ALENTIEVA T.V. Visual Propaganda in the American Civil War of 1861–1865


Tatiana V. Alentieva

Doctor of Sciences (History), Professor,

Department of World History, Kursk State University,

Radishcheva St, 33, 305000 Kursk, Russian Federation

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Abstract. Introduction. The article analyzes visual propaganda during the American Civil War, its goals, methods, and means for both belligerents. The problem is relevant in connection with modern information wars and is insufficiently studied in American and Russian historiography.

Methods and materials. The research is based on historicism, objectivity, consistency, dialectical approach, philosophical and sociological theories that study the nature of social consciousness and the factors that influence it, namely the theory of C. Jung on the collective unconscious and archetypal images, the theory of social constructionism by P. Berger and N. Luckmann, the achievements of imagology and discursive analysis. The sources for the study were visual materials: posters, drawings, paintings, cartoons, photographs of the Civil War in the United States, placed in open access on the World Wide Web, published in illustrated periodicals: Harper’s Weekly, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated, Vanity Fair, The Southern Illustrated News, presented in book publications.

Analysis. During the American Civil War, the country was split between northerners, supporters of the Union, and southerners who fought for the independence of the Confederate States. In the conditions of a military conflict, visual propaganda turned out to be most popular and effective. Its goal was to convince the warring parties of the rightness of their own cause, to mobilize society on achieving victory. In the North, the image of the enemy – “Johnny the rebel” – was constructed in order to incite hatred towards the southerners. In the South, the image of the “damned Yankee” was created. Both northern and southern visual propaganda relied on time-tested images (the image of the motherland, the warrior-defender, home and family), as well as on the collective unconscious and archetypes of consciousness associated with religious views and historical roots, used a variety of tools, techniques and methods. The most powerful means of influence were the traditions of the War of Independence, the legacy of the Founding Fathers. The use of national symbols was characteristic: Union and Confederate flags, images of presidents and military leaders. The most common means of visual propaganda were posters and leaflets, postal envelopes, banknotes decorated with patriotic symbols. Drawings and cartoons were an important means of mobilizing the population. They were placed in illustrated newspapers and magazines, and were also printed separately in the form of engravings and lithographs. Visual propaganda played on emotions, it was built on the opposition of “friend/ foe”, depicting its supporters as heroes worthy of admiration, and its enemies as insidious, cruel and cowardly.

Results. Despite certain similarities in the conduct of propaganda by both warring parties, it turned out to be more comprehensive and effective in the North, which influenced the achievement of victory over the South. Key words: U.S. history, the Civil War of 1861–1865, visual propaganda, the “friend/foe” dichotomy, imagology.

Citation. Alentieva T.V. Visual Propaganda in the American Civil War of 1861–1865. Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Seriya 4. Istoriya. Regionovedenie. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya [Science Journal of Volgograd State University. History. Area Studies. International Relations], 2022, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 21-31. (in Russian). DOI:

Лицензия Creative Commons

Visual Propaganda in the American Civil War of 1861–1865 by Alentieva T.V. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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