Category Archives: People

The Freshest Advices

Hello again. It’s been 8 months since I last spoke to you directly in this space, and a lot has happened since then. A lot. War in Ukraine. A landmark court case. Historic Congressional committee hearings. Divisive legislation in state houses across the country. FBI searches. Monkey pox. The University of Georgia won the College Football National Championship. The Major League Baseball season began. Our beloved Braves are winning though still underperforming. Better Call Saul is ending. I discovered honest-to-goodness Keto bread at the Red and White.

Much has also happened at the Georgia Historical Society, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading on this blog about some of the great scholars who have been visiting our newly renovated and expanded Research Center and the interesting projects they’re working on. We’ll continue to do that from time to time.

There’s a lot to catch up on regarding history in the public arena, and I hope to do that in this space very soon. To say that we live in interesting times would be an understatement.

For now, besides re-introducing myself here, I would be remiss if I didn’t note two recent deaths, one quite well known, the other less so but equally deserving.

Just this week, on August 7, we lost David McCullough, one of our very finest public historians, whose work in print and on television touched millions over the last 50 years. The large pile of books that he click-clacked out of his 1940 Royal manual typewriter in his small writing shed on Martha’s Vineyard were all deeply researched, beautifully written, and magisterial in scope. Two won Pulitzer Prizes. Every word was written for the public, not other scholars, and few practitioners of Clio’s craft did it as well as he. He proudly carried on the tradition of William Prescott, Francis Parkman, George Bancroft, Esther Forbes, Margaret Leech, Allan Nevins, and Bruce Catton. He will be sorely missed.

On July 29 Fred Mingledorff died, one of the last surviving combat veterans of World War II living here in Savannah (or anywhere else, for that matter). Three years ago, on the 75th anniversary of the invasion of Guam, in which he fought, I had the privilege of interviewing him for a podcast. He shared his vivid memories and nightmares about The War and his hopes and fears for the future. He had earlier donated to the Georgia Historical Society many of the artifacts he brought home as a US Marine from the Pacific, now preserved for educating future generations . It was honor to know this gentle, kind man, beloved by his family, friends, and the community that he served so long and so well. Fred Mingledorff, Marine Corps veteran, one of our last living links to the generation that saved the world in the darkest period of history, lived to be 98. Well done, sir. Semper Fi.

My long disappearance from this space may have prompted you to fear or hope that I had gone to seed somewhere, never to return, moldering blissfully away glass in hand, whiskey-sodden in a malaria-infested backwater or mountain-top aerie. No such luck for you. As this blog has attested over the previous months, work here at GHS has been busy, and summer hiatus is now over. Long-suffering readers will once again be afflicted with blogs, podcasts, videos, book and movie reviews, articles about history and sports, food, or whatever else is on my mind.

Stay tuned and stay safe, and as always, thank you for reading.

Dooley Distinguished Research Fellows: Lewis Eliot

The Georgia Historical Society welcomed the inaugural class of Dooley Distinguished Research Fellows to the GHS Research Center in May. The Research Fellows Program, part of the larger Vincent J. Dooley Distinguished Fellows Program, honors Vince Dooley for his lifelong commitment to history and higher education.

The Research Fellows Program is designed to mentor the next generation of historians by giving younger scholars the opportunity to conduct research for a specific period of time in the vast collection of primary sources at the Georgia Historical Society Research Center. The research is expected to lead to a major piece of scholarly work, such as a dissertation, a book, an article in a refereed scholarly journal, a chapter in an edited collection, or an academic paper presented at a scholarly conference. Click here to learn more about the Dooley Fellows program.

For the past several weeks Off the Deaton Path has been introducing our readers to the 2022 Dooley Research Fellows to learn about their work, their research at GHS, and the experience of being a Dooley Distinguished Fellow. This week we’ll meet the third of our Fellows, Lewis Eliot, an assistant professor of History at the University of Oklahoma.

Tell us about yourself: I was born and raised in Brixton in southwest London by a mixed-race single mother from South Africa. Brixton has a large West Indian population and between that and my family over in Cape Town I became fascinated by the intersection of race and nationality. This interest was the centerpiece of my university education, first as an undergraduate at the School of Oriental and African Studies where I researched about the academic origins of apartheid in South African universities and then at Queen’s University, Belfast, where I completed an MA on the role of race in dictating the locations of large municipal projects (in particular sports stadiums). In 2014 I found my way to the University of South Carolina to enroll in its PhD program. My dissertation was about the evolution of British anti-slavery as an imperial ideology during the nineteenth century. I graduated in 2021. I am currently a tenure-track assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma, where I teach courses on Britain and the British Empire. 

