Friday, April 23, 2010
From the Princeton University Alumni Association Facebook page this morning:
On this day in 1861 – An exodus of Southern students continues as 56 leave the College “in consequence of the state of the country.” They are honorably excused.
Ten days after the bombardment of Ft. Sumter.
A crisis of ultimately catastrophic proportions sometimes seems most tangible in little moments you do not read about in the history books, such as the students from one region leaving a national university en masse "in consequence of the state of the country."
In the unlikely event that you're really, really interested in learning more about students from the South at the College of New Jersey and the coming of the Civil War, drop by Seeley Mudd Library sometime and peruse "Answering The Trumpet to Discord." It's a senior thesis from 1984 on this topic that won the C.O. Joline Prize as the best senior thesis in American history that year.
(Yes, I'm shamelessly touting my senior thesis. I don't expect else to take up the task.)
Speaking of Senior Theses....I did mine on the dichotomy between secession fervor among the students at the University of Virginia and that of the county of Albemarle. One of the things I found was at the outbreak of the war, the two most expensive colleges in the country were Princeton and UVA--with a third of Princeton's students from states which would ultimately leave the Union. UVA's total of Union state students was less than 10%.
My thesis was probably an outgrowth of my own southern-Whig, unionist sentiments and the experience of growing up in the south and going to Princeton.
The CNJ had a very nationalist perspective and the highest percentage of students from the slave states of any northern college. I looked at how the social structure of life on campus became more regionally polarized during 1850s (evaluating, among other things, membership in Whig and Clio, membership in fraternities (yes, there were frats at Princeton for a while before the growth of the eating clubs), and choice of roommates). I had a lot of fun researching and writing it.
--Scurvy Oaks '84
Congratulations on the prize, Scurvy Oaks, albeit 26 years later.
I come from a Union family (two officers in the Indiana 63rd), but my late father ('37 and a history major) would have enjoyed reading your thesis.