Shadows of dominion : white men and power in slavery, war, and the New South

Mooney, IV, Alfonso John, Department of History, University of Virginia
Ayers, Edward L., Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia
Gallagher, G.W., Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia

This dissertation is a group biography that traces the lives of four white male slaveholders from Virginia who fought in the Confederacy and their tumultuous personal relationships with fantasies, ambitions, and realities of power through the nineteenth-century South. It assesses how their conceptions of and designs for gaining economic, political, and social power ground against a postwar world in which such forms of power, no longer anchored by slavery and Civil War command, seemed fleeting and contradictory.

The dissertation argues first that the transition from old South to new should be understood in context of the dynamic interaction between the economic, political, and social changes of the destruction of the ancient southern slave economy on one hand, and the lingering continuities of a slave society's ideas and expectations of power on the other. Second, the dissertation offers a view of the postwar South that diverges from southern historical scholarship's recent emphasis on historical memory by suggesting that these individuals' thoughts about their futures and their place in the South's future influenced their actions far more than ruminations on the past.

As they searched for new ways to reassemble their power, the individuals in this study drew from an array of social and cultural ideas of the nineteenth-century United States and South, moving fluidly among designs that were equally ancient and modern, rural and urban, romantic and pragmatic, nostalgic and futuristic. The types of power they attempted to achieve were similarly diverse: white supremacy, political wrangling, business investment, social status, ownership of land, and control over family and children. To recreate the flow of experience that its subjects encountered, and to reconstruct the logic from which they made their ongoing plans for the future, the dissertation is organized chronologically, as a series of alternating narratives. To present the most intimate and accurate possible portrayal of these stories and strategies, it draws from deep archival research, making particularly heavy use of the vivid and candid personal correspondence between these subjects and their friends and family members.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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