Conference: Microhistories of the Civil War Era, May 30 – June 1, 2019



Please contact conference organizer and Center post-doc, Dr. Caitlin Verboon, at  We have a limited number of non-presenter slots available for scholars who are interested in attending panels and participating in the conversations.  We expect all registrants to attend all panels.


Conference Abstract

On the one hand, microhistories, with their focus on the small scale, have the potential to shift paradigms by revealing connections and patterns obscured by the birds-eye view. However, examining a narrow subject so deeplymay also offera window into wider society because as historian Jill Lepore puts it, “however singular a person’s life may be, the value of examining it lies not in its uniqueness, but in its exemplariness, in how that individual’s life serves as an allegory for broader issues affecting culture as a whole.”  The era of the Civil War is particularly suited for such deep dives, because it so significantly redefined the nation, andbecause so many individuals recorded their experiences.  As we continue to expand our scholarship to include the experiences of those on the margins – people, places, and events often left of traditional narratives of the period – we must grapple with an important question: to what extent can human singularity illuminate universal truths?  This conference will address questions both of the value of individual stories and lives for their own sake, and of how seemingly small stories can offer a richer understanding of the broad contours of this periodand even shift how we understand the period at all.




*All sessions will take place at the Inn at Virginia Tech


2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  Check-in and registration
Latham Foyer


4:00 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.  Welcome and Opening Panel: Straight to the Source

Candace Bailey (North Carolina Central University)
“‘Remember those beautiful songs’: Preserving Culture through Music Collection”

Robert Colby (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
“‘What the Books…Would Tell’: Slavery, Freedom, and History Through Slave Traders’ Accounts”

Megan VanGorder (Northern Illinois University)
“‘Taught in the School of Affliction’: Lincoln, Grief, and the Civil War in Bloomington, Illinois”

Chair: Caitlin Verboon (Virginia Tech)


6:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m. Dinner
Latham Ballroom


7:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Keynote Lecture

Judith Giesberg (Villanova University)
“Through Her Eyes: The Civil War Diaries of Emilie Davis”
Free and open to the public



FRIDAY, May 31


9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Crime, Punishment, and Community

Peter Carmichael (Gettysburg College)
“’We cannot believe Americans can do these things’: Erasing Violence from the Civil War Record”

Patrick Doyle (Royal Holloway, University of London)
“Of Kinston and Court Martials: A Microhistorical Perspective on Manhood and Honor in the Confederate Army”

Felicity Turner (Georgia Southern University)
“An Anatomy of Knowledge: Medicine in the Civil War Era South”

Chair: Brad Proctor (Evergreen State College)


10:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.  Coffee Break


11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Object History

Michelle Cassidy (Central Michigan University)
“Battlefield Bibles and Bandolier Bags: Anishinaabe Soldiers at the Battle of the Wilderness”

Sarah Jones Weicksel (University of Pennsylvania)
“‘Taken from a Rebel’s House’: Entangled Histories of Looting in the American Civil War”

Shae Smith Cox (University of Nevada, Las Vegas)
“‘Many Badges of Gallant Service’: Micro Material Culture of the Post Civil War, 1880-1930”

Chair: Jessica Taylor (Virginia Tech)


12:30 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.  Lunch


2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.  Memory and Legacy

Darren Barry (Montachusett Regional High School & Worcester State University)
“Conflating Revolutionary Heritage with Abolitionist Practice: Civil War Memory in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, 1861-1930”

Brad Proctor (Evergreen State College)
“The Social Network of the Dunning School: The 1913 American Historical Association Meeting and White Supremacy in the Academy”

Molly Thacker (Georgetown University)
“Almost White: How a Mixed-Race Family in Southern Ohio Straddled the Color Line”

Chair: Daniel Thorp (Virginia Tech)


3:30 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.  Coffee Break


3:45 p.m. – 5:15 p.m.  Biography as Microhistory?

John Crum (Rice University)
“The Many Wars of William Clift: Ideology and Resistance in Civil War East Tennessee, 1861-1864”

Thomas F. Curran (Cor Jesu Academy)
“Rebel Women and Union Army Military Justice: The Case of Drucilla Sappington”

Jonathan S. Jones (Binghamton University)
“Embodying the 1860s South: The Life and Death of Francis Clewell”

Chair: Judith Giesberg (Villanova University)


5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.  Keynote Lecture

Richard Bell (University of Maryland, College Park)
“Eels, Peepholes, and Pickett’s Charge: Microhistory Here and Now”
Free and open to the public


6:30 p.m.  Dinner (on your own)





9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.  Benevolence and Aid

Patrick T. J. Browne (Boston University)
“The Home for Wives and Mothers in Washington as a Window on the U.S. Sanitary Commission and the Wartime Experiences of Northern Women”

Annelle Brunson (University of Georgia)
“The Ties that Bind: Prison Jewelry, Female Aid Work, and Confederate Resistance in the North”

Jenni Gallagher (Virginia Tech)
“Provisioning Families: Poor Relief in Montgomery County, VA, 1861-1865”

Chair: Paul Quigley (Virginia Tech)


10:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.  Coffee Break


11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Grounding Microhistory

Brianna Kirk (University of Virginia)
“‘No Safety for Union Men’: The Norfolk Race Riot of 1866 and Military Occupation”

Kristen Wilkes (West Virginia University)
“All Aboard: The Influence of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad on Sectionalism and Statehood in West Virginia”

Elle Harvell (University of California, Los Angeles)
“‘Those who are not for us are against us’: Federal Prosecutions of Treason in Missouri’s Little Dixie”

Chair: Dennis Halpin (Virginia Tech)


12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.  Lunch


1:45 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.  Looking West

Roger Bailey (University of Maryland, College Park)
“‘Intercourse of the Most Friendly Nature’: Levi D. Slamm and William Walker’s Invasion of Mexico, 1853-1854”

Christopher Rein (Combat Studies Institute, Army University Press)
“The Regimental History as Microhistory: The Second Colorado Cavalry and the Conquest of the Central Plains”

Jameson Sweet (Rutgers University)
“‘Against My Own People’: Dakota Indian Soldiers in the U.S.-Dakota War and Civil War”

Chair: Melanie Kiechle (Virginia Tech)


3:15 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.  Closing Discussion

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