Saturday, October 8, 2011
After much contemplation, largely due to laziness, I have finally sat down to write the first of many blogs pertaining to the time spent in Gettysburg’s Civil War Era Studies program. It has been some three odd weeks now since the first of our fieldtrips to various Civil War battlefields. Our first trip was certainly a mix of emotions ranging from a bit of real concern to a fear of boredom. When we loaded on the bus in the early morning hours we seemed on the whole to be in a jovial, albeit sleepy mood. I must readily confess that for me, it seemed a bit like the emotions felt when a child walks into kindergarten for the first time. I was a bit concerned over how the tour would be conducted, how much was to be expected of us and to what degree would we be expected to retain any information that was given unto us.
As the bus pulled into the park, I was met with a certain comfort. This was not my first time in the park and indeed would certainly not be my last as both I and my fellow southerner Phillip Brown are interns at the park. Perhaps this was part of the nagging concern over the question of possible boredom at the park. However, we soon were met by Dennis Frye, and this quickly alleviated some of the anxiety. We would begin our tour with a trip to the lower town. Our morning was full of debates concerning who was this man John Brown who came to the very town we were now in, in October 1859. Mr. Frye would lead us through the story from the highs of excitement with the marines smashing in the door of the fire engine house to the very lows of one of the raider’s bodies being thrown to the hogs. We were met with questions such as why had this man John Brown attacked such a peaceful village. Was it only for the weapons? Could it be that he was one of America’s very first terrorists? Was this man, John Brown really such a martyr as we have made him to be, or is he simply a crazed fanatic? As our morning drew to an end, we all certainly had formed our own opinions of this man who made such an impact on such a beautiful community.
After dinner at the Anvil, we would resume our tour. However, now it was three years after John Brown and no longer focused on Lower Town. Now we would find ourselves standing atop Bolivar Heights imagining ourselves as both Colonel Dixon Miles and Robert E. Lee. We would have a raging debate over what we feel as though we might do in each man’s particular boots as it were. Many would feel that Miles should have done more even if it meant fighting on Camp Hill and in the streets of Lower town if it meant only one more day of engaging in delay, while others felt Col. Miles had done the best job possible with the men and orders given under his command. One thing we all would agree is that the night march executed by A.P. Hill was a thing of inspiring courage and fortitude and without a shadow of a doubt the nail that sealed the coffin for the siege of Harper’s Ferry.
In retrospect, I must say that none of my early morning anxiety was well founded. It was a more than average educational experience and never did it possess a moment of dullness throughout the day. My only concern is that I wish I could have stayed for just a while longer. I regretted in leaving that there was not enough time in the day to truly scale the cliffs and ravines as Hill’s men did, that we could not have marched over from the Kennedy farm, and that I could not see the views of the town as they would have so long ago atop Maryland and Loudin Heights. Even so, as our bus pulled in front of the Appleford, our beautiful home, I admit to a feeling of pride, shame, and accomplishment. The story of Harper’s Ferry then, and how it has impacted me now, is one of so many instances, emotions and people that one could never fully understand its beauty, both physical and historical.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Although brief, the visit offered a glimpse at the wealth of research materials available to us as Gettysburg College students – and I’m extremely excited to work in the Special Collections over the course of the semester!
Visit the Gettysburg College Special Collections website to see the myriad resources available to researchers. The GettDigital collection offers many resources to the public online as well.
Monday, September 14, 2009
After meeting Dennis Frye at the Vistor’s Center, we went to the Lower Town area, most famous for John Brown’s “raid” in October of 1859. Before we went through the town itself, however, Dennis Frye introduced us to the reasons for which Harpers Ferry developed as it did. Of particular importance is the Shenandoah River, which made the town an excellent location for the establishment of mills. We saw one in particular that served as a hospital during the Civil War.
We then walked through the town, most of which was destroyed due to the Civil War and continual flooding. Dennis Frye walked us through the layout of Harpers Ferry as it would have looked when John Brown arrived there. Most interesting was his emphasis on John Brown’s original intentions for the “launch” of his war against slavery. We moved through the areas of particular importance to John Brown, such as the armory and the arsenal, and ended our walk at the old firehouse. Dennis Frye’s animated demonstration of the last moments before John Brown was apprehended there were both entertaining and powerful.
