Competing Memory: Camp Colt’s Place in Gettysburg History

By Anika Jensen ’18

I recently came face-to-face with the issue of relevance in my research on Camp Colt for a public history class, and in studying the tankers’ noble intentions—preserving democracy, stemming German militarization, progressing American innovation—on an equally noble battlefield, I came to an troubling impasse: should America’s first tank school, which operated on the same ground where men fell in droves during Pickett’s Charge roughly fifty years prior, be recognized to the same degree as the Battle of Gettysburg? Is there a way to justify discussing Eisenhower’s command over the fledgling tank corps, which never saw combat, in the same light as the Civil War’s costliest land battle? To me, of course, the answer is yes. With my interests lying in the First World War, I think the Camp Colt experience proves imperative to understanding Gettysburg as a place, but I also see it as more than a neat anecdote. The training that occurred on the battlefield in 1918 paved the way for America’s participation in modern, armored war and established Dwight D. Eisenhower as a notable leader. Moreover, the camp’s trainees looked to Civil War era values of bravery and duty, memorialized in stories about Joshua Chamberlain and Pickett’s Charge, to establish a new martial masculinity for the 20th century.

That said, I understand the opposition. Gettysburg is the holy of holies, a national shrine, and the ultimate signifier of honor, duty, and sacrifice. To place its memory and its venerated dead beside a group of recruits who never saw combat, never really impacted the course of the Great War, would be to trivialize the battlefield that for so long has served to remember and consecrate. I understand the argument that they simply cannot be compared in scale and experience. If Gettysburg can only hold one group’s memory, then, it should be those that fought and fell there in 1863.

 

ft-17
Camp Colt recruits trained with the Renault FT-17. Photo credit: Eisenhower National Historical Site, Gettysburg National Military Park

The debate is one of static versus continuing history. Static history, in this case, focuses on Gettysburg as a Civil War site, a logical idea, given that the majority of this town’s visitors are more interested in learning about the Bloody Angle than the Renault FT-17. Static history certainly evolves, evident in Gettysburg’s increasing importance in Civil Rights and African American history, but it prioritizes singularity over collectivism. Here, many of us establish a sense of place based on a single battle and its aftermath, often overlooking any events or cultural phenomenon that do not connect to the Civil War directly. It makes it easier to understand the town in which we live.

But there is much to be said about continuing history, too. By studying Camp Colt and the Great War alongside the Civil War, we create a bigger picture of American history that absorbs both the 19th and 20th century and helps us understand things as they are. This approach works with history as a continuum. It uses the Battle of Gettysburg to interpret the Camp Colt experience, emphasizing the importance of both while creating a more complete, whole idea of “Gettysburg.” While I recognize the necessity of preservation, I firmly believe that it can survive alongside a more continuous, all-encompassing historical narrative.

When I delivered an interpretive program on the Camp Colt experience, placing the summer of 1863 beside the summer of 1918, I received positive feedback (from Civil War buffs, no less). I realized that focusing on Camp Colt does not detract from the collective Gettysburg memory or trivialize the battle but rather enhances the sense of place and timelessness this town holds. It was this same sense of place, after all, that motivated Eisenhower’s tank recruits to emulate the bravery and comradeship of Gettysburg’s dead. By 1918, the young tankers knew what they would face in France, but they remained willing to serve, motivated by the ground on which they trained. It does not matter, then, that they never made it into combat; their willingness is enough to warrant their memory.

Eisenhower’s tank recruits, selected specifically for their bravery and competence under pressure, build upon the Gettysburg we know and expanded our understanding of war, memory, suffering, martial masculinity, and duty. In a sense, the men of Camp Colt were casualties of war, as 150 died of the Spanish Flu, a testament to the truly global nature of the First World War. This point is combated; can we really call them casualties of the war if they never suffered in the trenches of France or the mountains of Italy? That is the tragedy and revelation of the Great War: there were no more illusions about nobility in death, no more Victorian ideas of grand self-sacrifice, no more ars moriendi as was perpetuated during the Civil War era.

