of the white writers. See Derrida, Q£
Grammatoloav. trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore:
The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), pp. 141-164.
Among the more vocal critics of turn-of-the-century
black writers like Harper, Chesnutt, and Griggs are Robert
Bone and Richard Wright. In his 1958 study The Negro Novel in
America. Bone derides the novels of the "Talented Tenth" (W.
E. B. DuBois's term for educated blacks) as far too
deferential in tone and characterization:
Whatever may be true of the unlettered ex-slave, the
Talented Tenth contended, educated Negroes are "just like
white folks." In order to prove this contention, they
peopled their novels with colored characters of
impeccable deportment, as much like "cultured" and
"refined" whites as possible. From their novels, as from
their lives, the Talented Tenth sought to eliminate all
traces of "Negro-ness," in the hope that cultural
uniformity would make them more acceptable to the whites.
(Bone 19)
Wright even more directly condemns these writers:
Generally speaking, Negro writing in the past has been
confined to humble novels, poems, and plays, prim and
decorous ambassadors who went a-begging to white America.
They entered the Court of American Public Opinion dressed
in knee-pants of servility, curtsying to show that the
Negro was not inferior, that he was human, and that he
had a life comparable to that of other people. For the
most part these artistic ambassadors were received as
though they were French poodles who do clever tricks.
(Wright 333)
Wright's use of the term "ambassadors" nicely points up the
imperialistic imposition put upon African-American culture by
"American Public Opinion," and given the inefficacy of the
accommodationist stance, such criticism as Bone's and Wright's
perhaps have merit. Yet both Bone and Wright fail to take
into consideration the exigencies of getting published for
blacks at the turn of the century. Moreover, both fail to
notice the more subtle critiques of writers like Harper,
Chesnutt, and Griggs, seeming to prefer grandiose gestures and
revolutionary rhetoric. See Bone, The Negro Novel in America
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965), pp. 1-34, and
Wright, "Introduction: Blueprint for Negro Writing," in The
Black Aesthetic, ed. Addison Gayle (Garden City, New York:
Doubleday, 1971), pp. 333-345.

265
’Commenting on this extended journal entry, Richard
Brodhead notes that Booker T. Washington's belief in the self¬
interestedness of educated blacks is belied by Chesnutt's
ambitions for his writing:
Chesnutt here seizes the idea that if the forms of
literary expression must be found in a dominant culture,
they can still be used in the interest of subordinated
peoples. He grasps that if writing must be directed to
Northern white audiences, it can nevertheless aim to
further black causes with those audiences—can make
itself a means to enter the minds and remodel the mental
habits of white readers as they read. On his way to
writing every writer must first build from the available
cultural materials a practice-governing idea of what
writing is and does, and this is the idea Chesnutt
constructs: that by mastering the literary conventions in
which a distant culture images Southern racial life, a
black author can make himself a personal success, while
also helping a society prejudiced against people like him
to change its mind. (195)
Chesnutt's effort to write to that "distant culture"
constituted a kind of pedagogy in which Chesnutt, like Harper,
argued albeit subtly, for full African-American citizenship.
See Brodhead, Culture of Letters: Scenes of Reading and
Writing in Nineteenth-Century America (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1993), pp. 177-210.
8Critic Harryette Mullen has argued that America demands
"passing" in order to cultivate a sense of purity in national
identity:
Passing on an individual level models the cultural
production of whiteness as a means of nation building and
as a key to national identity. Just as the white-skinned
African-American becomes white through a process of
silencing and suppression, by denying, "forgetting,"
ignoring, or erasing evidence of African ancestry, so
does "pure white" family consitute itself by denying
kinship with its nonwhite members, as the racially
diverse nation claims a white European identity by
marginalizing its non-European heritages. (Mullen 72)
To pass is to assert the superiority of whiteness. Passing
permits a fully "white" reading of a person, and such a
reading elides a full knowledge of the crimes committed
against formerly enslaved blacks. Mulattoes like Robert,
Iola, and Harry are the literal embodiment of miscegenation
perpetrated by white men, and as such they contradict the
racist logic of segregation. They could function as such a
contradiction only if they willingly resist the pressure to