What interested you in the Dooley Distinguished Fellowship? What has your experience been like here at GHS? Like everyone else, it’s been a fair while since I’ve been able to get into the archives. My most recent research trips (now over two years ago…!) were to the British National Archives and Oxford University’s Bodleian Library. Both are highly efficient and stuffed with incredible sources, but also quite anonymous. The GHS has a great mix of that same efficiency and yet is small enough for researchers to get to know the staff and talk about what they’re finding. It’s also an incredible space to get some work done. 

Tell us about your current project: I’m currently working on three separate projects. I am in the process of completing my first monograph, Neither Men nor Brothers: Enslaved Rebellion, Abolitionism, and Imperialism in Britain’s Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World, which examines the role of people of African descent in informing the development and progress of anti-slavery ideologies in the 1800s. I also have two articles in the works. One is on the anti-transatlantic slave trade patrols of the West Africa Squadron and in particular the conflict that ship captains faced between their personal prejudices and progressive mission. The other is about the view of slavery from the metropole, using William Clark’s bucolic prints of Antiguan plantations to demonstrate the challenges abolitionists faced in convincing the British public of the horrors of West Indian slavery.

What are you finding at GHS? The collections here in Savannah are very impressive and I managed to identify pieces that will make their way into several projects. The Keith M. Read Collection (MS 0648) has some excellent letters back and forth between Read and the British Consulate in Savannah during the Civil War, and the Papers of John McIntosh Kell and his wife Julia Blanche Munroe Kell (MS 0456) have given me some great insights into life in the US and Confederate Navies. But I think my favorite find has been William P. Brooks’s Civil War Scrapbooks (MS 0969). Brooks was a CSA naval engineer and after the war joined the Spanish Imperial Navy. Though it is quite sparse, I am excited about finding a way to bring his story and what it means for the nature of imperialism in the 1860s Atlantic world to paper. 

Dooley Distinguished Research Fellows: Dawn Wiley

The Georgia Historical Society welcomed the inaugural class of Dooley Distinguished Research Fellows to the GHS Research Center in May. The Research Fellows Program, part of the larger Vincent J. Dooley Distinguished Fellows Program, honors Vince Dooley for his lifelong commitment to history and higher education.

The Research Fellows Program is designed to mentor the next generation of historians by giving younger scholars the opportunity to conduct research for a specific period of time in the vast collection of primary sources at the Georgia Historical Society Research Center. The research is expected to lead to a major piece of scholarly work, such as a dissertation, a book, an article in a refereed scholarly journal, a chapter in an edited collection, or an academic paper presented at a scholarly conference. Click here to learn more about the Dooley Fellows program.

For the next several weeks Off the Deaton Path would like to introduce our readers to the 2022 Dooley Research Fellows to learn about their work, their research at GHS, and the experience of being a Dooley Distinguished Fellow. This week we’ll focus on Dawn Wiley, a Ph.D. student at the University of Alabama.

Tell Us About Yourself: As the daughter of a United States Navy Master Chief, I was born in the Philippines and grew up moving around quite often until my family finally settled in Atlanta when I was in middle school. I’ve called it home ever since. 

I received my B.A. in Political Science with a minor in History from Georgia State University in 2010. I initially thought I wanted to go to law school, but I decided to pursue my true passion for history after working a year in the legal field. From there, I went on to earn an M.A. in History from Georgia State University in 2015 while working and traveling full time as a litigation paralegal at a prestigious national law firm. 

I knew I had only scratched the surface when I successfully defended my master’s thesis on southern women during the Civil War. After receiving the Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council Award for Excellence in Student Research for my thesis in 2016, it only confirmed that my project was worthy of further exploration and also had great potential to expand the field of women and gender in the United States South. I made the decision to enter the history program at The University of Alabama in 2017 because of all that it had to offer to graduate students. 

Although my time at UA did not come without challenges or adversity, it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. From receiving quality instruction from distinguished professors on how to teach at the college level and become a professor in the future, to fully funded research trips abroad, and the opportunity to act as editor of a graduate student-run academic journal called The Southern Historian, I am extremely fortunate for my training as a historian at UA and look forward to a career in academia. Under the direction and guidance of absolutely brilliant scholars that make up my dissertation committee, (Joshua Rothman, Kari Frederickson, Andrew Huebner, and Holly Grout), I am carefully undergoing the process of researching and writing my dissertation with hopes of defending in late 2023. 

