What a Semester! #greatwork

By Natalie Sherif ’14

During the Fall Semester, Civil War Institute Fellows spent at least 400 collective hours researching and writing a wide variety of blog posts for The Gettysburg Compiler. Our Fellows read about individual veteran soldiers, attended Gettysburg College campus events, and participated in Sesquicentennial commemorations to truly immerse themselves in Civil War culture—both past and present. Our Fellows covered campus events, examined artifacts in Gettysburg College’s Special Collections, analyzed President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s time in Gettysburg, and studied veteran amputees during and after the American Civil War. Before we look to a new semester of student research, let us recall some of our original student scholarship, in case you missed it the first time around.

CWI Fellows 2013-2014

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Samuel McCreary House

On August 10, 1863, The Compiler announced that the Tyson brothers were preparing to release their first group of battlefield photos. Many of the Tyson negatives have been lost over the years, but perhaps some of the most important survivors are t…

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The Tyson Brothers of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and their apprentice and eventual successor, William H. Tipton, immortalized the Samuel McCreary house through their photography in the years following the Battle of Gettysburg. Charles J. and Isaac G. Tyson were the first local cameramen to have recorded scenes on the battlefield during the summer of 1863. When they initially opened their gallery after their move from Philadelphia on August 16, 1859, they concerned themselves with portraiture rather than outdoor scenes and landscapes. Their first views of the Battle of Gettysburg were not taken until weeks after the battle was over, in part because they needed to obtain the equipment to accommodate outdoor views. Their gallery, located at present day 9 York St, remained open during the first day of the battle, before the townspeople were advised to evacuate the premises in anticipation of Confederate occupation.  In response to the sudden vacancy of the town, Charles Tyson asked a fellow citizen: “What does this mean?” to which the man replied: “It means that all citizens are requested to retire into their houses as quietly and as quickly as possible.” Fortunately for the Tyson brothers, their house and gallery were left untouched, although a cannonball lodged itself into the edifice of their studio. It was never removed and can still be seen today. Continue reading “Samuel McCreary House”

Photography and Battlefield Preservation: William A. Frassanito’s Revolution

With the publication of William A. Frassanito???s Gettysburg: A Journey in Time in 1975 came a disappointing realization regarding Civil War battlefield preservation — despite the National Park Service???s efforts to maintain those battlefields, as t…

With the publication of William A. Frassanito’s Gettysburg: A Journey in Time in 1975 came a disappointing realization regarding Civil War battlefield preservation — despite the National Park Service’s efforts to maintain those  battlefields, as they would have appeared at the time of the war, areas of the park were so grossly overgrown that the sites were no longer recognizable. Historical accuracy — defined in this sense as how the fields appeared at the time of battle in the 1860s — is one of the National Military Park’s main goals, but how can they restore something that they do not know is inaccurate?

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James F. Crocker: A True Pennsylvania College Graduate

Please refer to the previously posted blog about James F Crocker in the Battle of Gettysburg. Today Gettysburg College can look back on the Class of 1850 and be proud of James Francis Crocker, adjutant of the 9th Virginia Infantry. In the 21st Cen…

By Natalie Sherif ’14

Please refer to the previously posted blog about James F Crocker in the Battle of Gettysburg.

Today Gettysburg College can look back on the Class of 1850 and be proud of James Francis Crocker, adjutant of the 9th Virginia Infantry. In the 21st Century, Gettysburg College teaches its students to be strong willed, independent, and contributing members of society. James Francis Crocker was a Confederate soldier and an earnest advocate for The Cause but it is not his beliefs that made him the admirable man he was; rather it was his character, how he interacted with his peers, and his ability to stand up for what he believed in despite the defeat at Gettysburg.  After leaving the Twelfth Corps Field Hospital, Crocker was taken by train to David’s Island in the Long Island Sound.

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James Crocker: A Pennsylvania College Graduate Returns to Gettysburg

Before, during, and after the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennyslvania College students and the residents of the surrounding town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, were overwhelmingly Union sympathizers. Nearly 200 students and former students of Pennsylvani…

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Before, during, and after the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania College students and the residents of the surrounding town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, were overwhelmingly Union sympathizers. Nearly 200 students and former students of Pennsylvania College ultimately served in the military during the Civil War; among these, were at least ten graduates, eight non-graduates, and an additional seven enrollees in the preparatory department who served the Confederacy. At least half of the ten Confederate Pennsylvania College graduates would return to Gettysburg as soldiers.  Among them was James F. Crocker.

