Twilight of the Blue and Gray: Gettysburg College and the 1938 Reunion

By: Cameron Sauers

CWI Fellow Cameron Sauers ’21 recently interviewed Chief of Interpretation at Gettysburg National Military Park Chris Gwinn about the tour that Ranger Gwinn will lead at this summer’s conference. Ranger Gwinn’s tour is entitled “Twilight of the Blue and Gray: Gettysburg College and the 1938 Reunion” and will explore the site of the “Great Camp” at Gettysburg College, where 1,485 former Union and Confederate soldiers gathered for the final reunion of surviving Civil War veterans. Discover the stories of the veterans that attended and explore the history behind one of the most mythologized events in Gettysburg’s history.


For more information on the 2020 Civil War Institute Summer Conference, or to register, see our website! 

The Southerner’s Experience at Gettysburg College

By Abigail Major ’19

One of the aspects that I personally treasure about Gettysburg College is its history. I have often wondered how the college, founded in 1832 under the original name Pennsylvania College, operated during, and was affected by, the American Civil War—especially when considering the students who hailed from Confederate states. How did those students in particular act and react before, during and after the Civil War? How did they cope with the political implications of the war, and how did their fellow peers conduct themselves? Gaps in information, such as personal narratives of Southern Gettysburg College students, are major challenges in understanding what their experience was like. Looking at Princeton University, originally called the College of New Jersey, can provide us with an idea of what the Southern student’s experience at Gettysburg College may have been like during the war.

The Gettysburg College catalogs do offer a starting point and framework by providing bare statistics of the total enrollment of students, as well as the name, class year, and hometown of individuals. In 1842, the total student body consisted of 175 students, seven of whom claimed residency in Virginia. In 1850, six Southern students (all hailing from Virginia) attended the institution, which, at the time, had a total of 142 students. During the 1855-6 term, there were five Virginians and one Georgian out of 142 students. That the representation of Southern students was constant—that is to say, there were only about five to seven Southern students in the whole student body—should be noted.

Gettysburg College Catalogue. Photo credit:

Howevere, this small yet consistent representation of Southern students dwindled in the fall of 1860; of the total 151 young men who were enrolled, only three were from the South (one from North Carolina and two from Virginia). Charles Glatfelter, utilizing Robert Fortenbaugh’s chapter in Samuel Gring Hefelbower’s The History of Gettysburg College, 1832-1932, offers commentary in A Salutary Influence: “Some parents refused to allow their sons to come to Gettysburg because of its proximity to the Mason-Dixon Line.” While I am unable to pinpoint where and when these attitudes arose, the fact that the overall attendance—in addition to Southern representation—lessened may suggest that these attitudes were shared by both Northern and Southern parents. At Princeton, Southern students followed their homes states’ lead and withdrew from the college during the spring of 1861. One wonders if Southern Gettysburg College students also felt this sense of loyalty to their home states and withdrew from their academics. Perhaps the parents of these Southern men also encouraged them to leave the North. It is also possible that Southern students had the option to be excused from school during the outbreak of the Civil War. For example, Princeton University has a digitized version of an April 1861 list of student names who were “honorably dismissed.”

Another suggestion that has not yet been proposed of why Southern students withdrew may be the rising tension and potential conflict that could have occurred between divided students. In the case study of Princeton, a group of Northern students “climbed to the top of Nassau Hall, hung the national flag….shouting pro-Union speeches from the roof while firing Mexican-American War era muskets” on April 13, 1861. Southern students responded in turn by initiating a pro-Southern demonstration in front of Nassau Hall. Kimberly Klein writes that “throughout the rest of the day the two ‘enemy camps’ exchanged spirited words and continued their patriotic displays.” While the two groups eventually negotiated a peace treaty and celebrated, which may suggest that these demonstrations were conducted respectfully and with no ill will towards either group, it nevertheless hints at the strained tension and differences between Northern and Southern students.

In regards to where these Southern students may have gone during Civil War, it is important to keep in mind that Roanoke College, which was founded in 1842, was also a Lutheran college for young men. Located in Virginia, Roanoke College was one of the few colleges in the South that operated during the Civil War, and it may have been a competitive and attractive option for Southern students who would have attended Gettysburg in more favorable circumstances. This idea should be regarded with caution, however, as it can be argued that this is pure speculation.

