Joan E. Cashin is a professor of history at Ohio State University, specializing in social, economic, and cultural history from the Revolution through the Civil War. She is the author of A Family Venture: Men and Women on the Southern Frontier (1991); First Lady of the Confederacy: Varina Davis's Civil War (2006), winner of the Fletcher Pratt Award from the Civil War Roundtable of New York; and War Stuff: The Struggle for Human and Environmental Resources in the American Civil War (2018), winner of the Best Book Award from the Ohio Academy of History. She is also the editor of War Matters: Material Culture in the Civil War Era (2018); The War Was You and Me: Civilians in the American Civil War (2002); Our Common Affairs: Texts from Women in the Old South (1996); and Clotel, or the President's Daughter (1996), a novel by Williams Wells Brown.
Americans believed material objects mattered a great deal in the Civil War era. Before 1861, Northerners and Southerners invested great political meaning in such objects as flags, monuments, and buildings associated with the Revolution (think Mount Vernon), and during the war they competed to take possession of these objects. Northerners who seized control of them believed they symbolized the eventual Union victory.