History is Good Drama: BBC’s “Copper”

By Val Merlina ‘14

BBC America’s programming covers a wide range of genres, presenting characters, and settings that appeal to viewers around the world. In 2012, BBC began airing Copper, a period drama set in the ethnically diverse, crime and disease-ridden Five Points neighborhood in New York City in the late-Civil War years. The title, taken from the slang term for a police officer, centers on police detective work in the rapidly growing urban center. The characterizations, as well as the situations presented are not far off from historical fact. For various reasons, many of the characters have returned to the Five Points, and their experiences in war have ended, though the war itself rages on. As a result, their attitudes take on an historical tone of post-Civil War society, though the show takes place in the late-war years of 1863 and 1864. This is not an anachronistic flaw in the show, but rather depicts the characters’ own struggles to carry on in American society through the late-war years now that they have returned from war, and that their combat experiences have come to an end. Therefore, the following questions arise: what post-Civil War themes does “Copper” depict for television audiences, and how does the show contribute to the surge of both print and mass media in relation to the American Civil War? In this segment, we will consider the themes found in the show in terms of the post-war sentiments expressed by characters.

Copper 1

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Commemoration, Past and Present: An Interview with Emmanuel Dabney in Three Parts, Part Three

By Val Merlina ’14

Emmanuel Dabney, one of the Civil War Institute Summer Conference speakers, is a park ranger at Petersburg National Battlefield. At the Summer Conference, “The War in 1864,” he will give a lecture titled, “Catching Us Like Sheep in a Slaughter Pen”: The United States Colored Troops at the Battle of the Crater. In anticipation of the Institute, Emmanuel Dabney answered questions on intepretation, Petersburg, and the future of the Civil War. This is the final installment in a three part series. Click to read part one and two.

Dabney

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Broadening the Narrative: An Interview with Emmanuel Dabney in Three Parts, Part Two

By Val Merlina ’14

Emmanuel Dabney, one of the Civil War Institute Summer Conference speakers, is a park ranger at Petersburg National Battlefield. At the Summer Conference, “The War in 1864,” he will give a lecture titled, “Catching Us Like Sheep in a Slaughter Pen”: The United States Colored Troops at the Battle of the Crater. In anticipation of the Institute, Emmanuel Dabney answered questions on intepretation, Petersburg, and the future of the Civil War. This is part two in a three part series. Click here to read part one.

Dabney

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Complicating History: An Interview with Emmanuel Dabney in Three Parts, Part One

By Val Merlina ’14

Emmanuel Dabney, one of the Civil War Institute Summer Conference speakers, is a park ranger at Petersburg National Battlefield. At the Summer Conference, “The War in 1864,” he will give a lecture titled, “Catching Us Like Sheep in a Slaughter Pen”: The United States Colored Troops at the Battle of the Crater. In anticipation of the Institute, Emmanuel Dabney answered questions on intepretation, Petersburg, and the future of the Civil War. His responses will be posted in a three-part series.

Dabney

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Special Collections Roadshow at Gettysburg College: William B. McCreery’s POW Memoir

By Meg Sutter ’16

Episode Two of Special Collections Roadshow at Gettysburg College explores Colonel William B. McCreery’s Prisoner of War memoir and uses the text as a segway to discuss Libby Prison and POW experience. Filmed and edited by Val Merlina ’14

Theater of War: Booth and Beyond

By Val Merlina ’14

Lastly, we come upon perhaps the best known actor of the Civil War era, John Wilkes Booth. Of course, the reason memory allows us to recall the name is not because of the merits achieved through his profession, but rather because he murdered the elected executive official – United States President Abraham Lincoln. Booth, a product of a theater family, was a dramatic, eccentric, and impatient being. He wanted the leading roles, did not want to prepare the role, but to simply play the role. His brother, Edwin Booth, a talented poetical performer, one might deduce, did prepare for his roles, as he performed the role of Hamlet for one-hundred shows straight in New York City during his career.

JW Booth

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Theater of War: Combining Entertainment and Art

By Val Merlina ’14

Did the theater work to benefit the causes for north or south, dependent upon region? Sautter stated that this phenomenon was less common than many might expect. Many actors stated their neutrality, or as one Civil War era actor said, “I am neither northerner nor southerner.” Still others simply responded to the war by leaving the country. One must consider the “clannish nature” of theater of the time in order to understand how actors could have taken the neutral role during a war of ideals: many actors were born into theater life, therefore did not grow up in any one city or region, and furthermore lived a life separate from the outside world where harsh realities allowed for the existence of slavery and social oppression.

C Cushman

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Theatre of War: A Witness to Love, Tragedy, and Parody

By Val Merlina ’14

Central to American nineteenth century life was the theater. As the fratricidal fighting of the American Civil War broke out and divided the nation, this centrality remained, and audiences crowded into the theaters. For both north and south, the theater provided an outlet through which Americans could enjoy plays, performances, music, and variety shows that appealed to all social classes of American society. However, in order to understand the operations of theater companies during the war itself, it is first essential to examine the state of the theater as a concept during the mid-nineteenth century, and in the pre-war years.

Merlina

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Manassas Musings

By Val Merlina ’14

Individuals from around the world travel to the region punctuated by suburban sprawl nestled between Dulles Airport and Washington, D.C. They weave their way through the abundant traffic to reach a piece of ground that somehow managed to remain preserved. While some seek knowledge, or a way to entertain their children for the afternoon, others come merely to stand in the places where great armies and famous commanders stood 152 years ago. This is the essence of Manassas National Battlefield Park.

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