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Militias, Manhood, and Citizenship in Southern Reconstruction, 1863-1877




Clawson, Jacob

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation



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This dissertation analyzes institutional violence and politics in the nineteenth century South, with a focus on the Civil War and Reconstruction Era. It considers how and why institutional violence provided a means for southerners to express varying notions of citizenship during a time of political, social, and economic upheaval. I argue that both white and black southerners defined and defended competing visions of citizenship and manhood in part through these institutionalized forms of violence. Black southerners sought to stake their claims to manhood and political participation while forging a new biracial democracy, while conservative white southerners sought to reinstitute a Herrenvolk democracy based on racial subordination. As southerners grappled with these two visions in the aftermath of a civil war that had normalized violence as a part of the political process, institutionalized violence provided powerful forms of political expression for both races. Indeed, militia service stood at the fulcrum of questions pertaining to who was a man, who was a citizen, and who would possess access to political and social power in the South at a pivotal moment in its history. As political institutions and forms of political engagement, militias are critical to understanding not just Reconstruction, but the history of the South in the middle of the nineteenth century.