House Legends and Perceptions of the Civil War: a Multiple Case Study on the Civil War Legends Told About Antebellum Homes in the New River Valley, Roanoke Valley, and Nearby Counties of Virginia

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Virginia Tech

This study was designed to identify recurring themes in Civil War legends that are told in reference to antebellum homes in regions of Southwest Virginia. Existing literature indicates that collecting these legends is an important task because doing so helps others to better understand the community of legend-tellers. Previous research has also indicated that legends form a type of American mythology with reveals the way the legend-tellers perceive the specific subject they describe in the legends. Eight historic homes were visited in six southwestern counties of Virginia. Qualitative data were collected from a purposive sample of 12 participants who lived in these houses, previously lived in an historic house, or worked in an historic house museum. Each house was chosen as a site of inquiry because it has some significance for those interested in the Civil War or because it represents typical houses in similar southwestern Virginian communities during the Civil War era. In-depth interviews were the sole means of data collection and provided detailed and unlimited legends used to identify themes. The data were collected analyzed using a multiple case study approach. The findings from this study indicate that Civil War legends are being told in reference to antebellum homes in Southwest Virginia. Additionally, the tellers of the legends have common thoughts about the Civil War. The three major conclusions made in this study are (1) northern soldiers were aggressors during the Civil War; (2) southerners were strong during the Civil War; and (3) ghosts and ghostly activity serve as reminders of the Civil War. By continuing to share these legends, the tellers indicate their own perspectives of the Civil War as well as the perspectives of those who originate the legends. The legend-tellers also provide insight into the culture of today's southwestern Virginians as well as the Civil War era southwestern Virginians.

Southwest Virginia, Antebellum, House Legends, Legend, Civil War