First In the Nation’s History: Gettysburg From Battlefield Memorial Association to National Park

By Hannah Christensen ’17

Just over a month after the Battle of Gettysburg turned the town on its head, local attorney David McConaughy sent a letter to several prominent citizens suggesting that “there could be no more fitting and expressive memorial of the heroic valor and signal triumphs of our army…than the battle-field itself.” He had already purchased some of the ground, and in order to keep the effort going, he suggested trying to get Pennsylvania citizens to contribute money to purchase and preserve more. In order to manage this fund and the battlefield, McConaughy proposed the formation of a preservation association and made a plan to seek its formal incorporation by the State Legislature. The idea went over well with the local citizens, and on September 5, 1863, they and McConaughy met to consider the matter of battlefield preservation. What they established was Gettysburg’s first preservation organization and the nation’s earliest attempt to preserve a Civil War battlefield.

The beginnings of battlefield preservation went hand in hand with another post-battle development: the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. David Wills and McConaughy presented competing solutions to the problem of where to put thousands of Union dead, and Wills’ plan won out. McConaughy’s plan was designed to benefit the local Evergreen Cemetery, while Wills had planned for an entirely separate cemetery. McConaughy then turned his attention to battlefield preservation: he and the group of citizens that met on September 5th created the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association (GBMA), which created a fund for preservation purposes to be supported by voluntary subscriptions at $10 per share. They also appointed a provisional committee from which an executive committee would be elected; they would also appoint local committees across Pennsylvania.

When the fund was large enough, the subscribers were supposed to elect trustees, meet at Gettysburg, and organize. The officers on Gettysburg’s preliminary committee consisted of Joseph R. Ingersoll (chair), Dr. Samuel S. Schmucker and Rev. J. Ziegler (vice chairs), T. D. Carson (treasurer), and David McConaughy (secretary). The executive committee consisted entirely of Gettysburg residents and included J. B. Danner, J. L. Schich, D. A. Buehler, David McConaughy, R. G. McCreary, George Arnold, and T. D. Carson.

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View of woods near the location where General John Reynolds was killed c. July 1863. This area was one of the first parts of the battlefield purchased on behalf of the GBMA. Photo via Library of Congress.

Continue reading “First In the Nation’s History: Gettysburg From Battlefield Memorial Association to National Park”

Now Quite Certain: Uncovering the Unexpected History of Harpers Ferry

This post is part of a series featuring behind-the-scenes dispatches from our Pohanka Interns on the front lines of history this summer as interpreters, archivists, and preservationists. See here for the introduction to the series.

By Annika Jensen ’18

If my experience in Harpers Ferry this summer had a thesis statement, it would be this: there is so much more than John Brown.

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Photo courtesy of Annika Jensen.

Going into my first day of work in the education department I had a tightly-wrapped set of expectations regarding not only the nature of the place in which I was now living but my own skills as an interpreter as well as a teacher; I was just as convinced that Harpers Ferry was a town trapped in the history of the Civil War as I was that I was no good with kids. I had read about Jackson’s position in the town and Sheridan’s campaign in the Shenandoah Valley, but I could not admit to knowing much more than that. Continue reading “Now Quite Certain: Uncovering the Unexpected History of Harpers Ferry”

Becoming a Better Historian

This post is part of a series featuring behind-the-scenes dispatches from our Pohanka Interns on the front lines of history this summer as interpreters, archivists, and preservationists. See here for the introduction to the series.

By Jon Tracey ’19

I’ve had an absolutely incredible summer at Appomattox. I will be leaving the National Historical Park with tons of knowledge and wonderful memories, as well as valuable experience. I’ve learned so much over the course of the summer, both about the Civil War as well as about myself. I’ve become a better historian, learned how to complete more advanced research, and discovered new ways to help teach the public about history. Of course, the summer had plenty of ups as well as downs. Losing power and air conditioning on a hot Virginia night while trying to do research was certainly frustrating! I also had some experiences with visitors that were less than perfect. While delivering first person living history programs, I had to stay within the context of what that particular soldier would have known in the summer of 1865. Sometimes visitors wouldn’t understand that, and once I was shouted at for being unable to answer the question of “What’s original inside the general store?” Luckily, that interaction was the exception rather than the rule, as most of my internship was filled with high points.

