The Hope of Appomattox

By Emma Murphy ’15

Throughout the sesquicentennial, I have often found myself wondering what the end of the 150th anniversaries and the surrender at Appomattox would bring to present Civil War memory. What lessons do we take away from that small stuffy room in the McLean House, with the fate of the nation hanging in the balance?

Photo credit to the author.
Photo credit to the author.

I was fortunate enough to attend the 150th anniversary of the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9. Purposely decked out in all Gettysburg College and Civil War Institute attire, I eagerly awaited the many discussions and debates between me and fellow visitors. I had imagined the historic site to be crawling with Lost Causers and neo-Confederates. But to my surprise, as the crowd began cramming in front of the stage at 1 o’clock, the time when General Lee had arrived exactly 150 years before, the focus shifted to the importance and overall historical context of the ground on which we stood. As Robin Snyder, the Acting Superintendent of Appomattox Courthouse National Historic Site, took the stage, she made the connection between 1865 and 2015 in one word.

 

Hope. Continue reading “The Hope of Appomattox”

Generation 150

By Emma Murphy ’15

With the sesquicentennial of the surrender at Appomattox only one day away, I can’t seem to shake the sentimental sadness of the ending of the anniversaries of the Civil War. I am seeing an end of an era in more ways than one—being a senior here at Gettysburg College ironically makes the four years of my college career land perfectly on the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. 2011 to 2015, 1861 to 1865—can’t get more Civil War than that. I used to think it was a sign and honestly, I still do. But like the soldiers starting up in 1861 and being fortunate enough to make it to 1865, I have learned a lot over the past four years. Putting these lessons into a Civil War context only solidifies the comparison and maybe can even get a little chuckle from my fellow Civil War nuts. So here are the lessons from the College in the Civil War Era (Studies). Continue reading “Generation 150”

Pohanka Reflection: Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park

By Emma Murphy ‘15

This post is part of a series on the experiences of our Pohanka Interns at various historic sites working on the front lines of history as interpreters and curators. Dr. Jill Titus explains the questions our students are engaging with here. 

The beauty of working at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania is the opportunity it offers to engage visitors on four different historical fronts. 1862 demonstrates the slow shift to hard war as the battle of Fredericksburg provokes political change in the war with the Emancipation Proclamation and increased destruction of private property. Chancellorsville demonstrates changing mentality on part of the commanders, making 1863 the year of taking unprecedented risk. Throughout 1864, the war rages on with bloody carnage and stalemate at both the battle of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House as trench warfare foreshadows the grim future of combat. With this opportunity comes an interpretive challenge, both for me as the interpreter and for the visitors themselves. How can visitors relate or connect to the twenty-two hour blood bath at the Bloody Angle? Should we attempt to answer their questions of humanity while we tell stories of destruction?

Emma Murphy FRSP

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“The Battle of Cold Harbor & the Soldier’s Psyche”: An Interview with Ashley Luskey

By Emma Murphy ’15

Ashley Luskey will be speaking at the 2014 Civil War Institute’s Summer Conference on the War in 1864 during which she will give a lecture on Cold Harbor and its contested memory. Luskey is currently a Park Ranger at Richmond National Battlefield and is working towards her PhD in History at West Virginia University. In anticipation of the Summer Institute, Ashley Luskey answered student questions about her research, her lecture topic, and her connection with Gettysburg College and the Civil War Institute. Let’s see what she has in store for us this summer:

Luskey

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Gettysburg’s Dramatic Memory

By Emma Murphy ’15

I was excited to see the first experimental showing of the documentary Hallowed Ground on Thursday, November 14th. The movie focused on many main characters and included the history of a few physical sites. The first character, a Lincoln impersonator, held a deep passion for the time period and the 16th president which kept him going even through economic hardship. His story is symbolic of the difficulties between rivaling definitions of the Civil War.

A large portion of the film included a father-son story of southern Lost Cause sentiment and old time, white supremacist race relations. To offset the radical nature of these Sons of Confederate Veterans, Hallowed Ground featured the narrative of a battlefield guide who argued that the Civil War started over the issue of slavery. These two stories exemplified the constant battle between people who have a connection to the Civil War, whether through ancestors or just auxiliary obsessions.

Cyclorama demo

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Henry A. Kircher’s Unalterable Past

By Emma Murphy ’15

Analyzing soldiers letters’ home gives deep insight into not only the political tensions during the time they were writing, but also the personal struggles they went through during combat. What was it like seeing a close comrade killed during a battle that was viewed as pointless? How did dreams affect soldiers’ views on the war?

While researching Henry A. Kircher of the 12th Missouri Volunteer Infantry, I found a collection of his letters written to loved ones back home during the time he served in the Civil War. Born in Illinois from German immigrants, Kircher spent much of his early years surrounded by German-Americans. Despite his social separation due to his decent, his devotion to the Union led Kircher to enlist in the 9th Illinois Infantry at the age of nineteen. While still with the ninth, he wrote to his father of an accident in camp. A young man had tripped and his rifle fired into the guardhouse, hitting another soldier in the abdomen. “Life and death are fighting,” he wrote of the experience. “Probably the latter one will win.” It did not take long for the young Kircher to be exposed to death.

Murphy -- Henry Kircher Office

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Junior Rangers to History Enthusiasts

By Emma Murphy ’15

With my internship at Richmond National Battlefield Park landing in the middle of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, I have been fortunate enough to experience the world of public history during a major anniversary. However, going to school at Gettysburg College during the same anniversary provides me the academic side of historical interpretation. There has been a great debate about the connection between these two worlds. Whether this connection exists or not has been the question of the summer for me, and while working with Richmond National Battlefield Park, I believe I have found my answer:

Children.

Emma at Tredegar Iron Works
Emma at Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond National Battlefield Park

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Walking Through the Swamp: Real Time at Prospect Hill

by Emma Murphy ’15, Battlefield Correspondent It???s done. Thank God. I thought as I slammed my textbook down on the ???cash for textbooks??? counter. The end of the semester ritual of selling unwanted textbooks was complete. ???Alright,??? the scruffy youn…

By Emma Murphy ’15

It’s done. Thank God. I thought as I slammed my textbook down on the “cash for textbooks” counter. The end of the semester ritual of selling unwanted textbooks was complete.

“Alright,” the scruffy young man said as he rang up my books, “Looks like you’re going to have a lot of play money.”

“Play money?” I asked.

“Yup! Good ol’ wad of beer money,” He handed me a hundred dollars in twenties, “Got any plans for it?”

“Yeah” I laughed, “This is going to get me to the 150th anniversary of Fredericksburg.”

“Oh.” He seemed disappointed, “Well, THAT sounds fun.”

“Yeah,” I said cheerfully, countering his sarcasm.  “It will be.”

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Experiencing the Bloodiest Day: Event Report 150th Antietam

By Emma Murphy ’15 This past weekend, September 14-16, the National Park Service at Antietam National Battlefield celebrated and commemorated the sesquicentennial of Antietam. I was fortunate to be able to attend the commemoration on Friday mornin…

By Emma Murphy ’15

This past weekend, September 14-16, the National Park Service at Antietam National Battlefield celebrated and commemorated the sesquicentennial of Antietam. I was fortunate to be able to attend the commemoration on Friday morning and the some closing remarks on Sunday evening.

It was a beautiful sunny day as I pulled into the Visitor Center parking. Tents covered the lawn in front of the Visitor Center with two large trailers for the Virginia and Pennsylvania Civil War Road Show. There were many spectators and I was excited to be a part of history.

Antietam_008

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