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”
If you read my last post on the Broadway musical Hamilton, you’ve already read my waxing admiration of the show and might also remember that I listen to the soundtrack non-stop. The musical has shown the world the power that music has as a teaching tool. As someone interested in nineteenth century American history, I long for a Hamilton-esque musical regarding the Civil War era. One of the reasons Hamilton is so successful is its ability to draw connections between past and present issues, and that can be done easily for nineteenth century America. Women’s rights, slavery, immigration, emancipation, and workers’ rights are all issues that plagued the nineteenth century and, in many ways, we deal with their legacy today. I have thought long and hard about how a musical about the nineteenth century would be executed and on whose life it would focus. The obvious choice would be to focus on Abraham Lincoln. Our sixteenth president’s story has equal parts success and personal tragedy. Lincoln, however, does not satisfy me as the protagonist in the way that Hamilton does. His story has been told many times over and. Comparatively speaking, retelling Lincoln’s story would be a similar choice to telling Washington’s story in the context of the Revolutionary War era.
Regardless of my more-than-slight obsession with our 16th President, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed when I heard the space in front of Stevens Hall was to be the spot for another Lincoln statue. When I walked on campus for the first time this semester, I saw the new walkway and the granite pedestal, which very clearly would soon be the base for a new statue. Not having heard who the statue would depict, my mind flurried with possibilities. I quickly settled on the perfect candidate: Thaddeus Stevens. Thaddeus Stevens had, after all, provided the land for the college when it was first founded in 1832. He was an avid abolitionist and supporter of freedmen during Reconstruction. A statue seemed like a perfect way to recognize his efforts during the sesquicentennial years of Reconstruction. Most importantly, the statue was going to be right outside Stevens Hall, a building that was named for him. But Thaddeus Stevens was not the subject of this new statue. Rather, “The Great Emancipator” has taken a permanent seat on our campus.
You haven’t seen much from me yet this semester. For this I apologize. I have been knee-deep in preliminary research for a special project I’m working on for the blog – one that can’t be completed until the weather breaks. I originally meant to learn just enough about the topic of this project to share a brief overview with you all, but, as sometimes happens during the research process, I’ve become a little obsessed with the central figure of my research: one Congressman Thaddeus Stevens.
To call the great politician polarizing in his own time would be a grave understatement. Frankly, it’s a testament to his willpower and political savvy that he managed to accomplish as much as he did considering how many enemies he made along the way. When I was in high school, we didn’t really learn much about Stevens except that he was one of the Radical Republicans who favored a hardline policy against the South during and after the Civil War. I knew his name, but I had no idea of the man behind it. Continue reading “Searching for Stevens”
by Val Merlina, ’14 ??????he epitomizes the core principle of our country that all persons are created equal. Unlike Thomas Jefferson, who wrote “All men are created [equal],” [Thaddeus] Stevens believed it with every fiber of this being and actually …
“…he epitomizes the core principle of our country that all persons are created equal. Unlike Thomas Jefferson, who wrote “All men are created [equal],” [Thaddeus] Stevens believed it with every fiber of this being and actually enacted it into law…” -Ross Hetrick, President of the Thaddeus Stevens Society
History and the unending march of time tends to cloud not only the vision into the past, but also the legacies of noteworthy individuals. Historical figures such as Thaddeus Stevens, until now, have not received the laudatory acclaim he so rightly deserves from modern society.