Moreover, we cannot separate the two wars entirely. The Civil War was fresh in American minds in 1918, as demonstrated by a number of newspaper articles and editorials noting the importance of remembering the country’s bloodiest conflict in the midst of global war. Furthermore, over the course of five years the battlefield had witnessed a fifty-year anniversary, the dedication of the Virginia memorial, a boom in tourism, and a tense attempt at reconciliation. With the Great Migration just beginning and an unwelcome atmosphere greeting African American soldiers returning from the front, it is clear that the race issues that impacted the Civil War were far from resolved. Moreover, many monuments erected from 1914 to 1918 spoke directly to the Great War; speeches, inscriptions, and the monuments themselves drew on Civil War stories and culture heroes—Bobby Lee, Chamberlain, Grant, and the like—to encourage steadfast patriotism amidst the threat of German militarism.

If Camp Colt has taught me anything, it is that memory is not exclusive but collective. Its space in the Gettysburg narrative may be contentious, but I hold that it is essential. In the same way that the memory of Pickett’s Charge motivated young tankers to train harder and inspired them to serve on some of the world’s deadliest battlefields, our memory of Camp Colt can be used to further consecrate Gettysburg and understand it as a place both remaining in history and continuing in time.

Discovering the War at Home: Oakland Manor, George Gaither, and the Shipley Brothers

By Annika Jensen ’18

From my high school, which is majority African American, it takes only ten minutes to drive to Oakland Manor, a grand, sweeping 19th century-style stone house that sits in my hometown of Columbia, Maryland, a town made up mainly of apartments and identical suburban homes. Growing up, the manor was no more than a big, old building that hosted weddings and was somehow tied to my local history. Growing up, moreover, I did not realize the extent to which my hometown was tied to slavery and the Civil War; both seemed too far removed from a community that stressed diversity and inclusion throughout my childhood. However, after discovering a monument to the Confederate soldiers from Howard County, in which Columbia is located, I learned that Oakland Manor holds a historical narrative that I never knew existed so close to home. During the Civil War, it was the property of a cavalry officer who joined the Confederacy and owned three slaves–all brothers who joined the USCT and fought against their former owner’s cause. Ten minutes from my high school was sitting an opportunity to learn about and interpret slavery and the Civil War in my hometown.

The Confederate cavalry officer was George Riggs Gaither, a wealthy planter and slave-owner, and a descendant of the founders of Gaithersburg, Maryland. Gaither was born in Baltimore in 1831 to a prominent family (one that had been in Maryland since 1650) and resided in Oakland Manor, which he called “Bleak House,” after the contemporaneous Dickens novel. At least three black men were enslaved at Oakland Manor: brothers Mason, William, and Joseph Shipley. Before the start of the Civil War, Gaither formed a cavalry unit, the Howard County Dragoons, that consisted mainly of landed gentry, many of whom owned slaves, and spent most of its time drilling and parading for the locals.

gaither
Captain George Riggs Gaither’s Howard County Dragoons were mostly landed gentry, many of whom owned slaves. Photo via Library of Congress.

The Dragoons sprung into action after the Baltimore Riots on April 19, 1861, as they were stationed in the city to help quell the violence and keep the peace. However, the Dragoons were soon asked to swear allegiance to the United States, and most refused, heading south to Leesburg where they split up into Company K, 1st Virginia Cavalry, Company M, 1st Maryland Cavalry, and Company K, 2nd Maryland Cavalry. Gaither himself joined Company K of the 1st Virginia on May 14, not even a month after the riots, and was promoted to Captain that July. Neither Gaither or his men specified why they left the Union after being asked to swear allegiance, but it is not unusual to think that a wealthy slave owner in a border state would have opposed President Lincoln’s administration and the actions taken to keep Maryland from seceding. Gaither could have been moved by his belief in states’ rights, his opposition to government control, or his adherence to the institution of slavery.

Gaither saw combat at 2nd Manassas (where he was captured and exchanged about a month later), Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and here at Gettysburg. Though Gaither himself was probably still in captivity at the time, the 1st Virginia Cavalry was indeed present at the Battle of Antietam, making it likely that some of the original Howard County Dragoons would have fought in their home state. The return may have been as bittersweet and complex as the Dragoons’ relationship to Maryland. While they likely held a tremendous amount of state pride, given that they were highly esteemed in Maryland society and were willing to risk danger or death to quell the Baltimore riots, they were now unwelcome in their home, a slave state polarized by pro-Union and pro-Confederacy sentiment. They entered Maryland not as successful knights returning from a crusade for their home state but rather as outsiders campaigning against fellow statesmen.

