College of Arts and Sciences
Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)
Gettysburg, memory, monumentation, Union veterans, Civil War
Harris, Brendan Alexander, "Something Remains: Union Monuments At Gettysburg 1863-1913" (2022). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 4082.
This dissertation examines the development of Union veteran monumentation at Gettysburg from 1863 to 1913. The themes and construction of these monuments provide insight into the grassroots effort of Union veterans to memorialize their experiences on a battlefield that collectively meant the most to the Union Army of the Potomac. The preservation of Gettysburg as a national shrine has been discussed at length in recent scholarship. Coupled with the voluminous dissection of the tactics and microhistories of the battle, Gettysburg is a topic that historians have covered. However, little has been analyzed about veterans' efforts to build monuments on the battlefield. I argue that Union veterans wanted to build monuments at Gettysburg to go beyond marking where they fought and defeated the enemy. Union veterans wanted to build tributes to what they fought for during the Civil War on a great battlefield so that future generations understood what the Civil War meant to them. Union veterans raised money and built a local and state political base to build monuments when most Americans were looking to move past the war and reconstruct the country. Examination of monument dedication speeches, correspondence, newspapers, and government documents help explain the significant themes for why most Union veterans fought during the Civil War and how the victory at Gettysburg solidified those ideas. Union monuments at Gettysburg play a vital role in the memory of the Civil War in that they are lasting examples of what Union men thought they were fighting for during the Conflict. The monuments also contain political, social, and economic influences within the period they were built and dedicated. Monuments dedicated closer to the end of the Civil war focus on punishing the South for treason and fighting to preserve the Union, while later monument dedications focus on reconciliation. Union monuments were dedicated with the backdrop of the battlefield being preserved and transferred to larger entities to control and shape the preservation and interpretation of the land.
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