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date: 25 January 2022

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the American Civil War history of the piano to shed light on the enormous socioeconomic changes that occurred on the plantation during this tumultuous period. The war sent people and objects in motion. Union soldiers were sent into battle as far away as New Orleans, Louisiana, and Tampa, Florida, and they occupied the South for more than fifteen years after the war began in 1861. Confederate soldiers also went on the move, fighting across the South and the Mid-Atlantic states, while plantation owners abandoned their human and material property and sought refuge away from the front lines. Former slaves wrested freedom from their absentee owners and then, having secured that freedom, joined the cash economy and sought to become citizens. The tensions in the interactions between these groups were manifested materially, and the resulting artifacts survive as extant objects or textual references within the archive. Bound together in an investigation of place, the piano presents a powerful narrative of American history through the making and unmaking of the plantation space.

Keywords: plantation, piano, Sea Islands, freedmen, Civil War, Confederate, material culture, missionaries, soldiers, gentility

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