John C. Underwood; a carpetbagger reconsidered, 1860-1873

Shifflett, Crandall A, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia
Younger, Edward E., University of Virginia
Dew, Charles B., University of Virginia

The purpose of this essay is to examine the life of John C. Underwood from 1860 to 1873. Initially, research for the essay began as a seminar paper. To research and objectively narrate the last thirteen years of a man's life seemed like a reasonably simple task at the time. However, it soon became apparent that Underwood was no ordinary man and, consequently, the responses he evoked were seldom mild in nature. Those who knew him, both friend and foe, usually reacted with intense feeling whenever his name was mentioned. He had the ability to inspire loyalty as well as a knack for generating a burning hatred. In an age in which the issues themselves were also of the same polarizing quality, the problem of reaching a balanced view was multiplied. Frequently, the conservative and liberal newspapers of the period were undependable as sources because they resorted to the publication of rumors to support their positions. Since the John C. Underwood papers consisted of a scrapbook of over two hundred and fifty pages of newspaper clippings, many of which are unidentified, and a small group of letters, the need for other source material became one of paramount concern.

Although, the nature and inadequacy of the source material, as well perhaps as the controversality of the individual, have halted this study at the brink of unravelling an enigmatic historical figure, these impediments have not prevented an answer to the main question: "Was John C. Underwood a carpetbagger?" This was the charge most frequently thrown at him. It is also the term that has been applied to him down to the present day. Indeed, the thing which puzzled the author and generated an early interest in the subject was how historians could unabashedly refer to Underwood as the "Carpetbagger Judge" when no study existed of his life after the Civil War. In addressing the question, it is hoped that the author has avoided the proverbial 'pendulum of history.'

MA (Master of Arts)
Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877) -- Virginia

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2016-03-14 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:34:36.

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