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Halls of Honor

College Men in the Old South

Robert F. Pace

Publication Year: 2004

A powerful confluence of youthful energies and entrenched codes of honor enlivens Robert F. Pace’s look at the world of male student college life in the antebellum South. Through extensive research into records, letters, and diaries of students and faculty from more than twenty institutions, Pace creates a vivid portrait of adolescent rebelliousness struggling with the ethic to cultivate a public face of industry, respect, and honesty. These future leaders confronted authority figures, made friends, studied, courted, frolicked, drank, gambled, cheated, and dueled—all within the established traditions of their southern culture. For the sons of southern gentry, college life presented a variety of challenges, including engaging with northern professors and adjusting to living away from home and family. The young men extended the usual view of higher education as a bridge between childhood and adulthood, innovatively creating their own world of honor that prepared them for living in the larger southern society. Failure to obtain a good education was a grievous breach of honor for them, and Pace skillfully weaves together stories of student antics, trials, and triumphs within the broader male ethos of the Old South. When the Civil War erupted, many students left campus to become soldiers, defend their families, and preserve a way of life. By war's end, the code of honor had waned, changing the culture of southern colleges and universities forever. Halls of Honor represents a significant update of E. Merton Coulter’s 1928 classic work, College Life in the Old South, which focused on the University of Georgia. Pace's lively study will widen the discussion of antebellum southern college life for decades to come.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vii


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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xii

It is a pleasure to acknowledge the many people who helped bring this project to completion. The bulk of my initial archival research occurred through the generosity of two consecutive Summer Research Grants from Longwood University, Virginia. ...

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pp. 1-10

A few years ago, as I sat in the reading room of the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I became hopelessly diverted from my original task by a fascinating collection of letters. What had caught my attention was a series of correspondence from the late antebellum period between Andrew McCollam Jr. ...

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CHAPTER 1 IT’S ALL ACADEMIC: Faculty, Curriculum, Cheating, and Commencement

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pp. 11-33

An assessment of college students: “They attend classes but make no effort to learn anything”; “They frequently learn what they would better ignore”; “On obscure points they depend upon their own judgment . . . so they become masters of error.” Historians have generally agreed with these characterizations when describing college life in the Old South. ...

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CHAPTER 2 ON CAMPUS: Antebellum Southern College Students and Their Environment

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pp. 34-55

In July 1845, fifteen-year-old John Jacob Scherer, accompanied by his father, left home for the Virginia Collegiate Institute. Before his departure, Jacob’s mother gave him “several dollars in little pieces of silver money.” After sixty miles of the trip, Jacob’s father turned back, severing the last tie to the safety of home and childhood. ...

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CHAPTER 3 SOWING OATS AND GROWING UP: Amusements, Entertainment, and Relationships

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pp. 56-81

Even though antebellum southern college students spent a considerable amount of time dealing with their studies, college life offered so much more outside of the classroom. These young men, away from home for the first time, found creative ways to occupy their attentions, to explore their newfound freedom, and to build relationships that would last a lifetime. ...

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CHAPTER 4 HONOR AND VIOLENCE: Rules, Pranks, Riots, Guns, and Duels

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pp. 82-97

In 1851, one of the youthful students at South Carolina College stole the institution’s bell from the college cupola. The perpetration of this prank would bring the students and faculty into a potentially perilous standoff in the world of honor. The bell’s primary function at the college was to summon students to prayers and recitations. ...

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pp. 98-117

The American Civil War substantively changed college life in the Old South more than any other single event in American history. Collegiate existence, as the sons and daughters of the southern elite had come to know it, came to an end. The war brought confusion, division, and, ultimately, resolve to college students, but in the process...


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pp. 119-131


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pp. 133-145


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pp. 147-152

E-ISBN-13: 9780807138724
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807138717

Page Count: 168
Publication Year: 2004