But what does this tell us about education during the Civil War, and why should we remember the geographical distribution of students? To answer the first question, these findings demonstrate the attitudes of students, their parents, and their respective loyalties. Our findings and narratives illustrate the tension that was being created in academic communities as the Civil War commenced. What could have been considered a rather unified community of students was now being divided by students’ geographical distribution, upbringing, and culture. This leads us to answer the second question: understanding where these students originated, especially in regards to the South, allows us to study if there was a negative correlation between Southern student attendance and the Civil War at Gettysburg College. It also serves as reminder to the modern day reader to keep in mind those who may have felt like (and indeed been) minorities amidst a majority of Northern students. Understanding their experiences, or at least looking at Princeton University as a case study, presents us the opportunity to imagine what it may have been like for a Southern boy caught in the web of civil war.


Gettysburg College. 1899 Spectrum. Gettysburg, PA: Gettysburg College, 1899.

Gettysburg College. “Gettysburg College Catalog.” Accessed November 23, 2017.

Glatfelter, Charles. A Salutary Influence: Gettysburg College, 1832-1985. Gettysburg, PA: Gettysburg College, 1987.

Kimberly Klein. “The Civil War Comes to Princeton in 1861.” Princeton & Slavery Project. Accessed February 6, 2018.

Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library. “Student Exodus of 1861.” Princeton & Slavery Project. Accessed February 6, 2018.

Michael Colver. “Reminiscences of the Battle of Gettysburg.” 1902 Spectrum. Gettysburg, PA: Gettysburg College, 1902.

Salem Museum. “Experience History: A Brief History of Salem, Virginia.” Accessed January 25, 2018.

"A National Sin": Samuel Simon Schmucker, Founder of Gettysburg College, on the Peculiar Institution

By Meg Sutter ’16

Many music and art students at Gettysburg College would recognize the name Schmucker as their building, or affectionately their ‘home,’ on campus. Alumni might even remember Schmucker Hall as their library. However, if asked who founded Gettysburg College, most students and alumni would probably not know his name. Fortunately, our campus is celebrating Founders Day this week to remember those, including our founder Samuel Simon Schmucker, who helped make our college #Gettysburgreat.

Samuel Simon Schmucker was born in 1799 in Hagerstown, Maryland to German immigrants. His father, John George Schmucker, was a pastor in Hagerstown before moving to York where he continued his ministry. Samuel Simon Schmucker attended the York County Academy before going to the University of Pennsylvania and then the theological seminary at Princeton. In 1820 he was granted membership in the Lutheran Synod and, by the next year, was ordained as a minister by the Maryland and Virginia Synod. As part of the Synod he was elected to a committee in charge of planning a Lutheran theological seminary. Gettysburg was chosen as the location for the seminary, perhaps because there was a large population of German Lutherans in the Gettysburg area and in Adams County. Classes opened at the Lutheran Theological Seminary on September 5, 1826, but after a year, Dr. Schmucker came to the conclusion that many of his students were not prepared in the manner they should be to continue theological studies. He devised creating a preparatory school to solve the problem. On June 25, 1827, the Classical Preparatory School opened and shared the same building as the Seminary. Due to financial problems, Dr. Schmucker bought the property in 1829 and changed the name of the Classical School to the Gettysburg Gymnasium. As both schools grew, there became a need for the Gettysburg Gymnasium to once again reestablish itself. Dr. Schmucker drafted and proposed a bill to make the Gettysburg Gymnasium into a college “for the education of youth in the learned languages, the arts, sciences, and useful literature.” On November 7, 1832, Pennsylvania College was “opened for the reception of Students.”

Gettysburg Gymnasium
Gettysburg Gymnasium at Washington and Carlisle Streets, ca. 1882. Photograph courtesy of Gettysburg College Special Collections.

Continue reading “"A National Sin": Samuel Simon Schmucker, Founder of Gettysburg College, on the Peculiar Institution”

Old Gettysburg Back to Thee: New Exhibit in Special Collections

By Savannah Rose ’17

The current Special Collections exhibit in Musselman Library is called “Old Gettysburg Back to Thee: Student Social Memory Through the 1960s,” and it features artifacts and information about past student social organizations. Curated by Gettysburg College seniors Melanie Fernandes, Jenna Fleming, and Avery Foxs the exhibit features six cases filled with artifacts from Gettysburg College that look at how social outlets have changed and remained the same since the 1960s. The exhibit opened on February 15 and will close on June 30, 2016 with an exhibit talk on April 6 at 4:00 p.m. The exhibit invites students to browse items in the collection that connect to their contemporary experiences at Gettysburg College and help them to reflect on the history of the College.

