Date of Award

Summer 8-2013

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)





Committee Chair

Susannah Ural

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Heather Stur

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Kyle F. Zelner

Committee Member 3 Department



This thesis seeks to advance scholars' understanding of Civil War era Mississippi through an examination of the often overlooked role former Whigs and scalawags played in the state's postwar politics. Using the Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum and the career of its scalawag superintendent Dr. William M. Compton as lenses, this paper examines Civil War era Mississippi's political, social, and cultural history. In doing so, this thesis seeks to complicate the historical memory of the era—a memory often dominated by images of irreconcilable Redeemer Klansmen and Radical Republicans—by arguing that moderate white Mississippians played a powerful role in rebuilding their society after the Civil War. This thesis builds on the works of Richard H. Abbot and Terry L. Siep by applying and expanding their respective arguments—that Congressional Northern Republicans viewed their Southern allies with disdain—to Mississippi. Scalawags created a unique brand of Southern Republicanism that fused free labor ideology with paternalism, while balancing white supremacy with African American suffrage. Compton's career demonstrates how, for a time, scalawags were able to reconcile their conservative Southern political values with those of the Republican Party without totally surrendering their legitimacy as white Southern leaders. In fact, many of their reforms were adopted by Redeemer Democrats and Southern Progressives. Yet, it was the scalawags' propensity to compromise in a polemical era that marginalized them in popular memory.