This past week I was given the opportunity to interview D. Scott Hartwig, Chief Historian of the Gettysburg National Military Park. I was able to ask him several questions and these are his answers.
1) Your new book, To Antietam Creek: The Maryland Campaign of September 1862, is the first part of a two volume series dealing with the lead up and the battle of Antietam. This first volume covers solely the two weeks leading up to the battle, and ends right on the eve of the battle itself. Why two volumes instead of one?
The Maryland Campaign is a big story and traditionally in single volumes about the campaign, the focus has been on the Battle of Antietam. I wanted to do a thorough treatment of the battles of South Mountain and the siege and capture of Harpers Ferry, which resulted in the largest surrender of U.S. soldiers until World War II. To do this it was necessary to cover the campaign in two volumes. I saw the night of September 16 as a natural point to stop volume 1, since, in a sense, that night marks the end of the America that was and the beginning of the America that will be. The Battle of Antietam will enable Lincoln to issue his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and this will set in motion forces that will permanently alter the country.
History only has value if it is relevant. What public history can do is help visitors make connections and find value in history and the preservation of historic places because they are brought to understand its relevancy. For example, at Gettysburg, on appropriate programs, we can help visitors understand how the Gettysburg Address and the events of the Civil War helped to shape what today many believe America stands for. Ask a student “what does America stand for” and you will invariably hear answers like “freedom,” “equality,” and a “government of the people.” But a majority of Americans in the past did not always believe those things, or believed they only applied to certain people.
5.) What are you passionate about besides the Civil War?
Fishing, being outdoors, reading, writing. I could go on – I have too many hobbies.