Date of Award

Fall 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Dr. Susannah J. Ural

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. Allison Abra

Committee Member 3

Dr. Kyle F. Zelner

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Dr. Heather Marie Stur

Committee Member 4 School


Committee Member 5

Dr. Caroline E. Janney


Eastern collective remembrances of the American Civil War have dominated discussions of the war’s causes and consequences. The West was located far from major Civil War battlefields and historic sites and therefore deemed peripheral to the war and its legacy. Consequently, historians’ eastern-focused arguments about the war’s historical memory have largely been applied to account for all Union veterans and their families’ experiences, even though the evidence is grounded predominantly in source materials from east of the Mississippi River. Using analytical methods of gender and race, The Expansionist Cause examines Union Civil War commemoration in the trans-Mississippi West to argue that the Civil War meant something distinctly different to these veterans and their families than to their eastern counterparts.

In their collective remembrances, western Union veterans and their families celebrated white expansion and supremacy as the ultimate inheritance of the Civil War, and in doing so, they constructed a legacy of the war that bolstered Anglo-American hegemony in the West. Similar to white southerners who crafted the Lost Cause to disempower African Americans, Union veterans and their families wielded Civil War commemorations as a weapon to colonize Native peoples in the West. By rooting their defense of western colonization in the shadow of the Civil War, they used collective remembrances of the Union cause as a “good war” to secure an American empire and erase the violence of colonization. These distinctions reveal a larger significance of the war to the Civil War generation, and underscore how western Union veterans and their families connected the war to the larger national narrative to disempower Indigenous people. Memory making, therefore, served as a crucial weapon in western colonization.



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