After a much needed lunch-break huddled in the van, we set out for Bolivar Heights to discuss the Battle at Harpers Ferry in September of 1862 during the Maryland Campaign. Dennis Frye thoroughly covered the issues of topography and terrain at Harpers Ferry, explaining the strategic importance of Maryland Heights, Loudon Heights, and Bolivar Heights. He then took us to the Confederate position at Schoolhouse Ridge, where we simulated marching in line – much more difficult than I had imagined! Finally, we went to the area where A.P. Hill’s flanking maneuver forced the Union to surrender and got a gorgeous view of the Potomac River. Exhausted, wet, but completely content, we made our way back to the bus. I, for one, spent the ride back home humming “Take Me Home Country Roads” and looking forward to our trip to Manassas!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
The school year has once again begun, and it is time now for our Gettysburg Semester students to begin their sojourns around Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and more. The Civil War Era Studies Department is pleased to introduce Annie Powers, our 2009 Blogger. Annie hales from the University of California at Berkeley, and is one of two students we have this year who've made the trek to Gettysburg from the "Golden State." Annie will be writing about her weekly travels with Dr. Guelzo and her fellow students. Look for her first update from the field (Harpers Ferry, WV) next Monday.
Below is Annie's first submission, a recap of her first experiences at Gettysburg College and with the Gettysburg Semester during the Orientation Week. Without further ado, here's the news from our students:
Gettysburg. A small, historic-minded town with a population of about 7,500 and a college with 2,600 students. After living in the San Francisco Bay Area and attending the University of California at Berkeley, a state university with nearly 26,000 undergraduates, I didn’t quite know what to expect. But when I arrived at the Appleford, our residence for the semester, and the idea of studying the Civil War in Gettysburg began to sink in, I realized (as trite as this will sound) that this place would quickly become home.
When I arrived at the Appleford, I all but collapsed onto my bed after getting almost no sleep on a red-eye flight from California into D.C. Thankfully, Dr. Guelzo, Cathy Bain, and a bunch of other students helped me haul my heavy luggage upstairs and got me acquainted with the house. Admittedly, those first few hours were blurred by my exhaustion, but I was delighted to finally be in Gettysburg.
After dealing with logistical issues and bonding with my darling roommate Sam, Dr. Guelzo treated us to dinner at the Dobbin House. It was super delicious and, as Jacob Dinkelaker described it, “olde-timey.” When we returned to the Appleford, most people played a game of Monopoly, but personally, I was fast asleep by 10:00 pm.
The next day, we were given a tour of Pickett’s Charge by Dan Welch, a Gettysburg Semester student from 2005. I was both impressed by his walk and excited about the opportunities that studying here at Gettysburg College clearly offers us.
Later that evening, we participated in the First Year Walk, a tradition in which first-years follow the path that Pennsylvania College students and faculty took in 1863 to see the dedication of the National Cemetery. All of us Gettysburg Semester students were at the front of the crowd, unmistakable in our blindingly orange T-Shirts. (We were even featured on the College website!) Upon arrival, we listened to the Gettysburg Address read by former NAACP president Bruce Gordon. There is something so powerfully eloquent about the Gettysburg Address that captivates me no matter how many times I have read it or heard it spoken. Dr. Guelzo then treated us to Kilwin’s Ice Cream, which had the best waffle cones I have ever tasted and will probably be the place where the majority of my money is spent this semester.
Over the weekend, we all tried to visit the battlefield in some way, going in groups or exploring the ground alone. This week, classes and internships are beginning, and I am extremely excited to see and experience absolutely everything uniquely Gettysburg over the next three months!
Friday, December 12, 2008
Friday, December 5, 2008
After a lunch at the Hard Rock Café, we went to Ford’s Theatre where Lincoln was shot. We couldn’t go inside the theatre because it was still being renovated, but we stood outside while Dr. Guelzo described the night he was shot. Then we went inside the Petersen House where Lincoln died. We saw the parlor where Mary Todd Lincoln spent much of her time that night, the back parlor where national officials held meetings, and the bad bedroom where Lincoln was brought until he died. Our last stop was Lincoln Memorial, a fitting end to our field experience trips.
Next week we will be saying good-bye to each other and Gettysburg at our mustering-out party.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Bert took us from one end of the village, where the battle was fought on April 9, to the other end, where Grant and Lee met a second time and also where the parade began in the surrender ceremony. In between we saw the McLean house where the surrender terms were drawn up and signed and the tavern where over 28,000 paroles were printed for the Confederate soldiers. When our tour was done we were let loose to explore the buildings and exhibits on our own. It was really awesome to be able to stand in the same room as Grant and Lee had stood. After lunch and a treat at Dairy Queen we boarded back into the van for the long ride back to Gettysburg.