Gaither was forced to resign due to ill health in October, 1863. A year later, he was sent to Europe on a mission for the Confederacy, the nature of which is not known today. However, given Gaither’s economic and social status, as well as his post-war employment in the cotton industry, it might be speculated that he was sent to propose economic assistance for the Confederacy. On July 15, 1865, Gaither returned to Baltimore and signed an oath of allegiance to the United States, in which he agreed to “support all laws and proclamations which have been made during the existing rebellion with reference to the emancipation of slaves.” He would never own property of the likes of Mason, William, and Joseph again. Riggs also wrote to President Johnson to ask for pardon, arguing that he had left the Union before Lincoln had “establish[ed] military lines” and no longer had any connection with the Confederacy. He was pardoned in September. Despite his former role in the Confederacy, Gaither became a cotton trader and an active member of the Maryland militia. He died in 1899.

Oakland_Manor
Oakland Manor. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

In my research, I failed to find any detailed accounts of Gaither’s post-war life in Maryland. Given that he did come from a wealthy family, it is likely that he received financial support or simply had enough left over to reintegrate himself into society and kick-start his cotton-trading endeavors. A more complicated matter is his reception; Gaither left his home landed and well-respected and returned, to some, a traitor. While his family, friends, and business contacts may have held no resentment, given his recent pardon, other members of the community would not have found his time in the Confederate army so palatable. This can be concluded from Howard County’s voting patterns: in 1860, only 0-1 percent of Howard County voted for Lincoln, while in 1864, 40-50 percent voted for the incumbent emancipator. This data could represent an increase in abolitionist—at least Republican—sentiment, and thus, I have come to conclude that Gaither certainly would have had his enemies at home in Howard County.

But Captain Gaither was not the only resident of Oakland Manor to serve in the Civil War. In November 1863, Mason, William, and Joseph Shipley, Gaither’s former slaves, joined the 9th USCT at Camp Stanton, Maryland. William was killed on August 14 or 15, 1864, in the skirmishes at Deep Bottom, Virginia. Mason and Joseph went on to fight at Chaffin’s Farm and Fair Oaks and were entrenched outside of Richmond before occupying the city on April 3, 1865. They survived the war and were mustered out on November 20, 1866. Mason and Joseph’s rise from slavery to occupying the Confederate capital represents a tremendous shift in opportunity from 1860 to 1865 alone; what would have been the white slave owner’s nightmare–an armed black man–was now the Shipley brothers’ manifestation of freedom. For them to fight against their former master’s cause, moreover, was a powerful demonstration of autonomy as well as the sweeping presence of African American soldiers fighting for the Union. The case that most interested and inspired me throughout the research process was that of William, one of the 9th USCT’s 46 enlisted men to be killed in action, whose death is a result of the fledgling freedom that he, along with his brothers and millions of other African Americans, finally achieved in life.

Thus, in the light of a controversy surrounding the removal of a Confederate monument from my county courthouse, I was able to discover a relatively unknown bit of local black history and learn more about divided sentiments in my hometown. The story of the Shipley brothers and Captain Gaither pushed me to think of the nature of Civil War memory and monumentation: why would Howard County, which saw a surge in Republican and abolitionist sentiment from 1860 to 1864 and now embraces diversity in its government, school system, and various communities, memorialize Gaither and not the Shipleys? How could the legacy of Oakland Manor be conceptualized in public education and used to teach our community about our local history? Why does all of this even matter?

To me, it matters because it presents a number of interpretive opportunities. Oakland Manor itself could be used as a teaching site to give Howard County residents an idea of what slavery and plantation life looked like in our community. Indeed, I think it would differ from our ideas of slavery derived from perceptions of the Deep South and bring the issue closer to home. It also presents the opportunity to discuss Reconstruction—how did Gaither manage post-war success despite his legacy as a slave owner and a Confederate? Moreover, Civil War memory is a hot-button topic in my town, as memory of the removal of the Confederate monument in front of the Howard County Courthouse is still fresh in our minds. How then, can we use both the Shipleys and Gaither in our dialogue about racial tolerance and monumentation? What does their story tell us about racial progress and regress in America?

Today, in addition to hosting weddings, Oakland Manor houses the old slave quarters and the Howard County Center of African American Culture, an older stone building that is presumed to have been the Dragoons’ garrison. The Civil War was much more a part of my town than I ever expected. Perhaps, in a few years, the stories of Mason, William, and Joseph Shipley will be told at my high school. Perhaps, in a few years, a resident will walk past Oakland Manor and think not only of its wealthy, 19th century owners, but of the slaves who left it to fight for freedom and justice.


