King Cotton and the Rising Sun: The Japanese Navy’s Confederate Ironclad

By Alex Andrioli ’18

When the American Civil War ended in 1865, the United States government sold off naval vessels as the country transitioned to Reconstruction. One of those vessels, the CSS Stonewall, traveled to countless and unexpected locations. The CSS Stonewall never fought in the American Civil War as it was intended to do, but instead was destined to fight in the civil war between the Japanese shogunate and emperor as the first ironclad warship of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

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The CSS Stonewall in the Washington Naval Yard in 1865. Via Wikimedia Commons.

In 1868, the Tokugawa Shogun—the military leader of Japan—relinquished his power to the Meiji Emperor during Japan’s civil war, known as the Boshin War. The Tokugawa family had ruled as Japan’s shogunate since 1603 and oversaw the country’s peace time and isolation from the outside world for over 260 years. Japanese isolation would not last forever. In 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States forcefully opened Japan to the outside world with an “open-door policy.” The shogunate was impressed by Perry’s modern “tools of war” and was determined to upgrade their navy to fit the modern world. The CSS Stonewall would eventually become the ship that would help Japan accelerate toward modernization and end the Japanese civil war. However, the Stonewall was originally intended to aid the Confederate States of America in missions such as attacking William T. Sherman’s base at Port Royal, breaking the Wilmington blockade, or striking New England ports.

Continue reading “King Cotton and the Rising Sun: The Japanese Navy’s Confederate Ironclad”

A Tale of Two Universities: Harvard and Georgetown Accept Their Ties to Slavery

By Alex Andrioli ‘18

The Washington Ideas Forum, a Washington D.C. hot-ticket event, reconvened for its eighth year on September 28th and 29th, 2016. Leaders in politics, policy, race and justice, education, science and technology, and even food met to share ideas and have meaningful conversations at the event hosted by The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute. From Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Secretary of State John Kerry to author Chimamanda Adichie and chef and founder of Momofuku, David Chang, the best and the brightest were all in attendance.

On the second day of the forum, the national correspondent of The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates, conversed with the presidents of two elite universities: John J. DeGioia of Georgetown University and Drew Gilpin Faust of Harvard University. The three talked about the roles of the universities in acknowledging and reconciling with their histories of slavery and discrimination.

The Washington Ideas Forum, Washington D.C. Photo taken by the author, September 29, 2016.
The Washington Ideas Forum, Washington D.C. Photo taken by the author, September 29, 2016.

Continue reading “A Tale of Two Universities: Harvard and Georgetown Accept Their Ties to Slavery”

"Throwing Light" on Life at The Wayside

This post is part of a series featuring behind-the-scenes dispatches from our Pohanka Interns on the front lines of history this summer as interpreters, archivists, and preservationists. See here for the introduction to the series.

By Alex Andrioli ’18

Over the course of these past ten weeks, I have come a long way since I started my internship at the beginning of June at Minute Man National Historical Park. This is my second Brian C. Pohanka Internship; last summer, I lived and worked at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. In Harpers Ferry, I was given a lot of responsibility while working for the education department, but at Minute Man, my responsibilities far exceeded just working with children.

At Minute Man, I constructed two of my very own tours: one was about the opening battle of the American Revolution at the North Bridge on April 19, 1775 and the other was an historic house tour of The Wayside: Home of Authors. Of the two, my Wayside tour was more complex due to the fact that basically EVERYTHING has happened at the Wayside. Built before 1717, it is a witness house to the beginning of the American Revolution, a childhood home of Louisa May Alcott and a major inspiration for her greatest work, Little Women, a part of the Underground Railroad network, frequently visited by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau in the 1800s, and the first and only home Nathaniel Hawthorne ever owned. I had to fit all of this, plus countless other connections, into a forty minute tour. Also, I somehow had to factor in time for visitors to have a look around and walk through the house, as well as adjust my tour to accommodate large groups and visitors with disabilities.

