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Gettysburg College

Civil War Era Studies

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"...Our Hearts Tell Us There Is Something Else Out There.": Prowling The Halls Of The Mib, John M. Rudy Aug 2012

"...Our Hearts Tell Us There Is Something Else Out There.": Prowling The Halls Of The Mib, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

In the basement corridor of the Main Interior Building in Washington, D.C. is the most beautiful painting I've even seen. I've gotten the chance on a couple of occasions, while visiting the Department of the Interior Headquarters for meetings and whatnot for work to wander down outside of the cafeteria to see the mural. It is pure beauty, mostly forgotten and ignored by the folks who work in that building everyday. I get these weird looks while I stand in awe of the massive canvas, like I shouldn't stop and stare. I don't care. I ...


Thinking Fourth Dimensionally: How Battlefields Become Deloreans, John M. Rudy Aug 2012

Thinking Fourth Dimensionally: How Battlefields Become Deloreans, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I have written before of my intense love for Back to the Future III. Part of the reason that film resonates with my movie-going soul is my abiding love of the 19th century. Part of me wishes I could hop into a Stainless-Steel Delorian and visit the past for a short stint. I'm pretty sure I'm too much of a pansy to last very long in the world of latrines and muddy water, but I'd love to see the past for even just one fleeting moment. [excerpt]


"Round Eye" At The Wall: The Power Of What We Call Things, John M. Rudy Aug 2012

"Round Eye" At The Wall: The Power Of What We Call Things, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I went on a battlefield tour this weekend with Garry Adelman. It was an amazing experience, as any tour with Garry is, because he delves into how we conceptualize landscapes just as much as what happened on those landscapes 150 years ago. My mind was churning the entire time. Of anyone, both those who work for those places and those who just generally love those places, Garry (and his partner in crime Tim Smith) is tops on the list of most effective living time machines. Like always, Garry got me thinking on 15 different levels, and I'd wager that ...


Fifty Shades Of Blue And Grey: Civil War Torture Porn?, John M. Rudy Jul 2012

Fifty Shades Of Blue And Grey: Civil War Torture Porn?, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Over the past few days I've been thinking about violence. We are a culture of violence. We idolize blind rage and violence, we normalize it and worship it....

We, as a collective American culture, promote violence, normalize it as the proper reaction to any given problem and outright encourage it. [excerpt]


An 1858 Patent Office Report: The Joy Of Being Wrong, John M. Rudy Jul 2012

An 1858 Patent Office Report: The Joy Of Being Wrong, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I love being wrong. I think every historian should love that feeling. Finding that one small piece of evidence that puts a crack in your perception of the past and makes you restructure your view of the flow of history is a joy.

I had one of those moments a few weeks ago at Adams County Historical Society, digging through the vertical files for random things. I go digging every week or so, simply immersing myself in the raw material of the past and seeing what floats to the surface. [excerpt]


The Willard Hotel: Let Us Die To Make Men Free, Jacob Dinkelaker Jul 2012

The Willard Hotel: Let Us Die To Make Men Free, Jacob Dinkelaker

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Everyday I head into work, I pass by the Willard InterContinental building between 15th and 14th streets NW in downtown D.C. Even though Washington, D.C. has changed greatly since the Civil War, the Willard has, in its various different forms and structures, always been there – since even before the Civil War. In its long storied history, the Willard has been there for its fair share of historical events. [excerpt]


M'Er F'Ing History: Speaking In Our Audience's Language, John M. Rudy Jul 2012

M'Er F'Ing History: Speaking In Our Audience's Language, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I was talking to Jake the other night about Cookie Monster. Really, we were talking about the theory behind Cookie Monster's latest strategic move and how we could all learn a thing or two from him. Which move was that? The short, furry blue monster's brilliant foray into pop culture with "Share It Maybe," the music video parody of Carly Rae Jepsen's song "Call Me Maybe." In one day, Cookie has racked up 2.3 million hits on the less-than-four-minute video. [excerpt]


