Commanding the African Brigade: A Portrait of Union Officer Edward Wild

By Savannah Rose ‘17

This post comes from the exhibit catalog for “Right to Serve, Right to Lead:  Lives and Legacies of the USCT,” an exhibition in Special Collections and College Archives at Musselman Library, Gettysburg College. During the spring of 2017, we asked the CWI Fellows to select a item on exhibit and discuss its history and context. The resulting exhibit catalog is available at Special Collections, where the exhibit will run through December 18, 2017.

Brigadier General Edward Wild. Carte de visite. Brigadier General Wild was a USCT commander of some note. Serving from First Bull Run, the first major battle of the Civil War, to the end, he suffered multiple wounds and lost his left arm. Courtesy of Special Collections and College Archives, Gettysburg College.

Edward Augustus Wild grew up in Massachusetts at a time when abolitionist fervor ran rampant within New England society. A doctor by profession and an adventurer by choice, Wild became a military officer out of a strong sense of personal honor, writing his wife Frances Ellen Wild that he did not enlist “to be elevated, but simply from a sense of duty.” At the outbreak of the war, Wild fulfilled the twin drives of duty and adventure by raising a company of volunteers and becoming a captain in the 1st Massachusetts Infantry.

Continue reading “Commanding the African Brigade: A Portrait of Union Officer Edward Wild”

The Moment We’ve all Been Waiting For: Lee’s Gettysburg Headquarters Opens

By Savannah Rose ’17

On October 28, 2016, the doors of the Mary Thompson house located on Seminary Ridge in Gettysburg opened before a crowd of over one thousand Civil War Trust members and Civil War enthusiasts. In 2013, the Civil War Trust purchased a portion of land on Seminary Ridge, land covered with a motel, a brewery, a restaurant, and the Mary Thompson house, which some know as the headquarters of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Since purchasing the land the Civil War Trust, in partnership with other organizations, has worked to restore the Thompson property to its 1863 appearance by tearing down numerous contemporary buildings and restoring the house used by Lee during the Battle of Gettysburg. This past Friday, I walked my way up to Seminary Ridge, excited to see the finished project after watching the spot’s restoration for years.

Visitors wait in line to enter the newly restored Mary Thompson House. Visitors will now see the structure as Confederate General Robert E. Lee would have seen it when he arrived on July 1, 1863. Photo courtesy of the author.
Visitors wait in line to enter the newly restored Mary Thompson House. Visitors will now see the structure as Confederate General Robert E. Lee would have seen it when he arrived on July 1, 1863. Photo courtesy of the author.

When I got to the top of the ridge, braving the cold and the wind, I found the attendees surrounding a small stone house. The scene seem so different than it did just a few years ago when I entered the restaurant that once stood on the site. The crowd amassed near the house where the 26th North Carolina Regimental Band stood with a small podium, filling the air with Civil War music. Lee’s headquarters remained closed as more people began to arrive. Continue reading “The Moment We’ve all Been Waiting For: Lee’s Gettysburg Headquarters Opens”

Civil War Mythbusters: Grappling with the Lost Cause

Last fall, CWI Fellow (and now Gettysburg College graduate) Megan McNish ’16 shared this reflection on the experience of commemorating the Civil War in spite of having no family members who were in America during the conflict. A few hours later, we received a notification that someone had responded to the post. 

We receive many comments on the Gettysburg Compiler, and not infrequently do they come from adherents of the Lost Cause mythology. Few comments, however, have been as detailed and historically problematic as the one Megan’s post received. We invited the Fellows (past and present) to respond with their own comments to different parts of the argument, and now we are publishing their compiled responses along with the original comment. 

The text in the gray boxes below was originally published by the commenter as one long paragraph. We have divided it into sections (though maintained the original order) so that the Fellows’ responses could be inserted immediately after the sections to which they refer. We have also changed visible URLs into hyperlinks for the sake of aesthetic appeal. Apart from these tweaks, no edits have been made to the content, grammar, style, or spelling for either the Fellows or the original commenter. Not every possible critique of the comment is included below as each student was asked to hone in on one or two parts that they thought would most benefit from further discussion and context. 

Feel free to share your own impressions and reactions in the comment section. 

The comment begins:

I commend your passion on this subject and it is truly an honor to read about a youth that studies history. I would however like to set the record straight about the Civil War and the real reasons it was fought. This War just like many others throughout history were fought over greed. The South did not betray their fellow countrymen but rather the North oppressed the Southern states with unfair taxation and think about that for a moment UNFAIR TAXATION. Does that ring a bell think the Boston Tea Party.

