Date of Award

5-2014

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

Committee Chair

Susannah Ural

Committee Chair Department

History

Committee Member 2

Kyle Zelner

Committee Member 2 Department

History

Committee Member 3

Andrew Wiest

Committee Member 3 Department

History

Abstract

In 1860, Vicksburg and Natchez, Mississippi, had far more in common with each other than with the rest of the state. Most significantly, they both opposed secession. Beyond that opposition and their initial support for the war, however, the two city’s reactions differed. This thesis argues that one of the main reasons for this difference is that two distinct communities developed in each city. Pre-war experiences shaped the citizens of Natchez and Vicksburg, allowing Vicksburg civilians to quickly develop feelings of Confederate nationalism, while their Natchez counterparts, loyal to their city and their national trade networks, were more pro-Unionist but used Confederate nationalism when it suited their interests. Ironically, only after the war did the people of Natchez fully embrace Southern ideology.

Most historians have not questioned these varied reactions in the two cities or placed them within the debate over Confederate nationalism. This work engages the arguments of both Stephanie McCurry and Anne Rubin, who build on classic scholarship on Confederate nationalism by Emory Thomas, Drew Gilpin Faust, and Gary Gallgher. Thomas Bender’s discussion on using community study as a method of historical inquiry, in particular, provides the basis for the following approach, which views a community as a field of social interaction. This thesis applies their arguments to smaller locales and shows the reasons nationalism could be both strong and weak within different areas of a Southern state. This work is grounded in the 1860 U.S. Census Records, private letters and diaries of both Vicksburg and Natchez citizens, and the secondary literature on the nature of community.

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