Guest Post: John Rambo Fights The Civil War, Aaron Urbanski Jul 2012

Guest Post: John Rambo Fights The Civil War, Aaron Urbanski

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Today we offer another of our “Guest Post Wednesday” extras, with some meditations on Rambo from Aaron Urbanski. Yeah, we’re not kidding... Rambo. Aaron is a graduate of the GMU American History Masters program and alumnus Ranger of the NPS. [excerpt]


Falling Like Autumn Leaves: Cutler's Brigade At Gettysburg, Jacob Dinkelaker Jul 2012

Falling Like Autumn Leaves: Cutler's Brigade At Gettysburg, Jacob Dinkelaker

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

The 147th New York's monument stands along Reynolds Avenue, silently (and incorrectly) marking where the regiment bravely fought and fell on that July day in 1863. The monument lists the brigade, division, and corps of the regiment, along with the various other battles that are part of the regiment's story. It also lists the regimental losses as well - out of 380 men that started the fight on July 1, 212 men were killed and wounded. Placed by the veterans themselves, they knew what that monument represented. It represented the entire ordeal of their regiment and its brigade on ...


Ring The Bells: "Happy 149th Birthday, America!", John M. Rudy Jul 2012

Ring The Bells: "Happy 149th Birthday, America!", John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Friend of the blog and stalwart DC area historian Aaron Urbanski posted a pithy update to his Facebook wall on Monday, a status update which has infected my brain over the past couple days. The idea is so infectious, so amazingly simple yet profound that I'm shamelessly stealing it and blowing it up to epic proportions. [excerpt]


Every Man A Historian Means Every Man: Speaking With The Fringe, John M. Rudy Jun 2012

Every Man A Historian Means Every Man: Speaking With The Fringe, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

The amazing power of the internet age is the pure democratizing ethic it has injected into our culture. We aren't simply pleased when the world around us solicits and listens to our opinions, we've come to expect it. Every news story has a comment thread; every article asks for our feedback. The White House solicits input from the American "user" and offers meaningful responses. In short, we are a people who are growing more vocal in our daily lives. The brilliant constitutional law professor and master of cultural understanding Lawrence Lessig has called our culture "Read-Write" as opposed ...


Lost And Found: Where The Iconic Meet, John M. Rudy Jun 2012

Lost And Found: Where The Iconic Meet, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I know exactly when I began believing in the Muppets again. I am a child of the '80s. I was five years old when Jim Henson died. I remember watching the TV with my Mom crying beside me as Frank Oz's Fozzie, Richard Hunt's Scooter and Dave Goelz's Gonzo read to their friends the condolence letters sent by thousands of grieving fans. I remember the slow building of "Just One Person." [excerpt]


Good Morning To The Night: Requiem For My Battlefield, John M. Rudy Jun 2012

Good Morning To The Night: Requiem For My Battlefield, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

The fireflies have started to appear around Gettysburg. We have a new sliding glass door in the kitchen that I can press my face against and see them. I did it the other night when Jess mentioned they're out there. [excerpt]


College Kids With Guns: Hidden In Plain Sight, John M. Rudy Jun 2012

College Kids With Guns: Hidden In Plain Sight, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Sunday morning found me out in the field with a stalwart group of Gettysburg devotees: the Gettysburg Discussion Group's annual spring Muster. When the coordinator of this year's Muster put out the call for something a bit different, perhaps something in town for Sunday, my ears perked up. I've been looking for groups to test out the nuggets of the College's Civil War story on and the GDG seemed like the perfect group of guinea pigs. [excerpt]


"The People For Whom He Saved The Union": Ninety Years Ago In Dc, John M. Rudy May 2012

"The People For Whom He Saved The Union": Ninety Years Ago In Dc, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Reading the official Facebook page of one of my favorite history authors yesterday, I saw a pithy note about a "day of note." Ninety years ago this week, President Warren Harding dedicated the Lincoln Memorial at the west end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. [excerpt]


