Between Campus and War: Students, Patriotism, and Education at Midwestern Universities during the American Civil War

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The Midwest home front is one of the overlooked frontiers in American Civil War scholarship. Historians have focused on the war-torn Confederate states, New England, and the dramatic border states, while largely ignoring the experiences of Midwesterners. Outside of studies of the Copperhead peace movement, many other significant aspects of the war experience in the Midwest have failed to garner sufficient scholarly attention. This dissertation addresses this gap in the historiography by examining the war years at the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin, and Indiana University. As the only three viable state universities in the Midwest prior to the war, these institutions offer a valuable lens through which to investigate how students understood and shaped their relationship with the nation’s conflict. Students at these three universities experienced the war in different ways, each affected by their surrounding political environment, enrollment struggles at their schools, and the ideological perspectives of their professors. University of Michigan students crafted a justification for remaining in school that defined their educations as equally patriotic as serving in the Union military. University of Wisconsin leaders forced students there to adjust to the admission of women during the war. Indiana’s students rebelled against a repressive faculty edict passed down early in the war and launched an uprising that mimicked the South’s complaints and demands. This clash of wills lasted more than two years and caused the dismissal of several students. At each university, students who remained in school pushed their liberties to the edge during the Civil War, but almost all backed off rather than risk losing their educational opportunities. Woven together in thematic chapters, this study reveals the turbulent nature of the home front in the Midwest. Students at these state universities actively engaged with the war intellectually to enhance their educations. In doing so, they reassured themselves and the public that their presence on the home front displayed the best qualities of an American man on the rise in the nineteenth century


2012, PHD, Kent State University, College of Arts and Sciences / Department of History.

Full text release has been delayed at the author's request until April 14, 2015.