Sources

9th Regiment Infantry United States Colored Troops.” National Park Service. Last modified February 26, 2015.

Baltimore: Its History and Its People, Volume II-Biography. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1912.

Oath of Allegiance for Gaither, George Riggs, September, 1865. Amnesty Papers, Compiled 1865-1867. National Archives, Washington, D.C. Accessed via fold3.com.

Captain George Riggs Gaither.” Daily Observations from the Civil War. Last modified August 3, 2012.

Gaither, George Riggs. Letter to President Andrew Johnson, August, 1865. Amnesty Papers, Compiled 1865-1867. National Archives, Washington, D.C. Accessed via fold3.com.

Ingham, Daniel. “Joseph Shipley.” Maryland State Archives. Last modified August 21, 2013.

McNish, “‘Spare Your Country’s Flag’: Unionist Sentiment in Frederick, Maryland 1860-1865.” Gettysburg College Journal of the Civil War Era 6 (2016).

Moses, Ann Tyler. “Glimpses of Soldiers’ Lives: Captain George Riggs Gaither.” Library of Congress. Last modified July 2015.

Robby, F. “Oakland Manor Historical Marker.” Historical Marker Database. Last modified June 16, 2016.

To Arms! Announcing the 2017-2018 CWI Fellows

The Civil War Institute Fellows are back with replenished ranks for the 2017-18 academic year. This year, our veteran writers will be joined by green troops eagerly waiting to “see the elephant.” Armed with notebooks, libraries, and word processors, they stand united in line of battle to engage the history around them.

The Gettysburg Compiler remains the flagship of the fellowship, offering students the opportunity to showcase their hard work for the greater public. In the coming weeks and months, expect to see the Fellows tackle the past and present in new and exciting ways. As before, Fellows will share stories from the past, covering topics such as civilian life, slavery, and war and incorporating themes such as race, gender, and memory. The Fellows will be digging deep into the annals of history, examining eyewitness accounts of the often chaotic past and analyzing the ways in which people have engaged with their own versions of history. The Fellows are also keenly aware of their own place in history, so be sure to look out for their ruminations on the “living” history.

Continue reading “To Arms! Announcing the 2017-2018 CWI Fellows”

Sticking to His Plan: An Interview with Dedication Day Keynote Speaker LeVar Burton

By Annika Jensen ’18

The week before Dedication Day I had the privilege of interviewing keynote speaker and Emmy Award-winning actor LeVar Burton, who has starred in Roots, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Reading Rainbow. I knew this was the perfect opportunity to engage in a serious dialogue about race, as the most dramatic and consequential presidential elections had been decided just a week previous, and I was thrilled when Mr. Burton answered all of my questions with poise and understanding, charging head-on into difficult but immensely relevant topics. The messages he conveyed are powerful and will stick with me as I navigate the political climate of the next four years (and beyond), and his call to action has encouraged me to seek meaningful and effective ways of promoting tolerance and pursuing change. I know his words will have the same effect on many of you.

Mr. Burton graciously consented to a photograph and group hug with student Luke Frigon, the author, and Penny Isherwood's esteemed mother, Sam. Photo courtesy of the author.
Mr. Burton graciously consented to a photograph and group hug with student Luke Frigon, the author, and Penny Isherwood’s esteemed mother, Sam. Photo courtesy of the author.

I extend my sincerest thanks to Mr. Burton not only for agreeing to be interviewed, but for giving all of us something to think about. Here is what he said.

The Gettysburg Compiler: Considering the historical significance of Gettysburg and the role of race in the Civil War, how can we create and foster dialogue about race on campus after this month’s election results?

LeVar BurtonMy decision since [the election] has been to rededicate myself to the work I consider my life’s mission. In the service of that, I’ve promised myself that today and tomorrow and Saturday and every day I am able, for the remainder of my life, to speak my truth. Having grown up a black person I have often times held my tongue when I wanted to say what was in my heart for fear of offending the majority population. However, the difference between where we are now and Lincoln’s time is the majority population is no longer the majority. This country has changed dramatically. The Civil War and the necessity for Lincoln’s address in Gettysburg was in response to a changing America, even then. Continue reading “Sticking to His Plan: An Interview with Dedication Day Keynote Speaker LeVar Burton”

Civil War Mythbusters: Grappling with the Lost Cause

Last fall, CWI Fellow (and now Gettysburg College graduate) Megan McNish ’16 shared this reflection on the experience of commemorating the Civil War in spite of having no family members who were in America during the conflict. A few hours later, we received a notification that someone had responded to the post. 

