The Outlaw Josie Wales – Reconciliation and Memory

The Outlaw Josie Wales – Reconciliation and Memory

In The Outlaw Josie Wales, a film by Clint Eastwood, Josie Wales is a simple Missouri farmer who gets pulled into the Civil War for revenge. His wife and son are killed by “redlegs” who are Kansas Union fighters known for looting Missouri “Bushwacker” territory who sided with the Confederacy. This feud between neighbors causes hatred from both sides throughout the movie from soldiers and citizens alike created by wartime brutality.

Josie Wales’ whole life was ruined by a war he was, at the time, taking no part in. When he comrades decided to turn themselves in at the end of the war after they were promised amnesty for allegiance, they were betrayed and shot dead. After this, Josie flees southwest toward Indian Territory and gathers a band of followers he saves along the way. This group includes a Union soldier’s mother and daughter. The Grandma expresses the regional hatred created by the war calling Missourians cold-blooded murders of innocents and thinks of those who are “true blue” as the most honorable of men.

Although this mentality seems to continue, the grandma’s views weaken as the film goes on. She at one point thanks God for the land her son honorably dying for the cause against those evil Missourians while simultaneously thanking Josie for changing from evil to good. She also calls the “redleg” Union soldiers, who eventually catch up to them, a disgrace to Kansas. The Union soldier’s daughter falls in love with Josie. Although these views weaken, the pain and suffering felt from the war in unforgettable. Josie said to one of his followers “you know there ain’t no forgetting” about the war and the pain caused to him by it.

This film represents two major themes that we have talked about in class. The first is reconciliation and the second is the inability to forget. Reconciliation is portrayed in this movie by the relationship between Josie and the grandma. Although the first times they meet the grandma is repulsed by Josie and is very vocal about her hatred for Missourians, by the end of the movie they are more family than either of them could say about Union Missourians or people from Kansas. Reconciliation is also portrayed in the last scene where Josie and His betrayer general are face to face. The general wants to tell Josie that “the war is over”. Josie just replies, “I guess we all died a little in that damn war.” This last line tells his general that he once respected that he forgave him and just wants to be left alone.

The second theme is memory. The memory for both sides is very different and even between soldier and citizen. The Union soldiers seemed to feel that the Missourians deserved what they got and did not regret anything. After the betrayal when all the men are shot, the main general said that “to the victors belong the spoils.” This explains that they did not regret their actions. The Confederate soldiers seemed to just want go home and be left alone.  They talk about many in Texas who are also being hunted down. The Kansas grandma and her changing views represent the Union citizen’s perspective, however the daughter never seems to hold the same hate and this is not explained.

These two themes are reoccurring in our conversations in class and represent the perceived attitude on how to handle the post-war period (reconciliation) and how the people dealt with the war in their own individual ways (memory). The main idea that seemed to be everywhere except those commission to hunt Josie is that they just wanted to be left alone to fix, restart, and continue their lives.

The Peoples Republic of Vermont

The Peoples Republic of Vermont


Above is a link to the Second Vermont Republic’s(SVR)  website. This group is one that seeks secession from the Unites States as well as the break up of all states that they call “meganations.” It seeks separate nationhood due to principles not shared with the United States. This places the SVR right in the mainstream of secession movements in American history that see secession as a valid way to solve differences to large to remain in Union together without war. The SVR has a small vocal prominence in Vermont Politics but is too fringe to win any state legislature seats. Along with most modern secessionist movements, It is seen as silly to think that it could last as its own nation. This fringe nature as well as the principled reasoning for secession makes this Vermont secessionist group completely in line with the modern trends of secession groups; small and “extremists.”

700,000 secessionists strong

700,000 secessionists strong


The link above leads to an article about petitions on the website that call for the federal government to allow for peaceful secession for those that want it. This idea of peaceful secession was one that the founders would have felt to be okay. However, since the Civil War, President Lincoln set a new precedent that secession was not okay and that the federal government had in its interest to protect the union and to keep it together.

Recently, this idea has been brought back into the mainstream as an idea to at least threaten with. (although I do not personally think anyone takes these threats seriously) I hope, in my research, to be able to further place our modern ideas and reactions to secession in a longer history of American reaction to this threat and determine whether our modern reactions are anything new or just another day in America.

