CWI Fellows and Friends Hit Up Public History Conference

This past weekend, a number of Gettysburg College students attended the 2016 Annual Meeting of the National Council on Public History. We asked a few of the CWI Fellows to share their reflections on the event.

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CWI Fellows, Gettysburg College alumni, and past and future Pohanka Interns joined CWI Associate Director Jill Titus in representing Gettysburg College at the National Council on Public History.

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A Call to Arms: Inciting the South with Poetry

By Jules Sebock ’18

Born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1828, Henry Timrod was the son of an amateur poet who passed the talent on to his son. The younger Timrod was classically educated at the University of Georgia, after which he studied law and finally served as a teacher and tutor back home in Charleston. Though he hadn’t published more than one volume’s worth of poetry before the Civil War, Henry would become the unofficial “poet laureate” of the Confederacy, known for his rousing, patriotic poems.

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Photo via Wikimedia commons: Illustrated from a book “Southern life in southern literature; selections of representative prose and poetry (c1917)” edited by Maurice Garland Fulton from https://archive.org/details/southernlife00fultrich.

Unlike many of his fellow war poets, Timrod was not a hardened soldier–in fact, his short enlistment ended almost immediately due to his poor health. However, his service as a correspondent meant that he bore witness to dramatic moments such as the Battle of Shiloh.

Initially, Timrod’s wartime poetry was overwhelmingly hopeful, not surprising in a nation that expected the war to soon be over. The moods of his works fluctuated with the world around him, however, and changed drastically as the war progressed. Continue reading “A Call to Arms: Inciting the South with Poetry”

Fortenbaugh 2015: The Historian’s Biggest Fear: A Numerical Approach to the Past

By Jules Sebock ’18

Every November 19, the anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the Robert Fortenbaugh Memorial Lecture is presented in honor of a late Gettysburg College professor. Each year, a distinguished scholar gives a presentation with the goal of offering a lecture that is understandable to the general public while maintaining its historical integrity.

Joining the likes of Kenneth Stampp, Drew Gilpin Faust, and Elizabeth Fox Genovese, Joseph T. Glatthaar of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill delivered this year’s 54th annual Fortenbaugh Lecture. “When I think of the incredible historians that have given this lecture, I’m absolutely honored,” he said of the distinction.

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Dr. Joseph T. Glatthaar.

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"We Can Not Dedicate, We Can Not Consecrate, We Can Not Hallow This Ground": But We’ll Certainly Try

By Jules Sebock ’18

When Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin and local attorney (and Gettysburg College alumnus) David Wills set out to create a final resting place for the dead of the Battle of Gettysburg, renowned orator Edward Everett was the clear choice as the dedication ceremony’s keynote speaker.  Wills’s formal invitation to President Abraham Lincoln read thus:  “It is the desire that, after the Oration, you, as Chief Executive of the Nation, formally set apart these grounds to their Sacred use by a few appropriate remarks.”  From that phrase, the Gettysburg Address would be born.

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The speakers at this year’s Dedication Day event. Photograph by the author.

Since that day, the world has both noted and remembered the President’s words.  Each year at the National Cemetery, this remembrance is epitomized in the annual Dedication Day ceremony.  This event is notable for both its solemn commemoration and its distinguished guest speakers. The keynote address was given this year by humorist and storyteller Garrison Keillor, known best as the host of the radio show A Prairie Home Companion. Continue reading “"We Can Not Dedicate, We Can Not Consecrate, We Can Not Hallow This Ground": But We’ll Certainly Try”

Not All Spooks: In Defense of Gettysburg’s Ghost Tours

By Jules Sebock ’18

Many moons ago, I visited Gettysburg as part of the CWI Summer Conference High School Scholarship Program.  One night, though exhausted from our daily lectures and tours, a group of us decided to continue indulging in the history around us in a method only a band of curious teenagers would compile:  a self-led ghost hunt of the College campus.

The night served to unite us as we exchanged stories of the Blue Boy and the mysterious basement of Penn Hall.  We didn’t have fancy equipment for our hunt, but led one another through the dark, unfamiliar paths, intermingling fact and fiction.  We didn’t catch sight of any ghosts on Stine Lake, but we made lifelong friendships.

This anecdote leads to a question:  where does the concept of Gettysburg’s spookier past fall in a landscape dominated by history?  On that night, that group of kids found a way to incorporate it, innocently and with as much truth as we knew.  Why, then, is it so difficult for many to reconcile it with the tales of Lee and Meade that haunt this hallowed ground?

Gettysburg College's Pennsylvania Hall is just one of the sites where tour guides interweave the historic and the spiritual to intrigue and entertain their patrons.
Gettysburg College’s Pennsylvania Hall is just one of the sites where tour guides interweave the historic and the spiritual to intrigue and entertain their patrons. Photograph by Kevin Lavery ’16.

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