266
pass and assert their blackness. Passing would permit an
erasure of that history and, in the process, buoy arguments
for white superiority. Put simply, for Harper, the
individuals who choose to pass participate in, indeed
underwrite, the degradation of all African Americans, and they
inadvertently provide an affirmation of the law that excludes
all African Americans from the "nation." See Mullen, "Optic
White: Blackness and the Production of Whiteness," Diacritics
24 (Summer/Fall 1994): 71-89.
’Hortense Spillers offers a very different perspective on
the historical significance of the mulatto. She argues that
"mulatto/a" becomes a term which makes blackness more
acceptable to American society while obliterating the
historical narratives contained in that blackness:
But it seems to me that the mulatto figure, stranded in
cultural ambiguity, conceals the very strategies of
terministic violence and displacement that have enabled
a problematics of alterity regarding the African-American
community in the United States. Created to provide a
middle ground of latitude between "black" and "white,"
the customary and permissible binary agencies of the
national adventure, mulatto being, as a neither/nor
proposition, inscribed no historic locus, or materiality,
that was other than evasive and shadowy on the national
landscape. To that extent, the mulatto/a embodied an
alibi, an excuse for "other/otherness" that the dominant
culture could not (cannot now either) appropriate, or
wish away. An accretion of signs that embody the
"unspeakable," of the Everything that the dominant
culture would forget, the mulatto/a, as term, designates
a disguise, covers up, in the century of Emancipation and
beyond, the social and political reality of the dreaded
African presence. Behind the African-become-American
stands the shadow, the unsubstantial "double" that the
culture dreamed in the place of that humanity transformed
into its profoundest challenge and by the impositions of
policy, its deepest "un-American" activity. (Spillers
165-6)
Spillers notes the significance of racial distinction in the
question of "America," and for her, the mulatto/a, as a
sanitized version of black, fails to have any political
efficacy and, in fact, actually does a disservice to African
Americans by evacuating their history from "the national
adventure." Yet Harper very carefully builds into her text
just such a history. Moreover, far from decoding that history
to make it assimilable to the "dominant culture," Harper
challenges her readers to appreciate the availability of that
history in the "texts" they are inclined to ignore. The

267
mulatto might be a "shadow," a containable otherness, but
significantly, the subtitle of Harper's novel is "Shadows
Uplifted." In this way, Harper can be seen as attempting to
provide some materiality for that "shadow," a materiality that
Spillers suggests the term "mulatto/a" was designed to deny
and repress. See Spillers, "Notes on an alternative model—
neither/nor," in The Difference Within: Feminism and Critical
Theory. eds. Elizabeth Meese and Alice Parker (Philadelphia:
John Benjamins, 1989), pp. 165-187.
10Women of mixed race had been a staple of much antebellum
writing. As Anna Shannon Elfenbein shows in her study Women
on the Color Line, pro-abolition writers used the "tragic
octoroon" to highlight the horrors of slavery:
To the Northern antebellum audience for whom she was
created, an audience that had shuddered at the visible
testimony given by her real-life sisters at antislavery
rallies, this staple character was proof of the North's
moral superiority, which needed only to be tapped to put
an end to slavery. (Elfenbein 5)
Tellingly, the audience is invited to read the octoroon as she
generally reads herself—as somehow "tainted" by black blood.
"In almost all of these stories," Elfenbein contends, "the
ingenue, upon discovering her 'taint,' collapses—never to
move under her own volition again" (5).
Thus, though the political purpose of the "tragic
octoroon" is to argue against slavery, the figure also tacitly
underscores the perception of black inferiority. Elfenbein
quotes a specific passage from Dion Boucicault's 1859 play The
Octoroon which highlights the octoroon Zoe's reading of
herself:
Of the blood that feed my heart, one drop in eight is
black—bright red as the rest may be, that one drop
poisons all the flood; those seven bright drops give me
love like yours—hope like yours—ambition like yours—
life hung with passions like dew-drops on the morning
flowers; but the one black drop gives me despair, for I'm
an unclean thing—forbidden by the laws—I'm an Octoroon!
(quoted in Elfenbein, 3)
Zoe accepts the conflation of black blood and filth; she
further recognizes that the law makes her a non-entity—"I'm
an unclean thing."
Zoe's acceptance of her "taint" contrasts drastically
with Iola Leroy's view of her "mulatto-ness." "The best blood
in my veins is African blood," Iola tells her Uncle Robert
late in the novel, "and I am not ashamed of it" (XL, 208) .
See Elfenbein, Woman on the Color Line (Baton Rouge: Louisiana
State University Press, 1989), pp. 1-27.

