The thesis that I have conducted examines the environmental history of the American Civil War through the study of the relationship that existed between the War and the natural environment of Virginia. I chose to narrow my focus to Virginia because the majority of the data I encountered in my preliminary research was in regards to this state. In my thesis, I argue that the relationship that existed between the War and the natural environment was a dynamic one. “Dynamic” meaning that the War impacted the land in both positive and negative ways, and vice versa. My I.S. is composed of two traditional written chapters and a digital map component in the place of a third chapter, which provides my thesis with a unique spatial history component. The first chapter, entitled “When it Rains, it Pours: Virginia’s Natural Landscape and the War,” examines Virginia’s geography, the Shenandoah River Valley, military earthworks and troop movements, and post-war environmentalism to display the dynamic relationship that existed between the natural landscape and the War. Chapter Two, which is entitled “Where the Fever-Demon Strews: Mosquito-Borne Disease in the Swamps of Virginia,” analyzes the diseases of malaria and yellow fever and their impact on the mid-nineteenth century medical community, the American South, African American soldiers, and Union prisoners of war. The digital map component of this I.S. is comprised of five separate maps displaying monthly malarial rates in Virginia and the greater Atlantic Region from the years of 1861 to 1866. The database for this map project was taken from data included in U.S. medical inspector Charles Smart’s 1888 work, The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion. This map component supports the arguments of my Chapter Two, drawing the conclusion that malarial rates were higher in the summer months and as the War progressed. In order to develop a full understanding of the environmental history of the American Civil War, it is important to keep in mind that the War and the natural environment had a dynamic relationship, which can be clearly seen through the examination of the natural landscape and mosquito-borne disease.


Holt, Katie




American Civil War, Virginia, The Shenandoah River Valley, Civil War, Mosquitos, Malaria, Yellow Fever, Environment, Environmental History, Landscape, African American Soldiers, Alternative Independent Study, Mapping, KML Coding

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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