Find Your Park Friday: For the Love of Nature

By Jeff Lauck ’18

The Civil War Institute will be celebrating the National Park Service Centennial this spring with its brand new “Find Your Park Friday” series. Inspired by the NPS #FindYourPark campaign, the series will challenge our fellows to share their experiences exploring America’s national historical, cultural, and natural resources through trips and internships with the NPS. In our second post, Jeff Lauck discusses his passion for photography and the park that started it. 

Anyone who follows me on any social media will soon learn that I love to travel almost as much as I love taking pictures of the places I visit. From Chula Vista, California to Quoddy Head, Maine; Ramallah in the West Bank to the DMZ in Korea, I have been to many places in my less than 20 years of existence. Yet nothing has left more of an impression on me nor fueled my wanderlust as much as the natural beauty of America’s national parks. They are, indeed, “the best idea we ever had,” according to writer Wallace Stegner.

The author and his father at Glacier Point, overlooking Half Dome, during the author's first visit to Yosemite. Photo courtesy of Doreen Lauck.
The author and his father at Glacier Point, overlooking Half Dome, during the author’s first visit to Yosemite. Photo courtesy of Doreen Lauck.

My love of national parks began at a very young age. Lauck family vacations have always entailed some cross-country trek in the family minivan, stopping in small towns off the interstate to pitch up the tent while traveling thousands of miles from home. When I tell my friends tales of these legendary road trips, they marvel at how we kept our sanity while being cooped up in a car for 14 hours a day as we racked up miles on the odometer. While these trips were, admittedly, filled with temper tantrums and wrestling matches, the destinations–landscapes of mountains, valleys, beaches, canyons, and deserts– have made these trials all the more rewarding. Continue reading “Find Your Park Friday: For the Love of Nature”

The Forgotten 150th: Why the Civil War Sesquicentennial is Far From Over

By Jeff Lauck ’18

Last spring, my friends told me that it was the perfect time to get into Civil War reenacting. “The 150th is over,” they said, “No one is going to care about the Civil War anymore, so everyone will be selling all their stuff.” Somehow, this bit of insider trading information meant more to me than just bargain brogans and frock coats.

For many, indeed most, the Civil War ended when Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox on April 9th, 1865. For reenactors and amateur historians today, the Civil War ended last April with the 150th Appomattox events or maybe even last May with the 150th anniversary of the Grand Review in Washington D.C. And then it was over. The four year frenzy concluded as if the spring of 1865 was the end of America’s great 19th century identity crisis. Yet in a broader sense, the Civil War lasted much longer than its affixed truncation date of April 1865, and its sesquicentennial commemoration should likewise project well into the next few decades. Victories like the passage of the Reconstruction Amendments and the Civil Rights Bills of the postbellum era should be celebrated just as much as the victories at Gettysburg and Antietam. Likewise, the tragedies of the Colfax Massacre and the founding of the Ku Klux Klan should be remembered just as well as the assassination of President Lincoln.

Union reenactors at the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Appomattox. Photo by the author.
Union reenactors at the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Appomattox. Photo by the author.

Continue reading “The Forgotten 150th: Why the Civil War Sesquicentennial is Far From Over”

Our Reconciliationist Pastime: How Baseball Contributed to the Reunification of White America

By Jeff Lauck ’18

As early as the 1850s, the game of baseball was being referred to as “our national game.” At a time when the nation was being ripped apart at the seams, it served as a relatively new symbol of national identity. Baseball did not fully reach its unifying potential until after a bloody war that pitched North against South. However, these reconciliationist qualities did not strike at the heart of all Americans.

Civil War soldiers often turned to baseball between battles. George Putnam, a Union soldier fighting in Texas, recalled a game that had to be cut short due to a surprise Confederate attack.

“Suddenly, there was a scattering of fire, which three outfielders caught the brunt; the centerfield was hit and was captured, left and right field managed to get back to our lines. The attack…was repelled without serious difficulty, but we had lost not only our centerfield, but the only baseball in Alexandria, Texas.”

