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An Actor on a Grand Stage: Adelbert Ames and his Military, Political, and Civil Rights Legacies




Megelsh, Michael J.

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation



Restriction Status


Restriction Type


Date Available



Adelbert Ames, born in Maine in 1835, served as a Union general during the American Civil War—winning the Medal of Honor for his service at the Battle of First Bull Run on July 21, 1861. After the war, he remained in the army and was stationed in Mississippi during Reconstruction. Upon leaving the military, he represented the state as a U.S. Senator from 1870-1874. From 1874-1876, Ames served as Mississippi’s governor until his resignation on March 29, 1876. Instead of life slowing down after leaving politics, Ames’ life remained busy. He found himself involved in a gunfight with Jesse James and his gang in Northfield, Minnesota. His family’s business ventures grew after he left office, and their holdings spanned from Manhattan Island to New Mexico. In his sixties, Ames volunteered to fight during the Spanish-American War and served in Cuba. He died in Florida at the age of 97 as the longest-surviving Union general. This dissertation examines Ames’ life in its entirety. It details how his actions and experiences weave together major fields of scholarship including antebellum politics, the Civil War, Reconstruction, American tourism culture in the nineteenth century, international politics, early American imperialism, and the long civil rights movement. In short, this work serves as a piece of scholarship that expands Civil War era historiography while showing the transformation of America into a modern nation through the life of one man.