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Full-Text Articles in History

One Year On: Preparing A Somber Holiday, John M. Rudy Jul 2014

One Year On: Preparing A Somber Holiday, John M. Rudy

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

Newspapers are built by bits and pieces. Type is set all throughout the week, long before the paper in Gettysburg goes to press. July's first edition in 1864 was cobbled together in the last few days of June and the first few days of July. Dropping sorts into the frames must have been agonizing work. It was labor intensive, requiring the meticulous placing of each letter and every space into the plate for every single word. [excerpt]


One Year On: Obliterated By Degrees, John M. Rudy Jul 2014

One Year On: Obliterated By Degrees, John M. Rudy

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

The battle anniversary loomed in the waning days of June. And Gettysburg was preparing. Aside from the feasting in the Spangler Meadow on the 4th, the holiday would undoubtedly see tourists swarming the fields and hills where just a few dozen weeks before time had stood still and Death held a grand carnival. [excerpt]


One Year On: June 28th, John M. Rudy Jun 2014

One Year On: June 28th, John M. Rudy

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

A year ago, rebels swarmed the street. Now they don't. A year ago, the town was on edge. Now it's not. A year ago, time stood still. Now it rushes on. "The arrangements are in process of completion," the Adams Sentinel trumpeted, "for a handsome celebration at Culp's Hill." The town was organizing a grand picnic. The moment wasn't simply for the people of the borough so recently made famous by fate and bad luck. "There will be many strangers here," the newspaper's tight print reminded Gettysburgians, "and we hope that every one of our ...


Broken Record. Broken Record. Broken Record., John M. Rudy Jun 2014

Broken Record. Broken Record. Broken Record., John M. Rudy

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

I've been helping a friend workshop some posts for an upcoming anniversary (surprisingly for me, not a Civil War event but a deviation into the land of the Revolutionary War). And again and again, I find myself repeating some variation on a single nugget of interpretive wisdom. This is no fault of my colleague. I am often a broken record. [excerpt]


Gettysburg's Tragedy In Virginia, John M. Rudy Jun 2014

Gettysburg's Tragedy In Virginia, John M. Rudy

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

Jacob and John Kitzmiller were brothers-in-arms, fighting through the thickets of Virginia with the 138th Pennsylvania. And spring of 1864 was one hell of a slog.

The two boys were the youngest members of their family. When the war erupted, their mother and father, Samuel and Jane, lived alongside their daughter Catharine. Jacob was an apprentice blacksmith in B.G. Holabaugh's shop. John still lived at home with his parents. [excerpt]


Pride Overcometh, John M. Rudy May 2014

Pride Overcometh, John M. Rudy

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

A couple weeks ago I got the chance to wave to Ben Franklin and Mark Twain. They waved back from the stage as the curtain dropped. Jess leaned in to me. "I didn't realize that this is what history is to you," she said, with a bit of derision in her voice. I understand my wife's derision. Disney World is not the first place that comes to mind when most people think of powerful and meaningful history. But for me, it is where I began to find the magic in history. [excerpt]


Name Calling: It's What's Not There That Matters, John M. Rudy May 2014

Name Calling: It's What's Not There That Matters, John M. Rudy

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

The article in the Adams Sentinel May 17th, 1863 was innocent enough.

David McConaughy, prominent local lawyer, moderate Republican and progenitor of the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association was passing along a simple request. "I am very anxious to have a collection of trophies and interesting relics from the Battle-field of Gettysburg," Margaretta Meade wrote to McConaughy. The famed General's wife was appealing to Gettysburg to create one of the central attractions for the Great Central Sanitary Fair in Philadelphia that summer. [excerpt]


Mom, John M. Rudy Apr 2014

Mom, John M. Rudy

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

I study the Civil War because of my mother. It's a simple truth.

My Mom, more than anyone else in my life, taught me to be the historian that I am. She is present in so much of what I do when I process the past.

I lovingly refer to her as my idiot-filter. She was a theology major in her undergraduate training, studying comparative religions. I've never read her thesis, I know it's in a cupboard at my parents' house, but I vaguely remember that it was centered around comparing Christ with the other messianic figures ...


Everyday Sesquicentennial: Ghoulish Capitalism Takes Root, John M. Rudy Apr 2014

Everyday Sesquicentennial: Ghoulish Capitalism Takes Root, John M. Rudy

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

Nothing was happening in Gettysburg in the spring of 1864.

That's not quite true. There was tons happening in the first few weeks of April 15 decades ago. But that "tons" was not massive or earth shattering. A dozen men and women died. Another handful of men and women found new lives in each others' arms. Life continued in this place just as it had a year before. It continued on in spite of the new cemetery, in spite of the war, in spite of the rebel arms and heads poking out of gardens alongside the budding spring flowers ...


