Essential Workers: Formerly Enslaved People and Smallpox in the age of COVID-19

Professor Jim Downs will join CWI Director Dr. Peter Carmichael and John Heckman (The Tattooed Historian) for a Facebook Live stream this Wednesday, May 27th at 7:00PM EST. Dr. Downs is the author of Sick From Freedom: African-American Illness and Suffering During the Civil War and Reconstruction (Oxford University Press, 2012). His next book, Maladies of Empire: How Slavery, Imperialism, and War Transformed Medicine will be released in January 2021 by Harvard University Press.

Downs Headshot April 2020
Dr. Jim Downs 

Dr. Downs will discuss how outbreaks of disease impacted African Americans during the Civil War and Reconstruction. The discussion will also touch on a recent piece Dr. Downs wrote for The Atlantic.   Dr. Downs has provided two primary source documents for our audience to view ahead of the livestream.

A Report of African American Illness in Charleston.


A report detailing the illness of whites in Charleston in 1865.

Prison Escapes in the Civil War: A Facebook Live Stream Event

Dr. Angela Zombek, Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, will join CWI Director Dr. Peter Carmichael and John Heckman (The Tattooed Historian) to discuss Civil War prison camp escapes. The livestream will take place on Monday, April 20th at 7pm EST. The livestream will happen concurrently on the Tattooed Historian’s Facebook page and the Civil War Institute’s Facebook page.

Dr. Zombek is the author of “Penitentiaries, Punishment, and Military Prisons: Familiar Responses to an Extraordinary Crisis during the American Civil War” (Kent State, 2018) and has provided a primary source that will be discussed during the livestream. This newspaper article comes from the December 5, 1863 edition of the Portsmouth Daily Times (Portsmouth, Ohio).




Private Confederacies: A Review

By Olivia Ortman ’19 and Cameron Sauers ’21

Private Confederacies: The Emotional Worlds of Southern Men as Citizens and Soldiers
James J. Broomall
ISBN: 9781469651989
UNC Press

For generations, notable scholars such as Gerald Linderman, Reid Mitchell and Joseph Glatthaar, have tried to understand the experience of common Civil War soldiers. With Private Confederacies, James J. Broomall makes a penetrating dive into the emotional world of elite male slaveholders, focusing on how the Civil War, emancipation, and Reconstruction affected their personal lives, emotional expressions, and gender identities. He argues that white Southern men struggled to process their wartime experiences due to societal expectations of male self-restraint. To overcome such expectations regarding their self-expression they created soldier communities that they could rely upon for emotional support and comfort. Using a variety of sources, including letters, diaries, and material culture, Broomall studies both the private and public lives of white Southern men to reconstruct their emotional trajectories throughout the war and into Reconstruction. At its very core, Private Confederacies explores how the shift from national strife to national peace was more than just a national change, as it was a deeply personal and emotional transition for those who experienced it.

Broomall explores the dynamics of the private and public expressions of men who often harbored deep-seated sentiments that were at odds with their outward demeanor. Antebellum Southern men were reared in an honor-based culture that demanded distinct expressions of manliness based on Christian gentility, physical prowess, and self-mastery. In public, men were expected to distance themselves from bursts of emotion and instead show restraint and self-control. These cultural demands for appropriate conduct created boundaries between men and other members of society, which were necessary for maintaining their position at the top of the social order. In private, though, slaveholders were highly emotional and reflective. Broomall emphasizes antebellum diaries as a private place where Southern men could question themselves, interrogate the world around them, and freely express their emotions. However, upon becoming soldiers, these men found themselves ill-equipped to deal with the horrors of war.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Southern men were thrust into unfamiliar territory which threatened existing social and cultural expectations of manhood and class hierarchy. Men’s pre-conceived notions of heroic action, stoicism, and the “good death” were challenged by the gruesome realities of battle and the seeming randomness of battlefield death, which could destroy men’s bodies, render them emotionally vulnerable before comrades and their subordinates, and potentially undermine their respectability. The randomness of battlefield death and new soldiering lifestyle was exhausting both physically and emotionally for Southern men. To cope with the new experiences of soldiering, Southern men developed new methods of emotional release which reflected a larger breakdown in barriers between their public and private lives. Using a focused study of material culture, Broomall traces men’s changing perceptions of themselves, their emotions, and the world around. When the war started, Confederate soldiers wore homemade uniforms, allowing them to maintain identities as citizens along with their pre-war worldviews. Once those uniforms deteriorated and were replaced by government-issued clothing, men fully recognized themselves as soldiers. This shift in self-identification and mindset made soldiers more willing to work together as a unit and to rely upon each other for emotional support.

Camp life also fostered critical changes in soldiers’ behavior. Camps were public places where men worked within and respected a social hierarchy. However, they also ate, slept, and performed domestic tasks in camp, all of which were aspects of their private lives. The camps, therefore, became a space where soldiers renegotiated their masculinity and created a community reminiscent of familial bonds. Traditional notions of masculinity shifted away from the independence of antebellum days to the interdependence required of a martial unit. These new soldier communities, which were essentially interdependent martial families, gave soldiers a space to reflect on the battles they had gone through, as well as reaffirmed their notions of social hierarchy through differences in rank and the important racial distinctions and bonds derived from the presence of slaves. As southern men found their pre-conceived notions of manhood and war challenged on and off the battlefield, they continued to turn to each other for support and affirmation.

When the war ended and Southern men had to come to grips with defeat and emancipation, many turned back to these martial communities to process their new world. The realities of Reconstruction and military occupation, mixed with the depression of defeat, took an emotional toll on white Southern men. While many adjusted and returned to their position as patriarch of the household, some channeled their emotions into extralegal violence. The soldier communities that had made the Civil War survivable became the underpinnings of paramilitary organizations, like the Ku Klux Klan. Although an extreme group and not representative of all Southern men’s feelings, the KKK tapped into the anger and fear felt by some white Southern men who used violence to assert their manhood in the face of emancipation and defeat, both of which were extremely emasculating for Southern white men who had built their identities upon social inequality and dominance.

Private Confederacies offers an insightful look into the evolution of the emotional worlds of Southern men during the 19th century. Broomall’s book reveals how the Civil War shook the self-identity of Southern males, whose new, tightly knit soldier communities became critical to their survival and their self-understanding during the hardships of the Civil War and its aftermath. Broomall’s book expands our understanding not only of Civil War soldiers but of Southern society in critical ways by revealing the war’s deeply personal impacts that collectively re-shaped southern culture in the postbellum era.