The first case of the exhibit features information regarding the first student social organizations on campus. Early in the history of Gettysburg College, students spent most of their time in the classroom, doing homework, attending mandatory chapel, and following strict curfews. In this period, emphasis was placed heavily on academic life rather than social life. As a result, the first social organizations on campus were academic societies that often invited speakers and held numerous social events each year. These organizations included the Phrenakosmian and Philomathean literary societies; honor societies for disciplines such as history, biology, chemistry, classics, and philosophy; Pen & Sword, and the Linnaen Association. The case holds artifacts from these social groups, including the gavel and gong used by the history honor society Phi Alpha Theta, which are still used by members of the honor society today. Continue reading “Old Gettysburg Back to Thee: New Exhibit in Special Collections”

What I Saw of the Rally: A Few Observations from the Confederate Flag Protests

By Jeff Lauck ’18

The normally quiet town of Gettysburg was once more disrupted by battle when two groups of protesters went head-to-head over the memory of the Confederate flag. Since the tumult and confusion of that fateful Saturday two weeks ago, many have weighed in on the day’s events with varying degrees of accuracy and distorted perceptions of reality. The following is my account.

I first heard about the pro-flag rally a couple months ago when the Gettysburg chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans received a permit to protest on the Gettysburg National Military Park grounds. I did not think much of it, mostly because my spring break was scheduled to begin the day before the rally. About a week later, I learned that there would be a counter protest against the Confederate flag. This seemed a worthy reason to push back my spring break plans by one day.

We gathered near the Lincoln statue outside Stevens Hall, inspired by the statue’s intent to serve as a forum for discussion on our nation’s continued problems with race relations. There were about 20 of us, holding signs with slogans like “Heritage of Hate” and “The Battle is Over! Surrender the Flag!” Dr. Scott Hancock, a professor of history and Africana studies at Gettysburg College, reminded us that the “flaggers” were exercising their freedom of speech, just as we would be. When speaking about the flag, he encouraged us to say that we supported a more holistic interpretation of the flag, one that included the centrality of slavery to the Confederacy and the flag’s use by many white supremacist groups since the end of the war. After taking a photo in front of the Lincoln statue, we marched over a mile up to the Eternal Light Peace Memorial where the flag rally was to be held.

After gathering at the Lincoln statue, we marched up to the Peace Light, getting honks of approval from cars that drove by. Photograph by the author.

Continue reading “What I Saw of the Rally: A Few Observations from the Confederate Flag Protests”

Challenging Lincoln: How Gettysburg’s Lincoln-centric Emancipation Narrative Has Overshadowed Local Black History

By Jeff Lauck ’18

When it comes to symbols of emancipation, President Abraham Lincoln is king. No other person is more associated with the abolition of slavery than “The Great Emancipator” himself. This holds true in Gettysburg just as much as it does throughout the country. Only last September, Gettysburg College erected a statue of Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation in the hope that it would “promote the discussion of race relations in America today.” Yet when it comes to commemorating and remembering the struggle for emancipation, Lincoln is far from the only face that we should look to in our historic town.

Abraham Lincoln has been forever linked to Gettysburg thanks to his famed “Gettysburg Address.” Photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The borough has a long and rich history of both slavery and liberation. The first African Americans to arrive in Gettysburg did so as slaves to Alexander Dobbin, the Presbyterian minister who founded a classical school in the soon-to-be-incorporated town. The Dobbin House, today a colonial tavern and eatery, was built in 1776 by Dobbin’s slaves. James Gettys, the borough’s founder and namesake, also owned a slave named Sydney O’Brien. For reasons unknown, Gettys freed O’Brien and gave her a house in the southwest corner of the town, close to the Dobbin family home. Thus was born Gettysburg’s free African American community. Continue reading “Challenging Lincoln: How Gettysburg’s Lincoln-centric Emancipation Narrative Has Overshadowed Local Black History”

The Missing Link: The Search for the Connection Between Young Americans for Freedom and Charles Willoughby

By Jeff Lauck ’18

Last semester, Gettysburg College was abuzz with controversy over the ultra-conservative messages that the Young Americans for Freedom organization was spreading around campus. As the Compiler’s unofficial, wannabe muckraker, I wanted to dive into the discussion. My entry point was a rumor that a reactionary Gettysburg College alumnus helped establish the organization in the 1960s. I jumped at the opportunity to uncover the link.

Gettysburg graduate and right-wing officer Charles Willoughy '14 in 1918. Photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress, via Wikimedia Commons.
Gettysburg College graduate and right-wing army officer Charles Willoughy ’14 in 1918. Photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress, via Wikimedia Commons.

