25 Years of Gettysburg

Edited by Olivia Ortman ’19

Amongst the Civil War community here at Gettysburg College, the movie Gettysburg is very much a part of our daily lives. Quotes are thrown back and forth in witty banter, the music is played for dramatic effect, and history professors are badgered to show clips in class. Since the movie fits so seamlessly into our experience here in Gettysburg, we often take it for granted. However, Gettysburg recently celebrated its 25th anniversary with a special showing at the Majestic Theater, with remarks from the director preceding the viewing. Although none of the Fellows attended, it got a lot of us thinking about our own experiences with the movie. Each one of us has been touched by Gettysburg in significant ways.

Ryan Bilger ’19 –I knew the soundtrack of the movie Gettysburg before I knew the film itself. I remember being six years old on a trip with my parents, asking “where are we going?” again and again during the car ride until I saw a sign announcing the mileage to Gettysburg. In that moment, I knew exactly where we were going. My father is also a casual historian of the battle, and I had often looked at the colorful pictures and maps in his Civil War magazines. Gazing out over the fields of Pickett’s Charge that day, something clicked in my young brain, and thus was born a lifelong interest. Of course, at six years old my parents correctly decided that I was not quite ready to see the movie Gettysburg yet, so they gave me the soundtrack CD to listen to instead. They didn’t get it back any time soon.

The movie, when I finally saw it, was worth the wait and has been my constant companion since. I watch scenes like the 20th Maine’s bayonet charge or the climax of Pickett’s Charge when I need to get motivated for events. The poster for the film hangs at the foot of my bed at home. Gettysburg, for all its flaws, has remained one of my favorite movies over the years, and has acted as a gateway to my development as a historian. The film presents myriad examples of popular heroism, whether in the form of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain leading a bayonet charge or Winfield Scott Hancock exposing himself to enemy fire to inspire his own troops. However, many more heroes of the battle did not survive to tell their stories. Through the Killed at Gettysburg project, I’ve illuminated some of these stories of valor that do not receive nearly as much attention. Men like Patrick O’Rorke, Benjamin Crippin, and Franz Benda all had their own unique stories to be told, bringing greater color and nuance to the broader narratives of heroism in July 1863.

Though it may sound strange, Gettysburg has also given me a community. Living in the Civil War Era Studies House at Gettysburg College, I can exclaim “What’s happening to my boys?!” or grumble in a low voice about high ground and nearly everyone will instantly understand. We joke about Pickett’s ridiculous laugh when Longstreet tells him he will lead the assault on July 3 and bemoan the death of the glorious Buster Kilrain. The movie brings us together as a group in strange, yet often hilarious ways, and for that I am extremely grateful.

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Seven-year-old Ryan Bilger exploring the Gettysburg battlefield.

Benjamin Roy ’21 – I was born in Bethel, Maine and take great pride in bearing the identity of a Mainer. This is in no small part due to the movie Gettysburg and the story of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the 20th Maine dramatized therein. From the first time I was exposed to the movie Gettysburg at five years old, I felt deeply connected to Chamberlain and the 20th Maine. I writhed in agony as the shrieking Alabamians charged and cheered when the Mainer valiantly resisted. My heart soared as Colonel Chamberlain charged down the hill, his Maine boys following close behind with fixed bayonets. My brother and I refought this struggle for Little Round Top on hillsides countless times. When my parents asked me, at age seven, whether I wanted to go to Disney World or Gettysburg, my choice was simple: Gettysburg.

The heroic story of the 20th Maine told in The Killer Angels and dramatized in Gettysburg is what ultimately inspired me to study the Civil War and pursue history as a career. My interest in Chamberlain and his men evolved into an interest in common soldiers. The story has also instilled a sense of identity in me and a pride in coming from Maine myself, even though I now live in North Carolina. Even as I write this, a miniature bust of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain overlooks my desk, reminding me of where I come from, and where I hope to go. Whenever I need to be reminded of who I am and where I am from, I need only to watch Gettysburg.

Olivia Ortman ’19 – My own journey with Gettysburg began much later than most of my fellow CWI writers. In my family, birthdays have always been very important. My sister and I were allowed to stay home on our birthdays and do anything we wanted. For me, that usually meant trips to Mystic Aquarium or the zoo. However, after learning about the Civil War in 8th grade, I asked my parents if my birthday day could be a birthday weekend. My parents agreed, and I headed off with my mom to spend Memorial Day weekend of 2011 in Gettysburg. It was one of the most magical weekends of my life, to say the least. (My mom still shudders when she thinks about traipsing every inch of battlefield behind me so I could investigate all, and I do mean all, the monuments.)