Dr. James Broomall will be speaking at this summer’s 2019 CWI Conference

Review: Looming Civil War

By Olivia Ortman ’19

Looming Civil War: How Nineteenth-Century Americans Imagined the Future
Jason Phillips
ISBN: 9780190868161
Oxford University Press

In Looming Civil War, Phillips writes about the future, specifically, the one predicted by nineteenth-century Americans in the years preceding the Civil War. Challenging dominant narratives of the war, Phillips argues that nineteenth-century individuals were fully aware of a looming civil war and that many believed it would be a long, bloody, and disastrous conflict, not just a short excursion. As individuals looked to the uncertain future, they all made predictions unique to their race, religion, gender, and location. Some white southern elites saw the looming war as an Armageddon that would destroy civilized society, while abolitionists and slaves saw war as a harbinger of freedom. Phillips seamlessly blends these abstract conceptualizations of war with physical realities by using material culture as his driving impetus, illustrating how nineteenth-century Americans interacted with the physical world in a way that both illustrated and influenced their conceptions of the future.

Phillips begins his book by distinguishing between two distinct ways of understanding the future, or temporalities: Anticipation and expectation. Although the two words are used interchangeably today, Phillips explains that there is a difference between the two that stems from their Latin roots. Anticipation refers to acting on the future, such as buying on credit before actual money is at hand. Expectation is a state of waiting in suspense. Although both terms rely on predictions of the future, they differ in how the individual reacts to the future: Through action or inaction. Those who anticipated the future believed they could influence and shape events through their own active participation. Although Phillips cautions that generalizations about worldviews cannot be universally applied to members within a group, he notes that anticipation was more common amongst white men who were financially independent, like John Brown who anticipated the looming civil war and the emancipation of slaves. Brown believed that the only way to force emancipation was through action, so he killed members of the pro-slavery Doyle family in Kansas and raided Harper’s Ferry in order to help spur mass emancipation. Individuals who expected the future, on the other hand, believed that providence would ensure that events happened according to God’s will. Phillips points to the slaves who expected that Abraham Lincoln’s election as president would eventually lead to their freedom. While some slaves anticipated freedom, and thus ran away to Union lines to guarantee their freedom, others waited in bondage until freedom came to them, thus expecting freedom. As Americans marched towards what many saw as an inevitable conflict, their temporal understanding of the future influenced how they viewed the war and its causes, as well as what they believed the outcome of the war would mean for the nation.

Regardless of whether an individual anticipated or expected the war, their views were equally influenced by the myriad material objects they interacted with on a day-to-day basis. One of the objects Phillip focuses on is the bowie knife. When Henry Clay Pate set out to capture John Brown for the violence he inflicted in Kansas, Pate was carrying a bowie knife with him, a bowie knife which eventually became the possession of John Brown. To Phillips, the presence of the bowie knife was significant. Like many others, Pate acquired his bowie knife when he decided to move to Kansas. The bowie knife was not just a present for his journey, but a symbol of the type of political atmosphere Pate would be entering. Kansas, which was deciding whether to enter the United States as a free or slave state, had become a territory of intimidation. Most men carried bowie knives on their person, both to use in political intimidation and for protection. One Kansas resident told a reporter that a man needed to grab his bowie knife the second he saw another man reach towards his hip.

In one sense, the proliferation of the bowie knife was a reaction to the violent atmosphere in Kansas; however, as illustrated by the aforementioned Kansas resident, the knife also contributed to the rampant violence. Kansas had become a place of anticipation, with men carrying bowie knives in order to shape the future they wanted. Charles Sumner noted this aura of violence in his speech to Congress right before being caned by Preston Brooks, who chose to use a cane with great deliberation. The cane represented his class status as a wealthy southern slaveowner and gentlemen, the caning of Sumner thus symbolically reminding people of a slaveowner’s right to punish his slave for bad behavior. In practical terms, the cane was less likely to fall into Sumner’s hands during the altercation than a whip, another object closely associated with slavery. Throughout his book, Phillips shows the intentionality of individuals’ use of objects which speak to their predictions of the Civil War. His study of material objects grounds the more abstract ideas of the future in the concrete realities of the physical world, allowing readers to understand pre-war America in a way that is very similar to how nineteenth-century citizens would have experienced the world.


Jason Phillips will be speaking at this summer’s 2019 CWI Conference.


The Third-Annual Abolitionists’ Day Event

By Claire Bickers ’20

Three years ago, Adams County declared the first ever Abolitionists Day—a day dedicated to honoring the lives of the county’s abolitionists. The county’s abolitionists were a varied group, comprised of both whites and free blacks, men and women. Through their efforts, thousands of slaves were able to find their freedom in the North. One impressive couple, William and Phebe Wright, helped approximately one thousand men, women, and children to freedom. Adams County was also home to Thaddeus Stevens, a Gettysburg resident who used his position in the US House of Representatives to fight against the institution of slavery. With people as distinguished as these in the county’s history, it is fitting that the county has set aside a day to commemorate them. To aid in this commemoration, several groups from the county came together to create a two-hour program that honored these abolitionists and educated modern county residents about their legacy in a performance that featured a collection of skits, talks, and music.

The skits were all based on the true stories of the county’s fight for emancipation. One portrayed the kidnapping and daring escape of a young freewoman who had been mistaken for a slave. Another skit, performed by Isaiah Washington, depicted the risks that newly freed James Pennington was willing to take to be educated that eventually led to his rise as a prominent intellectual. Washington, who has given past performances as a slam poet, delivered some of Pennington’s anti-slavery writings with a poet’s outspoken fervor, which was fitting for material that was every bit as passionate. This skit particularly emphasized the interracial cooperation that defined the anti-slavery movement in Adams County by depicting the roles that both black and white members of the county took on to fight the institution of slavery. Max Weikel, acting as Gettysburg College Professor William Reynolds, gave another striking performance as he delivered an impassioned speech for emancipation and anti-slavery. Weikel’s portrayal of Reynolds was outspoken and eloquent—it was easy to imagine how Reynolds’ public speaking skills, cultivated in the classroom, might have captivated a town meeting. As a Gettysburg College student, it was especially moving to see the role that one of our own professors once took in the fight against slavery.

The program alternated between these anti-slavery skits and musical performances of abolitionist music. The music was performed by Dearest Home, a folk music group, and Judy C. Williams, a skilled reenactor. Dearest Home played traditional pro-abolition songs with nineteenth century instruments, including a piano and a banjo. The group was careful to prepare the audience with context for the songs they sang, especially when the songs dealt with racially sensitive issues: For example, songs that included words that, in the nineteenth century, were considered common-place but have since changed, gaining newer, darker connotations. Because the band was careful to prime the audience with the necessary context, they allowed the audience to appreciate the songs in their intended light. Dearest Home’s performances were a reminder that the phenomenon of political music is anything but new; music has long been a vehicle of political movements.

