Undergraduate Research on the Local Stage!

This month, History Major Blake Johnson presented his research in the Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium held at Bethel University. Blake shares his experience of preparing his paper, presenting at the conference, and next steps. Thank you Blake for representing the History Department & UST so well!


Blake Johnson presenting his history research at Bethel University

On April 9th of this year I presented personal research entitled “Failing God: Confederate Clergy’s Grapple with the Military” at Bethel University. I was the only student from St. Thomas at the event which was a little nerve-wracking at first, but I was confident in my work. I had started this project as a final paper last spring in Dr. Williard’s Civil War Era course. Being off to a good start at the end of the semester I asked Dr. Williard how I could take my paper further. He kindly gave me guidance as to where to go next with the project. Over the summer I used money from a summer job to purchase research materials and put in another 60 hours of work into the paper over the course of the summer. Returning in the fall, I again asked Dr. Williard for more advice, again he kindly gave me a great amount of direction. The following J-term I spent another 40 hours working on revisions and additions. After break, I again asked for and received advice from Dr. Williard. I submitted an abstract of my paper and received help from Dr. Williard and Dr. Klejment in refining my paper for a conference. Despite battling a cough while presenting the paper in front of people from many institutions I fared well among my peers. Overall, the experience was positive and I received great feedback from question and answer and cannot wait for the summer so that I may delve even deeper into this project.

My paper as it currently stands revolves around resistance to religion in the camps. I focus specifically on tensions in the camp between clerical and soldierly classes revolving around the issues of gambling, swearing, officer reverence, desertion, and questioning the cause. My argument boils down to the following: The Confederate clergy did not have as much influence over Confederate soldiers as one may assume from the religious climate of the 19th century. I hope to add sections on promiscuity and alcoholism in the camps as well as showcase pious soldiers that critiqued religious wishes in the camps. I hope that with another 100-200 hours of research and editing that this paper will be publishable. I also hope to see within that time another conference or two.

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