The Rivers Ran Backward: The Civil War and the Remaking of the American Middle Border

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9780195187236: The Rivers Ran Backward: The Civil War and the Remaking of the American Middle Border
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Most Americans imagine the Civil War in terms of clear and defined boundaries of freedom and slavery: a straightforward division between the slave states of Kentucky and Missouri and the free states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kansas. However, residents of these western border states, Abraham Lincoln's home region, had far more ambiguous identities-and contested political loyalties-than we commonly assume.

In The Rivers Ran Backward, Christopher Phillips sheds light on the fluid political cultures of the "Middle Border" states during the Civil War era. Far from forming a fixed and static boundary between the North and South, the border states experienced fierce internal conflicts over their political and social loyalties. White supremacy and widespread support for the existence of slavery pervaded the "free" states of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, which had much closer economic and cultural ties to the South, while those in Kentucky and Missouri held little identification with the South except over slavery. Debates raged at every level, from the individual to the state, in parlors, churches, schools, and public meeting places, among families, neighbors, and friends. Ultimately, the pervasive violence of the Civil War and the cultural politics that raged in its aftermath proved to be the strongest determining factor in shaping these states' regional identities, leaving an indelible imprint on the way in which Americans think of themselves and others in the nation.

The Rivers Ran Backward reveals the complex history of the western border states as they struggled with questions of nationalism, racial politics, secession, neutrality, loyalty, and even place-as the Civil War tore the nation, and themselves, apart. In this major work, Phillips shows that the Civil War was more than a conflict pitting the North against the South, but one within the West that permanently reshaped American regions.

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About the Author:


Christopher Phillips is Professor of History and Department Head at the University of Cincinnati. He is the author of seven books, including Damned Yankee: The Life of General Nathaniel Lyon; Freedom's Port: The African American Community of Baltimore, 1790-1860; Missouri's Confederate: Claiborne Fox Jackson and the Creation of Southern Identity in the Border West; and The Civil War in the Border South.

Review:


"[E]xcellent....This valuable book spans a century of history and weaves together several key themes of recent Civil War-era scholarship....Phillips offers much more than a synthesis in this deeply researched volume that draws on manuscripts from some thirty different archives; he also provides a richly detailed portrait of a region that came apart as its residents reevaluated and redefined their most cherished loyalties and beliefs. These findings will encourage scholars to rethink the terms and concepts we use to study a period in which North and South took on meanings that are obvious only in hindsight."--Michael E. Woods, Journal of Southern History


"[A] sprawling account....Phillips' account of the middle border's Civil War is a welcome addition to a historiography of the Civil War that remains in many ways divided into North and South."--Nicole Myers Turner, The Michigan Historical Review


"Previous historians have explored the violence and internal fighting in the West, especially in Missouri, but few have provided as detailed an account of the war's effects on the region or considered as carefully its cultural legacy Phillips's thoroughly researched and well-argued account presents an original and persuasive interpretation that deserves wide attention. The Rivers Ran Backward should become a standard work on the trans-Appalachian West."--Jonathan M. Atkins, American Historical Review


"Phillips' expert command of Kentucky and Missouri history enables him to analyze incisively the war's impact in the Lower North...[The subfield's] most important and wide-reaching title to date."--Civil War Book Review


"[E]ssential reading for anyone interested in the American Civil War and its unforeseen consequences A 'sprawling' work, but one that conveys superbly the damage done by war to the diverse residents of a no less sprawling region that had once had grand hopes of saving the republic from the disastrous consequences of sectional conflict."--Reviews in History


"A masterful study of the 'Middle Border' region Easy dichotomies about the Civil War era are complicated by Phillips's rich, complex narrative Indispensable reading for students of the Civil War era."--CHOICE


"The region where five great rivers come together-the Ohio, Cumberland, Tennessee, Missouri, and Mississippi-experienced a civil war within the Civil War. Christopher Phillips' fresh perspective on this conflict offers new insights on the great American trauma that forged a renewed nation on the ruins of the old one. This book belongs on the shelf of everyone interested in the Civil War."--James M. McPherson, author of The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters


"Christopher Phillips has written one of the most important books on the Civil War in a generation. Massively researched-down to local church records-sparkling with original thinking, and deeply humane, The Rivers Ran Backward illustrates how Americans struggled over the stakes of the conflict, the definition of freedom, and the very idea of North, South, and West. Phillips reveals the War Within the States, personal, intense, and hugely consequential."--T.J. Stiles, author of Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America


