Antebellum is a Latin word meaning "before war" (ante means before and bellum war). In United States history and historiography, the term antebellum is Souther Plantations often used to refer to the period of increasing sectionalism leading to the American Civil War, Southren Plantations instead of the term "pre-Civil War". In that Sothern Plantations context, the Antebellum Period began with the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, or could be set as early as 1812. Sometimes it is called the Old South.
- 1 Popular images of the period
- 2 Romanticism
- 3 Architecture
- 4 See also
- 5 External links
Popular images of the period
This period lasted from around 1784 through 1860, the period after the American Revolution. The Antebellum Period in the Southern United States is viewed by some with a kind of sentimental nostalgia as an idealized agrarian and chivalric society.
The nostalgic view stems from the cultural memory of the great prosperity of that time later lost to the widespread destruction of Southern infrastructure and society by the Union Army (particularly during Sherman's March to the Sea) and to the resulting resentment by former Confederate Army soldiers and others toward the Union forces. Often imagery of the antebellum period brings to mind Southern Belles and plantations.
Another reason for the nostalgic view is that 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 in spite of the slavery upon which great Southern mansions were built, they and their mystique of opulence and prosperity are sometimes romanticized. Nevertheless, the nostalgia for antebellum Southern culture is heavily tempered by the reality that what made that life possible was the enslavement, suffering and inhumane treatment of African American people.
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 (1939)
The Industrial Revolution is mythically substituted for by the widespread destruction of Sherman's March from Atlanta to the Atlantic Ocean 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 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, Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel, Gone with the Wind and the subsequent 1939 film, have permanently altered historical perspective and 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, however, in Gone with the Wind — although Mitchell does make a point of examining the relationship between the slaves and their masters on the southern plantations. D. W. Griffith's 1915 film, The Birth of a Nation, romanticized the pre-war South in a very similar way.
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".
The term antebellum is also used to describe the architecture of the pre-war South. Many Southern plantation houses use this style, including:
- Boone Hall
- Middleton Place
- The Hermitage
- The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland - although it is not in the South (nor is it an actual house), it still is an example of antebellum architecture
The city of New Orleans, Louisiana retains the largest collection of surviving Antebellum architecture
- History of the United States (1789-1849)
- History of the United States (1849-1865)
- Origins of the American Civil War
- Antebellum Slavery (PBS)
- Aspects of the Antebellum Christmas
- Documenting the American South (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Antebellum American History, 1814-1864 University of Colorado.
Categories: Eras of United States history | History of the United States (1849–1865) | Cultural history of the American Civil War | History of the Southern United States | Historiography of the American Civil War