What Interested You in the Dooley Distinguished Fellowship? What has your experience been like here at GHS? I was particularly interested in applying for the Dooley Distinguished Fellowship because of the nature of my dissertation. Since my project is strictly a study of Georgia during the Civil War, and for the simple fact that Savannah is one of the three areas in the state I am examining, I knew that the GHS would hold primary sources most pertinent to my work. A quick search on the GHS website under the online catologue/finding aid yielded several results for journals, letters, ledger books, memoirs, and pension applications that I knew would support my arguments and therefore, became eager to explore them in person. I am very thankful that I was selected as one of the Fellows because the sources I found have not been used (to my knowledge) in the existing literature. I am excited at the prospect of bringing these sources to light in the dissertation, and if all goes well, the manuscript for my first book! 

My experience at GHS was unmatched by any archive I have ever visited in my time as an M.A. and Ph.D. student. From the time I was first informed of receiving the award, to undergoing the uncertainty of the pandemic, and finally arriving in Savannah to complete the research, the team at GHS provided me with every resource and attention I needed and thoroughly answered any questions I had. I am most indebted to all of the archivists for their willingness to help me navigate finding aids, microfilm, and even suggest I look into sources that I had not yet considered or even knew existed. Most especially, I thank Nate Pederson and Stan Deaton, not only for facilitating the fellowship process but for their genuine efforts to ensure that my time at GSH was a complete success. 

Finally, most graduate students would agree that the pandemic not only put a hold on their research plans but also on the important social aspect of conversing with other scholars. This fellowship at GHS afforded me one of the first opportunities I’ve had since getting back to the “new normal” to speak about my research with someone other than my advisors. Interactions with the other Fellows, Tracy Barnett and Lewis Eliot, were most fruitful because we were able to discuss new scholarship and bounce research ideas off each other. It was an added pleasure to share my dissertation project and findings at the archives with the entire GHS staff during an informal presentation in the Jepson House Education Center’s beautiful gardens. I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with everyone I’ve met during my time as a Dooley Distinguished Fellow, and hopefully, continue engaging in conversations that will inspire me to produce the best work possible. 

Tell Us About Your Current Project: Scholars of the American Civil War have long contended that the war became an impetus for drastic change in many aspects of American life. Included in these changes were the role of women, traditional class hierarchies, and public welfare assistance in the Unites States South. In my dissertation, entitled “We the Soldiers’ Wives: Gender, Class, and the Welfare State in Civil War Georgia, 1860-1877,” I study changing nineteenth-century class structures, the transformation of gender roles and the family, White women’s involvement in politics and the public sphere, and finally, a rapidly expanding welfare state during the Civil War and Reconstruction era. More specifically, my project examines White non-elite Georgia women’s petitions and personal correspondence to government officials and male family members away at war, as well as their grassroots organized protests, to discover how these issues developed in Civil War and Reconstruction-era Georgia.

In recent Civil War studies, historians have placed increasing focus on Southern women, class, and welfare politics. Though scholars have deepened our understanding of these issues within the past two decades, several crucial gaps remain in the current literature that need further investigation, particularly in the state of Georgia. Divided into three chronological parts (Antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction), my dissertation first explores nineteenth-century gender roles and class structures for white women in the state of Georgia in the Antebellum era. I attempt to provide a full-length treatment of the complexity of southern class structures for White citizens in the state of Georgia, while contributing to a historiography normally dominated with studies of the planter elite by highlighting the lived experiences of an active urban middle class and yeoman class in the state of Georgia.

The Civil War portion of my dissertation examines the ways the war transformed both class hierarchies and traditional gender roles for women as heads of households and as political entities. I also investigate the changing relationship between White women and their male kinfolk and the Confederate government in the state of Georgia, as well as the earliest beginnings of a welfare state. Moreover, I explore the extent to which the actions of White non-elite women affected the Georgia government’s decision to create a specific Confederate welfare policy for soldiers’ wives, widows, and their dependents. This investigation allows me to test the argument some scholars have made that women’s “politics of subsistence and survival” during the war affected the state’s decision to create a specific Confederate welfare policy for soldiers’ wives, widows, and their dependents, and ultimately, crippled the Confederacy’s ability to wage war as a result. 