We receive many comments on the Gettysburg Compiler, and not infrequently do they come from adherents of the Lost Cause mythology. Few comments, however, have been as detailed and historically problematic as the one Megan’s post received. We invited the Fellows (past and present) to respond with their own comments to different parts of the argument, and now we are publishing their compiled responses along with the original comment. 

The text in the gray boxes below was originally published by the commenter as one long paragraph. We have divided it into sections (though maintained the original order) so that the Fellows’ responses could be inserted immediately after the sections to which they refer. We have also changed visible URLs into hyperlinks for the sake of aesthetic appeal. Apart from these tweaks, no edits have been made to the content, grammar, style, or spelling for either the Fellows or the original commenter. Not every possible critique of the comment is included below as each student was asked to hone in on one or two parts that they thought would most benefit from further discussion and context. 

Feel free to share your own impressions and reactions in the comment section. 

The comment begins:

I commend your passion on this subject and it is truly an honor to read about a youth that studies history. I would however like to set the record straight about the Civil War and the real reasons it was fought. This War just like many others throughout history were fought over greed. The South did not betray their fellow countrymen but rather the North oppressed the Southern states with unfair taxation and think about that for a moment UNFAIR TAXATION. Does that ring a bell think the Boston Tea Party.

Ryan Nadeau ’16:  What makes a tax unfair? Certainly, the case can be made for taxation without representation, as it was during the Revolution. By our standards of representative democracy, that’s just fine. However, prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, the South had plenty of representation. In the Thirty-sixth Congress, which sat from 1859 to the opening days of 1861, the states of the Confederacy held twenty-four of the sixty-six seats in the Senate (two for each state) and sixty-six of two-hundred and thirty-eight seats in the House of Representatives. Admittedly, this number for the House seems unusually low– and it was. Had the South abolished slavery, they would have received significant increases to their political representation. The Three-Fifth’s Compromise, as outlined in the Constitution, recognized only three out of every five slaves towards the population of a state when accounting for representation. Continue reading “Civil War Mythbusters: Grappling with the Lost Cause”

Remember Harpers Ferry: Masculinity and the 126th New York

By Annika Jensen ’18

“The Harpers Ferry Cowards” is not an enviable nickname, but it is the one with which the 126th New York Infantry was stuck after September 15, 1862, the date that saw the largest capture of United States troops until the Battle of Bataan roughly 70 years later. The regiment, which had been active for a mere 21 days, was stationed on Maryland Heights and had been successful in fending off Joseph Kershaw’s brigade on September 12 and 13, but when the 126th observed their colonel, Eliakim Sherrill, being carried from the field after receiving a wound to the face, a few companies lost all bearings and fled. After the surrender on September 15, the 126th was paroled at Camp Douglas in Chicago until November.

In retrospect, the treatment these New Yorkers received for cowardice and the reputation they bore seems difficult to validate (after all, only about 20% of the regiment fled, while the rest stood their ground), but Civil War era notions of masculinity were far too strict to excuse them; they would remain the Harpers Ferry Cowards until their actions at Cemetery Ridge on July 3 reinforced their honor. An account of the regiment’s experience by Captain Winfield Scott (not to be confused with the Winfield Scott of The Anaconda Plan) during Pickett’s Charge bathes the regiment in golden light: “That cheer struck terror into the heart of the wavering foe, and nerved to desperation and deeds of valor the boys in blue.” Scott’s account is a romantic one, extolling the bravery of the 126th, men who were cowards no more. “Thus officers and men, with perfect composure, and in confidence, formed the line,” he writes; “They poured in a terrible fire upon us. We answered it with another more terrible.”

