Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Roger Davis

Second Advisor

Jeffrey Wells

Committee Members

Christopher Steinke, Vernon Volpe


Besançon;Caste War;filibustering;Manifest Destiny;Mexican-American War;Yucatan


There is little published scholarship on Lorenzo Augustus Besançon, a nineteenth-century newspaper publisher, politician, soldier, filibuster, adventurer, and (briefly) tax collector. He had a hand in founding newspapers in Mississippi and Louisiana and was elected to public office in both of those states. On several occasions, his public battles on behalf of his Democratic Party principles led to duels, one of which purportedly ended in the death of his opponent. He volunteered to lead a cavalry regiment in the Mexican-American War and figured publicly in Mexican filibustering enterprises. The limited historical record paints a picture of him as an energetic man of his times who lived a colorful life of chance and adventure, but he is much more than that. This thesis will cover the important periods of Besançon’s life and tell his story in national and international contexts in which it was lived. Jacksonian Democratic politics, editorial and personal combat, the financial crisis of the 1830s, Latin American filibustering, Southern regionalism, and the lure of the American West provided the backdrop against which Besançon’s life played out. From his native Cooperstown, New York, to Mississippi, Louisiana, Mexico, and California, Besançon actively participated in some of the major events and movements of the nineteenth century. He is emblematic of a nineteenth-century American character shaped by Manifest Destiny—the filibuster/adventurer—much like his famous contemporaries, John A. Quitman and William Walker. However, while much has been written about both Quitman’s and Walker’s lives, Besançon’s story has languished in obscurity. The purpose of this thesis is to rescue Besançon from that darkness and examine his participation in major events of his time and how his life was shaped by them.

Included in

History Commons



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