The war may have ended for Generals Grant and Lee at Appomattox, but our journey is not over yet. After our break for Thanksgiving, we go to the nation's capital...Washington DC!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
After lunch we made our way to Petersburg to cover the final stop of the Overland Campaign. Here the two armies settled into a siege that lasted 9 months and 18 days and sounded the death knell for the Confederacy. At the visitor center we met up with our guide for the afternoon, Randy Watkins. The first thing he did was drill us on the 12-pounder Napoleon outside the visitor center door. We made a lot of mistakes the first time, but by the third try we were making progress! Then we headed to a reconstructed fortification where he drilled us with wooden muskets. It was confusing at first, but a lot of fun! That done we settled down to learn about the siege and its battles.
We went to three different forts along the Union line-Fort Stedman, Fort Wadsworth, and Fort Fisher where battles occurred at different times. The forts are only rows of grassy mounds now, but we could still get a sense of the life led during the siege. Probably the stop that we were all looking forward to most was the Crater. This is where the Union dug a 511-foot tunnel under the Confederate works, filled it with 8,000 pounds of gunpowder, and blew it up killing 318 Confederates and creating a huge crater in the ground. Even though we got stuck in a rainstorm at this stop we were excited to see the reconstructed entrance to the tunnel and then the Crater itself. It doesn't look like much now, just a big grassy depression, but it must have looked amazing when it first happened. Once darkness forced us off the field we said goodbye to Randy and headed off to dinner at the Brickhouse run in Petersburg.
Tomorrow is our last day of the three day tour and we are fittingly covering the last day of the eastern campaign.....Appomattox Court House.
Friday, November 14, 2008
We began at Elwood where Don introduced us to the Union side of the battle and we paid tribute to Stonewall Jackson (even though that was technically connected to the Battle of Chancellorsville) by visiting the place where his amputated arm is buried. We talked about Warren a great deal here since this was his Headquarters in the Wilderness, and after Don said that he liked limericks Dr. Guelzo tried his hand at creating one about Warren himself. Then we went to Saunder's Field were the Battle of the Wilderness began. There Don covered the Confederate side of the campaign and the beginning of the battle. We followed the Confederate lines from the Orange Turnpike to the Orange Plank Road were we visited the Chewning and Widow Tapp's Farms. Heading down the Orange Plank Road we followed the path of Longstreet's advance and saw where he was accidently wounded by his own men. After covering the other end of the battle at the intersection of the Brock Road we headed towards Spotsylvania Courthouse for lunch.
After lunch at the Courthouse Café we headed to the location of Sedgwick's death to begin the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. He was killed on the approach to Laurel Hill where the battle would begin, the Confederates having beaten the Federals to Spotsylvania Courthouse. Laurel Hill would form half of the battlefield where several Union assaults would occur over the days of the battle. Then we went to the famous "Mule Shoe" salient in the Confederate lines. Don took us first to the center of the salient where the first Union assault was led by Upton through the Confederate lines. He gave us an overview of the attacks there on May 10th and 12th and then we went to "Bloody Angle" where Union and Confederate troops fought hand-to-hand for 20 hours on May 12th. We got to go down behind a line of reconstructed earthworks that were the beginnings of the lines of gentle mounds that line the field today.
Our last stop was at Massaponax Church were O'Sullivan's famous picture was taken of Grant and Meade with their subordinates. Then we headed south for dinner and some well deserved rest. Tomorrow we go to Cold Harbor and Petersburg!
Friday, November 7, 2008
Ranger John Heiser met us at the Appleford to begin our third and final tour of Gettysburg (at least with the Semester-I know this won't be my last time!). We started out with a drive around the battlefield looking at the Culp Farm, the Bushman Farm, and the Trostle Farm to understand the toll the battle took on local farmers. Then we headed back into town to learn about the impact on the town and its citizens. He took us through streets and alleys to see the railroad station, the GAR post, and several churches that had been used as hospitals. The impact of civilians was told through stories, such as the story of Sally Mires, a 20-year old schoolteacher who worked with the wounded for several days in St. Francis Xavier Church even though the first time she entered she had broken down and had to leave.
After a tasty lunch at O'Rorke's and ice cream at Kilwin's we met up with our second guide, Ranger Scott Hartwig, who would lead us through Pickett's Charge. We started at the Union lines where Scott got us oriented to where the battle stood on the morning of July 3rd and who the troops were that would defend the ridge against the famous assault of Pickett, Pettigrew, and Trimble. Then we walked over to the Confederate side to get that perspective of the day's battle. There Scott told us about the problems with command and communication the Confederates faced that day and how the charge was decided on and organized. Then we walked the path of Pickett's Division back to the Union line. This was made all the more realistic by our own walking casualty. Amy gamely walked, or should I say hobbled, the two miles on her bad ankle. The dedication of the Confederate men that made the original assault lives on!