The only information I had to work with was his name, Charles A. Willoughby, and the fact that he was one of General Douglas MacArthur’s prodigies. A quick Google search revealed that Willoughby was indeed involved in YAF. However, the only sources were blogs and books that also claim that Willoughby was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. These are obviously not the most reliable sources. The search also revealed ample evidence that Willoughby was an ultra-conservative with connections to fascists. He was good friends with conservative icons like Billy Hargis and John Rousselot and even testified before Joseph McCarthy’s House Committee on Un-American Activities to try to label an elderly woman as a “communist subversive.” He also idolized Francisco Franco and Benito Mussolini. Yet this doesn’t prove he was involved in YAF; it merely proves that he was an extreme right-winger. I was determined to find hard evidence to support a link to YAF. Continue reading “The Missing Link: The Search for the Connection Between Young Americans for Freedom and Charles Willoughby”

“What About Thad Stevens?”: A Call to Action to Commemorate a Great Gettysburgian and an even Greater American

By Jeff Lauck ’18

I love Lincoln. He adorns my iPhone case. A poster of him hangs in my room. I occasionally wear his signature stovepipe hat around the house. Earlier this week, I wrote about the newly dedicated Abraham Lincoln statue outside of Stevens Hall at Gettysburg College. I now make an effort to walk by it every day on my way to class.

Regardless of my more-than-slight obsession with our 16th President, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed when I heard the space in front of Stevens Hall was to be the spot for another Lincoln statue. When I walked on campus for the first time this semester, I saw the new walkway and the granite pedestal, which very clearly would soon be the base for a new statue. Not having heard who the statue would depict, my mind flurried with possibilities. I quickly settled on the perfect candidate: Thaddeus Stevens. Thaddeus Stevens had, after all, provided the land for the college when it was first founded in 1832. He was an avid abolitionist and supporter of freedmen during Reconstruction. A statue seemed like a perfect way to recognize his efforts during the sesquicentennial years of Reconstruction. Most importantly, the statue was going to be right outside Stevens Hall, a building that was named for him. But Thaddeus Stevens was not the subject of this new statue. Rather, “The Great Emancipator” has taken a permanent seat on our campus.

Where is the love for Thaddeus Stevens? M. P. Price. Portrait of Thaddeus Stevens, 1792-1868. Published in 1898. Library of Congress.
Where is the love for Thaddeus Stevens? M. P. Price. Portrait of Thaddeus Stevens, 1792-1868. Published in 1898. Library of Congress.

Continue reading ““What About Thad Stevens?”: A Call to Action to Commemorate a Great Gettysburgian and an even Greater American”

Gettysburg College campus purchased by preservation society

By Kevin Lavery ’16

Please click on each of the images below to read articles at full size and resolution.

The above articles are satirical pieces meant to imagine the danger of a paradigm of preservation lacking in strategy and judgment. Preservation is a wonderful cause, but like any cause it must be approached with purposeful intent and not simply for its own sake. It is an excellent tool of meaningful historical engagement when done properly; when mishandled, it can do the surrounding region harm without accomplishing anything of value.

Photos courtesy of the author and Wikimedia Commons, respectively.

“We will close . . . you know nothing about the lesson anyhow”: Pennsylvania College during the War

By Meg Sutter ’16

Twenty-nine years had passed since the founding of Pennsylvania College by Samuel Simon Schmucker in 1832 when war broke out between the states. Due to the college’s location just north of the Mason-Dixon Line, the threat of battle near Gettysburg loomed until in July 1863 it became all too real.

Robert E. Lee’s invasion of the North was not completely unexpected, and college life would be drastically impacted by the threat of oncoming Confederate forces. The winter term of 1860-1861 was just ending when war broke out in April of 1861. Many of the townspeople were not in support of slavery at the outbreak of the war, but they also had hoped to avoid a bloody conflict. The Quakers living in central Pennsylvania, specifically in what is called the Quaker Valley today only a few miles from Gettysburg, may have contributed to this sentiment. The majority of the townspeople of Gettysburg, who numbered fewer than the size of Gettysburg College’s current student population of 2600, were carriage makers, tanners, cobblers, and the usual merchants, bankers, and tavern keepers. Gettysburg’s leading industry was that of carriage making, and most of the owners sold to markets south of Gettysburg across the Mason-Dixon Line. The coming war would mean the loss of those consumers. Parents of Pennsylvania College students were also wary of sending their sons to school in a town threatened by invasion. Continue reading ““We will close . . . you know nothing about the lesson anyhow”: Pennsylvania College during the War”