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The Wayside: Home of Authors. Concord, Massachusetts. Photo by author, June 28, 2016

Continue reading “"Throwing Light" on Life at The Wayside”

“Of the Human Heart”: Personal Significance and the Key to Interpretation

This post is part of a series featuring behind-the-scenes dispatches from our Pohanka Interns on the front lines of history this summer as interpreters, archivists, and preservationists. See here for the introduction to the series.

By Alex Andrioli ‘18

About seven months ago, I was asked during an interview for my current internship what I thought the National Park Service could do to gain the interest of more millennials. This question was posed to me in light of the fact that I am a member of the millennial generation. And what was my incredibly insightful answer, you may ask? “I don’t know.” There were some rambling and incoherent sentences before I finally delivered that bombshell of a response, but that was my final answer, much to my embarrassment. Now that I am almost a month into my second National Park Service Internship at Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord, Massachusetts, I feel like I can answer that question, even if I am seven months late.

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The author and her supervisor, Leslie Obleschuk, in front of The Wayside: Home of Authors. Photo courtesy Michelle Blees, June 29, 2016.

What millennials want is personal significance. Yes, another earth-shattering answer from yours truly. It seems so obvious – maybe that’s why I didn’t think of it earlier in my interview – but like many other humans, millennials want to see themselves in whatever story a specific National Park is trying to tell. Often times, I feel like older generations think of millennials as some new subspecies of humans and they are trying very hard to figure us out. Yes, we tend to be more tech-savvy with shorter attention spans, but like everyone who came before us, we are a bit selfish in the sense that we want to understand why something is important so that we can care about it. Continue reading ““Of the Human Heart”: Personal Significance and the Key to Interpretation”

From Cape Hatteras to Harpers Ferry

By Alex Andrioli ’18

The Civil War Institute will be celebrating the National Park Service Centennial this spring with its brand new “Find Your Park Friday” series. Inspired by the NPS #FindYourPark campaign, the series will challenge our fellows to share their experiences exploring America’s national historical, cultural, and natural resources through trips and internships with the NPS. In our fifth post, Alex Andrioli goes back to the roots of her love for national parks and discusses how her childhood at Cape Hatteras led to an internship with the National Park Service years later.

Last summer, I was an intern at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in the Education Department as a Brian C. Pohanka Intern. I would have never thought that I would get to live in such a beautiful place. To actually work and reside in a location that is soaked in history has forever changed me because it made me realize that history majors are actually allowed to pursue other careers outside of the high school or college classroom. Harpers Ferry has given me more than just career options and historical knowledge that I can dip into if I ever end up on Jeopardy!; t has given me great friends that live all across the United States (one even lives across the Pond in England) and mentors who are more like adopted parents. However, even though Harpers Ferry has started to help me pave the way to my future career, there is one park that will always hold a special place in my heart.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore and I go way back. Technically, the first time that I went was when my mom was pregnant with me in 1995, but the first pictures of me out and about of the womb are from 1996 when I was a few months old. My earliest memories in life are of Cape Hatteras. For most of my life, my family has gone to the Outer Banks in North Carolina for summer vacation. Towards the end of the school year when most kids were looking forward to typical summertime activities, I was anxiously awaiting the annual trip to that thin strip of islands clinging to the mainland of North Carolina. This is not to say that I wasn’t also looking forward to cliche summer pastimes, but there was nothing like the preparation for the long journey south. Usually, the excitement became surreal for me the week before our departure. The kitchen would be crowded with extra groceries, suitcases would be lying around just waiting to be stuffed with clothes, and the night before felt like an eternity.

The author and her aunt at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, October 1997. Courtesy of the Andrioli Archives, a.k.a. the author's mother, April Andrioli.
The author and her aunt at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, October 1997. Courtesy of the Andrioli Archives, a.k.a. the author’s mother, April Andrioli.

Continue reading “From Cape Hatteras to Harpers Ferry”

Jelly Beans, Sporks, Cowboy Hats, Oh My!: Patents and Inventions from the 1860s and 1870s

By Alex Andrioli ’18

What do jelly beans, printing presses, sporks, and cowboy hats have in common?