Ryan Nadeau ’16:  What makes a tax unfair? Certainly, the case can be made for taxation without representation, as it was during the Revolution. By our standards of representative democracy, that’s just fine. However, prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, the South had plenty of representation. In the Thirty-sixth Congress, which sat from 1859 to the opening days of 1861, the states of the Confederacy held twenty-four of the sixty-six seats in the Senate (two for each state) and sixty-six of two-hundred and thirty-eight seats in the House of Representatives. Admittedly, this number for the House seems unusually low– and it was. Had the South abolished slavery, they would have received significant increases to their political representation. The Three-Fifth’s Compromise, as outlined in the Constitution, recognized only three out of every five slaves towards the population of a state when accounting for representation. Continue reading “Civil War Mythbusters: Grappling with the Lost Cause”

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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Confederate War Etchings: Adalbert J. Volck’s Visual Depiction of the Confederate War Effort

By Savannah Rose ’17

During the Civil War, both the Union and the Confederacy utilized art to convey their sentiments regarding different aspects of the war. Most Civil War enthusiasts often recall drawings and cartoons by Thomas Nast when they think about political cartoons of the 19th century. Nast drew numerous cartoons for the Northern newspaper Harpers Weekly, commenting frequently on the Confederate States of America, the Civil War, as well as the political corruption of the era. Nast grew in fame across the Union, but the Confederacy, too, had its share of political cartoons and drawings that criticized the Northern war effort. Though not very popular during the Civil War, Adalbert J. Volck created political cartoons that resonated strongly with the Confederate war effort and the Lost Cause following 1865.

Adalbert Johann Volck was born on April 14, 1828 in Bavaria, Germany. As a young child, his parents decided that their son should focus on the sciences, sending him to the Nuremburg Polytechnic Institute. During his spare time though, Volck spent countless hours with a group of artists where he learned the basics of drawing and etching. He moved on to the University of Munich, where he once again studied science but longed to further his art career which led to him making use of Munich’s art academy to continue to develop his skills. While in Munich, Volck participated in the rising political revolution in early 1848, causing him to flee Bavaria for New York City.

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Adalbert J. Volck drew numerous drawings and cartoons to aid the Confederate war effort. Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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Flight 93 National Memorial: A Park Dedicated to Strength from Tragedy

By Savannah Rose ’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 fourth post, Savannah talks about the emotional experience of visiting Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania.

The story of 9/11 will be forever ingrained in the history of America. On September 11, 2001, al-Queda terrorists hijacked American planes, flying them into national symbols including the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C. However, many people often forget that there was a fourth plane heading toward the nation’s capital that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania when the thirty-three passengers and seven crew members tried to regain control of the flight. In the frenzied attack to stop the plane from hitting its intended target, the passengers sacrificed their lives to thwart terrorism and fear. Immediately following the crash, a temporary memorial was created as government officials scrambled to find and remove pieces of the disintegrated plane. In 2002, the land was designated as a National Memorial by the United States government; it was the beginning of the Flight 93 National Memorial Site, the only National Park Service site dedicated to the events of the 9/11 attacks. In the years following, the Flight 93 National Memorial was created, allowing the American public to visit the site of the thwarted attack and remember the brave passengers of United Airline Flight 93.

My best friend from high school attends college in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, so I take Route 30 from Gettysburg to visit her. Every time I visited, I saw the brown sign noting the Flight 93 National Memorial, just off the highway. Because I always wanted to reach my destination, I never stopped but always swore I would next time. I finally decided to make the stop, though I didn’t know what to expect, as I was not knowledgeable about Flight 93. A three mile long winding road took me from Route 30 to the Visitors Center, giving me a sense of uncertainty as I longed to find an end around each turn but only found more road surrounded by empty field. I arrived at the Visitor Center, taking a black walkway from the parking lot, but initially passed the doors to the exhibits to follow the walkway to an overlook. The walkway followed the flight path of Flight 93, leading me to a view of the crash site. Before seeing the exhibits or grabbing the pamphlets, I was face-to-face with the impact site and the mass grave of forty people; a landscape that was once an ordinary field in Pennsylvania was transformed into a field of honor.

The walkway leads to this overlook looking toward the crash site, declaring that this landscape, once an ordinary field, is now a field of honor. Photo courtesy of author.
The walkway leads to this overlook looking toward the crash site, declaring that this landscape, once an ordinary field, is now a field of honor. Photo courtesy of author.