Postage Due: Stewardship, Stamps And A Watch Pocket, John M. Rudy Apr 2014

Postage Due: Stewardship, Stamps And A Watch Pocket, John M. Rudy

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

Why do we forget that people are human? I've been asking myself that question more and more lately. Partially it's driven by a laundry list of things happening in the world, vitriolic attacks on humanity, both strangers and friends. I just see cruelty looming sometimes, particularly over the lowest in our society. [excerpt]


Confederates In The Swimming Pool, John M. Rudy Jan 2014

Confederates In The Swimming Pool, John M. Rudy

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

I was swimming last night and thinking about dead Confederates. Someday, it's utterances like that which are going to see me involuntarily committed to an asylum. But it's true. I swam and thought about dead Confederates. [excerpt]


For Gods' Sake, Copy-Edit That Textbook On The Wall, John M. Rudy Jan 2014

For Gods' Sake, Copy-Edit That Textbook On The Wall, John M. Rudy

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

So, my social streams flooded on Monday with an article from the Denver Business Journal, a weekly Colorado publication with a circulation rate of about 16,000 issues. The internet is an amazingly powerful force for magnification. It can make a rant from one irate museum goer with very-close-to-nil circulation seem like a meaningful and broadly held opinion. [excerpt]


Halfway Out Of The Dark: Christmas 1863, John M. Rudy Dec 2013

Halfway Out Of The Dark: Christmas 1863, John M. Rudy

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

A note received any day letting you know a son is gravely wounded is horrible. Receiving it on the first day of December is particularly horrible. In this month of gathering together, hearing your son is suffering can't be cheering. [excerpt]


Tarnish'd With Ashes And Soot: A Classic Poem’S Dank Corners, John M. Rudy Dec 2013

Tarnish'd With Ashes And Soot: A Classic Poem’S Dank Corners, John M. Rudy

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

The legend is striking: Clement Clarke Moore, sitting with his children on a Christmas Eve in 1822, reading them a poem he has scrawled out that day, inspired by a winter shopping trip. Little Charity and Mary were likely entranced at six and three. Clement, a one-year-old, and Emily, a newborn, likely weren’t as enrapt by the lilting rhymes.

The poem for Moore’s children found new life a year later, published in a Troy, New York newspaper. And since then, A Visit From Saint Nicholas has been embedded in our culture. [excerpt]


And With The Sound The Carols Drowned: Captives In Bleak December, John M. Rudy Dec 2013

And With The Sound The Carols Drowned: Captives In Bleak December, John M. Rudy

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

Christmas was coming, and a knot of officers of the 87th Pennsylvania suddenly found their December a bit brighter. Nine boxes had been sent along to the officers, packed to the brim with, "all kinds of necessaries and delicacies, such as will be conducive to our comfort and health while in our present condition." And the soldiers were pleased.

Any soldier would be pleased to have a pair of warm socks, a stack of stationary or a can of preserved vegetables from home. But these men were doubly pleased.

The letter of gratitude they wrote to the Gettysburg Compiler was ...


Obsessive Digging In Carolina Sand And Baltimore Asphalt, John M. Rudy Dec 2013

Obsessive Digging In Carolina Sand And Baltimore Asphalt, John M. Rudy

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

My parents moved to Wilmington, North Carolina a couple years ago. I have to admit, I am fascinated when I visit the South, for the sheer fact that it is such a vastly different environment than I'm used to. For one thing, the war happened there. For another, the war got very complex and interesting there. [excerpt]


Buckeye Blood Waters The Longleaf Pines, John M. Rudy Dec 2013

Buckeye Blood Waters The Longleaf Pines, John M. Rudy

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

In the woods south of Wilmington, men in blue uniforms moved forward in a loose skirmish line. They were probing, trying to find General Hoke's last line of defense. Brig. General Charles Paine sent the men forward to develop the enemy. But in the pine thicket ahead, in a thin, ragged line, the bedraggled rebel troops likely had more to fear than bullets as those skirmishers probed and prodded on a February day in 1865. [excerpt]


Interpretation Is Evolution: Whose History?, John M. Rudy Nov 2013

Interpretation Is Evolution: Whose History?, John M. Rudy

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

When I try to explain to non-history people what my degree means, I used to hit wall after all. It was so hard explaining exactly what, "Applied History," really means. People understand, "History," but the idea of public history has a certain brand of special sauce added on top.

I used to say something akin to, "doing Park Ranger things," though that never really worked. When I had a group on an historical landscape, I'd often just say, "Public History is this."

It doesn't work. Those definitions aren't clear. [excerpt]


Her Bright Blazon Forever Unstained, John M. Rudy Oct 2013

Her Bright Blazon Forever Unstained, John M. Rudy

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

Just a few lyrics today, nothing more, nothing less. Lyrics of joy. Lyrics of home. Lyrics of who we are as a nation. Might we never forget who we are again. [excerpt]


Ngram 150th: Race, Sex And Big Data, John M. Rudy Sep 2013

Ngram 150th: Race, Sex And Big Data, John M. Rudy

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

Data is powerful in the right hands. Aggregate data is even more powerful. And Google is data.