The post-war years conclude my dissertation with an investigation of how White non-elite Georgia women engaged in the public and political sphere in the Reconstruction era. I also hope to include how Black soldiers and their families played active roles in the expansion of the welfare state after they won their independence in Reconstruction-era Georgia.

What Are you Finding at GHS? To say that I hit the primary source “jackpot” at the GHS would be an understatement! 

I spent the first day of my fellowship examining letters between husbands away at war and wives on the homefront during the war. Letters such as the Francis L. Mobley Letters (MS 1822) and the Julian M. Burnett Civil War Correspondence (MS 0911) not only provide evidence that the war induced material and economic deprivation for Georgia women at home but also gives context into the relationship between spouses during the war. These letters are a strong indicator of how much influence women wielded on their husband’s decision to remain or flee the ranks when conditions at home became unbearable as the war progressed. I am finding that although these soldiers did request leaves of absences and furloughs from Confederate service, they remained in the ranks when those requests were denied, thus Georgia soldiers held a higher loyalty to the Confederacy than becoming more beholden to answer calls from the homefront. 

When sparking up a conversation of my interest in looking at different classes of women and their activity in Civil War Savannah, GHS Reference Assistant Meaghan Gray pointed me in the direction of two sources that were not on my original “pull list” but quickly became a welcome surprise. The first was the Savannah City Directory for 1860. This directory listed men, as well as women, their occupations, addresses, and businesses in the year before the outbreak of the Civil War. Prominent historians have argued that Savannah contained virtually no middle class, but a quick look into this directory shows that civilians worked as “merchants, business owners, shop keepers, etc.” suggesting that a thriving urban middle class did in fact exist in Savannah. It confirmed my suspicion that historians and scholars of the South may need to think more carefully about how we construct class hierarchies. Perhaps the time is now to re-evaluate current interpretations of class in the existing literature and take into consideration what socio-economic structures look like in different parts of the state (rural vs. urban areas). 

Secondly, Meghan informed me of the Chatham Artillery Records (MS 0966), one of the oldest military organizations in the state of Georgia. An investigation of these documents led me to discover the Savannah Ordnance Depot Employment Roll (GHS 0701), which later became the Savannah Arsenal in 1864. The “Roster of the Civilians Employed and Occupations” exposed that Savannah women sought wage work at the arsenal as clerks and cartridge makers. This is similar to my findings of women wage workers at the Atlanta Arsenal and adds to my overall argument that the Civil War upended the nature of traditional gender roles and women’s work for Georgia women. Furthermore, this lends further proof to my assertion that women advocated for themselves and their families by entering wage work as a subversive strategy of survival, while keeping their femininity intact. 

Also of note are the Savannah Widows Society Records (MS 1651) and the Louisa Porter Foundation Records (MS 0500). These organizations were some of the earliest forms of public welfare assistance for destitute and poor women and children in the city of Savannah. These records cover the antebellum era, the Civil War years, and the Reconstruction era and will undoubtedly become a rich source to consult when examining Georgia women’s influence on Civil War and post-war public welfare policy in greater depth.

These are just a few highlights of my many discoveries at the GHS. I am excited to dive deeper into my analysis of these sources in the coming months of dissertating and hopefully, provide more awareness into what awaits prospective researchers and scholars at GHS. It was truly an honor being a Dooley Distinguished Fellow, and I thank the staff at GHS again for this fantastic opportunity!

Visiting Scholars: Matthew Kelley

Off the Deaton Path would like to introduce our readers to some of the scholars researching in the Georgia Historical Society’s newly expanded and renovated Research Center. This week we’ll spotlight Matthew Kelley, the Graduate Project Coordinator at the Center for the Study of War & Society at the University of Tennessee, and a Ph.D. candidate in the University’s History department.

Tell Us About Yourself: I was raised in Corbin, Kentucky, a small town in the eastern and Appalachian part of the state. Though the town is surrounded by natural beauty, it is probably better known as the “Birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken,” where Harlan Sanders first tried his luck in the restaurant business during the Great Depression.

I attended the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky, for my undergraduate degree and graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in History and Political Science. I went on to attend the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and completed my M.A. in Modern European History. I am now working towards my PhD, specializing in World War I, nationalism, and civil society. I am currently writing my dissertation under Dr. Vejas Liulevicius.

