Date of Award

Spring 4-16-2017

Document Type




First Advisor

Dr. John Daley

Second Advisor

Dr. Kirsten Lawson

Third Advisor

Dr. John Iley


This thesis analyzes the relationships between civilians and soldiers in the Defenses of Washington during the Civil War. Marked by a combination of conflict and adaptation, the visible tension between soldiers and civilians threatened Union loyalty around Washington. Differing identities and priorities caused these conflicts. Young soldiers steeped in a Northern education that cast the South as an enemy thought slavery and associations with Maryland marked Washington’s rural outskirts as an enemy territory. This dynamic, along with material needs, led soldiers to frequently take private property without compensation, known as foraging. Furthermore, soldiers adopted new identities and social groups that encouraged behavior not normally accepted in peacetime. Therefore, drunkenness, violence, and theft became an easy and tempting way for soldiers to “fight” the war around the Washington and vent frustration and boredom. Civilians attempted to find redress with junior and senior officers, but found the former dismissive and latter too overwhelmed to effectively compensate for lost property. Blaming alcohol, both military and civilian authorities restricted alcohol’s sale and traffic, itself an intrusion on local business and customs. In the end, few real solutions were found for these problems, but soldiers and civilians nonetheless adapted to each other, building informal communities in the process.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.