The other musical performances were sung by Judy Williams, who played the role of Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield. After escaping slavery, Greenfield became so famous for her musical prowess that she was called “The Black Swan.” Her songs were heartbreakingly beautiful, as she sang songs that mourned the loss of a son to slavery, and the hopes of emancipation. She even sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” a song rendered particularly tragic against the backdrop of slavery. Watching Williams sing as Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield was particularly thought-provoking because, although, based on the contemporary descriptions of her music, she was a similar talent to “The Swedish Nightingale,” Jenny Lind, Greenfield’s name does not retain the same power as the European songstress’s. Although it can be difficult to ascertain exactly why one person is remembered in history and another is not, it is difficult not to wonder if Greenfield would be better remembered if she was white and not an African American. Regardless, it was refreshing to actually be educated about Greenfield’s legacy as both an early African American concert musician and an anti-slavery activist, while heartwrenching to hear Williams’ emotive voice sing from the perspectives of slaves searching for hope in the bleak realities of slavery.

The emotional performances described were all put together by the Thaddeus Stevens Society, the Gettysburg & Menallen Friends Meetings (Quakers), Adams County Human Relations Council, YWCA of Gettysburg & Adams County, and the Interfaith Center for Peace and Justice. These groups put a lot of hard work and passion went into this public history project, and I would definitely recommend attending next year if you can—you’ll leave with a greater appreciation for the important humanitarian work done in this county before it gained infamy in 1863.


Review: Calculus of Violence

By Cameron Sauers ’21

The Calculus of Violence: How Americans Fought the Civil War
Aaron Sheehan-Dean
ISBN: 9780674984226
Harvard University Press

It seems counterintuitive to imagine the bloodiest conflict in American history being worse, but Sheehan-Dean argues that the death toll could have been dramatically higher without both sides’ emphasis on restraint, as dictated by the laws of war. Most of the book is spent examining “how people on both sides justified the lethal violence of conflict and when, how, and why they balanced cruelty and destruction.” Despite the rules of war, however, Civil War participants, like all humans, were contradictory. Sometimes they acted instinctively and spontaneously, while at other times, their actions were the result of deeply seated ideology. The participants contradicted themselves and their responses to events continually changed. Sheehan-Dean expertly places himself in participants’ shoes to analyze the exercise and restraint of violence.

Sheehan-Dean focuses on four aspects of the conflict: Guerilla warfare, emancipation, imprisonment of soldiers, and occupation. He tracks how Federals and Confederates engaged each other on each of these issues, all of which could have easily produced unchecked lethal violence. Guerillas, North and South, both engaged in violent actions and provoked violent backlash. Confederates, too, exercised brutal retaliation while engaged in violence against black soldiers after the federal government’s mid-war adoption of emancipation as a war aim. The fueling of nationalistic sentiments by outspoken newspaper editors, politicians and ministers also stoked each side’s aggression, both on and off the battlefield, by further strengthening participants’ political resolve and casting the enemy as a dangerous force to be immediately suppressed through both violence and non-violent means. But what might appear as unremitting violence was actually largely governed by official rules of war which tempered that violence with great restraint. Henry Halleck, eventual General-in-Chief of the Union army, authored a massive volume on the rules of war and Francis Lieber’s influential Lieber Code was adopted by the Federal government in 1863 as a framework for governing the prosecution of the war. These guidelines helped set boundaries for soldiers and the public, noting when violence was acceptable and in what forms, and thus limiting the overall amount of bloodshed.

The best example of the application of these rules of war is General William Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign. While many people label Sherman as cruel and unjust to the people of Atlanta, Sheehan-Dean argues that Sherman acted appropriately. Lieber wrote “warfare was not unrestricted violence, but violence limited by an end,” meaning that all of the violence committed had to serve the purpose of bringing the war to the end. Sherman had to engage in a certain level of violence against a core of war-enabling civilians during the siege of Atlanta to achieve his ultimate objective: the war’s end. However, Sherman did not give his soldiers a blank check for violence against civilians. Those who acted outside of the rules of war and committed unlawful spontaneous acts of violence against civilians were punished for their crimes. The Atlanta Campaign serves as a microcosm for the contradictions apparent throughout the war, that it was “at times a restrained conflict and at times a bloody, savage struggle. In some places, both of these statements were true at the same time.”

What amazed me most was Sheehan-Dean’s disagreement with the concept of the Civil War as following a “limited to total war” Trajectory. Many historians have proffered that the Civil War began as a limited war (one of much restraint) that slowly evolved into a total, all-encompassing conflict. By moving past this assumed trajectory of “limited to total war,” we gain a deeper understanding of the ways people perceived actions as immoral or just. The lack of a clear evolution of violence seemed foreign to me and I initially did not agree with Sheehan-Dean, but his rationale made sense. During the Civil War, violence and peace occurred in different communities at different moments. For example, Missouri saw more violence in 1862 than did Atlanta, but in 1864 Atlanta witnessed more violence than Missouri. In some places, the war was nearly “total” in 1861 but “limited” in 1865. For Sheehan-Dean, the “limited to total” war paradigm is a gross overgeneralization of the war’s violence which conceals the more nuanced complexities and contradictions of the conflict.

Aaron Sheehan-Dean’s The Calculus of Violence is a perspective-altering piece of Civil War scholarship. It is wonderfully researched, but also accessible. I constantly found myself rereading passages, trying to absorb as much of the book as possible. Sheehan-Dean encourages readers to look beyond analyzing actions as right or wrong, moral or immoral. Instead, we should seek to understand how and why historical actors arrived at the decisions they did. Sheehan-Dean closes with the reminder that conflict, and its inherent costs, is occasionally necessary if prosecuted according to accepted rules and necessities. In revealing the complexities and contradictions behind individuals’ decisions to exercise and restrain violence during the American Civil War, The Calculus of Violence provides a valuable window into both the on-the-ground operations during the conflict, as well as the human faces behind stories of bloodshed and salvation.


Aaron Sheehan-Dean will be speaking at this summer’s 2019 CWI Conference.

