Keynote Address

85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky

This year's meeting will feature a keynote address followed by a reception on Saturday, April 7, 6pm, Ballroom B/C, Galt House Hotel. All registered conference attendees are invited.

The keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Christopher Phillips, the John and Dorothy Hermanies Professor of American History, the University Distinguished Professor of the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, and the Head of the Department of History at the University of Cincinnati.

Chris received the Ph.D. from the University of Georgia, where he trained with William S. McFeely, historian and biographer of Ulysses S. Grant and Frederick Douglass. His research interests and teaching fields are in American history, the American South and West and the Civil War and Reconstruction. 

His seven published books have focused variously upon slavery and freedom, emancipation, war, race, politics, and memory during and after the Civil War era. They include Damned Yankee: The Life of Nathaniel LyonFreedom'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.  His most recent book, The Rivers Ran Backward: The Civil War and the Remaking of the American Middle Border (Oxford University Press, 2016), examines the fluid political cultures of the "Middle Border" states during the Civil War era. The book received the 2017 Tom Watson Brown Prize for the best published book on the Civil War from the Society for Civil War Historians, the Watson Brown Foundation, and the George and Ann Richards Civil War Research Center at Penn State University.  It was also awarded the 2017 Jon Gjerde Book Prize, the Midwestern History Association's top award given for a book on midwestern regional history, the 2017 Distinguished Book Award by the Ohio Academy of History, and the 2017 Missouri History Book Award from the State Historical Society of Missouri

His essays have appeared in such venues as Civil War HistoryJournal of the Civil War Era, and The New York Times. He is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, and his work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Antiquarian Society (where he is an elected member), among others. In 2013 he was a Fulbright scholar in the Czech Republic.

Dr. Phillips' keynote address is entitled: "Southern Cross, North Star: The Politics of Irreconciliation and Civil War Memory in the American Middle Border."

Most Americans, Dr. Phillips argues, hold that the Ohio River is a clearly defined and static demographic and political boundary between North and South – an extension of the Mason-Dixon Line into the West and thus a fixed boundary between freedom and slavery, between the slave states of Kentucky and Missouri and the free states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kansas.

In prevailing narratives, the Civil War rarely serves as a defining event in the history of this former West, and vice versa. Yet this former West was central perhaps to the Civil War’s most lasting outcomes: The cultural politics of “irreconciliation” in these states that would fashion discrete and often inaccurate memories of winning and losing the Civil War, establishing the middle border as a front for the far longer "war after the war."

Fought for nearly half a century with internecine violence and politics, formal and informal, this extension of the Civil War changed the meaning of the American middle border, and with it the nation’s regional identities. Unable to conform either to the emergent southern or northern war narratives after the war, the battleground that was the West was effectively written out of the war, and by 1926 residents had created a new regional geography driven by cultural identities: Northern, Southern, and more complicatedly, Midwestern.