Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Jason Phillips

Committee Co-Chair

Brian Luskey

Committee Member

Brian Luskey

Committee Member

Ken Fones-Wolf

Committee Member

Josh Arthurs

Committee Member

Robert Sandow


Between 1850 and 1900, Americans redefined their interpretation of national identity and loyalty. In the Mid-Atlantic borderland of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia this change is most evident. With the presence of a free state and slave states in close proximity, white and black Americans of the region experienced the tumult of the Civil War Era first hand. While the boundary between freedom and slavery served as an antebellum battleground over slavery, during the war, the whole region bore witness to divisions between the Union and Confederacy as well as to define what loyalty and nation meant. By exploring how ordinary men and women, Unionists or Confederates, free or enslaved persons, articulated their understanding of loyalty, this project tracks the development of identity and nationalism for over half a century.

This project analyzes the rhetoric and discussions of national loyalty in order to unpack how Mid-Atlantic residents attached themselves to the idea of a nation in the second half of the nineteenth century. In doing so, it reveals how individuals shifted their interpretation of loyalty as a loosely held, reciprocal definition of loyalty in the antebellum period to firmer antagonistic definitions of allegiance. After the war, with the inclusion of African Americans in society, white Mid-Atlantic residents again redefined loyalty to focus on the hereditary connections between themselves and the Founding Generation, thereby excluding freedmen and women from inclusion in the nation and laying the foundations for a distorted memory of the Civil War Era.