Monument to the 126th New York Infantry at Ziegler's Grove. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
Monument to the 126th New York Infantry at Ziegler’s Grove. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Continue reading “Remember Harpers Ferry: Masculinity and the 126th New York”

Beneath the Mulberry Tree: Sarah Edmonds and Women in Memory

By Annika Jensen ’18

In her memoir Nurse and Spy in the Union Army, Sarah Emma Edmonds, a woman fighting in the Union Army disguised as a man, employed florid diction and a subtle romantic flare to illustrate an emotional and confounding moment in the aftermath of the Battle of Antietam: discovering another woman undercover. Edmonds writes of the “pale, sweet face of a youthful soldier,” of a boy trembling from blood loss who, she knew, had only a few more minutes on earth. He tasted his last sip of water, and with his remaining breaths the soldier beckoned Edmonds closer and uttered a secret: that he was really she, a woman who had enlisted and seen her brother, her only family, die upon the same field just a few hours before. The soldier confessed to being a devout Christian and asked only that she be buried by Emma, so no other might discover her true identity. She then died, “calm and peaceful.” Emma obliged the soldier’s request and buried her beneath a mulberry tree; she would be separated from her fallen comrades but rest upon the same field. Emma wrote of the woman soldier, “There she sleeps in that beautiful forest where the soft southern breezes sigh mournfully through the foliage, and the little birds sing sweetly above her grave.”

Through the lens of gender or feminist criticism, which analyzes the social and political status of women as well as their relationships within and without their gender, this is perhaps the most evocative and compelling anecdote of Edmonds’ memoir; not only is the fallen soldier made a romantic hero by the overwhelming, illustrious language, but the interaction between Edmonds and the unnamed is depicted as one between two women, not two women pretending to be men. Essentially, Emma reverts back to her true gender–her truest self–in this instance, and it is clear that the anonymous soldier found, in choosing to reveal her secret upon her death, solace in her womanhood.

Sarah Emma Edmonds, alias Franklin Thompson, served as a soldier, nurse, and spy in the 2nd Michigan Infantry. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
Sarah Emma Edmonds, alias Franklin Thompson, served as a soldier, nurse, and spy in the 2nd Michigan Infantry. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Continue reading “Beneath the Mulberry Tree: Sarah Edmonds and Women in Memory”

Prepared to Engage: Presenting the 2016-2017 CWI Fellows

By Annika Jensen ’18

The 2016-17 Civil War Institute Fellows are back on campaign: a company of hardened veterans recently tested by summer internships and fascinating research positions will be joined by a platoon of fresh recruits eager for excitement and their baptism of fire. Now united, they stand on the fringes of battle, preparing blank word documents and primary sources. They await the bugle call that will urge them forward into the challenge of comprehending not just the Civil War but themselves as historians, students, and scholars.

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of Shawna Sherrell/Gettysburg College.

Continue reading “Prepared to Engage: Presenting the 2016-2017 CWI Fellows”

Now Quite Certain: Uncovering the Unexpected History of Harpers Ferry

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 Annika Jensen ’18

If my experience in Harpers Ferry this summer had a thesis statement, it would be this: there is so much more than John Brown.

Jensen 1
Photo courtesy of Annika Jensen.

Going into my first day of work in the education department I had a tightly-wrapped set of expectations regarding not only the nature of the place in which I was now living but my own skills as an interpreter as well as a teacher; I was just as convinced that Harpers Ferry was a town trapped in the history of the Civil War as I was that I was no good with kids. I had read about Jackson’s position in the town and Sheridan’s campaign in the Shenandoah Valley, but I could not admit to knowing much more than that. Continue reading “Now Quite Certain: Uncovering the Unexpected History of Harpers Ferry”

Changemakers: Harpers Ferry History Prompts Social Awareness

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 Annika Jensen ’18

The day after the mass shooting at the Orlando gay nightclub Pulse was a Monday, and I was thoroughly unable to process my emotions or ponder the repercussions of the massacre upon walking into work that morning. I oscillated between bewilderment, grief, hopelessness, anger. My heart was tender. I chose silence as a defense mechanism.

In the midst of a traumatic year of violence, a year of being roused early many mornings by my phone buzzing with news updates about another terrorist attack or another shooting, this event had affected me the most profoundly, striking me full of emotion and affecting my day-to-day life more so than any other tragedy in the previous months. I fumbled through the motions of getting dressed, making my coffee, brushing my teeth in a state of overwhelm. I carried an emptiness when I led the day’s student group, about twenty campers exploring nearby parks and battlefields, across the B&O Railroad Bridge into lower town, and while my supervisor was getting them oriented with park rules and guidelines I felt I was in mourning.

Photo by the author
Photo by the author

Continue reading “Changemakers: Harpers Ferry History Prompts Social Awareness”