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.


Hot off the Press: War Matters Review

by Cameron Sauers ’21

War Matters: Material Culture in the Civil War Era
Ed. Joan Cashin
University of North Carolina Press
ISBN: 9781469643205
262 pages

This collection of essays illustrates that a material culture approach to the past can help us better understand some of the deeper complexities of the Civil War era, such as the expansion of consumer culture, the common soldier’s experience, and behavioral history, as well as issues of race, bondage, and emancipation. Cashin argues that it is important to study the objects featured within the book to understand their multi-valenced roles in the daily lives of 19th-century Americans, as well as the cultural and emotional significance they held for those who utilized them. From Robert Hicks’s essay on vaccinating the Confederate armies, to Sarah Jones Weicksel’s examination of shelter in refugee camps, these pieces explore a wide assortment of artifacts. The authors reveal that these artifacts enabled historical actors to shape events in specific ways and give meaning to their surrounding world.

In her own essay, Cashin focuses on the relationship Civil War soldiers had with artifacts from the American Revolution. She specifically notes southern whites’ veneration of Revolutionary War artifacts and their desire to protect them from Union soldiers. Union soldiers were eager to find jewelry and cuts of wood from Founding Fathers as they campaigned, items that were valuable to them but were also easy to physically carry. Cashin argues that soldiers wanted physical contact with these artifacts to serve as second-hand connections to great figures, especially George Washington, which would serve as inspirational reminders of the past, as well as mementos that could be taken away as souvenirs of war. Cashin’s essay ends with a sentence that sets up this new subfield of historical scholarship: “The study of material culture can illuminate yet other undiscovered aspects of politics and memory in the long sweep of American History.”

Two other essays in the collection that complemented each other were Earl Hess’s, “The Material Culture of Weapons in the Civil War,” and CWI Director Peter Carmichael’s, “The Trophies of Victory and The Relics of Defeat: Returning Home in the Spring of 1865.” While exploring different aspects of the soldier experience, both pieces cover the tenuous relationship that many Civil War soldiers had with their weapons during the war. Hess explores the ambivalence that soldiers felt toward their guns and the act of shooting them. Some Civil War soldiers were petrified by the power of their rifles, realizing that the weapon purposefully took the life of an enemy or could accidentally discharge into a comrade. For other soldiers, America’s emerging gun culture made them supremely confident in the handling and use of small arms while campaigning. Carmichael discusses how rifles and other militaria carried heightened symbolism during the Confederate surrender at Appomattox. Some Confederate soldiers were so grief-stricken, or in denial, over the Confederacy’s demise that they could not bring themselves to personally surrender their weapons. Instead, they simply left their weapons in their tent and walked away rather than face the indignity of handing over these much-desired trophy pieces to Union victors. Enlisted men felt that the surrender of their weapons encroached on their personal honor because the decision to surrender was not theirs.

For casual buffs or serious scholars, War Matters is a rewarding read. Each author reconstructs the physical and symbolic importance of objects for readers. Moreover, the authors give voice to different human stories and the material objects through which individuals made sense of their world. The more we understand the artifacts themselves, the more we understand the people who used them. As the contributors to War Matters successfully showcase, material culture is an important complement to traditional history. Cashin and the contributors to the volume illuminate new subjects and provide another layer of understanding to the construction and unpacking of historical narratives.