When I heard about the annual reenactment, I knew I had to come back to Gettysburg that July. The copy of Gettysburg the movie that I picked up in the giftshop of General Lee’s Headquarters was how I convinced my father to make a family trip out of the reenactment. After getting home from Gettysburg, I put on the film and insisted my dad watch with me so I could show him where I’d been. By the end of the film, and to my sister’s immense disappointment, I had convinced both parents that we needed to go to the July reenactment. That was the beginning of the past eight years for me. When we returned to Gettysburg, I discovered Gettysburg College and knew that I would one day attend. Throughout those years, whenever someone from home has asked me why Gettysburg or why history, Gettysburg was my way of explaining. The movie has given me a way to introduce others to my passion and let them see what I’m doing here at college.

Savannah Labbe ’19 – Being from Maine, I appreciate how Gettysburg highlights Maine’s contribution to the Civil War, which I feel is often underappreciated or even forgotten about. Maine contributed the largest number of soldiers proportionate to its population of any state in the Union. However, the movie Gettysburg has risen to such fame that it seems as if the 20th Maine was the only unit from Maine that made an important contribution to the battle. This is decidedly not the case. For example, the 16th Maine made a suicidal stand on the first day of the battle so that the Union First Corps could retreat. All of the 16th Maine soldiers were either captured or killed in order to allow the Union to fight another day. On the second day of the battle, the 17th and 19th Maine helped save the Union line after General Sickles overextended it.

The film also deifies the battle for Little Round Top and Chamberlain. The battle for Little Round Top comes across as a defining moment and a turning point in the Battle of Gettysburg. Viewers think that this was the moment that decided the outcome of the three-day fighting at Gettysburg, but that’s not necessarily true. Chamberlain himself has taken on star qualities as the man who saved the day, but his conflicting reports on the battle in real life call into question whether or not he himself actually gave his famous order to charge. While Gettysburg is an important film and it has it merits, it has become so dominant in popular culture that people have put Chamberlain and the 20th Maine on a pedestal, which does a disservice to the other Union units present at the battle. However, when I watched the movie Gettysburg for the first time in my 8th grade social studies class, I took this movie at face value. While the movie motivated me to study history and piqued my interest in the Civil War, I soon learned that it had a lot of flaws and was not necessarily an accurate depiction, making me want to explore the actual history of the battle more and the role that all Maine units played.

Cameron Sauers ’21 – My introduction to the movie Gettysburg begins with Michael Shaara’s novel The Killer Angels. I remember being infatuated with the novel, constantly reading it and carrying it with me when I was in 4th grade. I don’t remember the first time I saw Gettysburg, but I do remember watching it constantly (my parents have seen it more times than they probably wished). This infatuation with the movie sky-rocketed in 5th grade when my local historic society brought in Patrick Falci (the actor who portrayed A.P. Hill) to speak at a special event and he encouraged me to pursue my passion for history and the Civil War. Almost 10 years later, I am on the front lines of history as a Fellow here at the CWI. I think it is safe to say that I would not be where I am today without the passion that Gettysburg awakened in me.

Not only has Gettysburg inspired my future, but it has also influenced the time I’ve spent with my family. My parents were forced to endure countless screenings of the movie, and never once complained or suggested that we watch something else. They saw my love for history growing before their eyes and supported it, buying me countless books and taking day trips to battlefields and re-enactments. When my parents recently visited during Family Weekend, they agreed when I wanted to take them to museums in town and on an impromptu battlefield tour. My parents didn’t bat an eye when they heard the many Gettysburg quotes from me and my peers. Gettysburg, to me, is a reminder of my childhood and my passion for history. But more importantly, it’s a reminder of the support and love my family has given me.

Making Photographs Speak

By James Goodman ’20, Benjamin Roy ’21, and Cameron Sauers ’21

It has often been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Making that picture spit out those mythical thousand words, as we can all attest, is no easy task. Over the course of the first half of the fall semester, the three of us were tasked with developing brief interpretive captions for two Civil War photographs each, with the end goal to display our work at the Civil War Institute’s 2019 Summer Conference. What initially appeared as a simple project quickly revealed itself to be a difficult, yet rewarding, challenge that taught us all important lessons concerning history, photography, and writing that we will not soon forget. Producing the photography exhibit enhanced our skills as historical writers, introduced us to the challenge of writing for a popular audience, and deepened our understanding of Civil War photography.