Continue reading “Flight 93 National Memorial: A Park Dedicated to Strength from Tragedy”

Old Gettysburg Back to Thee: New Exhibit in Special Collections

By Savannah Rose ’17

The current Special Collections exhibit in Musselman Library is called “Old Gettysburg Back to Thee: Student Social Memory Through the 1960s,” and it features artifacts and information about past student social organizations. Curated by Gettysburg College seniors Melanie Fernandes, Jenna Fleming, and Avery Foxs the exhibit features six cases filled with artifacts from Gettysburg College that look at how social outlets have changed and remained the same since the 1960s. The exhibit opened on February 15 and will close on June 30, 2016 with an exhibit talk on April 6 at 4:00 p.m. The exhibit invites students to browse items in the collection that connect to their contemporary experiences at Gettysburg College and help them to reflect on the history of the College.

The first case of the exhibit features information regarding the first student social organizations on campus. Early in the history of Gettysburg College, students spent most of their time in the classroom, doing homework, attending mandatory chapel, and following strict curfews. In this period, emphasis was placed heavily on academic life rather than social life. As a result, the first social organizations on campus were academic societies that often invited speakers and held numerous social events each year. These organizations included the Phrenakosmian and Philomathean literary societies; honor societies for disciplines such as history, biology, chemistry, classics, and philosophy; Pen & Sword, and the Linnaen Association. The case holds artifacts from these social groups, including the gavel and gong used by the history honor society Phi Alpha Theta, which are still used by members of the honor society today. Continue reading “Old Gettysburg Back to Thee: New Exhibit in Special Collections”

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.

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The Power of Passion: How a Lack of Momentum is Dooming New Hampshire Battle Flags

By Savannah Rose ’17

In my last post, I looked at preservation of Civil War artifacts at the local level, but not even at the state level do these items receive the attention they need. I spent my winter break back home in New Hampshire and decided to take a visit to our capitol building to visit the Hall of Flags. I have seen and read about the Hall before, but I hadn’t visited it in a few years. I arrived at the capitol building after a few hours of driving, opened the large doors to the governmental building, and immediately arrived in the Hall of Flags, all ranging from the Civil War to Vietnam.

The Hall of Flags contains 107 battle flags ranging from the Civil War to the Vietnam War. Photo courtesy of author.
The Hall of Flags contains 107 battle flags ranging from the Civil War to the Vietnam War. Photograph by the author.

The State House has possession of battle flags from regiments deriving from the state of New Hampshire from more than 150 years ago. The first flags came to the State House in 1866, months after the last shots of the Civil War were fired. The flags resided in the Concord City Hall, entering their current home in the state capitol building in 1900, and have not been touched since. Straight from the battlefield, the flags create a magnificent exhibit of loyal colors, showing the pride the state had for its citizens who fought in more than five different wars. The flags are tattered, faded, and worn out, not solely due to bullet holes and bloodstains, but by the way they are presented to visitors. Continue reading “The Power of Passion: How a Lack of Momentum is Dooming New Hampshire Battle Flags”

Saving Colonel Cross: How Money Determines Which Histories Are Preserved

By Savannah Rose ’17

This summer, I spent my weekends volunteering at the Lancaster Historical Society near my hometown in northern New Hampshire. I went to elementary school in Lancaster and suffered through lessons on local history, but it wasn’t until I arrived at college that I discovered an interesting piece of Lancaster’s heritage. I learned that the commander of the “Fighting Fifth” NH, Colonel Edward E. Cross, was born and buried in Lancaster, an astonishing and exciting discovery that brought the Civil War back to my hometown.

After discovering this, I anxiously waited to go home to see what belongings of Cross Lancaster had in its possession, only to be incredibly disappointed by what I found. The grave of Colonel Cross is currently locked away from the public, rarely open for viewers to enter the cemetery. I was understanding of this as it was a private cemetery, but nothing could prepare me for what I found at the historical society. The historical society, operating out of a house in town, was closed the first summer I came home forcing me to wait a year to see the artifacts relating to Cross. Last summer was the first time I saw the artifacts of Colonel Cross, all together in a pantry-sized case.

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Colonel Edward E. Cross’s artifacts reside in this small closet within the Lancaster Historical Society. Stacked on top of each other, the artifacts have to endure the temperatures of a New Hampshire winter. Photo courtesy of the author.

Continue reading “Saving Colonel Cross: How Money Determines Which Histories Are Preserved”