Update from Shepherdstown
Well, I really thought I would have more time to blog about the ongoing Civil War Memory conference here at Shepherd University. I should have been more realistic given the schedule. All of the talks have been first-rate and I enjoyed a very nice reception yesterday morning. More importantly, the participants have been thoroughly engaged from the outset. They are genuinely interested in the topics and they ask excellent questions. When Mark Snell first asked me to join the group I was just a bit skeptical. Discussions of Civil War memory typically find a place within the confines of the academic world. I should have known better given the overwhelmingly positive response to my blog. It is clear that when done right these issues can find a natural home with well-informed Civil War enthusiasts. I’ve had a chance to talk with many of the participants who have participated in the conference multiple times and they enjoyed the fact that the tours and talks really made them think critically about how we understand the Civil War.
Following my talk yesterday we headed down to Antietam for a tour with Tom Clemens. Ken Noe was right when he commented some time ago that a tour with Tom is worth the cost of the conference alone. Tom focused us specifically on commemoration and the analysis of monuments. We started at the Antietam cemetery and proceeded to walk bits from each stage of the battle. I’ve never toured a battlefield with such an emphasis on postwar activities. We also had a chance to walk a brand new trail that has yet to be advertised through the West Woods and behind the Dunker Church. It was a long day and following dinner we still had one more presentation on Civil War movies.
Since I have been pressed for time I will probably wait until later to summarize some of the talks. The highlight of my day was meeting Antietam Park Ranger Mannie Gentile. I walked into the Visitors Center and Mannie knew immediately who I was. Above is a picture I took with Mannie. He seems like the kind of guy you might want to spend a few hours to get to know. Maybe next time Mannie. I also met fellow blogger John Hoptak. I’ve uploaded a bunch of photographs over at flickr. Today it’s off to Washington D.C. for a full day of touring.