During the Fall Semester, Civil War Institute Fellows spent at least 400 collective hours researching and writing a wide variety of blog posts for The Gettysburg Compiler. Our Fellows read about individual veteran soldiers, attended Gettysburg College campus events, and participated in Sesquicentennial commemorations to truly immerse themselves in Civil War culture—both past and present. Our Fellows covered campus events, examined artifacts in Gettysburg College’s Special Collections, analyzed President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s time in Gettysburg, and studied veteran amputees during and after the American Civil War. Before we look to a new semester of student research, let us recall some of our original student scholarship, in case you missed it the first time around.
Many Civil War Institute student scholars have investigated the nature of battle and relayed the stories of men who fought at Gettysburg and on battlefields across the country. But when the cannons cease fire and the armies leave the field, the wounds of war still litter the landscape. Heather Clancy, ’15, brought to light the carnage of the town of Gettysburg following July 3, 1863, through a Civil War surgeon’s letter home. F.M. Stoke wrote about the bodies that lay rotting on the field, that there were seemingly endless rows of headstones not far from the hospital tents, and, at the end of his letter, proclaimed “No more.” Through Stoke’s words, we were able to understand that battle did not end with the final shot; the scars of war would last.
Kevin Lavery, ’16, explored the life of Richard D. Dunphy, an Irish immigrant, veteran of the US Navy, and recipient of the Medal of Honor for his service aboard the USS Hartford during the Battle of Mobile Bay. Dunphy ended his active Civil War service as a double arm amputee and, in order to acquire his Medal of Honor, had to write directly to Gideon Welles. Other fellows examined different Medal of Honor recipients, such as Lewis A. Horton. Sarah Johnson, ’15, delved into Horton’s Civil War service, learning that his post-war experience as an amputee was a dramatic lifestyle adjustment. Though he learned to use prosthetic arms, Horton did not find them very helpful. Instead, he preferred to adapt to life without arms by writing with a pen in his mouth and learning how to sail his yacht without the help of prosthetics. During the Fall Semester, CWI Fellows carefully examined veteran amputees and asked challenging questions about their assimilation back into society as well as how their experiences as Medal of Honor recipients differed.
2013 was an important year in Gettysburg and at Gettysburg College. The town, college, and National Park hosted numerous events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address. During both of these landmark events, as well as supplementary lectures, film screenings, and panel discussions, our Fellows listened, learned, and engaged with history. During the annual Fortenbaugh lecture, with David Blight as the keynote speaker, Brianna Kirk, ’15, synthesized Blight’s remarks about the place of tragedy in American memory. She wrote that “there is no better way to write history, the story of humanity, than with that human element of tragedy.” At the conclusion of the semester, Fellow Bryan Caswell, ’15, reflected on the 150th commemoration of the Battle of Gettysburg in a three-part installment which culminated with the realization that, though Gettysburg was perhaps the greatest battle of the Civil War, it was only one piece of an overwhelming, costly engagement that would not have happened without lesser-known battles. In an insightful series on Civil War commemoration, Caswell was able to not only analyze the Battle of Gettysburg, but contextualize it within the broader lens of Civil War engagements. Throughout the semester, Kirk, Caswell, and their peers engaged with these events on a deep level and they brought the heart of these commemorations to the general public by way of The Gettysburg Compiler.
Though the Sesquicentennial year in Gettysburg has passed, there are many themes that reach far into the future. During Fall 2013, Fellow Brian Johnson, ’14, wrote a series of posts about Gettysburg’s African-American community before and during the Battle of Gettysburg, indicating a shift in thought from enslavement to freedom; a trend that continued following 1865. Just as Brian Johnson did last year, we at the Civil War Institute are looking to a bright new future of Civil War scholarship and another successful semester of student research that both engages with and challenges accepted conventions and stories surrounding the War and Gettysburg’s varied past. With this in mind, we usher in 2014 and a new year of great work.