We ended the day near the Angle and the Copse of Trees where Armistead broke through the Union lines and was repelled. Here I presented on my 69th Pennsylvania boys who single-handedly pushed the Confederates back! Ok, maybe I exaggerate, but they were crucial in the fighting that took place there.
The Battle of Gettysburg would end with the ill-fated charge of the Confederates. Pickett's Charge was also the end of our three day tour of Gettysburg. Fortunately, it does not mark the end of our field experience trips and next week we are going to the Richmond area for a three day tour!!
Friday, October 31, 2008
Our first stop was by the North Carolina monument on the Confederate lines. John used this position to lay out the Union and Confederate lines at the start of day two and gave us an overview of what happened in the course of the fighting. We began with the Union left and Sickles’ III Corps. We did a loop of the III Corps line starting at the Peach Orchard, then going to Little Round Top, and ending up in the middle by the Wheatfield.
At Little Round Top John focused on the Union line at the face of the hill (since the 20th Maine is emphasized everywhere else) and we discussed the weak position of Sickles’ line in relation to the rest of the Union line. At the stony hill near the Wheatfield we were in the middle of Sickles’ line and heard about how the Union line began collapsing under the Confederates’ echelon attack. Then it was time for lunch at Pickett’s Buffet!
After lunch we headed to the center of the Union line on Cemetery Hill where Lee’s attack failed once it really started to work. We covered that briefly, and then moved to one of John’s favorite places-Culp’s Hill. We began on Benner’s Hill to see where the Confederate artillery was placed and where the infantry would make their attack from. Then we went to the other side of Rock Creek to the Union lines. John brought us to see one of the little known secrets of the battlefield- A.L. Coble from the 1st NC came back after the battle and carved his name in a rock where he had been fighting. We had to climb a huge rock to see it and unfortunately my roommate, Amy, fell and injured her ankle. We continued with the battle for Culp’s Hill and progressed over Steven’s Knoll to Cemetery Hill.
After the bus scared us by turning its back up lights while five of us were still behind it (trying to help Amy hobble along) we crossed the road to finish up our tour with the battle for Cemetery Hill. Here another breakthrough occurred but was not supported and so Lee’s battle plans for July 2 failed. Then it was time to head back to the Appleford. We headed back to the bus but a low stone wall blocked our path. As Amy looked uneasily at the climb, Alex picked her up and started across the wall. Unfortunately he didn’t get very far as he slipped and fell (he was fine besides a few bruises). The afternoon ended as a “comedy of errors” with two more casualties of the Civil War.
Hopefully, our troops with have recovered by next week when we cover Day 3 and Pickett’s Charge!-Katie Logothetis
Friday, October 10, 2008
We picked up Dennis Fry at Harpers Ferry and then continued on into the valley. The first three stops we made were on the side of the road: the first at the site of Mosby's Berryville Wagon Train Raid, the second at Beemer's Woods, and the third just before the Berryville Canyon. The battlefields of the Valley have not been well preserved. None of the sites are part of the National Parks System. Dennis Fry, with the Civil War Preservation Trust, worked hard to save pieces of the battles at Winchester and Cedar Creek. Dennis took us on a trail through the preserved part of the Battle of Third Winchester to give us a look at that battle which had occurred during the 1864 campaign. It was beautiful walking through the fields and woods around Red Bull Run, but the houses and highways visible around the property were a sad reminder of how much had not been preserved. We then drove to the location of the two battles of Kernstown (one in 1862 and one in 1864). The land around the Pritchard Farm and Sandy Ridge has been preserved by the Kernstown Battlefield Association, a local organization.
After a wonderful lunch at the historic Wayside Inn we headed out to Fisher's Hill to learn about the battle of Winchester in 1864. Dennis had also been part of the purchase and preservation of this site. We climbed the Confederate positions on Fisher's Hill to study the terrain and movements of both armies. There was a trail but we did a lot of "off-roading", and I have never seen so many crickets in my life! It was getting late so we made one final stop at Belle Grove Plantation to discuss the Battle of Cedar Creek. Part of our focus was turned towards the quarry that mars part of the landscape nearby.
As we made our way back to Harpers Ferry to drop off and say good-by to Dennis, I realized that this tour had educated us in more than just battles and troop movements. It was a reminder of how much history is threatened and how easily it can be lost.
Next time we start my favorite battlefield of all.......Gettysburg!
