If you’re a frequent reader of the Compiler, it comes as no news to you that the Gettysburg area is historic for more than just its battlefield. From a pre-war African American community to the World War I tank camp commanded by a young Dwight Eisenhower, Gettysburg has a rich and vibrant history that the time-frozen battlefield, however majestic in its own right, all too often obscures. One of my favorite places in the region, however, is a state park located just fourteen miles west of town. Nestled amidst the ridges of South Mountain, Caledonia State Park stands on land once part of the Caledonia Furnace complex owned by the famed congressman Thaddeus Stevens.
In the last two years, I have tried whenever possible to get out to the park, which serves as a gateway to some of my favorite hiking trails. The Appalachian Trail runs right through Caledonia, and just north of the park there is a vast network of trails that wind their way through the neighboring Michaux State Forest. Not only is it an excellent park for recreation, but it has a long and storied past that I’ve had the opportunity to explore for the Compiler, redoubling my appreciation for the scenic place. Continue reading “Beyond the Battlefield: The Park That Once Was Stevens’s Furnace”
Robert E. Lee – Aged, Fine Red Wine with a Side of Steak
Consider the following: red wines are often consumed with red meats such as steak. Steak can be enjoyed in any number of ways, from a backyard barbecue to the finest of dining establishments. In this sense, steak is the former Confederacy, ranging as it did from the most rural farmers to the opulent planters.
In memory, Lee is the Confederacy’s classic companion: the red wine to the red meat, though perhaps one better suited to a classier setting. A dish stereotypically and frequently associated with masculinity, paired with an emblem of class. When considering a general frequently held up as the ideal gentleman of the South, could such a combination be any more fitting? Continue reading “Crack Open a Bottle of General Lee – A Second Course”
Over the course of this year, we’ll be interviewing some of the prominent speakers scheduled to speak at the 2016 CWI conference about their upcoming talks and their thoughts about Reconstruction and its legacies. Today, we’re speaking with Kathryn Shively Meier, Assistant Professor of History at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is the author of Nature’s Civil War: Common Soldiers and the Environment in 1862 Virginia (University of North Carolina Press, 2013). Dr. Meier is currently working on a biography of General Jubal Early.
CWI: What are the core elements and ideas that comprise the “Lost Cause?” When and why did it emerge, who were some of its prime architects and supporters, and in what forms did it manifest itself?
MEIER: The Lost Cause, or the collective Confederate memory of the Civil War, most notably emphasizes states’ rights, rather than slavery, as the cause of the war. In the words of Jubal A. Early, a former Confederate general and key architect of the Lost Cause, “During the war, slavery was used as a catch word to arouse the passions of a fanatical mob . . . but the war was not made on our part for slavery.” Early’s 1866 assertion directly opposes the declarations of secession passed by several seceding states in 1861. For example, Mississippi’s declaration of secession read, “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery–the greatest material interest of the world.” Other primary tenets of the Lost Cause include the claim that secession was legal, the portrayal of slavery as benign, an explanation of Confederate defeat chiefly as the result of inferior manpower and materiel, the glorification of Robert E. Lee and his lieutenant Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and the practice of extolling Confederate soldiers and Confederate women. Continue reading “The Legacy of the Lost Cause: An Interview with Kathryn Shively Meier”
A glance at the work of virtually any political philosopher, no matter the era, will often reflect the argument that the primary purpose of a government is to protect its people. That obligation, combined with the age-old adage that “all politics are local,” raises questions about the responsibilities and duties of Gettysburg’s borough government during the town’s fateful battle of 1863. Sadly, the duty felt by the borough’s leaders to protect the town and their actions in relation to that duty have long been overshadowed by what is considered by many to be the more exciting narrative of military glory. Other historians have written off Gettysburg’s local politicians as being too weak to have had measurable significance in the titan armies’ collision. Neither conclusion should be accepted, because their actions not only prevented the Confederate forces from gaining tactical supplies, but also saved the borough of Gettysburg from fiery retribution for not complying with Confederate demands.