268
“Eric Sundquist, in his massive discussion of Chesnutt
in To Wake the Nations, argues that such violence against
black men highlighted the anxiety of Southern white men over
their possible loss of political power. In exposing this
violence, Sundquist argues, Chesnutt sought to problematize
the otherness that had been ascribed to African Americans:
The savage South, spawned in slaveholding, not in
slavery, was white, not black, said Chesnutt; the created
caricature of the black rapist was made to incorporate a
savagery that was mostly white in origin. As the mirror
image of its black caricature, the white savagery
expressed most horribly in lynching and sexual mutilation
was compounded of inherited guilt, fear of change and
lost power, and an irrational but not in explicable
aversion to pronounced cultural differences. Although
they charged blacks with reversion to African savagery,
and mulattoes in particular with species degeneration, it
was racist whites who had degenerated from the
comparative paternalistic manners of their fathers and,
more to the point, from the dignity of human behavior.
(Sundquist 434-5)
In their desperation to reclaim that power and status which
they believed were rightly theirs, Southern whites did not see
(or, more significantly, did not care) that their actions
belied their own claims to "civilization." Part of Chesnutt's
purpose in The Marrow of Tradition is to show how, by being in
control of the process by which otherness is coded and read,
whites were able to cover up their own savagery and displace
it onto African Americans, whose position in the culture did
all for them to stage an effective counter-narrative.
Sundquist sees Tom Delamere's masquerade as his grandfather's
black manservant Sandy as the ultimate expression of white
discursive control of blackness. Tom "acts out" blackness by
doing the cakewalk in the person of Sandy, and he plays upon
the stereotype of black savagery by committing a murder while
similarly masquerading. Thus, Sundquist rightfully concludes
that Tom Delamere "can be interpreted as the racial conscience
of the New South, which depends upon generating through a
charade epitomized by the staged plantation revivals, where
minstrelsy and economic exposition coalesced, a contemporary
panorama of humble, devoted black servants and laborers"
(432). That is, the "New" South required precisely what the
Old South had had—a population of blacks to be ruled over
that confirmed the efficacy of Southern white men. See
Sundquist, To Wake the Nations (Cambridge: The Belknap Press
of Harvard University Press, 1993), pp. 406-435.
“Eric Lott has noted in his study of blackface minstrelsy
that one significant function of minstrel shows was to produce
black bodies (primarily male bodies) to be gazed upon in order