Civil War Memory 2013 – Proposal

Civil War Memory 2013 – Proposal

Matthew Allen

Civil War Memory 2013-Literature Review Proposal



My paper will look to provide a full analysis of American opinion on secession and nullification from the early American founders to modern ideas on the subjects. This will include looking at three main aspects to fully understand the topic. First, I will examine scholarly sources providing analyses of perspectives. Secondly, I will be looking at attempts through history and how these were perceived as well as their purposes. Lastly, I will look at popular culture such as movies and fictional literature to see how secession is perceived for the average American. This will be the main focus as this shows memory changing over periods of time.

The first point of interest will be to gain a solid foundation of knowledge in what the vast majority of people thought on the subject of nullification and secession by looking at scholarly works, political pamphlets, and newspapers where the smallest talks of these acts may have been mentioned and the reactions they received. This will provide me with a changing perspective over time and space. Next, I will look at attempts and movements for nullification and secession. Some examples I will look are from earlier in American history such as the nullification crisis in the 1830’s as well as the Civil War. The Civil War will be a pivot point in my essay to determine how the memory of the Civil War affected the memory and perspectives on nullification and secession. Then I will look at modern attempts at secession and nullification such as movements in Vermont, Texas, and minority narratives such as the Native Americans to analyze how memories and reactions toward secession have altered since the Civil War. Lastly I will look at popular culture references to secession through such media as films including “Gone with the Wind”, “Birth of a Nation”, and “Glory” to show how secession is perceived in different times amongst a broader audience. I will also look at some fictional literature and poems of the “Lost Cause” that romanticize secession.

In conclusion of this paper, I will provide a full contextualized analysis on the memory of the concepts of secession and nullification from the earliest Americans to modern Americans. This will provide insight into how the Civil War changed the political narratives of Federalism and the ideas on confederacy for today’s society.




Boduch, Jodie Lynn, ed. States’ Rights, The Bill of Rights Series. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2006.

This source will be used as a scholarly source to provide context on Early American ideas on federalism and the relationship between the States and the Federal Government. It also provides scholarly analysis’ of the secession that led to the Civil war as well as the Nullification crisis of the 1830’s.


Davidson, Donald. The Attack on Leviathan: Regionalism and Nationalism in the United States. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1938.


This book gives context to the role that regionalism as well as national identity may have on attempts at secession as well as ideas about secession and nullification. It also provides descriptions of how regionalism and nationalism are depicted through literature, hero worship, and education to help me with my own research.


Haltom, Bill. Will Scott County Secede Again and Will the Lost State of Franklin Be Found?. Tennessee Bar Journal 49, no. 1: 40-41, also available online at, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed January 27, 2013).


This source provides an account of a secession attempt by Scott County, Tennessee to create the State of Scott. The first attempt of this was in the 1860’s however, there has been talk of a modern attempt following the election of President Obama. This provides a situation where I can analyze two separate attempts with more similarities than differences to look at perspectives on secession.


Lindsay, Peter, and Christopher Heath Wellman. 2003. Lincoln on Secession. Social Theory & Practice 29, no. 1: 113-135, also available online at, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed January 27, 2013).


This article is an evaluation of President Lincoln’s argument against secession which led to war to reunify the country. This provides me with an argument against secession as acceptable in the United States which was always considered constitutionally sound up until this point.



Loring, Caleb William. Nullification, Secession: Webster’s Argument and the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions Considered in Reference to the Constitution and Historically. New York: The Knickerbocker Press, 1893.


This book gives a late 19th century approach to analyzing the constitutionality of secession by analyzing the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, the idea of Confederation or federation as the true form of American government, and argues that the Constitutional Convention argued for Federal government as the aim. This gives me a dated analysis to use for my literature review.


Powell, Edward Payson. Nullification and Secession in the United States: A History of the Six Attempts During the First Century of the Republic. New York: The Knickerbocker Press, 1897.


This provides me with early American Attempts at secession such as the South Carolinian attempt in 1832, the New England attempt in 1812, and secession in 1861 by the southern states. It also handles ideas of confederacy from Alexander Hamilton in the 1803 to prevent Thomas Jefferson from gaining power. These attempts provide a counter weight to the sources that say federalism was the aim of the founders.