Flip Side of the Coin: The Unpleasant Reality of Hatred

By Cameron Sauers ’21

November 19th saw the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, and with it, one of the highlights of the year: The annual Fortenbaugh Lecture. The goal of the annual Fortenbaugh lecture is to capture the spirit of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and make academic history accessible to the general public. This year’s lecturer was Dr. George Rable, Professor Emeritus and formerly the Charles G. Summersell Chair in Southern History at the University of Alabama. Dr. Rable’s reputation as a prolific scholar of the Civil War era is well known, with 6 books to his credit, including Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg! which won the 2003 Lincoln Prize. As I sat in the Majestic Theater eagerly waiting for the lecture to begin, I talked with one of the other CWI Fellows about our work this semester. One of the things we mentioned was that, by constantly being exposed to the photos, first-hand accounts, and statistics of the Civil War, we had become somewhat numb to the horrors and atrocities of the conflict. This conversation ended up being the perfect lead-up to Dr. Rable’s talk, Fighting for Reunion: Dilemmas of Hatred and Vengeance.

Dr. George Rable

Rable began with a disclaimer that his talk would not be pleasant, as he was going to explore hatred and vengeance. He then made a simple, but extremely important, assertion: Hatred and war go together. However, Rable argued that students of the Civil War ignore or take for granted the true meaning and far-reaching implications of this hatred. This introduction really hit home for me, especially since I had just discussed my own numbness to aspects of the Civil War. I knew that hatred existed on both sides, but I had never considered the full implications of that hatred. Hatred involves revulsion, disgust, and anger, all of which lead to social contempt and ostracization or, in extreme cases, unrelenting violence and the deep political ramifications of that violence. Laying this simple foundation was key to Rable’s topic of understanding northern hatred of the South, and vice versa.

Beginning with the start of the war, Rable pieced together primary source documents, such as letters and newspapers, to create an understanding of the northern political climate. Rable was motivated by what he called the “flip side of the coin,” the already well understood southern hatred for the North. He briefly explored southern hate of the North, including one startling anecdote from a southern newspaper about graffiti left on a Union hospital encouraging the wounded within to die “on the double-quick.” From this discussion, Rable pivoted to the North’s own assertion that they had never responded in kind to southern hatred. However, as the lecture progressed, Rable made it clear that the North lacked the self-awareness to understand the vitriol of hate they poured forth, as well as the breadth and depth of its ramifications. Henry Adams, grandson of President John Quincy Adams and United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom during the Civil War, recognized that politics as a practice, whatever its professions, had always been a systematic organization of hatred. Despite Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural address claim that North and South were friends, not enemies, the firing on Fort Sumter soon brought volleys of rhetorical and physical hatred from the North onto the South. Lincoln’s message had little effect on Wisconsin Governor Alexander W. Randall, who wrote that people would not be content with any cessation to the war until all of the traitors were hung or driven into exile, and that was only the beginning of Randall’s venom towards the South.

Rable did concede that, for a time, Lincoln’s message did have an impact on the North. At the start of the war, ministers and religious leaders in particular advocated that it be fought on Christian principles. Ministers wanted soldiers to develop or remain pious individuals who fought a conflict that adhered to their religious creeds. They wanted soldiers to shun drinking, gambling, and other forms of vice and sin while in camps. In battle, ministers encouraged soldiers to be merciful to wounded and captured, but most importantly to be brave in their faith – willing to accept martyrdom. To these leaders, the erring southerners were still Christian brothers. Even William Lloyd Garrison called for mercy toward the wayward southerners. These messages fit in neatly with Lincoln’s conciliatory policy towards the South at the start of the war. However, northern patience eventually ran dry. The more blood that was shed, the harder reconciliation was going to be. As the war became more violent, northern politicians began to debate how to act toward and think about southern soldiers and civilians.

As early as the Spring of 1862, schisms opened in the North amongst Copperheads and Republicans about the proper policies needed to wage war and pursue eventual reconciliation with the South. Political name calling, something not unfamiliar to a 21st century audience, was rampant as northern Republicans and Democrats jockeyed in Congress to validate their courses of action. This became especially prevalent as the war transitioned from a conciliatory war to a hard war, bringing Emancipation to the forefront of political consciousness. Divisions also opened up between religious sects, as Protestant and Catholics clashed over the Bible’s teachings and how they influenced this subject. Rable drew more than one laugh when he included an anecdote from a Catholic priest who derided the Protestants for their mercy towards the South, attributing it to the fact that Protestants are schismatic by nature.

Rable 2

Rable tracked how northern ideas of hatred and vengeance changed throughout the war, with the Emancipation Proclamation and increasing bloodshed further intensifying the northern zeal for hatred against the South. Following the Emancipation Proclamation came the enlistment of USCT troops and subsequent northern fears that they would seek revenge on former slaveholders. While USCT troops did not seek revenge on former slaveholders, their presence did lead to hatred from politicians and Confederate soldiers. Throughout their service in the war, USCTs received horrific treatment from southerners, treatment much worse than what their white northern comrades experienced. For example, at the Battle of the Crater, USCT Troops were shown no mercy when they tried to surrender, with many of them being shot or bayoneted in cold blood. This horrific treatment of USCTs intensified politicians’ debates about the future and how to deal with whites and freedmen. For as vocal as northern politicians were with their own hatred and vengeance towards the South, they had yet to develop a plan for what should be done to slaveholders. Should they be punished? Politically ostracized? Northern politicians realized that the fates of former slaveholders and freedmen would be highly interconnected after the war, especially after witnessing the intense violence exhibited against USCTs. The surrender at Appomattox further raised the stakes for northern politicians. The long national nightmare was over. What had been rhetoric for four years was going to have to become enacted policy. While northern leaders were willing to entertain a merciful response to the South at the behest of Lincoln, his assassination made mercy an infeasible model.

Abraham Lincoln’s plan for the post-war years and Andrew Johnson’s actual actions differed greatly. Lincoln had wanted mercy for the southern states so as not to increase the hatred and divisiveness between the sections. Although Lincoln deeply hated slavery, he wanted mercy for the slaveholder, which followed the theme of “hate the sin, love the sinner” emphasized by so many northerners throughout the war. Johnson, a Tennessee man himself, harbored deep hatred toward southern elites. If Lincoln embodied New Testament mercy, Johnson reflected Old Testament vengeance. To many in the North, Johnson’s ascension to the presidency was a sign of God’s Will, making Johnson an instrument of Divine Retribution. The rhetoric of hatred and vengeance played a definitive role in shaping policy throughout Reconstruction, inhibiting progress and resolution to the conflict despite belief from both the North and the South that such hatred was needed to ensure the success of their cause.

Rable concluded by saying that some may have found his lecture vague and contradictory, which he admitted it was. However, that was exactly Rable’s point: Countless different viewpoints and perceptions of right and wrong existed during the Civil War, forcing northerners and southerners to grapple with their hatred and thirst for vengeance. Rable presented these conflicting ideas to the audience with the reminder that the “new birth of freedom” was not easily decided upon. Within “the new birth of freedom” was the complex task not only of national reunion, but also of emancipation and ensuring economic, social, and political legitimacy for African Americans, a monumental, but necessary, task for the nation.