269
to establish and justify the racial hierarchy which posited
white superiority at its core:
"Black" figures were there to be looked at, shaped to the
demands of desire; they were screens on which audience
fantasy could rest, securing white spectators' position
as superior, controlling, not to say owning, figures.
Behind all of the circumlocution going on in descriptions
of blackface performance, then, we must begin to glimpse
the white male traffic in racial degradation whose
cardinal principle was yet a supreme disorderly conduct—
a revealingly equivocal means of racial containment.
(Lott 28)
As long as blacks could be distinguished as "degraded" and
"disorderly," Lott argues, their enslavement could be
justified. After slavery, such depictions of degradation
still served a significant purpose—the justification of the
regulation of black social and political rights. Jerry Letlow
thus becomes, in Chesnutt's formulation, a "white man's
nigger" because he not only accepts whatever role Major
Carteret wants him to play but also because he represents no
possible threat of disruption to the racial hierarchy (except
accidentally, as with his use of the "skin bleach") . See
Lott, "Love and Theft: The Racial Unconscious of Blackface
Minstrelsy" Representations 39 (Summer 1992): 23-50.
13Brodhead himself notes the subversive nature of
Chesnutt's "conjure" stories, especially the ways in which
they expose their own artificiality. In this way, Chesnutt
hoped to deconstruct some of the mythology involved in the
work of Joel Chandler Harris and Thomas Nelson Page, but as
Brodhead makes clear, Chesnutt's audience lacked the savvy to
see his parodie "signifyin(g) ." On the question of audience,
Raymond Hedin hypothesizes that a misunderstanding white
reader is actually the audience that Chesnutt needs because
such a reader can be a vehicle "through whose gaps in
perception the tales can seep, damaged but recoverable" (193).
Hedin argues that these misreaders carry with them the seeds
of a subversive counter-reading even though Chesnutt cannot
anticipate an audience capable of comprehending it:
In Chesnutt's incorporation into his tales of the
complex, unspoken negotiations between teller and
audience, and in his use of those negotiations to suggest
the relationship between race and relative narrative
possibilities, his fiction provides a relevant gloss on
the status of black story and voice at the turn of the
century. His stories are experiments in finding or
creating a readership whose existence he had no reason to
suppose: is there, they ask, someone out there who can

270
see and accept more than the characters in here, in the
America I know too well? (196)
Even Hedin has to concede, however, that Chesnutt's strategy
of "creating a readership" willing to accept depictions of
blacks other than traditional plantation "darkies" (Chesnutt's
own hope as expressed in his journal) met with limited
success. In the same way that Harper employed a traditional
genre (romance) to try to "create a readership" for African-
American history and culture, Chesnutt, too, utilized a
popular genre (regionalism, or local color) to do the same
thing. When his efforts seemed to fail, he turned to the more
"radical" form of the social protest novel, especially with
The Marrow of Tradition. See Hedin, "Probable Readers,
Possible Stories: The Limits of Nineteenth-Century Black
Narrative," in Readers in History, ed. James L. Machor
(Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), pp.
180-205.
14As Helen Chesnutt points out in her biography of her
father, The Marrow of Tradition's publication in October 1901
coincided with President Theodore Roosevelt's invitation to
Booker T. Washington to have dinner at the White House (an
invitation roundly criticized in the South). Houghton,
Mifflin and Company, Marrow's publisher, put on a big
publicity blitz, but the sales of the novel were still
disappointing. Chesnutt expressed his frustration in a letter
to the publishers dated December 28, 1901:
I am beginning to suspect that the public as a rule
does not care for books in which the principal characters
are colored people, or written with a striking sympathy
with that race as contrasted with the white race. . . .
If a novel which is generally acknowledged to be
interesting, dramatic, well constructed, well written—
which gualities have been pretty generally ascribed to
The Marrow of Tradition, of which in addition, both the
author and publishers have good hopes—cannot sell 5,000
copies within two months after its publication, there
must be something radically wrong somewhere, and I do not
know where it is unless it be in the subject. (quoted in
H. Chesnutt, 178)
In fact, the poor sales of The Marrow of Tradition as well as
the huge popularity of a writer like Thomas Dixon, basically
ended Chesnutt's career as a full-time writer. He went back
to his stenography business in Cleveland to support his
family. See Helen M. Chesnutt, Charles Waddell Chesnutt:
Pioneer of the Color Line (Chapel Hill: The University of
North Carolina Press, 1952), pp. 170-182.