Complicating the Civil War Narrative: The Lincoln Lyceum Lecture

By Savannah Labbe ’19

Edward Ayers

On October 3rd, the 2018 Lincoln Prize-winning author and historian, Edward Ayers, gave a talk on his most recent book, The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America. Ayers began the process of writing this book in 1991 while driving through the Shenandoah Valley and wondering how places so naturally beautiful could go to war with each other so quickly. In his book, he attempts to answer that question by looking at how the Civil War was experienced on the ground by normal, everyday people. He does this by following two communities from 1863 to the immediate post-war years: Augusta County, VA and Franklin County, PA. He began following these two counties in his previous book, In the Presence of Mine Enemies, and The Thin Light of Freedom serves as a follow-up to that book. Ayers chose these counties because, on the surface, they seemed to be very similar. Both counties had similar soil and geographic features and they are relatively close in proximity. They also both initially supported the Union. However, despite their similarities, their inhabitants still went to war with each other and had very different opinions about the war. Augusta County ultimately sided with the Confederacy when Virginia seceded, which radically changed the lives of the county’s inhabitants, both black and white. By examining the war’s impact on both whites and blacks in these two communities, Ayers provides a fuller picture of the complex racial, social, economic, and cultural fabric of these societies. Ayers sees these counties as a sort of microcosm of the Civil War itself, in that they provide specific examples and concrete evidence for the larger, intangible legacies of the war, such as the fight over historical memory.


Ayers began his lecture by arguing that the Civil War was marked by boundaries of all kinds, not just regional ones. The war changed the boundaries that marked who was considered a human being and who was considered property. Time also made its mark on the lives of soldiers in that soldiers would often look back upon battles and see them as landmarks, or turning points, in their lives. Battles such as Gettysburg, where Ayers begins his book, had this effect. A man from Franklin County was at Gettysburg, and after the great victory near his home, he was able to sneak off to see his wife. His wife back home could hear the roar of battle but could not see it. After his visit, though, she was able to feel secure in the knowledge that her husband had survived the battle. For the soldier, his visit home after the great carnage at Gettysburg served not only as a much-needed break from the battlefield’s death and destruction, but also was a celebratory moment and a happy memory from which he could derive hope and purpose. However, on the Confederate side, the scene was very different. Confederates were not able to return home and celebrate their victory with their wives. Instead, they watched as wounded and mutilated men were dragged down the road by wagons, some of whom had not even seen a doctor yet. In contrast to the more hopeful Union soldier, the Confederates looked back upon the Battle of Gettysburg as a moment of immense and unmitigated suffering and loss.

Though the Confederates lost at Gettysburg, they were able to come back in 1864 and capture another Pennsylvania town: Chambersburg. In addition, the Union forces also occupied Staunton, the largest town in Augusta County, in June of 1864. When the Confederates took Chambersburg, the residents of Franklin County despaired over its loss. However, the Confederates relished in the terror of Chambersburg’s citizens and hoped that the county would never again be under Union control. An African American soldier defending the town wrote about how bravely his regiment had fought. The raid was particularly dangerous for this black soldier not only because he risked his life in battle, but also because he risked being captured and sold into slavery by the Confederates. However, he was determined to fight to gain the rights of black people to be acknowledged as human beings, to be free, and to vote, or die trying. Ayers used the experiences of town citizens, Confederates, and the black soldier to portray the range of emotions involved when the Confederates captured Chambersburg. Ayers showed this range of emotions and opinions in order to provide insight into what was at stake for each of these groups of people.

The citizens of these counties had differing opinions and feelings about many political and social issues, including the election of 1864. During the campaign season, northern Democrats vilified Abraham Lincoln. The Republicans and African Americans, on the other hand, believed Lincoln was correct in issuing the Emancipation Proclamation and making the war not only about the preservation of the Union but also about ending slavery. Though he only gained 1% of the northern Democratic vote, Lincoln won in a landslide vote in the electoral college, ultimately ensuring the demise of the Confederacy. However, white Augusta residents vowed to never give up, and even offered to send their slaves to fight for the Confederacy. They had already lost so much, since much of the war was fought on their land, and were willing to sacrifice even their most prized “possessions”—their slaves– in order to preserve southern independence. In proposing to send their slaves to fight for the Confederacy, Augusta residents defied many other southern slaveowners who believed that slavery provided both the physical labor and the socio-political backbone that kept the Confederacy on its feet. The actions of southerners like the Augusta residents helped shape the Lost Cause narrative and southern memory of the war. For example, the idea that southerners would never give up influenced the Lost Cause idea that the southerners never did give up but were, instead, simply overrun by overwhelming numbers. Augusta residents’ willingness to give up their slaves also shaped the Lost Cause narrative, as southerners used such evidence to try to argue that the war was not about slavery, but rather about southern independence.

