Networks of Military Educators: Middle-Class Stability and Professionalization in the Late Antebellum South

By Green, Jennifer R. | The Journal of Southern History, February 2007 | Go to article overview

Networks of Military Educators: Middle-Class Stability and Professionalization in the Late Antebellum South


Green, Jennifer R., The Journal of Southern History


ON THE FOURTH OF JULY 1845 NINETEEN-YEAR-OLD ROBERT HENRY Simpson received his diploma from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). Though Simpson was surely happy to have been released from the academic toil and military discipline, graduation did not sever his connection with the school. In fact, Simpson had already requested help locating a suitable teaching position from Francis H. Smith, the VMI superintendent. With his diploma and with this petition to Smith, Simpson, like many of his peers, accessed what has been an overlooked function of the late antebellum South's military schools: their role as a launching pad for the professional careers of nonagricultural, non-elite southerners. (1) Although the South's private and state military schools replicated the discipline and scientific curriculum of the United States Military Academy at West Point, these institutes lacked the national academy's preferential entry to the armed forces. As a result, 96 percent of those schools' matriculates had to find their ways in civilian careers. (2)

In the years following his graduation, Simpson found himself in the situation of many young southern men. The son of a teacher, Simpson's middling status left him without connections to either a plantation or an apprenticeship. His pursuit of social position returned him time and again to his alma mater. Almost yearly missives, commencing with the letter in 1845, asked the VMI superintendent for recommendations or placement in openings of which the professor knew. "You will doubtless receive applications for teachers from various quarters of the State and perhaps of the Union. You have done me the kindness to offer me several such situations which circumstances have prevented me from accepting," Simpson declared in 1849, "and now I trust I shall not be troublesome for soliciting another such offer from you." Throughout the years Simpson received references and returned the favors by encouraging his students to enroll at VMI. He dreamed of higher status occupations, first college professorships and then the more lucrative career of engineering; and as he was ready to move up, he repeatedly contacted his former professor for help. In exchange for assistance in securing an engineering job, for example, Simpson proffered his current teaching post, with a decent annual salary of five hundred dollars, to a VMI graduate of the superintendent's choosing. (3) Such exchanges, in which alumni requested jobs, offered soon-to-be-vacant positions, and sent students to their alma maters, illustrate the career networks in which alumni and military educators forged social stability and worked toward professionalization in the tenuous antebellum world of the southern middling class.

Military educator networks show that members of the developing southern middle class promoted professionalization to create social stability and that they did so not with patronage but with a quasi-bureaucratic system. Defying twenty-first-century perceptions that they embodied conservative values, military schools in the late antebellum years reflected the modernizing South; their curriculum, middle-class matriculates, and promotion of professions and professionalization were part of the region's participation in national trends. After describing the southern middle class, its use of the distinct characteristics of military education, and the operations of networks linking educators and alumni, this article focuses on how the networks created social stability for young southerners. Military alumni networks accomplished this stability through professionalization (i.e., the validation of specialized knowledge and professional status) of teaching. Their success shows in military education's expansion in the number of practitioners and locations, and it highlights the formation of the middle class in a new way, building on a vision of the increasing acceptance of professions. This analysis helps answer two significant questions in southern and American historiography: How did a middle class develop in the South absent the capitalist growth that spurred the process in the North? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Networks of Military Educators: Middle-Class Stability and Professionalization in the Late Antebellum South
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.