271
15Marjorie George and Richard S. Pressman, doing a Jungian
reading of The Marrow of Tradition, suggest that Josh Green
and Janet Miller represent a "shadow" presence of bitterness
in the text that Chesnutt could not repress. In their view,
Chesnutt's use of William Miller as a kind of harmonizing
presence does not offset the "shadow," even though Josh Green
gets killed off in the riot:
Because of the pressures from white society,
Chesnutt was so strongly committed to his rational
mouthpiece, Miller, that he had no way to express
directly the pressuring needs of his own shadow—the
inevitable anger over the repression of blacks. But
Chesnutt's irrepressible shadow emerges in the Josh Green
whom Miller and Chesnutt cannot really dismiss and in the
Janet who, as an alter ego, expresses Chesnutt's deep-
seated desire for recognition, equality, and
independence. (George & Pressman 298)
This view runs counter to predominant critical opinion which
perceives Josh Green as the black counterpart to McBane (they
symbolically kill one another during the climactic scene of
the riot), both extremes that need to be eliminated to produce
a better possibility for racial harmony. See George and
Pressman, "Confronting the Shadow: Psycho-Political Repression
in Chesnutt's The Marrow of Tradition" Phylon 48 (1987): 287-
298.
“Miller's "forgetting" might well form part of a strategy
by Chesnutt of highlighting the illogicality of citizenship
and national identity. Homi K. Bhabha has argued that such an
identifications, enforcing a homogeneity of thinking and being
in the nation, requires a forgetting of certain discourses
which might disrupt the national narrative:
It is through this syntax of forgetting—or being
obliged to forget—that the problematic identification of
a national people becomes visible. The national subject
is produced in that place where the daily plebiscite—the
unitary number—circulates in the grand narrative of the
will. However, the equivalence of will and plebiscite,
the identity of part and whole, past and present, is cut
across by the "obligation to forget," or forgetting to
remember. (Bhabha 310)
The continuity of the history of the nation as well as the
structuring principle of that history for the nation relies
upon an excluding of some histories, some "parts" that do not
conduce to "wholeness." Chesnutt's choice of closure starkly
displays the "forgetting" that William Miller (and all African
Americans) must endure and participate in in order to create
and recreate the nation. Miller's child must be forgotten

272
(and Dodie Carteret must be saved) for this narrativization of
nation to continue. See Bhabha, "DissemiNation: time,
narrative, and the margins of the modern nation," in Nation
and Narration, ed. Homi K. Bhabha (London: Routledge, 1990),
pp. 291-322.
17In Vested Interests. Marjorie Garber notes that the
appearance of a transvestite figure often indicates a
"category crisis," and, noting the proliferation of such
figures in African-American texts, Garber argues that the
transvestite becomes a vehicle for cultural critique of racial
categorization:
But the most extraordinary cultural work done by the
transvestite in the context of American "race-relations"
is to foreground the impossibility of taxonomy, the fatal
limitation of classification as segregation, the
inevitability of "miscegenation" as misnomer. The
possibility of crossing racial boundaries stirs fears of
the possibility of crossing the boundaries of gender, and
vice versa. What the "black transvestite" does is to
realize the latent dream thoughts—or nightmares—of
American cultural mythology as the manifest content of
American life. (274)
The transvestite forces a reconsideration of the cultural
mapping of the nation. The "territory" that had previously
been thought secure now demands a reconfiguration of its
perceived borders. Belton's cross-dressing exposes the
hardened taxonomic borders of the map that Griggs contested in
Tumerium in Tmnerio. Griggs uses this moment of transvestism
to expose how dependent the borders of "nation," as conceived
by whites, are on "the fatal limitation of classification as
segregation." See Garber, Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing &
Cultural Anxiety (New York: HarperPerennial, 1992) , pp. 267-
303.
lsLauren Berlant makes much the same point in her
discussion of Harriet Jacobs, Iola Leroy, and Anita Hill.
Asserting that any minority subject given any credence by the
dominant culture occupies two seemingly contradictory spaces—
exemplary member of an inferior race and a kind of "foreign
national" who represents her people—Berlant suggests that
"coerced sexualization" is the rhetoric of "nation" absorbed
by minority women. In this way, the nation becomes the agent
of sexual harassment, and the narratives produced by these
women become a kind of revelatory testimony exposing such
abuses. These women collaboratively create a
"counterpornography of citizenship" in which they demand the
end of sexual imperialism justified by racial difference.
Belton Piedmont's efforts to produce a kind of counter¬
citizenship make him the major force of cultural remapping