White southerners, such as those of Augusta County, entered the post-war world believing they were in the right and that God had been on their side, and they fought tenaciously to preserve such a narrative for posterity in their attempts to control the historical memory of the war. Immediately after the guns of war fell silent, the whites of Augusta County set out to decorate the graves of the Confederate fallen. In doing so, they sought to promote the notion that the Confederate dead were the only war dead that deserved to be honored, as they had fought for the only noble cause. The next day, the African Americans of Augusta County went out to decorate the graves of Union dead. With this action, they fought back against the white residents’ attempt to control historical memory of the war by arguing that the Union dead were more deserving of having their graves decorated because they had fought for the more righteous cause of freeing the slaves.

Due to African American resistance to the Lost Cause narrative, southerners did everything they could, both legally and illegally, to prevent African Americans from gaining suffrage and fully participating in American society. In this way, Ayers believes, the South committed its own suicide: If southerners had not fought so hard to deny blacks their rights, then the drastic reforms of the Radical Republicans in Congress that forever changed the fabric of southern society would not have been necessary. Ayers believes that the Radicals’ most important reform was the public-school system, which allowed African Americans to become educated. Southerners did not want blacks to have access to education because then they would become a threat to southerners’ visions of “proper” political and social order. Through public education, blacks would gain the knowledge and intelligence necessary to fight for suffrage and to stop discrimination. African Americans would then realize that they could achieve everything white people could, thus making them the equals of the white man. Such realizations would challenge the claim that white people were inherently superior and would ultimately undermine whites’ discrimination methods, such as segregation.

Ayers’s lecture provided an in-depth look at two counties which, on the surface, seem very similar but were actually radically different. His close analysis of Augusta and Franklin Counties offers a compelling window into the lived realities of the war for two specific communities, while unpacking some of the critical regional complexities that shaped those communities’ differing experiences of and reactions to the war. Additionally, his examination both of the long fight for historical memory and of the differing worldviews and experiences of all those involved in the conflict shows that a multi-faceted view of the war is necessary to fully understand the conflict and its legacies.

Remembering the Violence of Antietam

By Cameron Sauers ’21

Ranger Keith Snyder from Antietam National Battlefield delivering his program Saturday afternoon in Antietam National Cemetery. (photo via Cameron Sauers)

Saturday, September 8th, saw a powerful collaboration between the Civil War Institute, Antietam National Battlefield, Eastern National, and Shepherd University. Together, these organizations hosted an event titled “Remembering the Violence of Antietam” which had a morning session at Shepherd University’s Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education. Those fortunate enough to have secured a seat in the auditorium were treated to a thought-provoking and informative string of talks. The afternoon session took place at different sites around Antietam National Battlefield.

The day began in earnest with an insightful lecture from Amelia Grabowski, a Gettysburg College alumna from the class of 2013. Grabowski’s lecture, “The Making of the Angel of the Battlefield,” focused on Clara Barton , a school teacher and clerk in the patent office who became a nurse at the outset of the war. The lectured paid special attention to how Barton’s experience at Antietam field hospitals influenced her later work with the Missing Soldiers Office and the foundation of the American Red Cross. Clara Barton’s early life was illuminated for the audience, dispelling the common notion that Barton was some angel just dropped on the Antietam battlefield. One of the events in Barton’s early life that was highlighted was Barton’s experience nursing her brother to health for two years after he fell from a roof. This gave Barton the rudimentary knowledge of nursing that she would take to the battlefield with her.