Sale, Kirkpatrick. 2004. Blue State Secession. Nation, December 13. 6-10, also available online at, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed January 27, 2013).

This article provides a modern attempt after the 2004 election of President George Bush where many Democratic political pundits dabbled with the idea of secession or nullification. It also provides a modern perspective from different views on the merit of these ideas.


Stephens, Alexander H. A Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States; Its Causes, Character, Conduct and Results. Philadelphia: National Publishing Company, 1868.


This source provides an in depth analysis of the causes of the Civil War as well as a dated perspective on the merit of secession as a whole. It also provides a relatively detailed account of perspectives on the outcomes of secession and the war it led to. This gives me post war insight into how many thought of secession and nullification.


Woods Jr., Thomas E. Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century. Washington D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2010.


This book provides a modern argument for the necessity of Nullification and the threats of secession for the success of a federal system of government. It gives a modern analysis of early American beliefs of the subject and then provides a personalized approach on the subject for modern times.


Versluis, Arthur.. Secession and American Federalism. Modern Age 49, no. 3: 308-315, 2007. Also available online at, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed January 27, 2013).


This article discusses a 21st century discussion and movement in Vermont about secession. It also compares this and its causes with the Civil war as well as comparing both of these with the Swiss Civil War to discuss all perspectives and outcomes of secession or nullification. This provides a scholarly analysis and modern approach and perspectives on the subject.




Gone with the Wind. DVD. Directed by Victor Fleming. 1939;  Burbank, CA: Warner

Home Video, 2005.

Birth of a Nation, DVD. Dirceted by D. W. Griffith. 1915


Glory. DVD. Directed by Edward Zwick. 1989

Grant is Praised as Second Only to Lincoln in U.S. History.

Grant is Praised as Second Only to Lincoln in U.S. History.


The link above leads to an article at The New York Times which deals with the issue of substituting President Grant’s picture on the fifty dollar bill with that of President Reagan. The author argues that this would be a “travesty” and “would dishonor” American principles such as “union, freedom, and equality.” These principles are the same as those that Grant claimed to be the reasons for fighting in the civil war and what was being protected against the rebellion. To save the union and free the slaves were what Grant saw as the ultimate purposes of the war and these ideas carried all the way to today where this journalist, Sean Wilentz, claims these to be the “nation’s bedrock” principles.

John Brown Fort – How you feel is what it means

John Brown Fort – How you feel is what it means

John Brown’s Smoldering Spark


The link above is to an article called “John Brown’s Smoldering Spark” by Dennis E. Frye. Frye is a historian at Harper’s Ferry National Park and attempts to shine some light on the emotional impact Brown’s actions and how they are remembered over time.

Frye draws the conclusion that how an individual or group remembered Brown and the feelings that they got from the event ( such as southern fears or northern pride ) determined the “truth” for them of what John Brown did. His article seemed to focus on the late 1950’s and 1960’s civil rights movement which i think could give a little more insight into that time periods various interpretations of the Raid on Harper’s Ferry.


Secession is America

Secession is America


This link above brings you too ‘s hit-and-run blog. is a libertarian leaning news organization that in the article above attempts to show that the idea of secession is American. The article points out that since the founders,  through to modern political debates, secession has been a main stream thought in response to what they saw as over reaching from the federal government. after the civil war, however, i feel that this has been removed from the main stream as President Lincoln set a precedent that secession is dangerous the the remaining units of the union and therefore cannot be accepted.

Confederate ‘stars and bars’ are not racist

Confederate ‘stars and bars’ are not racist


This blog attempts to argue an opinion that i have often heard that the Confederate flag actually represents a symbol of regional pride and states rights. The fact is, that states rights has also been associated with racism due to its use to continue the system of slavery. Therefore, the two (flag and idea of states rights) have been torn between these two perspectives and therefore been made politically suicidal for anyone who wants to associate with either. The fact is, both sides have a point because memory has associated the institution of slavery with confederate symbols for many Americans and the association in memory has lead to folklore and perceptions that will not change easily. so should we consider them racist? or should we be proud to fly them even though some may drive by and think of me as racist?