273
attempted by Griggs. See Berlant, "The Queen of America Goes
to Washington City: Harriet Jacobs, Frances Harper, Anita
Hill," in Subjects and Citizens: Nation. Race and Gender from
Oroonoko to Anita Hill, eds. Michael Moon and Cathy N.
Davidson (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995), pp. 455-480.
1?For historical perspective on Dixon's use of the image
of the black rapist, see James Kinney, "The Rhetoric of
Racism: Thomas Dixon and the 'Damned Black Beast,"' American
T.iterarv Realism 15 (Autumn 1982): 145-154.
20The conflation of political and sexual aggression on the
part of blacks forms the basis of Martha Hodes's analysis of
Ku Klux Klan activity in the post-war South. Citing several
examples of black men who are either castrated or lynched
ostensibly for rape but more likely for political agitation or
economic success, Hodes contends that such attacks by whites
reflected their fear that black men represented a threat to
their political and sexual hegemony:
The violence of the Reconstruction years can be
explained only by a definition of politics that is broad
enough to encompass traditional acts of citizenship and
authority such as voting and economic independence, and,
at the same time, the power of sexual agency. With the
end of racial slavery, black men were granted rights—and
seized opportunities—never before available to them.
Every form of power exercised by black men, whether in
the political arena of state conventions concerned with
suffrage and legal equality or in the domestic sphere
over black women, meant a parallel loss of power for
white men. (72)
Charlie Gaston's desire to restore "a white man's government"
gets coded as beneficial to both whites and blacks—whites get
restored to full political power and blacks, by once again
submitting to the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon, get
protected from the kind of lynch mobs that executed Dick. See
Hodes, "The Sexualization of Reconstruction Politics: White
Women and Black Men in the South after the Civil War," in
American Sexual Politics: Sex, Gender. and Race Since the
Civil War, eds. John C. Font and Maura Shaw Tantillo (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1993), pp. 59-74.
21Critics like Bernard W. Bell and Arlene Elder agree with
such an interpretation. For Bell, "Imperium in Imperio vies
with [Martin Delaney's] B1ake as the most thematically radical
Afro-American novel of the nineteenth century" (61), though
Bell concedes that Griggs's final solution to the question of
race relations is "more moderate" (62). Elder, noting that
the more moderate Belton Piedmont gets executed by agents of
the Imperium, suggests that Griggs's novel is a cautionary

274
tale for African-American readers: "The hope for racial unity
and prgress seems, therefore, farther away than ever because
of the Blacks' own blindness in allowing hatred of whites to
dupe them into following a self-serving, untrustworthy leader"
(77). Nevertheless, Elder asserts that "Griggs urges
Christian forbearance, sacrifice, and hope." See Bell, The
Afro-American Novel and Tts Traditions. Amherst: University of
Massachusetts Press, 1987, pp. 60-63, and Elder, The "Hindered
Hand" (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1978) , pp. 70-
103.
22In refusing to commit his map to traditional
cartographic charting, Griggs resists the totalizing tendency
of such discourse. As J. B. Harley notes, traditional maps
are effective devices of colonization because they do not
permit a full reading of the culture whose geography they
represent:
Maps as an an impersonal type of knowledge tend to
"desocialize" the territory they represent. They foster
the notion of a socially empty space. The abstract
quality of the map, embodied as much in the lines of a
fifteenth-century Ptolemaic projection as in the
contemporary images of computer cartography, lessens the
burden of conscience about people in the landscape.
Decisions about the exercise of power are removed from
the realm of immediate face-to-face contacts. (Harley
303)
Griggs seems to understand that to properly chart the African-
American presence in America, a new kind of map had to be
created—one that facilitated "immediate face-to-face
contacts" and forced a recognition of the "people in the
landscape"—something that the Stowe University map, with its
black dots, avoided doing. In this way, Griggs seeks a map
that "allows for a culturally and historically located
critique of colonial discourse while, at the same time,
producing the momentum for a projection and exploration of
'new territories' outlawed or neglected by dominant
discourses" (Huggan 127). See Harley, "Maps, knowledge, and
power," in The Iconography of Landscape, eds. Denis Cosgrove
& Stephen Daniels (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1988), pp. 277-312, and Graham Huggan, "Decolonizing the Map:
Post-Colonialism, Post-Structuralism, and the Cartographic
Connection" Ariel 20 (1989): 115-131.
23The issue of manliness is multi-layered. Gail Bederman
discusses the changing conception of manliness in the South at
the turn of the century in connection with the issue of
lynching. Examining the rhetoric employed by Ida B. Wells in
her campaign against lynching, Bederman points out that when
Wells attacked white lynchers as "unmanly," a new conception