Following Grabowski was CWI Director, Dr. Peter Carmichael, who delivered a talk entitled, “Where is the Blood? Imagination, Violence, and the Sunken Lane.” Dr Carmichael detailed the sanitization of the famous Alexander Gardiner photos of Antietam before public consumption. Gardiner’s original photos of carnage were stripped of their blood and gore before being published as woodcuts for Northern newspapers. This editing of the photos prevented Northerners from seeing the true carnage in Gardiner’s original photos of the battle. Dr. Carmichael also provided the case study of David Beam, who served in the 24th Indiana and fought at the Sunken Lane who wrote a series of emotional and revealing letters home in the days and weeks following Antietam. Carmichael’s example served to prove his point that Civil War soldiers were emotional and would share their feelings with those on the home front.

After concluding his talk, Dr. Carmichael introduced his good friend and newly appointed director of the Nau Center for Civil War History at the University of Virginia, Dr. Caroline Janney. Dr. Janney’s achievement as a Civil War historian is well known . She is the author of Burying the Dead But Not the Past: Ladies’ Memorial Associations and the Lost Cause and Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the Limits of Reconciliation. Janney’s lecture, “On this Field Died Slavery: Remembering and Reconciling at Antietam,” captivated the assembled audience. One of the fascinating aspects of Dr. Janney’s talk was her detailing of how many soldiers, both northern and Southern, did not want to go to Blue/Grey reunions because they did not want to tone down their rhetoric about the war’s causes. Blue/ Grey reunions were reconciliation meetings that sought to commemorate the valor of individual soldiers and units but ignored larger political forces of the war. Union veterans may have preferred to lambaste the South’s secession, but would have been hesitant to do it on Southern ground in front of Southern veterans.

Janney also made the interesting argument that Antietam is a memorial park to the Union itself because many veterans of the Battle of Antietam, especially those who did not fight at Gettysburg, viewed the battle as the triumph that ended slavery. Following the war, many soldiers would take great pride in the fact that their sacrifice and victory at the battle of Antietam led to the Emancipation Proclamation. After the war, this sense of pride would lead to clashes between Union and Confederate veterans over what caused the war and what ended it, especially as former Confederates developed the Lost Cause mythology . Janney ended with Robert Penn Warren’s quote, “in the moment of death the Confederacy entered upon its immortality ,” which was a perfect example of this new mythology. The Confederacy, when it surrendered, still had ardent supporters who were not yet willing to admit defeat. They vowed to perpetuate “the lost cause,” which promotes Confederate honor and dignity and attempts to manipulate the historical memory of the war. For example, a common example of the lost cause is to say that ‘states rights’ caused the war, instead of slavery, or to sterilize the horrors of the institution of slavery. The sense of awe in the room was palpable as seminar participants headed for lunch.

In the afternoon, visitors were treated to a unique talk from Dr. James Broomall, the Director of the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War and Assistant Professor of History at Shepherd University. Broomall admittedly stepped out of his comfort zone to deliver a lecture on James Hope’s paintings of the battle of Antietam. Broomall claimed to not be an art historian, but his speech had the audience (myself included) captivated by the subject. Broomall focused on how Hope’s return to the battlefield two decades after the battle inspired him to begin painting once again. The resulting works capture the field of Antietam at its most brutal – from the fighting near Dunker Church, to piles of bodies in the Sunken lane. Seeing how a painter remembered the violence at Antietam was an interesting contrast to how photography and monuments commemorated the violence. Broomall’s talk about painting the battlefield was especially helpful as seminar attendees headed out onto the battlefield.