As I filed out of the Majestic Theatre, I reflected on my takeaways from the lecture. Rable’s talk expanded the traditional historical narrative to include the evolving, and often conflicting, thoughts and ideas of different groups of northerners. He depicted the inner divisions within the North itself, which are frequently glossed over in celebratory or romantic narratives of a monolithic and strongly unified northern populace. Rable’s talk was a reminder about the destructive power of hateful rhetoric, and that even the “good guys” hate. When we generalize about how groups of people thought, felt, or act, we lose the divisions within that group. I had never considered that the North found itself consistently susceptible to in-fighting; the narrative I knew was always the North acting as a single cohesive political unit, which turns out to be far from the truth. The lecture was a reminder to me of the need to constantly analyze and dissect what we believe to be norms so that we remain open to new avenues for historical understanding. Complete with countless primary source references, Rable’s talk was an important example that there are no shortcuts to good scholarship.

War’s Tragic Pawn

By Cameron Sauers ’21

Students, faculty, and local art buffs packed Schmucker Art Gallery here at Gettysburg College on October 25th to hear CWI Director, Peter Carmichael talk about visual depictions of warfare. The talk was given as a part of the ongoing exhibition, “The Plains of Mars: European War Prints 1500-1815,” which features an array of war prints depicting a range of both heroic and tragic moments of warfare. This semester I have been closely studying and writing about 19th-century images of warfare to help curate a photography exhibit for this summer’s CWI Conference, so I was intrigued by what Dr. Carmichael had to say about the artwork of war.

Carmichael began his talk on a personal note, explaining how his introduction to Civil War visual culture began with Bill Frassanito’s book, Gettysburg: A Photographic Journey in Time. As a child on vacation in Disney, Carmichael much preferred the book to anything the amusement park had to offer. The book, a product of Frassanito’s scouring of the battlefield for more than five years, gave the young Carmichael a sense of time travel. The young Carmichael was fascinated by the side- by- side comparison of historic photos and Frassanito’s modern photos of the battlefield. Frassanito followed his books on Gettysburg with a book of the photographs of Antietam, which are more graphic than the photographs from Gettysburg.

Following Frassanito’s lead, Carmichael transported the attendees back to the blood-soaked fields of Antietam by showing images of dead Confederates near Hagerstown Turnpike. These Antietam photos, taken by Alexander Gardner, were presented at Mathew Brady’s New York Gallery. Brady exhibited the photos in all of their gory detail, which earned him the scorn of numerous individuals who criticized his “unseemly” artwork. Following the exhibition of the prints, an unsigned New York Times editorial blasted viewers who pulled out magnifying glasses to inspect the gore in the photos, and through such voyeuristic enthusiasm, completely disregarded the humanity of the dead. The unknown editorial author was disappointed and disgusted by the public’s morbid fascination with the photos. Ultimately, the reason the author was disappointed with the images was because they challenged northern civilians’ romantic notions of death by showing the horrors of battlefield realities.

The images Gardner took were also published in Harpers Weekly as woodcuts, but these were sanitized of their grislier aspects. A woodcut of Burnside’s Bridge dominated a page of Harpers Weekly in October 1862, but for all the hard fighting that happened there, there was no destruction and death seen in the woodcut. Rather, the woodcut simply depicts two soldiers marching side by side towards the bridge. The emphasis is not on the men, though, it’s on the landscape. However, the land around the bridge has been cleared of any evidence of battle. Carmichael emphasized that what many members of the northern public were being shown as the horrors of war was actually a sanitized version of the gruesome reality. Other images published in the paper used shadowing and other doctoring techniques to obscure the more unpalatable images. The woodcuts of dead bodies could be just as jarring to the northern public, without being as offensive as the gore in the original photographs. The result of this doctoring was a public that thought they had experienced war, but had only experienced an image in a newspaper.

Although sanitized, these images were still shocking enough to cause significant political ramifications in the North. The images made the public contemplate the war’s purpose, especially as that purpose was altered after the battle of Antietam. The sacrifice of the soldiers captured in the images gave President Abraham Lincoln the political clout to announce the Emancipation Proclamation, which meant the Union dead had not died in vain. Their sacrifice gave Lincoln the stalemate, if not outright victory, he needed to be able to issue the Proclamation from a position of strength and legitimacy. The images softened public reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation, demonstrating to the northern public the necessity of the Proclamation to bring an end to the war.

Not only did the photos influence the public’s political views, they also reflected the shift in how the public engaged with and understood war. Carmichael spoke about the large role photographs play in influencing the way we remember events. He illustrated this by showing a picture of a Vietnam soldier whose forlorn face pulls on the heartstrings of the audience. Seeing the young man in distress reinforces the notion that war is inherently bad. However, Carmichael challenged the audience to look deeper for different interpretations of warfare as he presented more modern Civil War art. Pointing to one image that showcased a defiant Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, Carmichael noted that the artist sought to celebrate the heroic, or at least more noble aspects of war by creating a definitive homage to Lee and perhaps also offering a justification of the Confederate cause. The image does not condemn Lee or the Confederate cause, nor is there any reference to the issue of slavery that the war had been fought over. Rather than having Traveller (Lee’s horse) droop his head in defeat, Traveller’s head is raised and defiant. Traveller, like his owner, would not show deference to the United States. Similarly, a painting by Mort Kunstler of Joshua Chamberlain leading the 20th Maine down the slope of Little Round Top embodies the individual heroism that we want to believe carried the day on July 2 at Gettysburg. The heroic Chamberlain leads the 20th Maine in a gallant charge, and the only visible casualties have their faces covered and blend in with the dark ground. Behind Chamberlain, a massive United States flag is unfurled in one of the ultimate shows of patriotism. These works, which border on romanticizing war and soldiering, present a stark contrast to other works currently on display at Schmucker Gallery, like Jean Pierre Marie Jazet’s defeated French Soldier after Waterloo. This image focuses on a lone soldier sitting on a rock, a shovel in one hand and his head propped by the other hand. The soldier stares into the distance, no doubt contemplating his task of burying his fallen comrade, upon whom he has his wounded leg propped. He is too exhausted, or devastated, to even honor a fallen comrade. Carmichael explored how this image resonates with a modern audience because it validates what we have come to believe about war since Vietnam –that it destroys the emotional and mental state of the soldier who is nothing more than a tragic pawn caught in a deadly chess match.

