The Body Politic: Burial and Post-War Reconciliation in Baton Rouge
Historians typically agree that reconciliation between the white North and South took place between the period of 1898 (Spanish-American War) and 1913 (before World War I). To test this hypothesis and identify when reconciliation took place in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, I will use the burial of R. L. Pruyn in the Baton Rouge National Cemetery. Pruyn served as a U.S. soldier during the Mexican War and a Confederate soldier during the Civil War.
Anthropologists have studied rituals, beliefs, and practices associated with death since early in the discipline. Archaeologists, in particular, have focused on this aspect of culture, in large part because in many cases remnants of burial ritual are all that remain of a culture in the archaeological record.
Scholars from a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, have, in recent years, taken on the study of public memory and its implications for national identity. The study of burial practice and identity are inextricably intertwined: the death of a member of a community is often a time of re-assertion of shared ideas and identities, an opportunity to pass important cultural information to younger, and future generations.
Confederate post-war memorial activities in Baton Rouge speak to the attitudes of white men and women regarding reconciliation and national identity. Newspapers, personal papers and the papers of local organizations, including the United Confederate Veterans, St. James Lodge No. 47 (masons), and the Historical Society of East and West Baton Rouge, will be used to help pinpoint those attitudes. Opportunities for reconciliation have been identified as 1886 with the burial of local Revolutionary War hero Philemon Thomas in the Baton Rouge National Cemetery; 1898 and the Spanish-American War (local men joined the U. S. war effort); and 1917 with the deaths and burials of Confederate veterans J. W. Nicholson (in Magnolia Cemetery, adjacent to the Baton Rouge National Cemetery) and R. L. Pruyn, and U.S. involvement in World War I. Ultimately, Pruyns 1917 burial in the Baton Rouge National Cemetery denotes a change in perception by local white citizens regarding national identity and establishes the date of post-war reconciliation in Baton Rouge.
Advisor:Miles E. Richardson; Mary Manhein; Heather McKillop
School:Louisiana State University in Shreveport
School Location:USA - Louisiana
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Date of Publication:11/05/2003