Assistant Director’s Log, Star Date 002:
We’re in full swing here at our summer conference. Bright and early this morning, Michael Birkner and John Quist kicked off our first full day with their lecture on James Buchanan and the Coming of the Civil War. John Marszalek followed on Henry Halleck, prompting lecturer and tour guide Brooks Simpson to observe that we scheduled talks two of the most unpopular men in American history back-to-back. It wasn’t a coicidence–certain themes carried over between the talks regarding how we think about unpopular figures. Our morning sessions concluded with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian T. J. Stiles discussing the life of George Armstrong Custer and the world he inhabited.
After lunch, we began our concurrent sessions with Earl Hess on Braxton Bragg, Brian Luskey on Bounty Men in the Union Army, and Kenneth Noe on late-enlisters in the Confederate Army. Rachel Shelden gave a popular talk on the culture of Civil War era Washington politics, while Fiona Deans Halloran spoke on Thomas Nast, the original American political satirist.
The Twitter game picked up in the afternoon. Keep tweeting and we’ll keep retweeting. I would love to be able to share a tweet or two from every talk and tour.
Barton Myers spoke on the front-line leadership of Robert E. Lee in times of desperation, Director Peter Carmichael led a roundtable on William T. Sherman, and Jonathan White is about to finish the night in an appropriate manner: a talk on the dreams of Civil War soldiers.
Assistant Director’s Log, Star Date 003
Well, the energy we’ve been expending over the last few days finally caught up with me. There may or may not be a picture somewhere of me using our t-shirt mannequin as a pillow. But we’re pressing on to bring you a no-stress conference experience packed with great talks and opportunities.
The morning opened with a roundtable on George Gordon Meade, featuring Brooks Simpson, Scott Hartwig, Jennifer Murray, and John Hennessy–a rather star-studded panel, I think. Lisa Tendrich Frank spoke on encounters between Confederate women and Union soldiers during Sherman’s March to the Sea, while Andrew Bledsoe offered an analysis of the junior officer corps (captains and lieutenants) of Civil War armies.
A massive book signing took place after lunch, featuring 25 speakers and tour guides. We soon split up for several concurrent sessions: Gettysburg graduate Amelia Grabowski spoke about Clara Barton’s Missing Soldiers Office, American Civil War Museum Curator Cathy Wright shared stories from their material culture collection, and Laura Lawfer Orr revealed the hidden stories of Civil War shipwrecks in Hampton Roads. T. J. Stiles returned to the stage to put Jesse James in the context of the violence of Civil War Missouri. Lorien Foote closed out the afternoon program with a talk on Union POWs escaping the Confederacy.
This evening, we’ll be holding another round table on Myths of Civil War Tactics, with Earl Hess, Carol Reardon, and Jennifer Murray. There may even be some movie clips!
Tours begin tomorrow–I just hope my bus group doesn’t draw on my face when I inevitably fall asleep during the ride down to Chancellorsville!
–Lavery, Signing Off