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McLean House, Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

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A Pohanka Summer: My Internship at Gettysburg National Military Park

This post is part of a series featuring behind-the-scenes dispatches from our Pohanka Interns on the front lines of history this summer as interpreters, archivists, and preservationists. See here for the introduction to the series.

By Savannah Rose ’17

Over the past eleven weeks, I have been interning with the Division of Interpretation at Gettysburg National Military Park. Throughout the summer, I have acted as a front line interpreter for the park, giving programs in numerous areas around the Gettysburg Battlefield. In addition to the knowledge I’ve gained about interpretation, I have learned more about my life goals as well, pushing me to pursue a career in the National Park Service. My experience at Gettysburg has given me an unforgettable summer with numerous new friends, lessons, and knowledge that I can utilize for the remainder of my life.

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The author’s program at the Soldiers National Cemetery began near this spot at the Rostrum. Photo courtesy of the author.

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Ten Weeks at Manassas

This post is part of a series featuring behind-the-scenes dispatches from our Pohanka Interns on the front lines of history this summer as interpreters, archivists, and preservationists. See here for the introduction to the series.

By Kevin Lavery ’16

My heart was pounding, my breath was shallow, and I wanted nothing more than to begin so that it would all be over sooner.

No, I was not preparing to jump from a plane. Nothing so dramatic. I was preparing myself to give a tour of Henry Hill detailing the position’s salient importance in the First Battle of Manassas.

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The Bull Run Monument on Henry Hill. Photo via Wikimedia Commons (Manassas NBP).

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A Summer at FredSpot: Far More Than Answering Phones and Getting Coffee

This post is part of a series featuring behind-the-scenes dispatches from our Pohanka Interns on the front lines of history this summer as interpreters, archivists, and preservationists. See here for the introduction to the series.

By Jeff Martin ’18

Going into this summer, I was not quite sure what to expect at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. Part of me suspected that since I was an intern, I would do nothing more than answer phones and get coffee. I was prepared to accept this; after all, I do want to work for the National Park Service someday, and if the only way to get my foot in the door was to do menial tasks for two and a half months, so be it. What I actually experienced, however, was something far different and far better.

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The Sunken Road. Photo courtesy Jeff Martin.

This is not to suggest that all of my experiences were positive; I did have some setbacks, but I like to think I have learned from them. One of the park’s permanent staff went on one of my Sunken Road walking tours early in the summer, and I did not give a particularly good tour that day. Afterwards, we sat down and talked about some areas to improve; for example, my tour went far longer than advertised and I talked about a lot of facts that did not tie in to my overarching theme. I would say that I have definitely improved since then, and even towards the end of the summer, I find that I never give the same tour twice. Continue reading “A Summer at FredSpot: Far More Than Answering Phones and Getting Coffee”

“Throwing Light” on Life at The Wayside

This post is part of a series featuring behind-the-scenes dispatches from our Pohanka Interns on the front lines of history this summer as interpreters, archivists, and preservationists. See here for the introduction to the series.

By Alex Andrioli ’18

Over the course of these past ten weeks, I have come a long way since I started my internship at the beginning of June at Minute Man National Historical Park. This is my second Brian C. Pohanka Internship; last summer, I lived and worked at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. In Harpers Ferry, I was given a lot of responsibility while working for the education department, but at Minute Man, my responsibilities far exceeded just working with children.

At Minute Man, I constructed two of my very own tours: one was about the opening battle of the American Revolution at the North Bridge on April 19, 1775 and the other was an historic house tour of The Wayside: Home of Authors. Of the two, my Wayside tour was more complex due to the fact that basically EVERYTHING has happened at the Wayside. Built before 1717, it is a witness house to the beginning of the American Revolution, a childhood home of Louisa May Alcott and a major inspiration for her greatest work, Little Women, a part of the Underground Railroad network, frequently visited by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau in the 1800s, and the first and only home Nathaniel Hawthorne ever owned. I had to fit all of this, plus countless other connections, into a forty minute tour. Also, I somehow had to factor in time for visitors to have a look around and walk through the house, as well as adjust my tour to accommodate large groups and visitors with disabilities.

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The Wayside: Home of Authors. Concord, Massachusetts. Photo by author, June 28, 2016

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A Connecticut Yankee in Jeff Davis’s Court

This post is part of a series featuring behind-the-scenes dispatches from our Pohanka Interns on the front lines of history this summer as interpreters, archivists, and preservationists. See here for the introduction to the series.