I know it kind of sounds like a joke, but I’m serious! The similarity among the four is that they were all invented or patented during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. It is easy to forget that life went on while the United States was swept up in a horrific war, but  weapons were not the only things produced in the 1860s and 1870s.

In 1861, you might have seen advertisements from a Mr. William Schrafft, a Boston candy maker, who advised people to send his jelly beans to Union soldiers. You could send your Billy Yank some delicious jelly beans on the front because there was no better cure for dysentery than the sweet taste of candy from home. Though jelly beans surfaced in America in 1861, their origin is shrouded in a sugar-coated mystery. It is popularly believed that the jelly bean is the result of the tasty union between the centuries old Turkish Delight, a Middle Eastern treat made of soft jelly and confectioner’s powder, and the Jordan Almond, an almond covered in a hard, candy coating.

Where could you read this advertisement for Schrafft’s jelly beans, you might ask? A newspaper would be the most likely place, especially if you do not live in or near Boston. You could pick up a copy of your local newspaper to find an advertisement for Mr. Schrafft’s jelly beans, but then you start to wonder, “Where did this newspaper come from?” How was it printed, and how can there be so many similar papers like it? It seems like everyone has the same exact copy as you on this fine morning.

Though it’s not William Schrafft’s advertisement, this is an advertisement for Charles Copeland’s Confectionery in Boston, Massachusetts. This ad was in a guidebook for Boston in 1867 and could be similar to an ad that Schrafft might have put out for his jelly beans. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Though it’s not William Schrafft’s advertisement, this is an advertisement for Charles Copeland’s Confectionery in Boston, Massachusetts. This ad was in a guidebook for Boston in 1867 and could be similar to an ad that Schrafft might have put out for his jelly beans. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Continue reading “Jelly Beans, Sporks, Cowboy Hats, Oh My!: Patents and Inventions from the 1860s and 1870s”

Disturbing and Informative: The Mütter Museum’s Broken Bodies, Suffering Spirits Exhibit on Civil War Medicine

By Alex Andrioli ’18

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Broken Bodies, Suffering Spirits is the perfect place to get your Mercy Street fix while awaiting a possible second season. Left to right in the glass jars: A wax model of an arm with smallpox made around 1850, a wet specimen of ileum (final section of small intestine) with typhoid fever, and a wet specimen of a colon with a dysentery ulcer. Courtesy of the Mütter Museum.

“In my dreams, I always have the use of both my hands,” Lt. Col. Henry S. Huidekoper confided in a letter to Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, a Philadelphia surgeon, on February 10th, 1906. Such a statement seems very odd because to have two hands doesn’t feel like a big deal, especially in a dream, but it’s easy to take for granted. For Huidekoper, having two hands, even if it was only in his dreams, was something worth writing about to a doctor.

Lt. Col. Huidekoper was just twenty-four years old when he served in the 150th Pennsylvania on the first day of combat at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. On that day, his regiment was in battle near McPherson’s Farm when he was shot through the joint of his right elbow. He walked over a mile under enemy fire to St. Francis Xavier, a Roman Catholic Church, where he had his right arm amputated while “never quite losing consciousness.” Forty-three years later, at the age of 67, Huidekoper had long since learned to cope with life as a “one-handed being,” as he described himself in the letter to Mitchell. Continue reading “Disturbing and Informative: The Mütter Museum’s Broken Bodies, Suffering Spirits Exhibit on Civil War Medicine”

Dream Weavers: Civil War Soldiers After Hours

By Alex Andrioli ’18

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A sleeping soldier dreams of returning home to his wife and child. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress. Currier & Ives. New York.

I am in the middle of a retail store that is similar to a Christmas Tree Shop or Walmart, but this one has a nautical theme. While shopping with my mother I see her take something, put it in her purse, and start for the automatic sliding doors at the entrance. Like a good store patron, I naturally try to prevent my mother from shoplifting. I call out to her, “Mom!” She doesn’t turn around. “MOM!” All of the other moms in the store stare at me except for my own. “APRIL!” I yell so loud that I wake myself up to find my whole family stirring awake in our hotel room in Hershey, Pennsylvania and my half-asleep mother, April, voicing her unhappy opinion.