In juxtaposing strictly heroic portrayals of warfare with images that spoke solely to the dehumanizing influences of war, Carmichael opened an effective window to discuss what war art continually lacks: A complex narrative. Carmichael emphasized the value of certain artistic tropes that armed conflict is inherently graphic, and he noted that the “Plains of Mars” exhibition is a necessary check on militarism because the exhibition displays the peril of war. However, Carmichael argued that war art has increasingly turned away from acknowledging that a heroic sacrifice for political reasons—namely, cause and country–does in fact exist. To validate his point, Carmichael showed the audience a painting done by Don Troiani of the 24th Michigan fighting on the first day of the battle of Gettysburg. The 24th Michigan’s battle flag is a symbol for the political causes endangered by secession, with that flag demanding courage of the men fighting under it. The battle flags amidst their ranks were made by their wives and sweethearts at home, often even sewn from wedding dress fabric. This knowledge drives home the idea that the men were fighting for their loved ones, in addition to fighting for their nation. This image plays into Carmichael’s lament that, since the Vietnam War, art has not portrayed the soldier as anything but a tragic pawn. Since Vietnam, the public has transitioned from romanticizing conflict to a cynicism about war. In general, a modern war image emphasizes the heroism of the act of fighting, but will not go as far as to confer heroic status onto those fighting. Despite the painting’s strengths, however, Carmichael still critiqued the lack of blood and fear amongst the men, arguing that war art needs to have a more complex narrative than even this Troiani piece, with subjects demonstrating characteristics other than heroic tropes. For all its strong political symbolism, the painting lacks reflection on the true horrors of war.

Carmichael then explored the political ramifications of war art, which can leave a long-lasting impact on a nation. Carmichael showed the audience pictures of Gordon, also known as “whipped Peter” whose scourged back from years of whippings while enslaved made him a symbol of the abolitionist cause. Gordon later enlisted in the Union army. Carmichael presented an image of Gordon in his uniform but noted that, for African Americans, it was not as simple as wearing the Union blue to achieve freedom. Gordon had gone from an enslaved man to a soldier, from “property” to hero. Images of Gordon reminded northern audiences that it took risk, and indeed sacrifice, to achieve the larger goal of liberty.

As he concluded his talk, Carmichael addressed the importance of images from the Civil War in reminding us that the great bloodletting and sacrifice of human life was done with the awareness that the nation’s future rested on individual heroism. Art can change how people actively view and remember events, allowing the malleable historical narrative to be shaped by influential images. An image can emphasize or sanitize a point of view, emotion, or event in the public consciousness, as photographs and woodcuts did during the Civil War. Carmichael asked the audience a hard-hitting question in conclusion: Should we remember the Civil War as a moment solely of heroic triumph? The art that has stuck in public memory of the Civil War does not give us full understanding of that conflict. We have to look deeper into the images. The Harpers Weekly woodcuts from Antietam depict corpses, but ignore images of grieving widows and orphans. Only on contemplation do we think of the families and the physical and emotional burdens they endured. And yet, even in their grief, these widows and orphans were individuals who understood that the sacrifice of their loved one was a part of a large and meaningful cause. For Civil War era Americans, imagery was key to reinforcing the importance of the individual, and the ability of the individual to ‘win the day’ with an act of heroism. These individuals did as much as anyone could do to advance the cause. Their sacrifice had to be made for a larger purpose. The images reminded those on the home front of the heroic, even if at times grisly, struggle.

Walking away from the gallery, I couldn’t help but reflect on one of the photographs from my own research this semester. The photo depicts the unidentified body of a Confederate soldier at Devil’s Den. This image, which was once difficult to look at, has become a common part of my day. The more I look at the image, the deeper connection I feel to the young man, who could be just about my own age. It hit home for me when Carmichael referenced the grieving families. The mangled body that northern audiences gawked at in the image was someone’s son. The young soldier had a family that loved and cared for him, and yet he became something for gallery visitors to gawk at. The image does not convey how his loved ones grieved, or what his death meant for the national struggle. Those narratives are for the historian to reconstruct.

Understanding the True Nature of War: Dr. James Clifton’s Lecture Mediated War

By James Goodman ’20

Wartime artwork allows us to experience certain aspects of battle and its aftermath and yet to also be distanced from it: When viewing the artwork, we get a small visual window into the carnage and devastation of war, but we are spared the affronts to our other senses. This concept was present in Dr. James Clifton’s lecture, Meditated War. Dr. Clifton, the director of the Sarah Cambell Blaffer Foundation at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, coordinated with Gettysburg College to loan the collection of European war prints for the exhibit, The Plains of Mars. The exhibition is currently on display at Schmucker Art Gallery and will remain so until December 7th. The pieces are comprised of wartime images from 1500 through 1825 and depict battles, individual soldiers, and civilians. Dr. Clifton’s lecture focused primarily on what one can learn from wartime art, specifically war prints, but also what they lack.

Dr. Clifton began his lecture by explaining the commonality of the pieces in the collection. According to him, there were thousands of war prints created from 1500 to 1825. European nations were at war almost every year during this time, so there were ample opportunities to create these works. During these conflicts, many Europeans could be very personally impacted by war: They not only paid for extensive armies, but they dealt intimately with all the direct challenges war created, like hunger and destruction. Clifton points out that for westerners this is largely not the case today. While Westerners pay for war in a financial sense, they cannot understand the emotional cost of heavy conscription, the razing of villages, or quartering thousands of men for months at a time. There is a significant degree of separation between modern people in the Western world and war. Early European society, however, was defined through war and Dr. Clifton indicated that this was the overarching reason behind the creation of this exhibition. Many of these pieces were created to bring viewers who did not partake in or witness a battle first-hand closer to the experiences of a conflict. The artwork allowed viewers to see events occurring upwards of thousands of miles away. However, these images also removed the viewer from the scene. While the images serve as a medium for war, they distance the viewer from the horrors of the true event; in doing so, they protected the viewer’s potentially delicate sensibilities.

However, Dr. Clifton urged modern-day viewers to look even more deeply at these images as windows into the societal makeup and cultural worldviews of various European countries over time, and think about how artwork reveals a great deal about how Europeans have thought about war in different contexts and how they wanted to portray violent conflict. While attempting to present scenes from war, these artists were consciously imbuing their images with particular narratives that would evoke certain feelings and thoughts from viewers. Therefore, the artists’ political motives and inherent biases prevented the images from being completely factual snapshots of the battle. These narratives within war prints persuaded public opinion and pushed forth the world view of the artist or his commissioner. Much of the time, these pieces served as news from a battle. Some were a bird’s-eye view of the destruction while others focused in on a specific moment within a battle or its aftermath. Despite their inherent political agendas and biases, these images were generally presented and accepted as fact, and Europeans would view and purchase these images with the assumption that they were accurate depictions of particular battles. Thus, these artists and their commissioners had immense power in shaping Europeans’ understanding of warfare and its political implications.

