And we’re off

By Ian Isherwood ’00

The CWI Staff congregated at command central/swag center at 7:30 this morning to finalize the work we needed to do to make sure that every nametag was printed, every key and meal card allocated, every swag bag stacked behind our registration tables.

After months of preparation, The War in 1864 was taking shape, the ballroom practically crying for the attentions of our always captivated (and captivating) Civil Warriors.

However, one should not violate the essential secrecy of bureaucratic inner-workings, so the less said about our staff discussions over linen procurement and nametag sorting the better.

Most of the attendees and speakers checked in by four and came, swag encumbered and historical knowledge ensconced, into the ballroom where CWI Director Peter Carmichael welcomed the crowd. Carmichael introduced our Pohanka Interns who had travelled from their respective historic sites to attend the CWI.

Carmichael also recognized Scott Hartwig, who retired this year after a long career in the National Park Service. (It is safe to say that anyone who reads this blog knows of Scott . . . legend is too small a word). Carmichael announced the creation of a special scholarship in Scott’s name for public historians to attend the CWI and recognized this year’s recipients.

Hartwig spoke briefly and reiterated the importance of the CWI and academics like Peter Carmichael who actively engage with the public.

Not to get too personal in what is supposed to be a straight piece, but it was hard not to be a historian who thinks about these issues – the intersection of academic scholarship and the ‘public domain’ – and not be touched, if not outright inspired, by both of these esteemed fellows showing their mutual admiration. If ever there was an example of cooperation and respect for a common goal, it is here.

The first lecture followed Carmichael’s introduction. Brian Jordan (Gettysburg College) gave an overview of the war in 1864. Jordan began by reminding listeners of the way the field of CW Studies has changed in the last twenty years, using the ‘dark turn’ in Civil War Era Studies as a starting point for examining a very grim year of the war. Jordan spoke with the famous Cold Harbor burial party photograph behind him, a fitting image to define a year that, as he reminded us, began with notions of hope of the war ending and ended with the most dismal representation of war’s grim awfulness – the stinking trench.

After Jordan’s lecture, Peter Carmichael had an inspiring conversation with Gordon Rhea. Carmichael and Rhea addressed battlefield carnage and leadership as two main topics of conversation, both important to understanding the war in 1864. An essential question was the role of commanders in addressing high casualties and their abilities to cope with command. Their conversation hit on some excellent points regarding the nature of writing history.

One thing is certain, we are off to a great start at #cwi2014.

Leave a Reply