275
of manliness emerged, emphasizing the qualities of "the
natural man" as distinct from "the white man":
Thus, while some Americans were looking to the
racially advanced superiority of "the white man" to
uphold long-standing ideologies of upright, civilized
"manliness," some Americans were interested in quite a
different type of manhood. These Americans found a
source of powerful manhood in a primal, untamed
"masculinity," the opposite of "civilized manliness."
This primal male power seemed to arise from the "natural
man's closeness to "nature." The "masculine" strength of
the "natural man" was the sort of strength which all men
had—civilized and savage. Here was a strength based not
on manly self-control but on masculine "instinct." (74)
In Bederman's mind, this rhetoric of "the natural man"
countermanded Wells's charges of the "unmanliness" of lynchers
by offering an alternative version of masculinity which still
bespoke of power. My own argument, extrapolating from
Bederman's contentions, is that "nation" represented the
ultimate expression of "civilized," and, hence, "white"
manliness. For Dixon, "nation" was a concept totally alien to
people of color, and he frequently (and fondly) cited Santo
Domingo and Haiti as examples of the way in which nations
could not be constructed by blacks. See Bederman, Manliness
& Civilization (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995),
pp. 45-76.

CONCLUSION
Judging the competition between Griggs's and Dixon's
respective concepts of "nation" solely on the basis of number
of books sold, Dixon was the clear winner. Griggs's private
publishing house marketed to a very small black reading
public. In fact, Imperium in Imperio was largely ignored by
black as well as white audiences. Dixon, working with his old
friend Walter Hines Page, one half of Doubleday, Page
Publishers, sold 100,000 copies of The Leopard's Spots in the
first three months. Eventually, more that a million copies of
the novel were sold (Cook 112). Dixon's next novel, The
clansman, sold nearly as well, and Dixon produced a stage play
and the script for what became D. W. Griffith's film Birth of
a Nation from that book. Clearly, then, Dixon's
segregationist ideas found a large, sympathetic audience and
circulated widely in turn-of-the-century American culture.1
In fact, Dixon's efforts to reimagine the Southern past
and remap the Southern nation received support from unexpected
quarters. In an address at Fisk University in Nashville in
June 1911, Charles E. Stowe, son of Harriet Beecher Stowe,
looked back on slave times with more fondness than his mother
ever evinced:
Sometimes the question is asked: "Were not the
slaves better off under slavery than they are now under
276

277
freedom?" I think a candid answer to that question demands us
to say that some were better off under slavery than they are
under freedom. The abolition of slavery acted on the colored
race like a wedge, forcing some down and some up. ("Honest
Confession Good for the Country," 327)
Stowe conceded that some blacks had risen, but he reinterprets
his mother's most famous work to argue that slavery had not
been completely evil: "Certainly such kindly feeling between
master and slave shows that there must have been something
good in the institution of slavery" (327).
Even Dixon's conception of the necessity for two
"nations" found rhetorical resonance later in the 20th
century. In June 1965, President Lyndon Johnson told a
commencement audience at Howard University that racial and
economic stratification had created separate American nations:
In far too many ways American Negroes have been
another nation: deprived of freedom, crippled by hatred,
the doors of opportunity closed to hope. (Rainwater and
Yancey 125)
The President's remarks were based on the recently completed
Moynihan Report on poverty. Clearly it would be
overestimating Dixon's cultural power to suggest that his
novels helped create the conditions of poverty engendered by
segregation. Nevertheless, with The Leonard's Snots, the case
for a separate black "nation," namely, for legal segregation,
gets a forceful platform.
Sutton Griggs continued to challenge Dixon at the
novelistic level. "Mr. Thomas Dixon, Jr., beyond doubt owes
his emotional power to the very race which he has elected to