Now, before I go on, I must make clear that my mother is not a shoplifter. So, why in the world would I have a dream like this? Why do we, as humans, dream at all? The popular answer among scientists is that they don’t know. So how can something for which we have no explanation impact us individually and culturally so much? All throughout human history, dreams have left people both baffled and with answers. Albert Einstein discovered the principle of relativity, Paul McCartney composed the song “Yesterday,” and Abraham Lincoln might have predicted his own assassination according to Ward Hill Lamon, Lincoln’s friend and bodyguard, all while dreaming. Continue reading “Dream Weavers: Civil War Soldiers After Hours”

Lincoln Scholar Harold Holzer Teases His Upcoming Lecture at Gettysburg College

By Alex Andrioli ’17

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2016 Lincoln Lyceum speaker Harold Holzer. Photograph courtesy of the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities.

Harold Holzerwinner of the 2015 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize, will be delivering the 2016 Lincoln Lyceum lecture entitled Lincoln and the Press:  Master or Monster? 

Harold Holzer is one of the country’s leading authorities on Abraham Lincoln and the political culture of the Civil War era. A prolific writer and lecturer, and frequent guest on television and radio, Holzer has authored, co-authored, and edited more than 45 previous books on Lincoln and the Civil War. He recently retired from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York where he was senior vice president for public affairs. He joined Roosevelt House in September 2015, where he directs academic programs for Hunter College undergraduates in public policy and human rights, and hosts public programs on history and current events.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be held on February 23, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. in CUB 260 at Gettysburg College. We hope to see you there!

ANDRIOLI:  As you discuss in your prize-winning Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion, Lincoln was not the beloved president that he is today. Many Northerners despised him as much as Southerners did. Based on your research for Lincoln and the Power of the Press, do you think Lincoln really earned the reputation of “Honest Abe”?

HOLZER:  Here is one Lincoln legend that I think is true.  Impressed by stories of George Washington’s unassailable honesty from his own boyhood on, Lincoln really did try to live up to the example so dramatically retold by Parson Weems in his early life of Washington.  Moreover, Lincoln worked off the debt he incurred when that book was damaged while in his possession! And we do have testimony from Lincoln’s early friends, relatives, and neighbors that he too was meticulously, almost obsessively honest—his wife said honesty was almost a “mania” with him (she should know!).  So the young man who always got asked to be the judge at tugs-of-war or wrestling matches, earned his way to the sobriquet that followed him through the 1860 presidential campaign—and while many of his unique traits were criticized during his White House years (including his love of humor and the theater), I don’t think anyone seriously questioned his honesty.  It was a virtue he wore proudly and a mantle he deserved. Continue reading “Lincoln Scholar Harold Holzer Teases His Upcoming Lecture at Gettysburg College”

Happy Valentine’s Day from the CWI

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We at the Civil War Institute want to wish you a very happy Valentine’s Day. As for Thanksgiving and Christmas, CWI Fellow Megan McNish ’16 has once again created a Buzzfeed post for your browsing pleasure with help from Jen Simone ’18 and Alex Andrioli ’18. This time, they’ve created a set of Civil War-themed Valentine’s Day memes for your viewing pleasure.

If you’ve been keeping up with our posts this week, you will have noticed that we were feeling the season of Valentine’s Day this year. We ran a series of posts on romance in the Civil War, which for your convenience we’ve collected below.

On Monday, Jeff Lauck began our week of Civil War love stories with the tragic tale of Francis and Arabella Barlow. Mrs. Barlow followed her husband off to war as a nurse, cared for him when he suffered multiple injuries, and earned a reputation for her courageous and diligent service. Sadly, only one of them returned from the war. Continue reading “Happy Valentine’s Day from the CWI”