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2015 Hubbell Prize Awarded

Feb 24th, 2015

Edward J. BlumEdward J. Blum has won the John T. Hubbell Prize for the best article published in Civil War History during 2014. His study, “‘The First Secessionist Was Satan’: Secession and the Religious Politics of Evil in Civil War America,” Civil War History (September 2014), was selected by the journal’s editorial advisory board. The prize earns the recipient a $1,000 award from The Kent State University Press.

Examining speeches, sermons, soldiers’ letters, novels, rumors, and visual imagery from the Civil War, Blum’s article suggests that the widespread claim among Unionists that “Satan” was the “first secessionist” was a crucial element in Unionist moral politics. It was an enduring position even as emancipation and hard war altered the conflict, and it bound Democrats and Republicans, women and men, politicians and privates in ways that anti-slavery positions did not. Blum demonstrates that Unionists positioned the ideology of secession not in the “right of revolution” from the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution, but instead in an earlier era, before the creation of humanity, and from the demonic.  Satan as the first secessionist provided Unionists with a weapon to attack Confederate claims to the sacred and the South’s honor culture, while it also allowed Unionists to denounce Confederate action, rather than Confederate essence. Incarnating evil outside of Confederate bodies, most graphically on letter envelopes of the age, Unionists presented themselves as seeking to vanquish demonic Confederate influences, not destroy Confederate Southerners themselves.

Edward J. Blum is professor of history at San Diego State University. He is the author of Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865–1898 (2005); and coauthor with Paul Harvey of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America (2012).

Awarded annually by The Kent State University Press, the John T. Hubbell Prize recognizes the extraordinary contribution to the field of its namesake, who served as editor of Civil War History for thirty-five years.

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