Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Myth, The Lemons

By Megan McNish ’16

She stood staring into the room, tears streaming down her face. The quiet tick of the clock in the background was an appropriate melody for the sad scene. The woman mourned the loss of a great man who one hundred fifty years earlier had rested his tired body in the bed just feet from where she was standing. Today this site is the Stonewall Jackson Shrine Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP in Woodford, Virginia. It is the death site of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, located twenty-seven miles south of the Battlefield at Chancellorsville where the famous Confederate general was shot. But the greater question is not where, but why. Why, after so many years, are people still mourning the loss of Stonewall Jackson?

Stonewall Jackson was an incredible phenomenon during his lifetime; he was one of the most well-known generals of the Civil War and his death on 10 May 1863 even made Northern newspapers. But what makes Jackson so appealing to people today? In many ways Jackson’s story is reminiscent of the American spirit, for it finds its beginnings in humble roots but ends in glory. Jackson was born in what is today Clarksburg, West Virginia (at that point still Virginia) and shortly after birth became an orphan. (1) He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, but only after another Virginia man returned home, thereby creating an opening. (2) By the end of Jackson’s four years of military education, the young man who had been woefully unprepared for West Point graduated in the top half of the Class of 1846. (3) Jackson would go on to gain recognition in the Mexican War, but it would be the American Civil War that brought true fame to Jackson.

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Point/Counterpoint: Blanks Fired


By Bryan Caswell ’15 and Heather Clancy ’15


The following post is part of a series meant to conduct and spark a friendly philosophical discussion of broadly visible themes. It is not our intent to single out any one group or person, and by no means should the points expressed herein be regarded as any kind of attack on either the reenacting community or academia.

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Examination: Reflections on the 150th

By Bryan Caswell ’15

Gettysburg, the first three days of July, 1863. An epic clash of titans sways back and forth across the fields and hills of this small Pennsylvania town. The two armies who fought here left in their wake over fifty thousand men broken in three days of combat, and the significance of their actions to the course of the American Civil War has rarely been doubted. The Union’s victory at Gettysburg put a halt to Robert E. Lee’s second invasion of the North, an invasion that could have broken the Northern civilians’ will to continue prosecuting the war. The crushing repulse of the Confederate charge on July 3 shattered the myth of Confederate invincibility, delivering the first major Union victory in the Eastern Theater. This battle has widely been heralded as THE turning point of the American Civil War, the battle that permanently ended Confederate hopes of victory and set the Union on the road to victory. My experiences of the battle’s sesquicentennial commemoration and of a summer spent working at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park inspired me to look deeper, however, and upon closer inspection, cracks began to show in this traditional view of Gettysburg’s paramount importance. Continue reading “Examination: Reflections on the 150th”

Commemoration: Reflections on the 150th

By Bryan Caswell ’15

There is nothing quite like residing in the town of Gettysburg during the years leading up to the sesquicentennial of the great battle fought here in 1863. As a devoted student of that great internecine conflict known as the American Civil War, I had applied to Gettysburg College in 2011 with the full knowledge of what was to come only two short years in the future, and could not have been more excited for it.

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A Timeless Charge: The Gettysburg Address from 1863 to 2013

By Avery C. Lentz ’14

For as long as I can remember, one of the most recognizable and famous speeches I ever learned about was the Gettysburg Address. The image of Lincoln I have had since grade school is one of a great emancipator who cared deeply about freeing the slaves. As I have grown older and read many different works from many different authors, this image of Lincoln has transformed. However, when reading the words of the Gettysburg Address, you can see that by November 1863, Lincoln truly believed that the American Civil War was a war then waged for freedom and not just reunion. Being at the Soldier’s National Cemetery on the cold, blustery morning of November 19, 2013, I almost couldn’t fathom that 150 years earlier, Abraham Lincoln was on Cemetery Hill too, speaking his immortal words. He was not only asking for the nation to keep fighting, but invoking the idea that there was still work to be done for the future generations to create the nation that the forefathers had envisioned. Continue reading “A Timeless Charge: The Gettysburg Address from 1863 to 2013”

An Evening with David Blight

By Sarah Johnson ’15

Monday evening, November 18, students from Gettysburg College got to sit down and discuss memory with Dr. David Blight from Yale University, author of the renowned work Race and Reunion. The session was conducted as an informal panel with Dr. Blight and Gettysburg College’s own Dr. Isherwood and Dr. Jordan. Dr. Blight spoke about beginning his work when memory studies was not an official field and stumbling his way headlong into working with the memory of the American Civil War. When discussing whether or not memory studies were a fad that would pass away, Blight reassured the audience that people have doing memory studies long before there was an official field. Memory is essential to who we are as human beings and all peoples and all nations construct their past in a way that is useable to their future.

An Evening with David Blight

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Gettysburg’s Dramatic Memory

By Emma Murphy ’15

I was excited to see the first experimental showing of the documentary Hallowed Ground on Thursday, November 14th. The movie focused on many main characters and included the history of a few physical sites. The first character, a Lincoln impersonator, held a deep passion for the time period and the 16th president which kept him going even through economic hardship. His story is symbolic of the difficulties between rivaling definitions of the Civil War.

A large portion of the film included a father-son story of southern Lost Cause sentiment and old time, white supremacist race relations. To offset the radical nature of these Sons of Confederate Veterans, Hallowed Ground featured the narrative of a battlefield guide who argued that the Civil War started over the issue of slavery. These two stories exemplified the constant battle between people who have a connection to the Civil War, whether through ancestors or just auxiliary obsessions.

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The Louisiana and Mississippi State Monuments

The Louisiana and Mississippi State Monuments, located in close proximity on West Confederate Avenue on the Gettysburg Battlefield, were sculpted by Donald DeLue and erected within two years of each other. Louisiana???s monument went up first, in 19…

This post was first published on the Civil War Institute’s previous blog901 Stories from Gettysburg.

The Louisiana and Mississippi State Monuments, located in close proximity on West Confederate Avenue on the Gettysburg Battlefield, were sculpted by Donald DeLue and erected within two years of each other. Louisiana’s monument went up first, in 1971, followed by Mississippi’s in 1973. Both monuments were cast of bronze in Italy, and each cost $100,000. DeLue’s monuments are known for their capture of moments of extreme courage and their depictions of idealized bravery; his works on the field at Gettysburg are no exception.

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