Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Stephen Ash

Committee Members

Daniel Feller, Luke Harlow, John Scheb


This dissertation explores the Confederate home front experience in South Carolina by examining the state government in 1861-1862 and the controversies that arose after the state seceded from the Union. It challenges the common assumption that citizens in the state were politically united in that period. Many historians have recognized the central role of South Carolina in the secession movement but few have paid attention to political developments there during the ensuing war. This project seeks to rectify that oversight by looking at the crucial role of the state government in conducting the early war effort and at the political and ideological conflicts that its actions provoked. In response to the Union invasion of coastal South Carolina in November 1861, state political leaders instituted radical measures. The secession convention was called back into session and proceeded to create an executive council with extraordinary powers that displaced the regular government and even superseded the state Constitution, thus overturning South Carolina’s antebellum political tradition of very limited executive power. The council subsequently stirred up a storm of controversy that shook the state during 1862. Many politicians and ordinary citizens denounced this revolutionary experiment and demanded that the convention be dissolved and the council abolished. This conflict, along with the demands of war, fostered a new, more intimate relationship between the state and citizen. The state government was forced to respond to the anti-council movement, to the planters and slaves who resisted calls for labor to work on coastal fortifications, and to the white plain folk, including many women, who demanded that the state intervene to help them survive wartime hardships. The operations of the state government were thus an essential element of the Confederate home front experience and played a more conspicuous role in the war effort than historians have heretofore acknowledged.

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