War at Home


Several states in the Deep South had a very different relationship than other parts of the country to the Spanish-American War due in large part to their regional memories of the recent Civil War and their fears about a possible "race war at home." South Carolina, for instance, was the first state to secede and is often blamed (or credited) for starting the war since the first battle was fought there. Similarly, Georgia was also the victim of Sherman's infamous march and consequently was one of the hardest hit of all the southern states during the war. It is not altogether surprising, then, that in March of 1898 when the Worcester Telegram and Milwaukee Sentinel were "WAITING!" for war and announcing the end of sectionalism, the Savannah Morning News was insisting that "WAR [WAS] NOT GENERALLY WANTED."

North, South, East, and West "WAITING!" for the
Spanish-American War
Milwaukee Sentinel, March 1898
The Charleston News and Courier announced that "COLUMBIA [IS] THE ONLY HOT TOWN, THAT IS, THE ONLY PLACE IN THE STATE HOT FOR WAR," adding that "Perhaps when it Comes to Volunteering Even Columbia will Cool Off . . ." (April 21, 1898). These claims stand in stark contrast to reports of the overabundance of volunteers and stories of young men eager to enlist in Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Worcester newspapers. Indeed, these northern cities were most concerned that the quotas would be filled before enough of their young men could participate in the fighting and prove their patriotism and manliness. According to the July 20, 1898 Indianapolis News, after McKinley issued his second call for a few extra reserve troops, Indiana and Wisconsin had exceeded their quotas of 1,304 and 900 volunteers, respectively, while only 255 of the 704 troops requested from Georgia had enlisted.

During the three decades after the Civil War, groups like the Daughters of the Confederacy and similar organizations had been actively memorializing the conflict, ensuring that its painful legacy remained a salient part of southern culture and popular consciousness in the South. Alongside this insistence that the South honor its confederate casualties from the "War of Northern Aggression," however, are discourses of reconciliation, reunification, and patriotism exemplified by Captain Fritz Guerin's tableau photograph.

As John Pettegrew points out in his discussion of the "relationship between the idea of the Civil War. . .and the construction of patriotism and nationalism during the Spanish-American War"(49), both northerners and southerners "commonly invoked the story and drama of [the Civil War's] sectional conflict and reunification in support of contemporary patriotic causes" (54). For example, the June 28, 1898 Indianapolis News published a story during the war (headlined "The South and the North. A Beautiful Incident among Camp Thomas Soldiers") which claimed that "nothing has been more evident in this camp, made up of sons of Federal and Confederates alike, than that sectionalism is dead. There is no longer a North or a South in the old sense; it is but a memory. Still, because of the awful sacrifice, it is a sacred memory to both." The article describes bands from the North and the South playing the tune "marching through Georgia" in a spontaneous display of unity until "the last vestige of reserve and hesitation had been swept away by the gallant action and the sons of Yanks and sons of Rebs met with clasped hands, swearing a new loyalty to each other and to "Old Glory."

Memorial Day newspaper articles in the Savannah Morning News during the crisis in Cuba also offer insights into deep southern attitudes toward the war. One piece, titled "Man on the Monument. What He Said With Regard to the Current War," summarizes the Memorial Day address by Mr. Pope S. Hill, who recounted his fictional conversation with a monument of a Confederate soldier:

Mr. Hill indulged in a talk with the "man on the monument," and secured his opinions on the current war with Spain. . . . Mr. Hill said:
. . ."Johnnie Reb," I said, "We've got a use for you and your gun now. Get down of your dignity. Macon's motto now is, 'Shoot, Luke, or give up your gun.'" He answered me thusly:
"I am a good old rebel; that's exactly what I am; and for this fair land of freedom I do not care a cent. I hate the nasty eagle, with all his brass and fuss; and the lying, thieving Yankee, I hate them wuss and wuss." . . . "Soldier," said I, "you have been asleep for 30 years. Listen while I tell you of the emancipation, the reconstruction, the New South, of Henry Grady, of democracy and plutocracy, of starving Cuba and the ill-fated Maine."
"Mr. Hill" eventually wins over "Johnnie Reb," who offers an emotional plea of support for "starving Cuba" in the name of all the dead Confederate soldiers in the adjacent cemetery, and concludes by claiming that "a patriot is a man who bleeds for the benefit of his country, not the man who bleeds his country for his own benefit" (May 13, 1898).

