Hulbert, Matthew Christopher
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This dissertation is a history of the collision of Civil War memory with the savage realities of guerrilla warfare in the western borderlands of Missouri and Kansas. My purpose is twofold: first, to blueprint how and why hyper-local, hyper-personal experiences of irregular violence have been sanitized from regional and national narratives of the war; and, second, to reveal how popular concepts of “the Wild West” and “the frontier” have been employed as cultural tools for whitewashing guerrilla warfare and thus for regulating the American historical consciousness more broadly from the 1860s to the present. This project is rooted in the pragmatic, but grossly overlooked, consideration that unique wartime events created different kinds of collective trauma and thereby different commemorative needs. With this in mind, I retell the story behind the story of the war within the war; one in which Confederate “undesirables” and their counter-narratives are intentionally purged from mainstream memory. This removal allowed the Civil War to safely remain as the civilized test of American manhood while the Wild West became its civilizing test. In the end, both “histories” became genres of American (masculine) self-congratulation and vital components of American exceptionalism.