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Confederate Broadsides

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The "Confederate Broadside Poetry Collection" at Wake Forest University consists of over 250 examples of poems written by Southerners and Confederate sympathizers during the Civil War. The collection includes some pamphlets and clippings, as well as broadsides.

William Moss's Confederate Broadside Poems: A Descriptive Bibliography (London: Meckler, 1988) provides an index to and a bibliographical study of the collection. Dr. Moss writes that:

"All of the Southern broadsides [in the Wake Forest collection] are directly concerned in one way or another with the war, yet, within fairly well defined limits, they display a wide range of subject matter and tone, as well as of ability. In that range, they represent well the published war poetry of the South. Tending more to the popular and less to the properly poetic than do most published collections, they all the better represent the body of popular Southern war poetry." [17]

The subject matter of most of the poems is typical of Southern war propaganda. Lincoln and his cabinet are vilified, and there is much talk of states' rights and northern aggression. The subject of slavery is seldom mentioned, except when various authors declare, without apparent irony, that white southerners are fighting because they refuse to submit to the "slavery" of being governed by Northerners. Southern victories are celebrated, and inept Northern generals are ridiculed. And, at least in the poems written in the early part of the war, God is frequently invoked as being on the side of the just and noble Southern cause. As the war progresses, poems describe the sufferings of the Southern people and the heroism of those willing to give their lives for the Confederacy.

One distinctive feature of the Wake Forest collection is a large concentration of material from or about Southern sympathizers in Maryland. Though officially part of the Union, Maryland, as a border state, had a sizeable population of Confederate sympathizers. Some of them went to prison or suffered other censure by the Union government for airing their secessionist views in public.

The Confederate broadsides are interesting as artifacts as well as texts. As Dr. Moss observes, "The broadsides range in quality from elegant to shabby, from fancy typography with elaborate ornamental borders and cuts in three colors on laid paper to the plainest type poorly printed on cheap newsprint or worse." [31] Some of the broadsides are of such poor quality that they are barely readable today - not surprising, given the shortages and privations that the southern states suffered during the war. As is common with ephemeral publications, the author, publisher, and exact date and place of publication are not identified on most of the items. This anonymity was an advantage for authors and publishers (notably Marylanders) who might suffer persecution for their support of the Confederacy.

Wake Forest purchased most of the items in the Confederate Broadside Collection in two lots, in 1967 and 1976. The items were originally collected in scrapbooks, from which they were removed, by the book dealer or by the library, for preservation purposes. Many of the broadsides appear to have been trimmed by the compiler[s] of the scrapbooks.

Recent Additions

Below are a few recent additions in the Confederate Broadsides collection.