Haupt-Enstance: Whatever Became Of Herman?, John M. Rudy May 2012

Haupt-Enstance: Whatever Became Of Herman?, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Tom Lehrer, on his 1965 album That Was The Year That Was, sang a send-up of then-Vice President Hubert Humphrey with his, "Whatever Became of Hubert." The song's been going through my head this past week or so, but with the name "Herman" taking the place of LBJ's second-in-command. [excerpt]


"Forever Free": It's Deja Vu All Over Again, John M. Rudy May 2012

"Forever Free": It's Deja Vu All Over Again, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

A friend and colleague has a great quip she uses when planning Civil War interpretation in the DC area. "Why," she asks, "would a black single mother with two daughters come to this event? What's here for her?" [excerpt]


Meet Mr. Everyman: Everyone His Own Interpreter, Jacob Dinkelaker May 2012

Meet Mr. Everyman: Everyone His Own Interpreter, Jacob Dinkelaker

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

In 1931, Carl Becker, president of the American Historical Association, the largest professional organization of historians, gave a speech in which he tried to distill history to its very essence. In that address, “Everyman His Own Historian,” Becker declared that history reduced to its lowest terms was the “memory of things said and done.” Using that simple definition, Becker argued that everyone, no matter whether they had professional training or expertise, was in some way, at some point in time, an historian. Everyone at some time in their lives did as a historian does – asks a question about the past ...


You Can Hide `Neath Your Covers: Confronting The Boss, John M. Rudy May 2012

You Can Hide `Neath Your Covers: Confronting The Boss, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Public servants are paid to serve the American people. Do it well." Donald Rumsfeld, 2001

It's not often that I quote or even think about Donald Rumsfeld. I'm pretty sure he doesn't think about me at all. Still, that quote above is a keen (if obvious) observation that so often we in the world of public service Civil War interpretation forget. I work for the Federal Government in my 'real' job. This blog is where I brain dump everything else rattling around in my mind. Inspiration strikes at all hours, and last week the bolt came out ...


4th And Goal: What Is The Interpretive Touchdown?, John M. Rudy May 2012

4th And Goal: What Is The Interpretive Touchdown?, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

What is the aim of historic interpretation? That seems like it would be a simple question to answer, but it's simply not. Historic interpretation seems to be a many headed Hydra, with each interpreter seeing their own purpose and their own goals within the craft. [excerpt]


Episode 61: The One With The Cannons, John M. Rudy Apr 2012

Episode 61: The One With The Cannons, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

This past weekend, I found myself in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians and the National Council on Public History. Sessions abounded on both the Civil War and interpretation, as well as any other American historical topic you could imagine. The OAH debuted their new Imperiled Promise report on NPS history practices (which Jake commented on last week). Kevin Levin participated with other Civil War folks on a Civil War Working Group discussing the course of the 150th and beyond. [excerpt]


Crowdsourcing History: When We All Get To Help, John M. Rudy Apr 2012

Crowdsourcing History: When We All Get To Help, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I'm a bit bitter this week. The arrival of the Space Shuttle Discovery to the Washington, D.C. area has got me down. My first dream job as a kid, before I wanted to be a LEGO model designer or National Park Service ranger, was the illustrious position of space garbage man. I think part of that came from my grandfather's penchant for taking me around the neighborhood on trash day during his smoke breaks and picking through the fine assemblages of junk the neighbors had left by the curb. There was some sort of glamour in the ...


Imperiled Promise: The State Of History In The Nps, Jacob Dinkelaker Apr 2012

Imperiled Promise: The State Of History In The Nps, Jacob Dinkelaker

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Imperiled Promise: The State of History in the National Park Service, a joint report between the NPS and the OAH was released a couple of weeks ago. Since then, it has been mentioned on Twitter, other blogs, on the OAH's website, and it figures to be the topic of much discussion when the NCPH and OAH meet up in Milwaukee this weekend for their annual conference. I've read the report several times now, and I have been mulling over it for some weeks. I felt now would be a proper to time to throw a couple of my ...