Benjamin – The first image I worked with was taken by Alexander Gardner on the Rose Farm a few days after the battle. In the photograph, four South Carolina officers lay in a rubbish heap, set on the edge of the Rose property, far away from the home and outbuildings. In a grotesque state of bloat and mutilation, the four bodies are unidentifiable, which highlights the importance of the headboards that lay atop and beside the dead. The haphazard nature of how the bodies and headboards have been laid out offers important insights into the struggles of civilians after the battle. After the Battle of Gettysburg, civilians had to deal with mass casualties and the challenges it posed to their ideologies about death and warfare. Primary accounts from visitors to the Rose farm after the battle reveal that these four soldiers were likely originally buried near John Rose’s well. John Rose disinterred the four corpses in the image and relocated them away from his water supply to ensure its safety. Already swamped with some 500 dead scattered about his property, Rose did not immediately rebury them, but placed them alongside the rest of the refuse to be dealt with later. This was far from the proper 19th-century burial, which was a Christian burial effected by loved ones or comrades and culminating in a quiet, unassuming funeral centered on the memory of the individual. John Rose’s discarding of these attitudes, graphically captured in Gardner’s image, is indicative of how the horrors of war, exhaustion, and pragmatism came together in the decisions of civilians like John Rose that broke from strict 19th-century traditions for treatment of the dead.

My second image was another photograph of South Carolina dead on the Rose farm. Three rebel officers lay exposed in an incomplete grave. Horse-drawn carts on a sloping hill occupy the background and the bodies are slightly hidden by the walls of the grave, but viewers’ eyes are drawn to the headboards. 19th-century beliefs about death placed heavy emphasis on personal identification and the humanization of the dead. Comrades of the fallen sought to ensure a proper battlefield burial by identifying the fallen’s remains so that they might be retrieved, or even brought home for burial with all the correct ceremonies that 19th-century sentimentalism required. Although these dead soldiers were not buried by their comrades, nor were their graves mourned over by loved ones, the headboards and Gardner’s choice to feature them speaks volumes about the resilience of sentimental attitudes about death. The headboards and the identities scrawled upon them stand like lighthouses of sentimentalism amid a sea of the impersonal destructive forces of war. A 19th-century viewer could take this horror and comfort in equal measure in the image of these three South Carolina dead, knowing that although these men had died far from home and loved ones, they would be remembered.

Frequently while developing these captions, I confronted ideas about mortality and identification after death. The South Carolina soldiers must have confronted these questions regularly in the lead-up to their fate at Gettysburg. This same morbid reflection must have consumed most Victorian Americans, soldiers and civilians alike, as images like this hasty grave became commonplace and challenged some of their most cherished cultural tenets of death, as well as the meaning and cost of war. My thoughts also turned to the families of the soldiers, and what their reactions would be if they ever saw these images. Would they be outraged that their son had become the object of a northern voyeuristic curiosity? Working on these captions left me with more questions than answers. This project illustrated to me that it is impossible to comprehend all the questions these images ask, and that I can only provide the best answers from the sources at my disposal. Similarly, I may never fully understand the overwhelming experiences of John Rose in the wake of a great battle, nor how a broader northern audience made sense of the horror they confronted in the twin images of South Carolina dead from the Rose farm.

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The three authors working with Ron Perisho, who generously provided the photographs for the project.

Cameron – For me, Civil War photography was what sparked my interest in the Civil War, so the opportunity to work on a photography-based project was truly an opportunity to relish. This project challenged me to look closer at these images and to dig deeper into the stories of the individuals photographed, both known and unidentified. The first of the two images that I worked with was from Alexander Gardner’s collection of death studies done near Devil’s Den. The image features one lone soldier lying on his back, with noticeable brain matter spilled out from his head and a posed rifle next to his side. The only background in the image is a rock. I had to piece together what I could about this individual: What unit was he from? When did he fall in the fighting? I only knew for certain that the soldier was a Confederate who died near the Slaughter Pen; everything else would have to be informed speculation based on Victorian norms.

At moments, it was emotional writing about the life of a soldier who might have been no older than myself when he fell in battle. When I finished the final draft of the caption, I went and found the location of the image. It was powerful and moving to visit the site of the image I had spent so much time with. That portion of the Slaughter Pen will never be the same for me when I visit the battlefield. Thinking about this image and all the other scenes from Gettysburg viewed by northern audiences who were so curious to catch a glimpse of the “real war” on camera, I wondered if they ever realized that the corpse captured in the image was someone’s loved one? Did they think about who this man was before the war and what led him to Gettysburg? Northern audiences may have seen the photo and thought they had experienced the war. Doubtless, the graphic image was profoundly troubling to many who held cherished ideas about the romance of war and the “Good Death.” Yet, as unsettled as these viewers may have been after gazing upon this gory image, the reality was that only those who participated in the fighting could truly understand the brutal experience of war.

The second image I worked with is a lesser known image taken by Frederick Gutekunst of a field hospital following the battle. The challenge of that image was an interesting juxtaposition to the other image. So much was already known about the numerous figures who appear in the image and who have published works about their experiences. Determining what narrative I wanted to focus on in my caption was difficult since there were numerous stories I could have honed in on. The experience of being able to explore the primary sources of individuals whom I had never previously considered, such as surgeons and nurses, provided a new depth to my understanding of the battle of Gettysburg and its impacts. The caption encouraged me to think about the experiences of those who were not traditional, rifle-carrying soldiers nor helpless civilians caught in the crossfire. They were humanitarians who willingly exposed themselves to danger to provide aid to soldiers on both sides of the battlefield. After the armies marched away, the army surgeons stayed with volunteer nurses to care for the wounded.