Dr. Clifton demonstrated his points using period images. A large portion of his images came from Francisco Goya, whose prints demonstrated the brutality of the French Invasion of Spain under Napoleon. Goya’s images were graphic; they included illustrations of death and grotesquely depicted French soldiers committing horrible acts against seemingly innocent Spanish civilians. This appears to be Goya’s goal when he created these prints: He wanted his audience to experience the pain the Spanish people had suffered under the French. His work conveys a clear political motive by presenting the French as blood-thirsty and heartless killers, while the Spanish appear as the innocent victims. Goya thus spun a narrative of sympathy for the Spanish in his war prints by forcing the viewer to visualize and feel the shock of the carnage inflicted by the Napoleonic French soldiers. However, despite Goya’s intent to depict the horrors of war to viewers, that degree of separation between the violence and the viewer was still there. According to Dr. Clifton, this is due to the sanitizing nature of art. Since the viewer is not actually present at the site of the atrocity being depicted, they cannot fully grasp the emotions present in the painting. They can view what has occurred as terrible, but they cannot fully understand the event’s far-reaching impacts: Even though I was looking at pictures of dead bodies, it was still apparent that I was not there and could not feel the pain inflicted on those soldiers.

Dr. Clifton concluded his lecture by harkening back to his initial point of art’s ability to both bring us closer to the realities of war while also sanitizing it for us. Although artists want the viewer to feel something through the artwork, they can never fully capture what is present before them on a battlefield. However, this sense of removal may be intentional. The artist may want to present a particularly costly victory as a major triumph or hide the full extent of devastation to protect contemporary sensibilities. It depends on the goals of the artist. (Goya’s work would fall heavily on the destruction aspect of this scale, which again speaks to his personal political motives.) Both extremes are highly political. An artist depicting triumph is likely attempting to rally their nation behind the cause of war and nationalism while an artist depicting the opposite is seeking to discourage future conflict by bringing the sobering reality of war to the public eye. Thus, art served as an educational mediator between civilians and war during this period. Without completely exposing the viewer to the devastation present in war, war art informed people of what was occurring so far from their homes, while also seeking to craft a particular narrative about the nature and political implications of that conflict. Dr. Clifton’s lecture reminded us that modern viewers especially, who largely have been spared the first-hand brutalities of war experienced by earlier Europeans and depicted in these images, inherently walk away with from the images in this exhibit with more sanitized and less intimate sensory perceptions of these early European conflicts. However, he also reminded us that, while it is important to understand that art thus always veils from us the true nature of war, through close cultural analysis of these war images, we are able to gain valuable insights into the social and political world of the artists who created them and the societies that initially consumed them.

Unspeakable Suffering; Eloquent Explanations: National Civil War Medicine Museum’s 26th Annual Conference

By Benjamin Roy ’21 and Cameron Sauers ’21

On Friday, October 12th, 2018, the National Civil War Medicine Museum kicked off its 26th annual conference and began its three-day event with a series of lectures on topics ranging from Confederate medical practice to cultural understandings of cowardice. A series of unique lectures given by a professionally diverse cast of presenters illuminated the often-peripheral field of Civil War Medicine.

Our day started on a high note with coffee and a thought-provoking inquiry into the position of Confederate Surgeon General. Dr. Guy R. Hasegawa, a pharmaceutical doctor and scholar, detailed the unique history of this crucial Confederate leadership position and the men who filled it during the war. The Confederate Surgeon General, identical to his Federal counterpart but without the benefits of the massive resources at Union command, was tasked with maintaining the health of the Confederate armed forces and citizenry. Building the medical department from the ground up presented the Confederate Surgeon General with challenges not experienced by his already established Federal counterpart. Hasegawa’s presentation provided particularly interesting insights into the life of Samuel Preston Moore, Confederate Surgeon General from 1862 until surrender. The lecture detailed the challenges, successes and controversies that defined Moore’s Confederate career. Among the engaging topics were the innovations pioneered by Moore and implemented by the Confederate medical department. Under Moore, the Surgeon General’s office established a medical journal, implemented exhaustive collection and analysis of medical data, and even pursued indigenous remedies. Moore also supervised the Association for the Relief of Maimed Soldiers, which provided prosthetic limbs to Confederate veterans. Hasegawa’s talk provided an insight into the struggles that the Confederacy faced as it tried to establish itself as a new nation.

Dr. Robert Hicks, Director of the Mutter Museum of Philadelphia, continued the theme of Confederate medical practice in his presentation on the mass vaccination efforts at inoculating both the Confederate Army and civilian populace. Hicks used Confederate efforts at inoculation during an 1863 smallpox outbreak to highlight the pioneering efforts of the Confederate medical staff in epidemiology. This insightful and interdisciplinary talk combined material culture, epidemiology, and more traditional historical records, like primary source documents, to explain the smallpox outbreak the Confederacy dealt with in 1863. The outbreak was exacerbated by Confederates who attempted to vaccinate themselves, but inadvertently gave themselves and their comrades the disease. Laid atop the solid foundation of Hasegawa’s introduction of important figures in the Confederate Medical Department, Hicks’s presentation was personable and engaging. Combining scholarship and personality, Hicks’s talk was one of the highlights of the conference. The lecture mirrored an essay he recently contributed to Joan Cashin’s new edited volume, War Matters: Material Culture in the Civil War Era. His research into Confederate vaccination emphasized the importance of those objects in his talk, with Hicks declaring, “Working with the stuff always gives you something you didn’t expect” and “material culture always produces surprises.”

Dr. Robert Hicks

Paige Gibbons Backus’s talk, entitled “Revealing the Chaos and Carnage of the Hospitals of First Manassas,” gave a stark contrast to the orderly medical system emphasized by Hicks and Hasegawa. The talk highlighted the disorder and panic that inhibited the treatment of the wounded during and after the First Battle of Manassas. Field hospitals were shelled, wounded were left on the field for days, and spooked Federal doctors fled mid-surgery for the safety of Washington. Backus then shifted into describing how Ben Lomond Historic Site, which served as a field hospital during the battle, interprets Civil War medicine through the sense of smell. The site contracts with a company that manufactures smell canisters that recreate the odors of a hospital, thus giving visitors a direct connection to the often-unimaginable environment of a Civil War field hospital. By using smell as an educational tool, the site provides visitors with an interpretation that moves beyond audio and visual demonstrations, allowing them to have a more immersive experience. Backus noted that she has become accustomed to the rank smell of gangrene emitted by these canisters. Like Backus, Civil War medical personnel would have gone nose-blind to the horrific smells due to constant exposure in their daily routines of aiding the wounded. (As an aside, the audience was most disturbed when Backus revealed that that same company contracts with Starbucks to manufacture the smell of coffee that permeates their locations, eliciting a common groan of disgust from all attendees).

