I started Gabor Boritt’s new book Gettysburg Gospel: The Lincoln Speech That Nobody Knows and was pleased to find in the acknowledgments section a reference to one of my former students. Her name is Isabel Paterson and she graduated in 2004. She now attends Gettysburg College and works as one of Boritt’s assistants at the Civil War Institute. Isabel was a superb student who was absolutely fascinated with the Civil War. Rather than take my elective Isabel and I worked on an independent study on the Valley of the Shadow; in fact, it was this experience that convinced me to integrate the database into the course. We met twice a week to talk about how residents of Augusta County, Virginia responded to the 1860 presidential election. We read some of the relevant secondary literature and tried to figure out to what extent the experience of Virginians in the Shenandoah Valley reflected what scholars had discovered in reference to other parts of the South.
Isabel mentioned that she was considering Gettysburg College, but it was not until her visit that she was convinced that it was the right place for her. I still remember talking with her following the visit and it was clear that Isabel was hooked. She is currently majoring in history with a concentration in Civil War studies. I wouldn’t be surprised if she pursues the PhD in history and settles on a career in research and teaching. I’ve had a few students come back to tell me that they are pursuing history degrees in college, but this is the first time that one of my students has shown such a serious interest. I hope my readers don’t mind if I celebrate this, but it is really nice to see one of my students traveling down a road that has brought me such joy. Good luck Isabel.