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The American Vade Mecum and Virginia Exceptionalism of the Youth: A Study of University Youth in the 1860s

Presenters Name: 
Camille Horton
Primary Research Mentor: 
Kirt von Daacke
Secondary Research Mentor: 
Worthy Martin
2:15 - 2:30
Time of Presentation: 
2019 - 2:15pm to 2:30pm
Board Room
Presentation Type: 
Presentations Academic Category: 
Grant Program Recipient: 
USOAR Program

Purpose: Utilizing firsthand accounts of student’s biographies as well as second-hand material to construct a better understanding of the student experience and their beliefs. UVA was a center of intellectual activity but also the students here illustrated the pinnacle of mainstream attitudes and behaviors. The “American Vade Mecum”, Latin for the American Guidebook, was written by a UVA student explained pro-Virginia arrogances. Written by alumnus Henry Clay Pate. He wrote, “We desire to see Virginia occupy a position, in point of intelligence and commercial importance, second to no State…”. This study attempts to map out a pattern of student activity to their adulthood, noting careers and exceptional events along the way. Background: Nearly 500 University of Virginia students fought in the Civil War conflict in addition to 2,000 graduates; by the end of the conflict almost 500 UVA-affiliates had died in the Civil War. Most of the students here in the 1860s were from well off, slave-owning families; those who were not wealthy were still Virginians. Methodology: Journal entries of students were prioritized for this research. Virginia-related source material as well as Pates book. Jefferson’s University’s Early Life has a collection of reports that encompass many records of student activity. Findings: Students at the University engaged in activities expected of college-aged men; academic rigor suitable for men of their stature such studying medicine or law. The conflation of self with the state as an identity happens when the state has provided opportunity for these men to live their advantaged lives.