I am looking forward to reading Ian Binnington's Confederate Visions: Nationalism, Symbolism, and the Imagined South in the Civil War, which came out at the end of last year from the University of Virginia Press. Cribbing now from the book's website:
Nationalism in nineteenth-century America operated through a collection of symbols, signifiers citizens could invest with meaning and understanding. In Confederate Visions, Ian Binnington examines the roots of Confederate nationalism by analyzing some of its most important symbols: Confederate constitutions, treasury notes, wartime literature, and the role of the military in symbolizing the Confederate nation.
Nationalisms tend to construct glorified pasts, idyllic pictures of national strength, honor, and unity, based on visions of what should have been rather than what actually was. Binnington considers the ways in which the Confederacy was imagined by antebellum Southerners employing intertwined mythic concepts—the "Worthy Southron," the "Demon Yankee," the "Silent Slave"—and a sense of shared history that constituted a distinctive Confederate Americanism. The Worthy Southron, the constructed Confederate self, was imagined as a champion of liberty, counterposed to the Demon Yankee other, a fanatical abolitionist and enemy of Liberty. The Silent Slave was a companion to the vocal Confederate self, loyal and trusting, reliable and honest.
The creation of American national identity was fraught with struggle, political conflict, and bloody Civil War. Confederate Visions examines literature, newspapers and periodicals, visual imagery, and formal state documents to explore the origins and development of wartime Confederate nationalism.
This sounds like a great book -- I think legal opinions are an often-overlooked source of data on ideas about nation and region during the Civil War. Some years ago I published an article looking at the opinions of five Confederate state supreme courts on whether a person who had provided a substitute for service in the Confederate army could be conscripted "again." All of the courts upheld the statute (you may recall that there was no Confederate Supreme Court, so this was all decided in state courts). Though the rationales differed widely -- I was particularly interested to see the differences in the reasoning styles. Judges who had been Democrats were much more willing to decide on broad governmental power grounds than those who had been Whigs. The latter were more likely to decide in favor of the statute on narrow grounds, such as the terms of the contract to provide a substitute did not promise perpetual exemption from service. It was really quite an interesting exercise to look at so many opionins (there were some seritam opinions and also one dissent), on such an important issue decided more or less simultaneously. I've thought that I'd like to reprise this methodology on some other issues for the pre-Civil War judiciary.
I'm also interested in how ideas about southern nationalism began to grow in the decade before war -- particularly on college campuses like UNC and the University of Alabama. I think a lot of really excellent work that looks at Confederate Nationalism (like Michael Bernath's Confederate Minds and Drew Faust's The Creation of Confederate Nationalism) have ideas that could very profitably be applied backwards to the 1850s, particularly to what judges and lawyers were saying.
The image is the Richmond Equine Statute, which was an important symbol of Confederate nationalism (even though it was put up in the 1850s). About that I hope to have a lot more to say down the road.