Journal of a graduate student in military history and the American Civil War

Beginning a search for a thesis topic…The American Civil War

with 7 comments


Grant, Library of Congress

I am going to begin in earnest to find a suitable topic for my thesis. I don’t expect to have one locked in until I get another course or two under my belt but I am interested in the opinions of many of you who I would consider expert on topics of Civil War military history. Where are there gaps in scholarship that need filling from your perspective?

Let me hear from you!


7 Responses

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  1. What an exciting decision!


    January 24, 2009 at 10:10 pm

  2. Rene,

    First, best of luck with your thesis and when you finish, I would love to read it. That said, one of the “hot” areas in the CW that you may be interested in is Civil War soldiers. I wrote about their training in the camp of instruction in IL. I would encourage you to get a copy of Writing the Civil War: The Quest to Understand, as it has several great historiographical essays on a wide variety of subjects. I would also encourage you to look at other theses written on the CW by AMU students. Since it is an online program, I would be surprised if they didn’t have some of them online. If you want to take a look at mine, I posted it on my blog at: http://civilwarhistory.wordpress.com/2008/12/24/presenting-my-thesis/

    Best of luck,


    Daniel Sauerwein

    January 25, 2009 at 12:51 am

  3. Daniel,

    THANKS! Great suggestions. And I look forward to reading yours!


    Rene Tyree

    January 25, 2009 at 7:39 am

  4. Rene,

    I did an independent study paper at APU. The CW topic I chose was based on my interest in the Maryland Campaign and previous research I had done for papers for other CW classes at APU. And another important factor was my proximity to Sharpsburg. Two of my early papers are online on AOTW for your viewing pleasure: http://aotw.org/exhibit.php?exhibit_id=all.

    My advice is to choose a CW topic in which you have a serious interest since writing a long paper, in my case some 200 pages, takes dedication. In my paper, I wrote about the cavalry during the Maryland Campaign which I am now fleshing out for a book. This topic had not been done before perhaps because most writers and historians thought little of the cavalry’s efforts during the campaign.

    For a different class, I wrote about Connecticut troops during the campaign since I am from Connecticut so had some spiritual connection with fellow Nutmeggers. MHO website has that paper FYI: http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/civilwar/articles/nutmeggers1.aspx. My cavalry paper is not online, however.

    Good luck and have fun!


    Larry Freiheit

    January 25, 2009 at 8:59 am

  5. Hey Larry,

    Thanks much. Great advice. Will definitely enjoy reading your papers.


    Rene Tyree

    January 25, 2009 at 9:20 am

  6. Rene,

    I’ll stick with battle/campaign studies since they are what I know best, although I’m not sure that’s what you had in mind.

    I think most of the major campaigns of the war have been covered, with several notable exceptions.

    I’d love to see a modern study of the Bristoe Station and/or Mine Run Campaigns. It seems like once Lee’s army escaped across the Potomac in mid-July 1863 you just fast forward to Grant heading east and the Wilderness.

    Likewise, the Petersburg Campaign seems to be completely glossed over other than the Crater and Fort Stedman. I think a thesis covering one or more of Grant’s offensives would fit in well with Richard Sommers’ book Richmond Redeemed.


    Brett Schulte

    January 25, 2009 at 12:52 pm

  7. Brett,
    Great suggestions. As I get deeper into study of Grant’s offensives, will definitely keep this in mind. Good stuff.

    Also, will get my hands on Richard’s book.

    Thanks again,


    Rene Tyree

    January 25, 2009 at 6:19 pm

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