Graduate Students

Asaf Almog is a doctoral candidate, working with Gary W. Gallagher and Elizabeth R. Varon. Asaf’s dissertation, titled “Looking Backward in a New Republic: Conservative New Englanders and American Nationalism, 1793-1861,” examines the evolution of political conservatism among New England’s Unitarian elite, and its role in the construction of American nationalism. The dissertation focuses on members of the so-called “Brahmin caste of New England,” a self-conscious elite, all Harvard-affiliated, who maintained an inner “republic of letters” throughout the early republic and the antebellum era. Moving chronologically from the establishment of the Federalist Party to 1861, Asaf juxtaposes the tradition of “conservative reform” against rival traditions, which supported various egalitarian interpretations of the American Revolution’s legacy. The dissertation examines how the converging understandings of conservatism and reform influenced the political culture of New England’s elite and of the American Republic at large. Ultimately, the dissertation illuminates the complexities of the American Revolution’s legacy of liberty and equality before the Civil War.

Clayton Butler is a doctoral candidate who studies southern unionism during the Civil War era under the guidance of Gary Gallagher and Elizabeth Varon. His M.A. thesis focuses on the First Alabama Union Cavalry, a regiment of white southerners recruited from the states of the Deep South to fight against the Confederacy. After graduating from Pomona College in 2010, he worked at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and the Civil War Trust in Washington, DC.

Jake Calhoun studies the history of emancipation and is advised by Professor Justene Hill Edwards. He is originally from Alabama and received his B.A. from Loyola University New Orleans. He received his M.A. from the University of Maryland where he undertook a thesis project that explored how early emancipation in the sugar parishes of Louisiana shaped the ensuing political contests in the region.

Kevin Caprice studies the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Gilded Age under the direction of Professor Caroline E. Janney, with a focus on the role Union veterans played in American politics. His master's thesis looks at disunity among Union veterans after the war and into the 20th century. Originally from New Jersey, he graduated from the College of New Jersey with a BA in history and education, and received his MA in history from Virginia Tech.

Daniele Celano studies legal history and the Civil War era with Professors Elizabeth Varon and Cynthia Nicoletti. Her current research focuses on the repeal of the fugitive slave laws in connection with larger Constitutional issues of military emancipation and federal war powers. She is originally from New Jersey and graduated from Purdue University with a BA in 2018. 

Jesse George-Nichol is a PhD candidate advised by Elizabeth Varon and Gary Gallagher.  Her dissertation examines conciliation and compromise in the spring of 1861.  Her research focuses on former Whigs in the Upper South and the Border South and their attempts secure a national adjustment and avoid armed conflict.  She is originally from North Carolina and has a B.A. from Princeton University.

Ian Iverson is a PhD student studying under Professor Elizabeth Varon. Originally from Northfield, Minnesota, he received his bachelor’s in history from Princeton University in 2018. At UVA, Ian studies antebellum political realignment, with a special interest in self-identified “conservatives” in the lower North. His MA thesis examines the rise of the Republican Party in Illinois.

Brianna Kirk studies the Civil War and Reconstruction, with a focus on the immediate post-war period and Civil War memory, under the direction of Elizabeth Varon. Her master's thesis examines the Norfolk race riot in April 1866 and its implications for the course of Reconstruction. Originally from Philadelphia, she graduated from Gettysburg College in 2015 and worked at the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, Virginia, for two years before beginning the graduate program at UVA.

Stephanie Lawton earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in history at UCLA, where she studied American and Roman history before graduating summa cum laude in 2013. She joined the graduate program at the Corcoran Department of History in 2014 as a student of Gary Gallagher. Her present research interests are the Greek and Roman Classics in American politics and political culture in the nineteenth century. Her master's essay "Substance or Window-Dressing?: Classical Conceptions of Patriotic Citizenship" (short title) argued that classical references in the eulogies of George Washington and Andrew Jackson were not empty rhetorical flourishes but instead meant to instruct Americans about the character and duties desired in the ideal republican citizen.

Stefan Lund is a doctoral candidate studying free speech and censorship in the Civil War North and occupied areas. His Master’s thesis investigated mob attacks on newspaper offices by Union soldiers during the Civil War, and their coverage in the Democratic press. Originally from Minneapolis, he graduated from Oberlin College in 2016 with a B.A. in History and Economics and moved back to Minnesota where he did a variety of work including as a senior research assistant digitizing nineteenth-century court records. He began the graduate program at the University of Virginia in 2017, where he studies under Elizabeth Varon.

Brian Neumann is a doctoral candidate studying the political culture of the antebellum South under Elizabeth Varon and Gary Gallagher. His research examines the social, political, and ideological dynamics of Unionism in South Carolina during the Nullification Crisis. He grew up in Chesnee, South Carolina, and graduated from Furman University in 2013. In 2014, he served as the primary researcher for Furman’s 50th Anniversary Commemoration Committee, uncovering the history of desegregation at the university. Brian has served as an editorial assistant on our digital project, "UVA Unionists," since Summer 2017.

Daniel Sunshine studies nineteenth-century political culture with a focus on Union and race.  He graduated from the University of Virginia in 2014 after completing a Distinguished Majors Thesis under Gary W. Gallagher.  After a two-year stint working at a corporate law firm, he returned to the University to pursue a PhD with Elizabeth Varon.  His master’s research examines the competing interpretations of Union at play in the West Virginia statehood movement.

Elena Symmes earned her Bachelor of Arts from McGill University in 2019, graduating with highest honors in history and Russian. Her primary research interests include the US Upland South with a focus on legal history in Appalachia during the Civil War and Reconstruction. A Maryland native, Elena’s numerous internships in Washington, D.C. at prominent NGOs and the United States Congress sparked her interest in the use and misuse of history to inform public policy.