This photo also forced me to think more deeply about the specific message the photographer was trying to convey by depicting the hospital scene as he did, as well as the reaction he sought to provoke from his viewers. By photographing an array of tents and medical personnel milling about instead of the countless corpses lying on the battlefield, Gutekunst was trying to galvanize public support for Union soldiers and their caretakers: Many of Gutekunst’s images sought specifically to appeal to northerners’ patriotism as well as their purses in order to inspire civilians to donate money and supplies to the Union war effort. Such medical supplies and volunteers were essential to aid the brave wounded. By capturing the heroic surgeons and nurses, who stand in between the viewer and the gruesome scenes of a field hospital, Gutekunst showed the public the patriotic sacrifice of civilians, while sparing them the direct sensory affronts of the interior hospital scenes, in the hope that such an image might inspire others to similarly patriotic and self-sacrificing action.

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James – This project presented a unique set of challenges for me. I tend to write in a leaner style and therefore needed to develop a more elaborate and interpretive writing style. I was also pushed to think more interpretively about my photographs, which had an extra layer of difficulty in that they were of landscapes, not people. I worked with two images photographed by Samuel Fischer Corlies, an amateur photographer from Philadelphia who did not arrive in Gettysburg until November 1863. The images I chose depicted destroyed landscapes at East Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill. In order to do justice to these photos, I needed to go beyond simply what was shown in them to what Corlies intended his audience to feel, including the pain felt by civilians and soldiers alike in the aftermath of the battle. Due to the lack of actual bodies extant on the battlefield by November of 1863, he allowed the natural landscape to speak for those impacted by war, with the scarred landscape embodying the long-lasting pain and destruction upon bodies, families, and livelihoods alike.

Corlies’s image of East Cemetery Hill depicts a war-torn, devastated landscape. The focal point was a trench dug by Federal troops, with pieces of lumber strewn haphazardly along the earthwork. The land around the trench, which was probably vibrant with healthy grass and vegetation before the battle, was desolate and trampled. Looking at the image, I could only imagine what the aftermath of the battle was like for the people of Gettysburg. The field in this photo looks as if it were completely destroyed. Huge quantities of earth were moved to create the defenses or for artillery fire. Crops were eaten or trampled by marching troops. With their homes, fields, and livelihoods ravaged and forever changed by the clashing of two great armies in July, the people of Gettysburg faced a new, somber reality. This point was even more poignant when I learned Corlies’s images were from November of 1863, four months after the battle was fought. At this point, the land was ripped apart once again as citizens of Gettysburg began exhuming the bodies of dead soldiers and relocating them to their final resting places in the National Cemetery or the South. By exhuming the soldiers’ bodies, the town essentially reopened its only recently closed wounds. It must have felt like the nightmare would never end, and yet that disruptive burial process, compounded by Lincoln’s address that same month, also sought to provide healing, comfort, and a higher meaning for the suffering endured by soldiers and civilians alike.

In the image of Culp’s Hill, Corlies again captured the battle’s long-lasting destruction. Culp’s Hill looks like a barren wasteland filled with the trunks of trees. The trees were either intentionally cut down to be used as defenses or fell victim to the Confederate attempts to take the hill. As with East Cemetery Hill, this devastation occurred on someone’s property. A private citizen was forced to clean up the carnage left behind. They saw trees that had been growing for decades cut down in mere hours. The image of bullet ridden and devastated trees on Culp’s Hill reflected a common sentiment in the Victorian Era to find human symbolism in natural landscapes, and in this case, compare the decimated trees to slain human bodies. As the trees were destroyed or felled in some way, it made sense that Corlies attempted to replace the bodies of soldiers that would have been present on the landscape months prior with these trees. It truly represented how quickly and deeply the battle’s destruction was inflicted on Gettysburg and how long it would take for the area to heal.

 

We have learned much from developing these captions. Our skills as writers have been keenly developed, as we confronted and surmounted the challenges of creating attractive and digestible captions for a public audience. Furthermore, we gained a deeper appreciation for an interdisciplinary approach to history, as it allowed us to make the unspoken contents of each photograph visceral again. As we struggled to piece together the background stories for these photos, we often wondered how future generations will view our own pictures. Will they get the story 100% right? Only time will tell. Our hope is that on this project we were able to successfully capture the stories that are represented in each photograph.

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.

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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.

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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.

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.”

Hicks
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
$29.95

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.

Remembering the Violence of Antietam

By Cameron Sauers ’21

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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.