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Title:Politics, chess, hats: the microhistory of disunion in Charleston, South Carolina
Author(s):McDonnell, Lawrence
Director of Research:Burton, Orville V.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Burton, Orville Vernon
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Barrett, James R.; Levine, Bruce; Lynn, John A.
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
South Carolina
US history
Southern history
Social movements
Abstract:This study examines the genesis of disunion at the Confederacy’s unlikely epicenter, Charleston South Carolina. Viewed from street level, through the words and actions of more than three hundred ordinary men—those who joined the radical Vigilant Rifles in 1860, and others who did not—the break-up of the Union appears unanticipated, largely undesired, yet wholly unavoidable. Southerners did not blunder into Civil War, I argue; they marched steadily, unwittingly, self-destructively into it because, at the end, fear, honor, and self-interest had invested them too heavily in the performance of that foolish act for them to choose any other course. Surprisingly, too, those who shouted loudest for secession in Charleston were not those most deeply implicated in slavery’s defense. They were small fry—young, single, unpropertied men mostly—clerks and accountants, volunteer firemen, chess club members, looking to stand tall with their fellows and get a leg up in the world. Too late they learned that bold promises, saber rattling, and street theater could not easily be disavowed. The consequence was disaster.
Issue Date:2015-01-21
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Lawrence McDonnell
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-01-21
Date Deposited:2014-12

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