By Jeffrey Lauck ’18

For the past ten weeks or so, I have been interning at Richmond National Battlefield Park. The experience has been like no other. I began the summer with a few goals. First, I wanted to see if working for the National Park Service was everything that my fellow park geeks said it was. Second, I wanted to enrich my understanding of the Civil War by focusing my study on one particular community’s experience in the Civil War (Richmond). Third, as a born-and-raised New Englander, I wanted to see what it was like to spend a summer in Dixie. Finally, I wanted to have fun. I am happy to say that all four goals were achieved.

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Jeffrey Lauck at Cold Harbor.

At first, I was skeptical that I would end the summer as excited about the National Park Service as I was when the summer began. I thought that perhaps the rusticity of park housing, the endless government forms, and the sheer difficulty of some visitors would run me down and pop my balloon of excitement. Luckily, I was proven wrong. While all of these could at times impede my excitement, there were plenty of highlights to keep me going. Somehow, the joy on a newly inducted Junior Ranger’s face or a visitor who just found out where their ancestor had fought made the lack of quality Wi-Fi in seasonal quarters and the long distance from home worth it. Working with the Park’s social media also allowed me to combine my passion for the Park Service and history with my love of Instagram and Facebook. Best of all, I was able to get some experience in running a professional Instagram and Facebook page – a job skill that I am sure will pay off in the not-so-distant future. Finally, I was able to fulfill my dream of becoming a drummer boy by borrowing the park’s period drum and putting together a fife and drum presentation with a ranger who happened to be a fifer. While I know that I only got a glimpse of what it is like to work for the National Park Service, from what I could observe it definitely seems like the career for me. Continue reading “A Connecticut Yankee in Jeff Davis’s Court”

From Post to Park: The Fort Monroe National Monument

By Kaylyn Sawyer ’17

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 sixth post,  Kaylyn Sawyer takes a look at the history of her park.

I was 11 years old when I made my first visit to Fort Monroe for a military ID card. This small Army post, I was told, would have a shorter line than the more familiar and populated Langley Air Force Base. Although already interested in Civil War history, I didn’t know much about the fort’s story, and I had no idea that I would return in seven years for my first history internship. Finally, I didn’t know that Fort Monroe had been targeted for closure by the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC). Concerned about preserving the Fort’s historic integrity amidst calls for economic development, local citizens mobilized in collaboration with leaders across all levels of government to guide Fort Monroe’s transition from post to park.

An aerial view of Fort Monroe. Photo courtesy of wikimedia commons.
An aerial view of Fort Monroe. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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From Cape Hatteras to Harpers Ferry

By Alex Andrioli ’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 fifth post, Alex Andrioli goes back to the roots of her love for national parks and discusses how her childhood at Cape Hatteras led to an internship with the National Park Service years later.

Last summer, I was an intern at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in the Education Department as a Brian C. Pohanka Intern. I would have never thought that I would get to live in such a beautiful place. To actually work and reside in a location that is soaked in history has forever changed me because it made me realize that history majors are actually allowed to pursue other careers outside of the high school or college classroom. Harpers Ferry has given me more than just career options and historical knowledge that I can dip into if I ever end up on Jeopardy!; it has given me great friends that live all across the United States (one even lives across the Pond in England) and mentors who are more like adopted parents. However, even though Harpers Ferry has started to help me pave the way to my future career, there is one park that will always hold a special place in my heart.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore and I go way back. Technically, the first time that I went was when my mom was pregnant with me in 1995, but the first pictures of me out and about of the womb are from 1996 when I was a few months old. My earliest memories in life are of Cape Hatteras. For most of my life, my family has gone to the Outer Banks in North Carolina for summer vacation. Towards the end of the school year when most kids were looking forward to typical summertime activities, I was anxiously awaiting the annual trip to that thin strip of islands clinging to the mainland of North Carolina. This is not to say that I wasn’t also looking forward to cliche summer pastimes, but there was nothing like the preparation for the long journey south. Usually, the excitement became surreal for me the week before our departure. The kitchen would be crowded with extra groceries, suitcases would be lying around just waiting to be stuffed with clothes, and the night before felt like an eternity.

The author and her aunt at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, October 1997. Courtesy of the Andrioli Archives, a.k.a. the author's mother, April Andrioli.
The author and her aunt at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, October 1997. Courtesy of the Andrioli Archives, a.k.a. the author’s mother, April Andrioli.

Continue reading “From Cape Hatteras to Harpers Ferry”

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