Meaning in Marble: Civil War Monuments and American Identity

Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010 | 7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m. (EST)

Gettysburg National Monument (detail)


Kirk Savage

Associate Professor of Art History
University of Pittsburgh

About the Seminar

The Civil War caused Americans to re-imagine themselves and their nation. Countrymen once again, however uneasily, Northerners, Southerners, and growing populations in the West had to figure out the meaning of the War and the meaning of citizenship in a nation that now included four million new citizens who had once been enslaved. Public monuments were central to this effort. The decades after the War constitute the greatest era of monument building in our history. In metal and stone those monuments are still with us — generals, soldiers, freedmen. What did they mean to the people who erected them? What did they say about the country the War created? What do they say to us today?

To encourage the use of monuments in instruction, participants will be asked to submit photos of local Civil War memorials for possible analysis in the seminar.

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Assigned Readings

To incorporate seminar texts into your teaching, we offer the National Humanities Center’s Primary Document Application Form.
  1. Art on the Battlefield” from The Century, Volume 50, edited by Josiah Gilbert Holland, Richard Watson Gilder.
  2. Question of Monuments” from The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 17, No. 103, May, 1866.
  3. The Robert E. Lee Memorial” from The Family Letters: A Portrait of an American Family Though Letters From the 18th and 20th Century, edited by John T. B. Mudge (The Durand Press, Lyme, NH, 2009). (PDF)
  4. Boston’s Statues: Some Rough Criticism” by Mr. Wendell Phillips. (1879, November 10). New York Times (1857–1922), p. 3. (PDF)
  5. Dedication of the Soldiers’ Monument, Worcester, Massachussetts. (PDF)
  6. The Richmond Planet, May 1890 front page and next page. (PDFs)
  7. Brooklyn’s Monuments to the Civil War”, Kirk Savage (PDF)
  8. Five images (PDF)


PowerPoint: 6 MB

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Seminar Recording

Streaming Recording

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