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Union University Dept of History

Department News




Graduating History Major Presents Oral Defense of Honors Thesis

Dec 4, 2013

Graduating history major Lowell Van Ness successfully presented an oral defense of his honors thesis at a meeting with his thesis committee on December 4, 2013. The title of his thesis was “Split State: Civil War Recruitment in Tennessee.” Dr. David Thomas served as the thesis director; he also chaired the thesis committee that included Drs. Terry Lindley and Kelvin Moore.

In his thesis, Van Ness focused on the recruitment and motivations of Tennessee soldiers who fought for either the Union or Confederacy during the Civil War. He used statistical and economic information to help explain why recruitment and desertions became increasing problems for the competing armies as the war progressed. Van Ness concluded that ordinary soldiers on both sides generally did not fight to defend some ideological principle but rather to protect their families and communities from what they believed was economic and political oppression.

As for the value of the thesis experience, Van Ness commented: “Writing this thesis was a learning experience, because while I’d thought about the causes of the Civil War, I’d never really thought about what caused the men to fight. This changed that.” A bound copy of Van Ness’s thesis will be placed in Union University’s library.

Vann Ness will be the first student to complete the Discipline-Specific Honors Program in History at Union. He will meet the program’s last requirement in early January, 2014, when he presents an abbreviated version of his honors paper at the Phi Alpha Theta Biennial Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


Lowell Van Ness (right) sits with members of his honors thesis committee prior to his thesis defense on December 4, 2013. The thesis committee members are: (left to right) Dr. Terry Lindley, Dr. Kelvin Moore, and thesis chair Dr. David Thomas.


Lowell Van Ness presents an abbreviated version of his history honors thesis about the recruitment of Tennessee soldiers by the Union and the Confederacy during the American Civil War at his thesis defemse on December 4, 2013.


Lowell Van Ness presents his history honors thesis on the recruitment of soldiers in Tennessee during the American Civil War on December 4, 2013. Thesis committee members listen carefully in the foreground; they are (left to right) honors thesis director Dr. David Thomas, Dr. Kelvin Moore, and Dr. Terry Lindley.