Crocker was born in Isle of Wight County, Virginia on January 5, 1828 and entered the Pennsylvania College freshman class from Smithfield, VA, in 1846. Among his accomplishments and distinctions at Pennsylvania College, Crocker was also valedictorian of the Class of 1850. In the initial draft of his valedictory address, Crocker included this line that was deleted by President Henry L. Baugher from the final draft: “Who knows, unless patriotism should triumph over sectional feeling but what we, classmates, might in some future day meet in hostile battle array.” The events that transpired at Gettysburg from July 1-3, 1863, made this statement and prediction eerily accurate and ironic. Perhaps it was the charged political atmosphere in 1850 or a hidden intuition that led Crocker to write these words at the age of twenty-two. Continue reading “James Crocker: A Pennsylvania College Graduate Returns to Gettysburg”

A Letter Home: Charles E. Goddard and Civil War Medicine

The Battle of Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle of the bloodiest war in American history. The soldiers who fought there were young and sick most of the time, and, perhaps unbeknownst to the population at home, scared. Modern medicine was still i…

By Natalie Sherif ’14

The Battle of Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle of the bloodiest war in American history. The soldiers who fought there were young and sick most of the time, and, perhaps unbeknownst to the population at home, scared. Modern medicine was still in its infancy. They witnessed horrors and endured hardships that we as a modern audience cannot dare to understand. During the Battle of Gettysburg, the average Union mortality from gunshot wounds to the chest was 62% and 87% for abdominal wounds. By contrast, only approximately 3% of all American wounded failed to survive in World War II. Soldiers of both the Federal and Confederate armies, then, had perfectly good reasons to be afraid. Charles E. Goddard, a soldier in Company K of the 1st Minnesota Regiment, certainly experienced horror at Gettysburg. His regiment is best known for its engagement on July 2, 1863, when the men prevented the Confederates from pushing the Union line off of Cemetery Ridge and bought time in which other forces were brought up. During their stand, 215 of the 263 men suffered casualties and their unit’s flag fell and rose five times. Their 82% casualty rate stands as the highest loss by any surviving military unit in American history during a single engagement.

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Goddard expressed the fear and horror he experienced in a letter he sent to his mother the day after the battle ended. It reads:

We have engaged the enemy again but this time in a free country and our company as well as the regt has suffered much Ely and myself are bothe wounded. Ely through the side and myself through the leg and the shoulder. I do not know where Ely is this morning…very dangerous. I am not dangerously wounded, feel first rate and i would like you to give yourself no uneasiness on my account, nor do I think there is any need of Mrs Ely worrying about her son I have not seen him for I am not able to help myself on account of my leg or I would have gone to his assistance, he was fetched off the field and brought to the hospital where I was and then the hospital was moved again and I have not seen him since… Well mother good bye don’t be so foolish as to come down here and worry about me for I am getting along fine don’t let anybody see this letter but if they want to know if any of their friends are wounded you can tell them. The Chaplain will make out an official report and then the people of Minn. will know the true story. C.E. Goddard
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The Trostle Farm

On July 2, 1863, the Trostle Farm, located about two miles south of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was home to unforeseen destruction. During the struggle for the Union???s left flank, Captain John Bigelow???s 9th Massachusetts Battery was ordered to hold …

 By Natalie Sherif ’14

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On July 2, 1863, the Trostle Farm, located about two miles south of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was home to unforeseen destruction.  During the struggle for the Union’s left flank, Captain John Bigelow’s 9th Massachusetts Battery was ordered to hold their position at the Trostle Farm no matter the cost.  General William Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade had just broken the Union lines along the Emmitsburg Road and engaged Bigelow’s battery.  The Union line made an ultimately unsuccessful effort to maintain their position on the farm and was forced to retire.  Despite the death of many soldiers, the capture of four out of six of their field pieces, and the death of around fifty of their horses, the 9th Massachusetts’ stand gave the Union enough time to establish a secondary position east of the Trostle House.  In the struggle, the attacking Confederate brigade strategically shot Union artillery horses to prevent them from maneuvering their cannon.  This deliberate slaughter was not uncommon during the battle, as over 1,500 artillery horses were killed, many in attempts to cripple an opposing battery’s mobility.

Alexander Gardner, Timothy H. O’Sullivan, and James F. Gibson were the first photographers on the battlefield, arriving in the late afternoon of July 5th.  Unlike many photographers of their time who focused on depicting the layout of the battlefield and the surrounding scenery, Gardner’s team preferred to capture and record the horrors of the war.  Back home, the emotional response to photos of the dead was enormous as many people had never seen images of such large-scale carnage.  In the photographers’ Gettysburg Series were close to sixty negatives, almost 75% of which contained images of bloated corpses, open graves, dead horses, and related images of death.  The work of Gardner and his associates was unusual in relation to other photographers of the time, which begs the question, why were they so insistent on photographing the dead?  Could it have been for the emotional response that such powerful, raw images produced at home?  Or perhaps it was based more on humans’ natural gravitation toward, and preoccupation with, the concept of death and dying?  Whatever their reason, it can only partially explain the impact of the Trostle Farm photos.  Next to depictions of soldiers lying dead on the battlefield, why would anyone back home care about this equine barricade?  Those men were someone’s brother, husband, or son; what impact would horses have on the general public?  Continue reading “The Trostle Farm”