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Jason Phillips


Teaching Fields

  • Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Southern history
  • Nineteenth-century America


  • Ph.D., Rice University, 2003
  • M.A., Wake Forest University, 1998
  • B.A., University of Richmond, 1996

Research Interests

Dr. Phillips researches the future in nineteenth-century America. My new book,  Looming Civil War: How Nineteenth-Century Americans Imagined the Future, inverts memory studies to explain how war forecasts formed, spread, and competed for adherents during the Civil War era. This “history of the future” interprets a host of antebellum and wartime sources, including sermons, editorials, literature, music, military records, political rhetoric, diaries, and private correspondence. Like us, Civil War Americans were not confined to the past and present but looked forward with hope, dread, and uncertainty. Two competing temporalities shaped their horizons. Some people imagined themselves traveling through time, into a future ahead of them, and forging that future and their lives in the process. For these Americans, the future was open, opportunities abounded, and humanity made history. This temporality, defined as anticipation, believed in progress and free will. Other people imagined themselves stationary while time passed through them. The future remained ahead, but instead of moving toward it, these people watched as events approached. Instead of focusing on an open future that society fashioned with acts and ideas, these Americans imagined a closed future that dark forces, impersonal and supernatural, already determined. This temporality, defined as expectation, believed in providence and fate. Whether people anticipated or expected the Civil War affected how the looming conflict appeared and which actions they, as individuals and a nation, should undertake. In the end, the conflict defined more than America’s future; it changed how Americans approached the future.

Graduate Students

Ph.D. Students

Courses Offered

  • HIST 453: Civil War and Reconstruction
  • HIST 454: Antebellum America
  • HIST 468: The Old South
  • HIST 484: Historical Research: Capstone
  • HIST 757: Graduate Readings in U.S. History, 1776-1876
  • HIST 758: Graduate Research Seminar in American History, 1776-1876



Looming Civil War: How Nineteenth-Century Americans Imagined the Future (Oxford University Press, 2018)

Diehard Rebels: The Confederate Culture of Invincibility (University of Georgia Press, 2007; paperback, 2010)

Storytelling, History, and the Postmodern South (edited volume, Louisiana State University Press, 2013)

Journal Issues:

Editor with Brian Luskey, “Special Issue: Material Culture,” Civil War History (June 2017)

Selected Articles and Essays:

“John Brown’s Pikes: Assembling the Future in Antebellum America,” Joan Cashin, ed.,  War Matters: Material Culture in the Civil War Era(University of North Carolina Press, 2018).

Co-author with Brian Luskey, “Muster: Inspecting the Material Culture of the Civil War,” Civil War History (June 2017), 103–112

“The Patriot Act: Loyalty and Treason during the Civil War Era,” Reviews in American History 43.3 (September 2015), 490–497

“Harpers Ferry Looming: A History of the Future” Rethinking History 18.1(March 2014), 10–27

“The Prophecy of Edmund Ruffin: Anticipating the Future of Civil War History,” Zachary Dresser and Benjamin Wright, eds., Apocalypse and the Millennium: Providential Religion and the Era of the American Civil War (Louisiana State University Press, 2013), 13–30

“Prophecies of Civil War Soldiers: A History of the Future,” Jimmy L. Bryan, Jr., ed., The Martial Imagination: Cultural Aspects of American Warfare (Texas A&M University Press, 2013), 183–200

“The Liars at the Jung Hotel” Storytelling, History, and the Postmodern South (Louisiana State University Press, 2013), 1–11

“Rebels in War and Peace: Their Ethos and Its Impact” in Paul A. Cimbala and Randall M. Miller, eds., The Great Task Remaining before Us: Reconstruction as America’s Continuing Civil War (Fordham University Press, 2010), 154–72

“The Grape Vine Telegraph: Rumors and Confederate Persistence.” David Roediger, ed., The Best American History Essays, 2008 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 203–234 [Reprint]

“Battling Stereotypes: A Taxonomy of Common Soldiers in Civil War History” History Compass 6 (2008): 1407–25
“A Brothers’ War? Exploring Confederate Perceptions of the Enemy” Aaron Sheehan-Dean, ed., The View from the Ground: The Experiences of Civil War Soldiers (University Press of Kentucky, 2007), 67–90.