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Antebellum

From Academic Kids

Antebellum is a Latin word meaning "before the war". In United States history and historiography "Antebellum" is sometimes used instead of the term "pre-Civil War," especially in the South. Antebellum applies to the period of increasing sectionalism leading to the opening shots of the American Civil War of the American Victorian Era. It can begin with the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, or be set as early as 1812.

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The Antebellum Period

The Antebellum Period can be looked back on with sentimental nostalgia in the US South, as an idealized agrarian and chivalric society, with the moral issues of slavery generally being glossed over. This is due in part to widespread destruction caused during the war by both armies and a lingering resentment of the occupation of the region by Union forces after the Confederacy was defeated. As a result the architecture and fashion of the period were better documented in this region of the United States than in other parts of the country and can be heavily romanticized.

The Antebellum Period romanticized

There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South. Here in this pretty world, Gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a Civilization gone with the wind...
- From the opening of the film Gone With the Wind (1938)

In this romanticized view, the process of the Industrial Revolution is mythically substituted for by the widespread destruction of Sherman's March from Atlanta to the Sea and by the military occupation of the defeated Confederacy by Union forces during the period termed Reconstruction (1865 - 1877). While the South was largely ruined after the Civil War, this had as much or more to do with the failed domestic polices of the Confederacy, notably its impressment of food supplies, and thousands of uprooted civilians, than it did with the scorched earth policy of Sherman. Sherman's March was exclusively limited to Georgia and South Carolina and scorched earth policies were not implemented in Florida, Tennessee, or the Trans-Mississippi states.

More than any other single American artifact, the novel and movie Gone With the Wind have permanently fixed a slanted popularized image of pre-Civil War American history and are good examples of the romanticized view. In the romanticized view, the Antebellum Period is often looked back on with sentimental nostalgia by some whites in the U.S. South, as an idealized pre-industrial highly-structured genteel and stable agrarian society, in contrast to the anxiety and struggle of modern life. The issue of slavery is largely ignored. For example, a romanticized view of the Antebellum South would claim that the Civil War was fought over states' rights, when in actuality the war was fought predominantly over a state's right to allow slavery. Because of slavery, and the many human rights abuses it spawned, most African Americans find the romanticization of this era to be offensive, and often see a coded approving reference to the racism of the period in the term "Old South".

Antebellum architecture

The term "antebellum" is also used to describe the architecture styles of the pre-war South.

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