Abraham Gilbert Mills, a sergeant with the 165th New York Volunteers (Duryea’s Zouaves), carried a bat and ball with him in addition to his rifle and accoutrements. He also participated in a Christmas Day 1862 baseball game at Hilton Head, South Carolina before a crowd that numbered as many as 40,000 – more than can fit in Fenway Park to watch a Boston Red Sox game today. Continue reading “Our Reconciliationist Pastime: How Baseball Contributed to the Reunification of White America”

CWI Fellows and Friends Hit Up Public History Conference

This past weekend, a number of Gettysburg College students attended the 2016 Annual Meeting of the National Council on Public History. We asked a few of the CWI Fellows to share their reflections on the event.

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CWI Fellows, Gettysburg College alumni, and past and future Pohanka Interns joined CWI Associate Director Jill Titus in representing Gettysburg College at the National Council on Public History.

Continue reading “CWI Fellows and Friends Hit Up Public History Conference”

This Month in Civil War History: March 2016

By Jeff Lauck ’18

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Lincoln’s second inaugural address, March 1865. Photograph by Alexander Gardner.

Click the play button below in order to listen to “This Month in Civil War History.” You can also scroll down to read through the transcript if you would prefer to read it. This report is also airing on WZBT 91.1 FM throughout this month. Thanks to WZBT for their help in producing this piece.

Transcript:

Continue reading “This Month in Civil War History: March 2016”

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.

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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.

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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”

This Month in Civil War History: February 2016

By Jeff Lauck ’18

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The Lincoln Birthplace cabin in Hodgenville, KY, circa 1940. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Click the play button below in order to listen to “This Month in Civil War History” for February 2016. You can also scroll down to read through the transcript if you would prefer to read it. This report is also airing on WZBT 91.1 FM throughout this month. Thanks to WZBT for their help in producing this piece.

Transcript:

Continue reading “This Month in Civil War History: February 2016”

A Soldier and his Nurse: The Star-Crossed Tragedy of Frank and Arabella Barlow

By Jeff Lauck ’18

This is not a love story ready-made for Hollywood. Rather, it is one more suited for a Shakespearean tragedy. Two newlyweds, on the day after their marriage, were separated by the call for troops in Mr. Lincoln’s War. As was true of so many Civil War couples, only one would survive the war. While you may be thinking to yourself that you’ve heard this story before (and perhaps many of you have), the tale of these two star-crossed lovers does not fit the typical narrative behind the vacant chair.

Francis Barlow and Arabella Griffith met in New York City shortly before the war. Francis, or Frank as his friends called him, graduated valedictorian of his class at Harvard before moving to New York to work as a lawyer and contributor for the New York Tribune. Arabella, nearly a decade older than Frank, moved to the city from rural New Jersey in 1846 to serve as a governess. She was not your average Victorian lady. Intelligent and bold, she soon affiliated herself with the high-class social circles of artists, politicians, and writers among New York elites. She even became good friends with George Templeton Strong, who described her as being “certainly the most brilliant, cultivated, easy, graceful, effective talker of womanhood.”

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Caption: General Francis Channing Barlow (left) with General Winfield Scott Hancock (seated) and his fellow II Corps division commanders. The photograph shows Barlow during the Overland Campaign in 1864, just after he returned to the service after recovering from his wounds at Gettysburg and just a few months before his wife died that summer. Photograph from the Library of Congress.

Continue reading “A Soldier and his Nurse: The Star-Crossed Tragedy of Frank and Arabella Barlow”

This Month in Civil War History: January 2016

By Jeff Lauck ’18

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The Ordinance of Secession for the state of Georgia, signed in January 1861. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Click the play button below in order to listen to “This Month in Civil War History” for January 2016. You can also scroll down to read through the transcript if you would prefer to read it. This report is also airing on WZBT 91.1 FM throughout this month. Thanks to WZBT for their help in producing this piece.

Transcript:

Continue reading “This Month in Civil War History: January 2016”