"In a work of remarkable research and clear insight, Christopher Phillips has recast our understanding of a vast part of the American landscape during the Civil War. Phillips shows us that the war, and the society it defined, refused to be bounded either by the Ohio River or by comforting generalizations."--Edward L. Ayers, author of In the Presence of Mine Enemies: Civil War in the Heart of America


"The remaking of 'the middle border' that The Rivers Ran Backward forwards rests on a fundamental remapping of American regional histories. Instead of treating the Ohio River as a divide between the realms of freedom and slavery that dated from the beginnings of the republic and produced the Civil War, this exhaustively researched, elegantly written, and powerfully argued book shows how the Civil War produced the division between North and South that was subsequently inscribed in the memories of the people on opposite sides of the middle border and written into the histories of the region and the United States."--Stephen Aron, author of The American West: A Very Short Introduction


"[An] excellent work of scholarship. By focusing on the Middle Border, Phillips expands our understandings of the West and forces historians to reconsider the North-South sectional binary. As a result, The Rivers Ran Backwards significantly adds to understandings of the border region as well as the American West."--The Civil War Monitor


"The Rivers Ran Backward is a wonderfully deep distillation of a career's worth of scholarly investigation into the people, politics, society, and warfare of the western borderlands during the Civil War era. It is highly recommended."--Civil War Books and Authors


"[Christopher Phillips] places the trans-Appalachian border under a lens to reveal, in fine-grained detail, the multitude of wars within the Civil War that flared on both sides of the Ohio River and west through Missouri and Kansas...[E]xhaustive research...[and] fine narrative skill...adds much to our understanding of this crucial region, untangling the shifting loyalties (and disloyalties) that tore the region apart."--The Wall Street Journal


"A most creative and important work of scholarship [with...]penetrating arguments and vivid examples."--Missouri Historical Review


"Scholarly, readable, and compelling."--Naval History Review


"Phillips writes eloquently, sometimes even poetically...[and his] exhaustive research in primary and secondary sources sets a high standard for historical detail, so too as an example of first-class historical analysis. Readers will especially welcome the beautifully crafted short literary sketches that preface each of his book's nine chapters."--Ohio Valley History


"[A] masterful combination of synthesis of existing scholarship and extensive primary research....Phillips's book will clearly be a seminal study of the Midwest during the Civil War and a work that scholars will be turning to--either for enlightenment or to challenge--for a long time."--Annals of Iowa


"Christopher Phillips's meticulously researched and well-evidenced The Rivers Ran Backward... brings together insights gained over several decades of writing and publishing on the topic to construct a new and comprehensive interpretation of the border region and the sectional crisis."--Journal of the Civil War Era


"Popular history teaches us that the American Civil War pitted North against South over the interminable issue of slavery... While inherently correct, this simplistic rendering of the conflict lacks nuance... This is why Christopher Phillips's The Rivers Ran Backwards is so important. His study of the 'Middle West' before, during, and after the Civil War muddies the dominant perspective of a purely North-South divide."--H-Net


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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2016. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Most Americans believe that the Ohio River was a clearly defined and static demographic and political boundary between North and South, an extension of the Mason-Dixon Line. Once settled, the new states west of the Appalachians - the slave states of Kentucky and Missouri and of the free states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kansas - formed a fixed boundary between freedom and slavery, extending the border that inevitably produced the war. None of this is true, except perhaps the outcome of war. But the centrality of the Civil War and its outcome in the making of these tropes is undeniable. Historian Christopher Phillips contests the assumption that regional identities throughout the Middle Border states were stable in the era of the Civil War. States such as Missouri and Kentucky tended to identify as more western than southern during the first half of the nineteenth century. Conversely, much of the population of the lower Midwestern states of Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana had stronger cultural, economic, and political ties to slave states than to New England or the Middle Atlantic. But across the region the Civil War left an indelible imprint on the way in which residents thought of themselves and other Americans, proving as much a shaper as a product of regional identities. A sweeping argument employing a strong narrative, telling vignettes, and the voices of regional and national figures, this book makes a major contribution to Civil War history and to American history on a broader scale. Seller Inventory # AAC9780195187236

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