Dead Is Dead: Why 20% Doesn't Matter, John M. Rudy Apr 2012

Dead Is Dead: Why 20% Doesn't Matter, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Over at Cosmic America, Keith Harris beat me to the punch on this one. But Jake can attest to the fact that, since the "news" of the revision of Civil War dead up by 130,000 broke, I have been grumbling on and off.


Once Upon A Time In Gettysburg: Sometimes It Works, John M. Rudy Apr 2012

Once Upon A Time In Gettysburg: Sometimes It Works, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Monday night, I took my class out on the 'battlefield.' I know some of them are taking my class because, "it's Gettysburg College and I should take a Civil War class before I leave." I couldn't resist the siren call to show them where they have lived for four years and transform the meanings of that ground for them. So we went on a campus tour, the battlefield they walk everyday when they go to class or dinner or out to party on a Friday night. [excerpt]


Guest Post: Fear And Loathing At Shiloh, Vanessa Smiley Apr 2012

Guest Post: Fear And Loathing At Shiloh, Vanessa Smiley

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Everyone is and has been talking about the Shiloh 150th commemoration, whether it be the NPS event starting this week or the battle reenactment that took place this past weekend. It has been called the 'Antietam of the West.' All the events surrounding its 150th anniversary have been heralded as being one of 'the big ones' this year. Over 23,000 casualties of both sides in two days - a pretty significant and bloody battle. [excerpt]


From Another Era: Living In The Moment, Jacob Dinkelaker Apr 2012

From Another Era: Living In The Moment, Jacob Dinkelaker

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I’m the child of Baby Boomers, born and bred in Ohio. Although I’ve since moved away, Ohio is and always will be home. The one thing that I always remember about springtime and Ohio is May 4th. All throughout high school and college, it seemed liked every spring, as the days inched closer and closer to May 4th, talk among teachers and parents would invariably drift towards Kent State and the memories of the terrible shootings that happened there. Growing up in Ohio, it's just a fact of live that everyone learns about Kent State. It is ...


Kingdom Comin': The Largest Slave Rebellion In U.S. History, John M. Rudy Mar 2012

Kingdom Comin': The Largest Slave Rebellion In U.S. History, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Over at Present in the Past, Michael Lynch recently posted a provocative question and accompanying video about slave revolt. It got the wheels in my head turning. It also helped that Monday night was my first lecture scheduled on my course syllabus to dig into the "political war." My mind's been swimming with concepts of violence and resistance, freedom and slavery.


Playing With Time And Contradictons: Warfield And Barksdale At Gettysburg, Jacob Dinkelaker Mar 2012

Playing With Time And Contradictons: Warfield And Barksdale At Gettysburg, Jacob Dinkelaker

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

There is a small white farmhouse that sits a mile or so outside Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. During the time of the battle of Gettysburg, a blacksmith known as James Warfield owned it. Warfield, a 42 year old widower, had just moved to Gettysburg the year prior, 1862, from Maryland with his four daughters. Once in Gettysburg, he opened up a blacksmith shop adjoining his farm. In a county full of carriage makers, you could be assured that there was plenty of work for blacksmiths, and Warfield’s shop was touted as one of the best. [excerpt]


Your Fortune: Fried Rice And John Brown, John M. Rudy Mar 2012

Your Fortune: Fried Rice And John Brown, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I had Chinese food Sunday night and it got me thinking. I know that's a very random thing to say, but it's the truth. We don't usually consider Chinese food to be brain food, but for me it can be very powerful stuff. I like the stuff they serve up from the back of the Giant Supermarket here in town. The people who work the counter are always very nice and it tastes just clean enough. I like a bit of mystery in my pork fried rice. [excerpt]