"This summer-home of the survivors": the Civil War Vacation in architecture and landscape, 1878-1918
Stevenson, Charles Ian
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Between 1878 and 1918, Union and Confederate veterans independently constructed campgrounds and cottages in waterfront locations to support the “Civil War Vacation”—a multi-day, summertime excursion in which veterans and their families combined memorial and leisurely activities. This dissertation argues that some Civil War veterans designed seasonal spaces to solidify their own memory, promote healing, and convey their self-defined legacy to descendants. This interdisciplinary dissertation sheds new light on Civil War veterans and their place in postwar society by looking beyond writings to the physical spaces they created by drawing upon methods of vernacular architecture studies, material culture, environmental history, and cultural history. Buildings as well as their physical contents form core source material, supplemented by historical images and written documents. Chapter One examines the first fifteen postwar years when veterans negotiated their reunion parameters and some converted single-day, all-male affairs into multi-day excursions at leisure landscapes in which wives and children participated. Chapter Two analyzes communal cottages built by Maine’s regimental associations on Peaks Island and Long Island in Casco Bay to demonstrate how veterans employed architecture to make permanent the Civil War Vacation. Chapter Three explores the New Hampshire Veterans Association campus at Weirs Beach on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee to show how a collection of regimental cottages that connected military service to postwar prosperity helped create a public resort. Chapter Four illustrates how the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), the largest Union veteran organization, helped commercialize the Civil War Vacation at Weirs Beach, Camp Benson on Lake Sebasticook in Newport, Maine, and the “GAR Camps” on Mousam Lake in Shapleigh, Maine. Chapter Five explores two landscapes created by the United Confederate Veterans in Rockville, Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina, and in Mexia, Texas, to showcase how Confederate veterans utilized recreational landscapes to support the Lost Cause narrative. Chapter Six investigates the 103rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry’s early twentieth-century camp along Lake Erie, near Lorain, Ohio, to demonstrate that descendants helped build a site to promote a Union legacy for their families.