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The Loyal Republic

Traitors, Slaves, and the Remaking of Citizenship in Civil War America

By Erik Mathisen

240 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 4 halftones, 1 map, notes, index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3632-0
    Published: March 2018
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-3633-7
    Published: March 2018

Civil War America

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This is the story of how Americans attempted to define what it meant to be a citizen of the United States, at a moment of fracture in the republic's history. As Erik Mathisen demonstrates, prior to the Civil War, American national citizenship amounted to little more than a vague bundle of rights. But during the conflict, citizenship was transformed. Ideas about loyalty emerged as a key to citizenship, and this change presented opportunities and profound challenges aplenty. Confederate citizens would be forced to explain away their act of treason, while African Americans would use their wartime loyalty to the Union as leverage to secure the status of citizens during Reconstruction.

In The Loyal Republic, Mathisen sheds new light on the Civil War, American emancipation, and a process in which Americans came to a new relationship with the modern state. Using the Mississippi Valley as his primary focus and charting a history that traverses both sides of the battlefield, Mathisen offers a striking new history of the Civil War and its aftermath, one that ushered in nothing less than a revolution in the meaning of citizenship in the United States.

About the Author

Erik Mathisen is a lecturer in U.S. history at the University of Kent.
For more information about Erik Mathisen, visit the Author Page.


"Anyone interested in the Civil War and questions of loyalty and citizenship will find much to enjoy in this book."--Library Journal

“This well-researched work should become a welcome addition to any Civil War collection.”--Choice

“An excellent addition to the field.”--Civil War Book Review

“Mathisen expertly brings reader’s focus in and out of national scale, concentrating alternatively on the federal government and its own grandiose depictions and definitions of citizenship and loyalty, before zooming in on Mississippi and exploring how grandiose definitions filtered down and affected everyday Americans.”--Reviews in History

"By turning from the question of who was loyal during the Civil War to the issue of what loyalty meant in the mid-19th century, Erik Mathisen brilliantly unearths the way that the competing demands of the United States and the Confederacy reconfigured Americans' understanding of citizenship and belonging. Through painstaking archival research, he captures not just policy debates about citizenship but the ways that people experienced new demands for loyalty in their everyday lives and in turn reconsidered their relationship to both national governments. Rather than the familiar story of rights, we see the less-familiar but crucial narrative of demands put upon citizens. Mathisen carefully documents the way that slaves and ex-slaves brought their own views of loyalty--and in turn were subjected to governments' demands upon them--in ways that not only shaped the outcome of emancipation but also the meaning of citizenship itself. This is a political history so broad and creative that it forces us to rethink our understanding of what politics is."--Gregory Downs, University of California, Davis and author of After Appomattox

"The book takes a fresh look at Civil War-era citizenship--not an easy thing to do, considering how much work has been produced on the topic over the past two decades."--Michael Vorenberg, Brown University