By coincidence, I was doing some research yesterday and came across an article that says that re-enactment Medieval tournaments were very popular in the American South both before and after the Civil War. The author began his career as a Marxist historian, but apparently his studies of Southern conservatism converted him. In any case, it's an excellent article that shows how significant chivalric literature was to the education of Southerners in the 19th century; it's on EBSCOhost if you don't have JSTOR, and if you have neither, you can probably get it via your library. Ask at the reference desk.
In any case, at the time the tournaments were roundly mocked by those outside the South. Then as now, New York journalists were only too eager to explain how ridiculous it was not to be up with the latest progress. Our historian relates:
John Houston Bills, a planter in western Tennessee, whiled away his spare hours early in 1866 by reading tales of the crusades, and in October he reported: "To day the great and long expected 'Tournament' comes off--1200 to 1500 persons attend it--the Tilting is Very spirited, a dozen or more Knights enter the Contest-Brewer of Holly Springs wins the prize, a fine horse--Betty Neely was crowned queen of Love & Beauty."
The editors of the Nation, then as now exemplars of New York provincialism and effrontery, exploded:
Any country in which it is the custom, in our day, to assemble in great crowds to watch men doing these things in broad daylight, dressed up in fantastic costumes, and calling themselves "disinherited knights," " knights of the sword," "knights of the lone star," and pretending to worship a young woman from a modest wooden house in the neighborhood as the "queen of love and beauty," and to regard the bestowal of a shabby theatrical coronet by her as the summit of earthly felicity, we need not have the least hesitation in pronouncing semi-civilized.The editors of the Nation could not be contradicted. What, after all, could be more absurd[?]
Think of their bad taste in treating young ladies from modest wooden houses as if they were queens of love and beauty.Yes, think of that.