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Persistence through Peril - Episodes of College Life and Academic Endurance in the Civil War South

Persistence through Peril

Episodes of College Life and Academic Endurance in the Civil War South

Edited by R. Eric Platt & Holly A. Foster
Hardcover : 9781496835031, 280 pages, 12 b&w illustrations, September 2021
Paperback : 9781496835048, 280 pages, 12 b&w illustrations, September 2021

How eleven institutions remained open and maintained the mission of higher education during a national cataclysm


Contributions by Christian K. Anderson, Marcia Bennett, Lauren Yarnell Bradshaw, Holly A. Foster, Tiffany Greer, Don Holmes, Donavan L. Johnson, Lauren Lassabe, Sarah Mangrum, R. Eric Platt, Courtney L. Robinson, David E. Taylor, Zachary A. Turner, Michael M. Wallace, and Rhonda Kemp Webb

To date, most texts regarding higher education in the Civil War South focus on the widespread closure of academies. In contrast, Persistence through Peril: Episodes of College Life and Academic Endurance in the Civil War South brings to life several case histories of Southern colleges and universities that persisted through the perilous war years. Contributors tell these stories via the lived experiences of students, community members, professors, and administrators as they strove to keep their institutions going. Despite the large-scale cessation of many Southern academies due to student military enlistment, resource depletion, and campus destruction, some institutions remained open for the majority or entirety of the war. These institutions—"The Citadel" South Carolina Military Academy, Mercer University, Mississippi College, the University of North Carolina, Spring Hill College, Trinity College of Duke University, Tuskegee Female College, the University of Virginia, the Virginia Military Institute, Wesleyan Female College, and Wofford College—continued to operate despite low student numbers, encumbered resources, and faculty ranks stripped bare by conscription or voluntary enlistment.

This volume considers academic and organizational perseverance via chapter “episodes” that highlight the daily operations, struggles, and successes of select Southern institutions. Through detailed archival research, the essays illustrate how some Southern colleges and universities endured the deadliest internal conflict in US history.


"Persistence through Peril provides a range of in-depth examinations of life at Southern colleges that remained open during (most of) the Civil War. Its most significant achievement is the usage of the rich set of archival resources that the various contributors have explored. Many utilize letters and diaries written by students, including students who entered the military. Thus, we have rich details of student interactions and daily life including food, social life, and more. "

- Joan M. Johnson, director of faculty at Northwestern University and cofounder of the Newberry Seminar on Women and Gender at the Newberry Library in Chicago

"While the events of the Civil War occurred over a century and a half ago, there are several themes relevant in the present day. . . . This book demonstrates how a diverse group of institutions navigated complicated circumstances to remain open despite it all."

- Karina C. Canaba, History of Education