I also currently serve as the Associate Director for the University of Tennessee’s Center for the Study of War and Society. Our mission is to preserve and research the stories of the people in our region and their experiences with war from 1700 to the present day. We have one of the oldest oral history projects dedicated to interviewing military veterans in the United States. Along with working on my dissertation, I am completing a digital memorial project with the Center, including biographical profiles of all UTK students, alumni, and staff killed in action from the First World War to the present day.

Tell Us About Your Current Project: My dissertation investigates German agitation within Swiss civil society during the First World War. Whereas the Swiss state stayed defiantly neutral over the course of the war, the public of the country was alive with activity. Pro-German and pro-French sympathies ran throughout the country to the point that many officials feared open, civil confrontation from 1914 to 1918. Germans, whether members of the imperial government or private individuals aligned with it, sought to capitalize on this situation for the benefit of their war effort. My research particularly focuses on Swiss voluntary civic associations as an arena for this agitation. From alpine hiking clubs to the Red Cross, I am looking at a diverse range of organizations that the Germans attempted to sway. In addition, I am curious about how their tactics and rhetoric changed over the course of the war, especially as the tides began to turn against them in 1917.

As an undergraduate, I developed a passion for service leadership in my community and often spent my spare time volunteering with organizations. One such group was called Mountain Outreach, a Habitat for Humanity-type organization that was specially focused on my region of central Appalachia. This area is one of the poorest in the United States, and I observed first-hand how these civic associations stepped up to provide aid and fill gaps in ways the government had either failed at or simply ignored. This background, along with my interest in the story-telling and methodology of history, has informed my research.

I chose this topic initially out of a curiosity that there must have been more to the story of Switzerland’s role in the war than it simply being an aloof neutral country. Though the state was pledged to neutrality, an investigation of the activities within civil society yielded evidence that civic associations were an active force in shaping the nature of the war. They also worked through social networks that crossed political boundaries even at a time when borders were physically marked with trenches and fortifications. I hope that my finished project will offer a fresh, transnational approach to World War I and the role of neutrals and might even leave readers with some food for thought in regards to the important role that civic associations hold in society and the power they are able to wield.

What Are you Finding at GHS?: “Why is a scholar in Modern European History at the Georgia Historical Society?” It is true that most of my research is European centered, in the German or French language, and seems to have nothing to do with Georgia history. However, the coronavirus has placed unusual limitations on international research, and I have spent the time looking for creative avenues for research until restrictions begin to ease. One of these paths has led me to the Georgia Historical Society, which houses the papers of Pleasant Alexander Stovall, who was the United States Ambassador to Switzerland during the war (MS 1021). Ambassador Stovall grew up in Augusta, Georgia, and started the Savannah Press newspaper. A boyhood friendship he developed with President Woodrow Wilson led to his appointment as Wilson’s trusted eyes and ears in Switzerland in 1913, just before the beginning of the war. When he returned home from his post at the end of the war, Stovall brought back wartime documents from the US embassy in Berne and placed them in his personal collections.

My research at GHS focuses on these documents brought back by Ambassador Stovall to see what information the US embassy collected on German agitation in Switzerland during the war and how serious a threat they gauged it to be. Stovall was a staunch, pro-Entente sympathizer from the beginning of the war in August 1914, while the United States itself was still a neutral country. He had a keen interest in German agents and kept Washington informed of these activities. His collection preserved several communications with President Wilson on German activity, and he made careful notes on the movement of Swiss public sympathies throughout the war. This was what I was expecting to find, but there were many surprising sets of documents that I discovered in his papers that has since sent my research in entirely new directions.

Ambassador Stovall wrote a book after the war titled Switzerland and the World War. Though I am sure he meant it as a historical account, the book is really a rather biased, autobiographical recollection of his time at the embassy in Berne. In the book, Stovall mentions as an aside a case where a German spy was caught in France with forged documents that were supposed to mimic ones that were given out by the American Embassy in Berne to American travelers seeking access to France from Switzerland. He labels it an odd mix up and leaves it at that. However, a folder of documents tucked away in his private collections proves an entirely different story. The truth behind this case reveals a network through which the German Espionage Department used the International Red Cross to move agents masking as convalescing wounded officers to enact agitation. What I have yet to determine though is to what degree American officials might have succumbed to the agitation to be persuaded to directly help these agents along their route.

Podcast S5E2: Dayton Duncan

Dayton Duncan has worked with Ken Burns for more than 30 years writing and producing some of the most important and critically acclaimed documentaries in history. In this podcast he talks about his career with Burns and Florentine Films, living part-time in Georgia, and what comes next.