Colonel W. Wayde Benson (USMC Ret.) Fellowships

The Dale Center for the Study of War & Society is pleased to offer two Colonel W. Wayde Benson (USMC ret.) Fellowships every academic year, which offer a stipend to exceptional students specializing in the field of War & Society in Southern Miss's graduate history program. These fellowships are made possible through the generous donation of Col. W. Wayde Benson (USMC, Ret.).


Colonel W. Wayde Benson Fellows


2016-2017: Benson Fellow:

Lucas Somers, PhD Student, U.S. History, University of Southern Mississippi; MA, History, 2015 Western Kentucky University; BA, History, 2013 Western Kentucky University.  Faculty Adviser: Dr. Susannah J. Ural

Lucas Somers is a first year PhD student interested in the Civil War Era and War and Society.  His previous graduate research focused on scrutinizing significant aspects of Abraham Lincoln’s personal worldview by analyzing the president’s reported dreams, visions, and ‘night terrors.’  This project also attempted to revitalize some often-doubted sources of facts on Lincoln’s life, and Lucas hopes to continue exploring these and other potentially valuable resources relating to the Sixteenth President for his dissertation.  The Benson Fellowship will allow him to broaden his research and continue making historical contributions in Lincoln Studies and the Civil War Era. 


2015-2016 Benson Fellows:

Tracy L. Barnett (MA, U.S. History) BA, History, 2014 Millersville University of Pennsylvania.  A native of Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, Tracy Barnett is currently a second year MA student at the University of Southern Mississippi studying under Dr. Susannah J. Ural. 

Tracy’s thesis, “Maligned “Milish:” Mississippi Militiamen in the Civil War” argues that Mississippi militiamen developed a unique conception of military service based on their pre-war position within southern society.  The Mississippi government, which oversaw the state’s militia defense system, proved unable to reconcile official policy with men’s localized perception of service.  Instead, the Mississippi government created a centrally organized military system that undermined the militia’s efficiency. She is the recipient of the Dale Center Graduate Fellowship 2016-2017, Lamar Powell History Graduate Scholarship 2015-2016, Colonel W. Wayde Benson Fellowship 2015-2016, Phi Alpha Theta’s Thomas S. Morgan Memorial Scholarship 2015-2016. The Benson Fellowship’s generous funding will be used to support her thesis research at various archives in Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C.


Tyler A. Rotter  PhD Candidate, Early American History, University of Southern Mississippi; MA, History, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, 2010; BA, History, University of Missouri-Columbia, 2007. Faculty Advisor: Dr. Kyle F. Zelner

"Thanks to the generous support provided by the Dale Center’s Benson Fellowship, I am able to continue my doctoral research examining the promotion, application, and evolution of religious culture in colonial New England between the outbreak of the Pequot War (1637) and the end of King George’s War (1748). During the summer of 2015, the Benson Fellowship partially funded my research trip to the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford, Connecticut. This trip produced a wealth from both clerical leaders and governmental and military officials. The Benson Fellowship will also allow me to complete research trips to the Massachusetts Historical Society, Harvard’s Houghton Library, and the Rhode Island Historical Society. Because of the centrality of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to early New England, Rhode Island’s atypical character in comparison to its neighbors, and Harvard’s position as a bastion for religious promotion and education makes each of these institution’s collections essential for the successfully completion of my research. Through the use of these materials, I will examine how religious rhetoric was used publically and privately during war. I will also study how this rhetoric changed over time, especially as the various Indian wars of the seventeenth century were replaced by the imperial wars with France and Spain during the eighteenth century. I am extremely grateful for the support of the Dale Center’s Benson Fellowship and am sure that it will allow me to enhance my work."


2014-2015 Benson Fellow:

Jonathan Harton, PhD student, U.S History, University of Southern Mississippi; MA, Military History, 2012 University of North Georgia; BA, History, 2009 University of Georgia. Faculty Advisor: Dr. Kyle F. Zelner

Jonathan Harton is a first year PhD student interested in the various ways local communities respond to and remember armed conflict, particularly in early North America. His current research focus seeks to examine the martial culture of southeastern militias during the mid to late 18th century. He intends to use the Benson Fellowship to support archival research at the Moravian Archives in Winston-Salem concerning the wartime relationship between revolutionary Whig militias and Moravian settlers.  


2013-2014 Benson Fellows:

Allan Branstiter  PhD student, U.S. History, University of Southern Mississippi MA, History, 2013 The University of Southern Mississippi; BA, History, 2011 Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Faculty Advisor: Dr. Susannah J. Ural

"Through generous assistance provided by the Dale Center’s Benson Fellowship, I conducted several research trips exploring the Civil War and Reconstruction history of our state. During the fall semester of 2013, I made numerous trips to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in Jackson. In 2014, I spent my spring break in northern Mississippi conducting research at the University of Mississippi archives and the Marshall County courthouse in Holly Springs. For my final trip, I drove north on a seemingly endless trek into the heart of New England Yankeedom, with brief sojourns in Baltimore, the Fredericksburg National Battlefield, and Northampton, Massachusetts. In Baltimore, I attended discussions by leading historians about the past, present, and future direction of Civil War era scholarship, while also taking every opportunity to network with my peers at other universities. Once in Northampton, I examined the Ames Family Papers at Smith College to gather documents pertaining to Adelbert Ames’s tenure as Mississippi’s Reconstruction governor and senator. His letters to Republican operatives throughout the state reflect the challenges of building a political party infrastructure from the top down. Ultimately, Republicans failed to reconcile their party-building efforts with the demands of Mississippi’s deeply fractured and fluid postwar political and social environment.

With the words of desperate Republican party-builders fresh in my mind and news of ISIS assaults on the reconstructed government of Iraq on the radio during my long drive home, I became more convinced that actions of individuals and the dynamics of local politics matter when struggling to win the peace. Thanks to the Benson Fellowship, I now have many of the historical sources I need to explore this theory further."


Jason Engle  PhD candidate, Modern European History, University of Southern Mississippi; MA, Norwich University, Military History, 2008. Faculty Advisor: Dr. Andrew Wiest

"I used the funds from the Benson Fellowship to pay for my travel to Innsbruck (Austria) where I spent seven weeks at the Tiroler Landesarchiv and the Universität Innsbruck Hauptbibliothek researching the paramilitary Tiroler Heimatwehr organization (1918-1936). The remainder of the award was spent on document reproduction costs. The British National Archives houses captured records from the German Foreign Ministry in Austria during the early Interwar Period. The rest of the funds contributed to me being able to have two folders concerning the activities of the Heimwehr organizations (with particular concern over their close relations with conservative Bavarian paramilitary groups) reproduced. The Benson Fellowship contributed substantially toward the completion of a significant portion of the archival research for my dissertation on the continuity of civic militarism in the Alpine regions of Austria."