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Never Convicted, Never Prosecuted: How Traitors Wrote Their Way Out of Prison and Into Lost Cause Mythology

Tuesday, January 30, 2024 at 3:30pm to 5:00pm

McKenzie Hall, 375
1101 Kincaid Street, Eugene, OR

Lecture by Tim Williams (University of Oregon)  

This talk draws from the private writings and published memoirs of some of the first prisoners of the American Civil War: Journalists, ministers, and legislators from the state of Maryland who were imprisoned for treason after President Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus in early summer of 1861. As they sat in prison barracks, they perseverated over the righteousness of their political dissent. They generated various narratives of white victimhood at the hands of federal oppression in letters home and personal diaries, not to mention in conversation with one another. After their release, many published their accounts, adding to an already flourishing popular culture of war stories sought by northerners and southerners alike. Although there were nearly four years left before Lee Surrendered at Appomattox, these narratives anticipated the Lost Cause mythology that dominated regional intellectual in the South after the Civil War, and grew into a national story by the 1890s and, in many states and locales, flourishes today. 

The Department of History’s Seminar Series runs throughout the academic year and features guest speakers from the nation’s top universities who share their perspectives on history. Visit for more information about this event and others in the series. 

Event Type

Lectures & Presentations, Seminar


College of Arts & Sciences, History

Target Audience

All Students, Faculty/Staff



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