After Broomall’s talk, a brave few ventured out in the rain for the first of two battlefield tours. Park ranger Brian Baracz’s tour, “Memory in Bronze and Stone,” built on the morning talks, especially that of Dr. Janney. Baracz focused on the monuments erected at Antietam and how their stories differ from Gettysburg’s battlefield. Antietam has less monuments on the battlefield than Gettysburg because many states wanted to put monuments only at Gettysburg and considered the monuments erected at Antietam to be second in terms of importance. Fortunately, the rain started to disappear towards the end of Baracz’s talk and held off for Keith Snyder’s tour. Snyder’s tour, “The Global Sacrifice for Freedom at Antietam National Cemetery,” expanded the day beyond the Civil War. Snyder detailed, for the assembled audience, the stories behind a few of the graves at the cemetery. Included were the graves of Civil War soldiers, African American soldiers who battled against segregation during the first World War, and soldiers who fought on both fronts during the second World War. Snyder’s tour was moving, and it was hard not to become emotional. Even Snyder struggled to hold back tears as he recounted powerful stories of heroism and sacrifice . One story that impacted me personally was the story of Staff Sgt. Maxwell Leo Swain who was killed at the battle of the Bulge on Dec. 19, 1944. Swain’s youth at age 19 years old when he died particularly resonated with me, being 19 myself. The tour was a thought-provoking and appropriate end to a day focused on the remembrance of sacrifice, and the far-ranging impact of battlefield violence.

The Long Legacy of White Citizen Police: A Recap of the 12th Annual Gondwe Lecture

By Jeffrey Lauck ’18

Last week, the Gettysburg College Africana Studies and Economics Departments sponsored the 12th annual Derrick K. Gondwe Memorial Lecture on Social and Economic Justice. This year’s lecture featured Dr. Edward E. Baptist, a Durham, North Carolina native currently teaching in the History Department at Cornell University. His lecture, “White Predators: Hunting African Americans For Profit, From the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act to Lee’s 1863 Invasion of Pennsylvania,” painted the picture of a centuries-long instinct among white Americans to police black Americans.

Continue reading “The Long Legacy of White Citizen Police: A Recap of the 12th Annual Gondwe Lecture”

Reconciling with the Past: Ana Lucia Araujo’s Lecture on Coming to Terms with the Past When Monuments Are Taken Down

By Daniel Wright ’18

On Thursday, November 2nd, Howard University History Professor Ana Lucia Araujo visited Gettysburg College to give a lecture titled “Slavery, Memory, and Reparations: Coming to Terms with the Past When Monuments Are Taken Down.” The historian, author, and professor talked about the history of slavery as well as the concepts of memory and reparations. One form of reparations discussed recently has been the removal of Confederate monuments in the United States, which has been heavily debated for years.

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Battlefields and Supermarkets: The Importance of Battlefield Preservation and the Case of Camp Letterman

By Savannah Labbe ‘19

Gettysburg National Military Park is an immense park, encompassing and preserving a large section of the battlefield. What many don’t realize, however, is that the battlefield was not confined only to the areas that have been preserved, but also to a much larger section of the greater Gettysburg area. Where now stands the Giant supermarket was once home to land that the Confederates retreated over and also, more importantly, to a large battlefield hospital, Camp Letterman.

Tents at Camp Letterman
Tents at Camp Letterman in August, 1863. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

After the Battle of Gettysburg, most of the wounded and the medical staff moved on with the army. However, some wounded couldn’t be moved due to the severity of their injuries. All these men were consolidated into the general hospital that became known as Camp Letterman, which housed around 21,000 badly wounded Union and Confederate soldiers. It was the largest field hospital of the Civil War with 500 tents and the capacity to house 21,000 wounded. About 1,200 soldiers died there, but that number could have been much higher if not for Major John Letterman’s advanced triage system. His system became the gold standard of medical practice during that time period. Since Camp Letterman treated both Union and Confederate soldiers, they were able to interact and help begin to heal the divide that was crippling the nation. For example, there was a picnic at Camp Letterman in which both Union and Confederate soldiers ate and played games together. Camp Letterman was also involved in the First World War, providing housing for soldiers in the wake of the Spanish flu epidemic. Continue reading “Battlefields and Supermarkets: The Importance of Battlefield Preservation and the Case of Camp Letterman”