One front page story from the December 20, 1898 Savannah Morning News is instructive in this regard, further highlighting the very different relationship of the South to both the U.S. Civil War and the war with Spain. Headlined "Wore a Confederate Badge. President McKinley decorated by a Macon Veteran," the article tells of the president's whistle stop in Macon, Georgia during his larger tour throughout the South to celebrate the U.S. victory over Spain and to thank southerners for their contribution to the war effort:

The President and his party reached Macon promptly on time, and were received by the largest crowd which has gathered in Macon since the last visit of Jefferson Davis to the city. . . . Drawn up in line in front of the station was the Bibb County Camp of the Confederate Survivors' Association, 400 strong, headed by Commander C.M. Wiley . . . who addressed [the President] as follows:
. . . "I hope and pray, Mr. President, that God in his infinite mercy, may so direct future legislation of this country that the living Confederate will be remembered. This country and the Stars and Stripes belong as much to the Confederate veterans as they do to the Grand Army of the Republic. The South proved her loyalty to the grand old country when war was declared with Spain, and, now henceforth and forever she will be found ready to take up arms to defend our country and our flag.
According to the piece, Dr. Ronald B. Hall, another veteran, then approached the president and pinned a confederate badge on him, announcing that it "'should endear you to the heart of every Confederate'":

"I do not know that it will be proper," said the President.
"But you must," said Dr. Hall, and without further ceremony the President marched ahead. . . . The sight of the Confederate badge on the President's coat as he passed through the lines of veterans called forth vociferous cheering, and as long as the President was in sight they cheered him.
On April 19, 1898 (just days before the official declarations of war) the Charleston News and Courier ran a story from the New York wires services about "THE WAR CRAZE IN NEW YORK" claiming that the war "still proves profitable to the theatres":

The exhibition of patriotic enthusiasm by our theatre audiences has very largely subsided, they seeming to resent attempts of the management to utilize their sentiments for business purposes, but when real good ground is given for an enthusiastic outburst they respond as heartily as when war sentiment was first brought to white heat by the destruction of the Maine.
Although the article describes reactions to Sousa's patriotic concerts, it is nonetheless instructive for my purposes, since it is these same patrons who were going to the movies, often in the same theaters. "At last," claims the reporter,

Sousa raised his hand for silence, and when he could be heard, said: "Ladies and gentlemen, it seems as though the only appropriate encore that I can give these days is "Johnny, Get Your Gun," but there's another air we all will cheer to-night," and turning to his band he led off "Dixie." The previous applause was as a Sunday quiet compared to the bedlam that broke loose as the strains of this beloved southern air arose. Cheer on cheer was given from all parts of the house, and through and over all, in startlingly increasing volume, rose the genuine, old-time "Rebel yell." Men and women seemed delirious with joy, standing on seats or leaning far out of boxes and waving flags or handkerchiefs, while they shouted themselves hoarse . . . . [S]omeone in one of the boxes leaned over the rail and shouted, "Who says we are not ready for war?" Again the house went wild and Rebel yell and Union cheers joined to testify a unified country. Again the audience was wrought up to the highest pitch by a man in the orchestra, who jumped into the aisle and called for three cheers for "One flag and one country, the North and the South--we're all ready," and the cheers, given with a will, were accented by the now familiar yell.
Two days later, however, the News and Courier comforted its readers that "It has . . . been assured that there will be no New York or Massachusetts or other troops sent here to defend the coast of South Carolina, and if there is to be any defence of the coast by any other than the regular army it will be by the troops of the State of South Carolina."

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