What part of To Kill a Mockingbird's historical background is the most interesting part?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Being a Civil War buff, I enjoy the many references to The War Between the States employed by author Harper Lee. There were still many surviving Civil War veterans around the country in the early 1930s, and the stories by these veterans were still very much alive, especially in the South. One of Scout's relatives, Cousin Ike Finch, was

... Maycomb County's sole surviving Confederate veteran. He wore a General Hood type beard of which he was inordinately vain.  (Chapter 9)

General John Bell Hood was a Confederate army commander who unsuccessfully defended Atlanta, culminating in General William T. Sherman's "March to the Sea." Hood became a symbol of the losses the South suffered during the war: A handsome and courageous division commander under General Robert E. Lee, Hood returned as a shell of himself afterward, losing a leg and suffering a crippled arm during the conflict. Cousin Ike had apparently served under General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, and he believed "we'd whip 'em this time" if the South was ever to rise again. Other references to the Civil War include:

  • Dill claimed that "his granddaddy was Brigadier General Joe Wheeler and left him his sword." Wheeler was a famed Confederate cavalry commander who later commanded U. S. forces during the Spanish-American War.
  • Newspaper editor B. B. Underwood was named after the inept Confederate General Braxton Bragg, the source of at least part of Underwood's drinking problems.
  • Ironically, Bob Ewell is named after the Confederacy's legendary commander, General Robert E. Lee.
  • Mr. Avery blames Jem and Scout for Maycomb's unseasonal snow in Chapter 8, claiming it "Hasn't snowed in Maycomb since Appomattox," the site of the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.
  • Mrs. Dubose keeps an old Confederate pistol close at hand, one which probably belonged to her husband.
  • Confederate caps were still being worn, as evidenced by Scout's observation of them at the Halloween pageant.
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