The "Negro" College
The Town Meeting
The Committee Opposed
Why It Failed
Why It Mattered
Yale & the South


The events of the 1830s had a strong impact on Yale students. While some became Confederates, others joined the abolitionist struggle. For example, some of the Yale graduates to achieve distinction in the Confederacy included:

  • Judah P. Benjamin (Yale 1828) future Confederate Secretary of War and Attorney General (referred to as the "brains of the Confederacy"). Benjamin was the highest-ranking person on either side of the U.S. Civil War to have attended Yale, though it is not clear whether he ever graduated.
  • Trusten Polk (Yale 1831) future Governor of Missouri, then Senator just prior to the Civil War, and then an official within the Confederate government.
  • William Nathan Harrell Smith (Yale 1834) future congressman for North Carolina, serving in all three Confederate congresses.
  • Richard Taylor (Yale 1845) would become the son-in-law of Jefferson Davis, and would serve in the Confederate army.
  • Issac Monroe St. John (Yale 1845) future Commissary General of the Confederacy.
  • Burton N. Harrison (Yale 1859), future Secretary to Confederate President Davis.

The events of the 1830s at Yale also produced some bold abolitionists: James Pennington, Charles Torrey and Cassius Clay.



Numbers in parentheses refer to notes. See the notes page.