Friday, October 3, 2008
The first week of October found us traveling to Sharpsburg, Maryland where the bloodiest one day battle in America was fought. 23,000 men were killed, wounded, or captured on this field in September 1862 making it one of the greatest battles in American history. The Maryland Campaign and the battle of Antietam were very influential actions in the war; a lot depended on who would win this contest.
We left early with Cathy Bain as a fearless leader since Dr. Guelzo was feeling "under the weather". Dennis Frye met us at the visitor center and we began our tour on the ground that Lee held during the battle. The morning was spent analyzing McClellan and Lee's actions and options in the overarching campaign and in the positions along the Antietam Creek. Dennis challenged us to think beyond what most historians write about McClellan and think in "real-time" history with only the knowledge that they had at the time on the field.
After lunch we began analyzing the battle itself. Crucial to Dennis' considerations of McClellan were the actions of General Burnside at the Lower bridge. Dennis brought us "off-roading" up in the hills overlooking the Antietam Creek on the Union side so we could analyze Burnside's position. By "off-roading" I mean we hiked through fields of knee high grass, made our way through a heavily vegetated ravine, and were attacked by crickets (or at least I was)! We definitely got a unique view of the battlefield and the tactics and strategy involved in planning an offensive. After we had finished at "Burnside's Bridge" we headed off to the center of the Confederate lines: "Bloody Lane". Here we did a time honored Gettysburg Semester tradition: "The Bloat". We reenacted the famous picture of Confederate dead in the sunken road taken by Alexander Gardner, assistant to Matthew Brady. Then we went to the cornfield to finish up our tour. Dennis actually took us into the cornfield which was very intimidating for someone who is only 5'2"!
Next week we will be traveling in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley to study Jackson's Valley Campaign.-Katie Logothetis
Friday, September 19, 2008
We started off with the First Battle of Manassas. The First Battle of Manassas was the first major campaign of the war, fought in July of 1861, and the North was confident that they would win the engagement and end the rebellion quickly. Jim took us first to the Stone Bridge over Bull Run that was the sight of the first shots of the battle in a diversionary tactic by the Union. Then we went to the area that was the main battlefield for his engagement: Matthew's Hill and Henry House Hill. The main fighting began by Matthew's Hill and was pushed back to Henry Hill for the remainder of the battle. This is where Thomas Jonathan Jackson gained the nickname that would forever stick: "Stonewall" Jackson.
After lunch Jim took us out to the Brawner Farm to begin the Second Battle of Manassas. The amazing element in both battles is that they were fought on such small areas of land. We only had to make only a few stops to see the majority of the battlefield. The Brawner Farm was the flank of the Confederate lines and also where the famed Iron Brigade earned its name. From the Brawner Farm we moved to where the Union made its main assault on the Confederates at the unfinished railroad cut. Here Dr. Guelzo got tired of our slow pace and had us march in column formation which we did much better than our line formation last week, especially since Dr. Guelzo led us in some marching songs. Our last stop before hitting the bookstore at the Visitor Center was Chinn Ridge where the Union fought a flanking maneuver by Longstreet.
Unfortunately for the Union, both battles at Manassas were defeats and ended in retreats back towards Washington. Our retreat was orderly as we boarded the bus and headed back to Gettysburg. Next week: Winchester!-Katie Logothetis
Friday, September 12, 2008
We began with the battlefield since the change of rain was worse for the afternoon. Dennis took us first to Bolivar Heights to get a perspective of the battlefield. Harpers Ferry is at the junction of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers and is a triangle of "high-ground" made of Bolivar Heights, Maryland Heights, and Loudoun Heights. In the present day it is also the junction of three states: Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. Dennis took us to both the Union and Confederate lines and the locations of the major movements during the battle. Harpers Ferry is a well preserved battlefield and we were able to get a really good feel for the movement of the battle in 1862. We walked the confederate lines on Schoolhouse ridge and, even though we have a lot of work to do before we can march in a respectable line formation, it was easy to see the courage of the soldiers that fought on both sides of the conflict.
Even though it had been raining all day and was getting heavier we went back out on the field after lunch. This time we went out to the Old Town where John Brown's Raid had occurred in 1859.
Unfortunately for the town, the Civil War had caused so much damage that it never fully recovered and 60% of the original town is no longer there. Dennis brought us to the site of the armory buildings that John Brown and his men had attacked to get arms to fight Brown's own war against slavery. The only original building significant to the raid that still stands is the engine house where the final assault by the US Marines occurred and John Brown was captured. Sitting inside the tiny building Dennis took us through the events of the raid and the dramatic conclusion that reverberated throughout the states and impacted opinions on slavery just two years before the Civil War would begin.
Wet and tired but full of new knowledge we headed home to the Appleford. Next week Manassas!!!