Captain Frank K. Butler, M.D. gave the next talk on current standards of care in the armed forces, titled, “Battlefield Trauma Care – From Antietam to Afghanistan.” Butler immediately commanded attention from the audience by showing a picture of an Afghan mountain range in his title slide and remarking, “this is from when we were hunting for Mr. Bin Laden.” The talk focused on battlefield medicine in Afghanistan and Iraq, wars with high stakes in our own young lives. Remembering our friends in the armed forces made Butler’s talk one of the more personally resonant presentations for us. Using the tourniquet as the medical thread to tie Civil War soldiers fighting on the plains of Antietam to Special Forces Operators ascending the mountains of the Hindu Kush, Butler assumed a highly medical voice as he discussed the nature of military medical reform. Butler’s advocation of the TCCC (Tactical Combat Casualty Care) plan among the armed forces was the focus of the talk. The Department of Defense uses TCCC to teach Special Forces operators life saving techniques and strategies for tending to trauma injuries received on the battlefield. Often using graphic depictions of real wounds sustained by Special Forces soldiers in the war against terror, Butler’s presentation offered a sobering picture of battlefield medical care and the challenges it still poses today. Butler portrayed continuity by explaining how the use of morphine has remained relatively unchanged from the Civil War into today, reflecting a lack of innovation that mystifies Butler. Although TCCC significantly lessened the death rate for wounds to the extremities, Butler’s goal is to eliminate preventable deaths and keep innovating. Butler’s talk offered a poignant example of how professionals in their fields use material culture, like the humble tourniquet, and historical knowledge to highlight the evolution of battlefield trauma and make lifesaving innovations.

CWI Director, Dr. Peter Carmichael finished the first day with a thought-provoking inquiry into how sentimentalism shaped the way surgeons treated soldiers suffering under the pressures of Civil War combat. Very broadly, sentimentalism refers to a 19th -century belief that faith in God and strength of will would prevent moral failure. Dr. Carmichael stated that belief in sentimentalist prescriptions of manhood shaped Victorian Americans’ belief that cowardice, and the way it could manifest itself through various bodily “ailments,” was an affliction to be overcome through masculine force of will, not through medicinal treatment. Carmichael provoked the audience with passages from a war-time medical journal and engaging rhetoric that challenged conference attendees to see not the barbaric practices of early modern surgeons, but rather cultural tropes that directly shaped Americans’ views of soldiering, masculinity, and medical practice during the Civil War. Carmichael used the example of a northern surgeon who concluded in a medical journal that combat was the best cure for homesickness, as it allowed the men to drown individual sufferings and longings by expressing their manly impulses and created a community within the regiment. Using case studies of different Civil War soldiers, Carmichael nicely grounded this sophisticated talk about the complex concept of sentimentalism in the concrete reality of men’s experiences.

Jake Wynn, the Director of Interpretation at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, started the second day with a talk on the functions of the Army of the Potomac’s medical department during the Overland Campaign. The Overland Campaign was the first campaign following the departure of Jonathan Letterman from his post as Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac. Letterman had revolutionized battlefield medicine by pioneering the use of the triage system and emphasizing the use of ambulances. The campaign’s aggressive and unrelenting drive to the South and East, and the bloody battles it produced along the way, overwhelmed the medical department. During May and June 1864, the medical department had treated 40,000 wounded men. Wynn noted that ambulances became a critical part of the campaign as wounded soldiers needed to be evacuated to the main Union hospital. The difficulty for the medical department was that, as Grant and Lee continued their southeasterly drive toward Richmond, new hospitals had to be constantly established in their wake. Wynn discussed the experiences of nurses and wounded soldiers during the campaign to highlight how the department performed without its now legendary head, Jonathan Letterman. The department kept Letterman’s reforms, which are still used today in battlefield medicine, to treat the wounded.

The final lecture of the conference came from Melissa DeVelvis, a doctoral candidate in history at the University of South Carolina, specializing in the Civil War era, gender studies, and sensory and emotional history. DeVelvis’s talk covered the impact of the senses in Civil War hospitals, focusing specifically on the experience of Civil War nurses. One topic of intrigue was how important touch was to recovering soldiers. DeVelvis provided an example of a Confederate nurse remarking that the Union soldiers in a Confederate hospital had a higher mortality rate because the nurses were less tender with them than they were with Confederates soldiers. Another interesting point was that nurses, especially in the Deep South, had to consider the men they were treating as their brothers and sons to avoid transgressing on Victorian morality. The intimate relationships between soldiers and nurses would have defied ideas of propriety if they were not considered to be family. The final topic of the lecture covered how Civil War nurses became numb to death through their constant contact with the dead and dying. DeVelvis noted that nurses wrote about tending to the dying as a minor occurrence, reporting it in their letters home as just a mechanical byproduct of their work. DeVelvis compared the numbness of hospital workers to soldiers who became accustomed to the fighting and killing on the front lines. The combined experience of soldiers and civilians led to a reevaluation of Victorian ideals, like the notion of the “good death,” and led to a renegotiation of certain moral values.

As we left the conference, we reflected on two days of lectures, the wide scope of topics covered by presenters, and how grateful we were to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine for providing scholarships so that we, and other Gettysburg students, could attend the conference. We witnessed an exciting example of how rich history can be when it embraces interdisciplinary methods. Examples of the application of material culture, gender studies, cultural history and numerous other disciplines inspired us to apply the same to our own research for the Civil War Institute. This semester, we are curating a photography exhibit that will be displayed at this summer’s CWI Conference comprised of images taken at Gettysburg following the battle. What we learned at the conference challenged us to re-consider the images in our exhibit in a new light. The topics interweaving both science and medicine gave broader perspective to two historically minded people like us. As historians, we normally view ourselves as the antithesis to medicine and science, but the Civil War Medicine Conference provided us the opportunity to see how the fields overlap. The field of Civil War history often can seem overpopulated with histories covering the same figures and events. We left the conference full of hope and convinced that our own scholarship could be groundbreaking in unique ways, like the presentations at the conference.