It is done, well almost

Exciting news for myself. My thesis is finished, at least for the most part. I received preliminary approval on Thursday, which means that no significant changes will be required by my committee on the draft. I only have a couple of steps left to complete my MA. I defend the thesis on Friday, July 11 at 11:00 AM (I will let you know how that goes on Friday). I also need to make any last-minute changes to the draft before submitting the draft to the Graduate School for a format check. Sometime early next week, I will submit a final copy to the graduate school for approval by the dean and if all goes well, I graduate on August 1.

Needless to say, I am quite happy that I am finished with this project. Illinois camps of instruction have been a passion of mine for four years. I began the research into Camp Carrollton, near my hometown of Jerseyville, Illinois. That camp was used by the Sixty-first Illinois Infantry from late-September 1861 to the end of February 1862. The camp was located on the Greene County Fair Grounds, which was similar to almost all other camps in the state. Eventually, the research became my senior paper as an undergraduate. Since then, I have presented a paper on Camp Carrollton twice at history conferences, as well as a paper dealing with the overall topic at the Northern Great Plains History Conference.

My thesis focuses on the transition from civilian to soldier, which the camps facilitated. The transformation took on three forms: physical, mental, and social. The physical transition encompassed the entrance into camp and the world of the soldier, with events like the medical examination, receipt of the uniform, and the beginning of drill. The mental transition focused on increased emotional expression in the soldiers’ writings as well as the learning of increased self-discipline. Finally, the social transition, which I found to be a more significant part of the transition, dealt with the soldier learning to become part of the unit. Soldiers engaged in many social activities in camp that brought them together as comrades. In addition, the soldiers ventured into the neighboring communities for attending church, dining out in local restaurants, and touring the sites. These activities, as well as the men leaving their camp, served to distinguish the soldier from the rest of society as a distinct social group.

Overall, the story of camps has been largely ignored by scholars. Most works I have encountered by historians that deal with soldiers focus on soldiers once they were in the field. I concluded that most scholars focus not on a civilian to soldier transition, but a soldier to veteran transition. Studying camps is important because to fully understand soldiers we need to know their story before they face their first battle.

In conclusion, I am quite relieved to have my thesis mostly done. I am a bit nervous about my defense, but am confident that all will work out. I plan to start my doctoral work in the fall and am currently not sure what I will write my dissertation on, but am looking forward to the challenge. As for whether I will have my thesis published in some form as a journal article, I will let you know when that comes about.

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5 thoughts on “It is done, well almost

  1. Thanks Sarah, though I only get a short break from classes before I start my doctoral work. The best advice I can give up and coming students is to plan out your thesis early and write early, so that when you get to the actual semester of your thesis credits, you only face revising the draft. This is especially true if you end up having to do what I did and reorganize your draft.

  2. Congrats Dan. I am in the middle of my thesis, and can’t wait for it to be completed. Look forwarding to reading yours.

  3. Good luck Billy. By the way, have you thought about where you want to pursue your doctoral work. At UND, where I am, we have one of the few remaining Doctor of Arts programs in the nation, so if you are interested in being a professor at a small college, it may be a program to think about. Plus, Grand Forks is a nice place to live once you get used to the cold winters. What is your thesis on?

  4. That is something to think about. My thesis is on the river ironclads and their impact, both militarily and psychologically, on the early campaigns in the western theatre. I just started teaching a summer civil war class in a small community college. It’s enjoyable but not helping me complete my thesis any quicker!

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