One of the odder tools in the Google arsenal is the Ngram viewer a search engine which charts trends within the folds of Google Books' database. Punch in anything. I mean it. Try anything in the Ngram search engine and start falling down the historical trends rabbit hole. [excerpt]


Shaw's Backside: The Other Side Of An Icon, John M. Rudy Sep 2013

Shaw's Backside: The Other Side Of An Icon, John M. Rudy

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

This week I find myself in Boston, one of the couple of American cities which call themselves the cradle of liberty. But I'm not drawn like a moth to the Revolution. It's just not my bean.

Instead, I find myself in the awkward position of standing at a visitor desk and asking a park ranger what will interest a Civil War geek in a Revolutionary-bent city. That dog don't hunt so well. [excerpt]


Plunge Into Shonash Ravine: Thinking 4th Dimensionally In Interpretation, John M. Rudy Aug 2013

Plunge Into Shonash Ravine: Thinking 4th Dimensionally In Interpretation, John M. Rudy

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

This piece was written for NAI's annual workshop this coming fall, but not everyone will have the chance to be in Reno to hear my presentation come November. So, why not give you a sneak peak of what I'm planning on discussing in Nevada? [excerpt]


Child's Play: War, Toys And Avoiding The Trivial, John M. Rudy Aug 2013

Child's Play: War, Toys And Avoiding The Trivial, John M. Rudy

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

This past weekend, I let my two hobbies combine. I spend a good chunk of my spare time doing incessant, weird and wild historical research. If you've read along on the blog for any appreciable time, you know the odd corners I've turned finding peculiar and striking stories both here in Gettysburg and beyond.

But I have another hobby.

I am an Adult Fan of LEGO. [excerpt]


Stewart W. Woods: A Peculiar Casualty At Fort Wagner?, John M. Rudy Jul 2013

Stewart W. Woods: A Peculiar Casualty At Fort Wagner?, John M. Rudy

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

Captured in the darkness of July 18th on a sandy beach in South Carolina was a native of Adams County. Stewart W. Woods, born in Heidlersburg around 1836, found himself in the hands of the rebels, among a handful of his compatriots in the 54th Massachusetts. The fighting of Woods' war was over and his fate was unclear. Stewart was a free man, born under the folds of the same American flag under which he now fought. At some point, he had drifted over the mountain range and called Carlisle home when the war erupted in 1861. [excerpt]


A New Theory For Battle Landscapes - Toward An Interpretive Future, John M. Rudy Jul 2013

A New Theory For Battle Landscapes - Toward An Interpretive Future, John M. Rudy

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

There's a misunderstanding. The misunderstanding has been long and deep. It goes something like this:

Your crusade to destroy the current practice of military history on battlefields is a form of fundamentalism just like the supposed fundamentalism of military history you aim to change. [excerpt]


To My Great Great Grand Uncle - On The Occasion Of The 150th Anniversary Of Your Death, John M. Rudy Jul 2013

To My Great Great Grand Uncle - On The Occasion Of The 150th Anniversary Of Your Death, John M. Rudy

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

Dear William Henry,

I'm writing this standing near the spot where you died, exactly 150 years ago nearly to the second. I'm typing on a tiny screen, a technological marvel that lets me share the stories of men like you with the world instantly.

They've put up a monument to you and the 17 other men who died along with you along the banks of Plum Run creek. We call this place "The Valley of Death" now. I think you among all people who have walked this green earth would understand why.... [excerpt]


Stormclouds Gather On The Horizon, John M. Rudy Jun 2013

Stormclouds Gather On The Horizon, John M. Rudy

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

The first few stanzas of a poem by Howard Glyndon from the folds of The Lutheran and Missionary from late August of 1863:

The days of June were nearly done;The fields, with plenty overrun, Were ripening 'neath the harvest sun In fruitful Pennsylvania!

[excerpt]


Memory And Meaning: Civil Rights In Lee's Backyard, John M. Rudy Jun 2013

Memory And Meaning: Civil Rights In Lee's Backyard, John M. Rudy

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

I walked up the long winding path named for Mary Custis and her family home. As I ascended the steps I stopped to quickly pay my respects to Robert Todd Lincoln. But he wasn't my quarry for the day. As I came to the top of the steps, Robert E. Lee's home hove into view. I've been inside Lee's house a few times. Each time has been interesting, but relatively hollow. Those four walls lack the raw power that the surrounding acres seem to ooze. [excerpt]


Meanings: Where This Is All Headed, John M. Rudy Jun 2013

Meanings: Where This Is All Headed, John M. Rudy

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

Human tragedy, human triumph and continuing struggle, each of its own epic proportions. One convoluted war holds inside the tripartate meanings of sorrow for 620,000 lost, joy for 4 million saved and the uneasiness that the struggle for freedom would still continue 150 years later. [excerpt]


Born In Slavery: One Grave In Chambersburg, John M. Rudy May 2013

Born In Slavery: One Grave In Chambersburg, John M. Rudy

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

A simple epitaph with amazing impact: "Born in Slavery, Died Feb 15 1908." Those words speak and speak loudly. Thomas Burl wanted it to be known for eternity that he was a slave. And he wanted it to be known that he wasn't when he died. That label defined his whole life. It defined who he was when he had the name "slave" forced on him when he was born. And it again defined him through its absence after 1863. [excerpt]