278
scourge," Griggs claimed in the Afterword to his fourth novel
The Hindered Hand, published in 1905 as a direct response to
The Leopard's Soots. Griggs offered a possible epitaph for
Dixon's grave:
This misguided soul ignored all of the good in the
aspiring Negro; made every vicious offshoot that he
pictured typical of the entire race; presented all
mistakes independent of their environments and
provocations; ignored or minimized all the evil in the
more vicious element of whites; said and did all things
which he deemed necessary to leave behind him the
greatest heritage of hatred the world has ever known.
Humanity claims him not as one of her children. (The
Hindered Hand. 332-3)
Griggs would write only one more novel, Unfettered,
published in 1908, before devoting his full attention to his
ministry. Despite Dixon's success, Griggs maintained his
effort at resistance to the end. As Arlene Elder has
suggested, "Griggs's political narratives, then, set the stage
for modern racial analysis and symbolic interpretations of the
African-Americans. Moreover, they provide Black literature's
first portrait of independent Blacks who are neither
traditional figures nor counterstereotypes" (Elder 103). In
this way, despite his lack of commercial success, Griggs
proved to be Dixon's chief ideological rival in turn-of-the-
century American literature.
Griggs did not write merely in opposition to white
supremacists like Dixon. Instead, he wrote to convince
African Americans of their responsibilities if they were to
assume a legitimate space in American national life: "The
future progress of the Negro race calls for an awakening on

279
the part of people to the necessity of cultivating the habit
of reading and a stimulation of the art of making literature
as indispensable aids to the development of the spirit of
patriotism," Griggs wrote in his 1918 autobiography Life's
Demands (quoted in Elder, 70) . Like Harper and Chesnutt,
Griggs recognized that the colonization of blacks could be
perpetuated only if they did not produce counter-narratives to
resist the circulation of stereotypes and untruths by writers
like Dixon. The ignoring of black political voices had (and
to a large extent still has) as its cultural companion the
ignoring of black literary voices. The political
articulations of Harper, Chesnutt, and Griggs, most
particularly their respective conceptions of "nation," inform
and contextualize the political battles that African-Americans
continue to wage almost one hundred years later.
NOTES
discussing the historiography of the Reconstruction
period, Vernon L. Wharton points out that Dixon's novels
frequently were standard assigned readings in history classes
in high school and college at the turn of the century. In
addition, Wharton asserts that the standard "history" of the
day, Claude G. Bowers's The Tragic Era, "was as violent and
extreme as the fiction of Dixon and [D. W.] Griffith. It
became a national bestseller and a selection of the Literary
Guild of America" (297). See Vernon L. Wharton,
"Reconstruction," in Writing Southern History, eds. Arthur S.
Link and Rembert W. Patrick (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State
University Press, 1967), pp. 295-315.

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
David Russell was born in Warren, Ohio, in 1965. He
received his B. A. in literature and history from New College
in Sarasota, Florida, in 1988. He earned his M. A. in English
from the University of Florida in 1990. He is single with two
cats, Oscar and Mire.
295

I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as
a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adegiiSte, in scope and quality, as
a dissertation for the degree'of Doctor of Philosophy.
Anne G. Jones
Associate Professor of English
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as
a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Malini Schueller
Associate Professor of English
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to accpetable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as
a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
u
y- Brc
Bertram Wyat^/Brown
Richard J. Milbauer Professor
of History
This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty
of the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts
and Sciences and to the Graduate School and was accepted as
partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
December 1996
Dean, Graduate School

LD
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UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
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I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as
a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adegiiSt^, in scope and quality, as
a dissertation for the degree
Anne G.
Associate
Professor
English
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as
a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Malini Schueller
Associate Professor of English
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to accpetable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as
a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
yBro'
Bertram Wyaty Brown
Richard J. Milbauer Professor
of History
This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty
of the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts
and Sciences and to the Graduate School and was accepted as
partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
December 1996
Dean, Graduate School


LD
1780
199
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UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
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3 1262 08554 7635



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