The Persistence of Memory


Commemorative rituals like Decoration Day, which began as early as 1865, reflected the public’s need to honor the overwhelming number of Civil War casualties in newly constructed burying grounds. Spearheaded by women, organizations formed for the purpose of creating lasting monuments to the memory of those who fought. Sculptors, painters, and printmakers found a new market among a public nostalgic for representations of the war. Veterans began to reunite in the 1870s.

By the 1890s, Blue-Gray reunions began to serve the purpose of rebuilding a fractured society. While the men and women attending these events were deeply interested in revisiting Civil War battlegrounds, for the South there were powerful economic reasons for hosting these reunions. After almost 25 years, the need for battlefield preservation was evident, and federal funding existed for projects that gave evidence that the South was moving past the war.

A website co-sponsored by Vanderbilt University Libraries, Middle Tennessee State University Walker Library, and the MTSU Center for Historic Preservation, with generous support from the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area.

  • Tennessee Civl War National Heritage Area logo
  • MTSU Center for Historic Preservation logo
  • Vanderbilt Jean and Alexander Heard Library logo
  • MTSU James E. Walker Library logo