On Friday I am heading down to Gettysburg to take part in the Civil War Institute’s annual conference at Gettysburg College. Unfortunately, my move to Boston prevented me from taking part in last year’s institute so I am very excited about being able to attend this time around. The theme this year is “The Civil War in 1862” and it will explore, among other things, Civil War tactics in 1862, The war in the West, debating self-emancipation, and the 1862 campaigns of U.S. Grant. Here is the schedule for the panels and tours all of which look to be very interesting. I will be taking part in a panel with Brooks Simpson and Keith Harris on Civil War blogging on Sunday so that should be a lot of fun as well as a roundtable discussion on the final evening. C-SPAN will be there, but whether they will film anything that I am involved with is still unclear.
Will Moredock has a wonderful editorial in today’s Charleston City Paper that provides some sense of why a Robert Smalls Weekend is so significant. All too often the study of Civil War memory seems like an abstract exercise, but in this case it is grounded in something that all of us can relate to: history textbooks. If you want to explain why the city of Charleston is now in a position to commemorate Smalls look no further than the pages of your child’s history textbook. Not too long ago many of them were filled with all kinds of myths and distortions about black Americans and slavery. Moredock shares excerpts from Mary C. Simms Oliphant, The History of South Carolina, which was used in the state as late as the mid-1980s. Oliphant was indeed the granddaughter of William Gilmore Simms, but what Moredock does not mention is that her 1917 textbook was a revised version of Simms’s own history of the state written in 1860.
I think you are going to find this to be quite entertaining and perhaps even appropriate for some of your classrooms depending on how you choose to use it. Unfortunately, I was only able to embed a preview, but you can watch the full video here, which also includes the lyrics.
If I could do it all over again I would earn a degree in public history and work for the National Park Service at a historic site. Over the past ten years I’ve had a number of opportunities to help out with various NPS projects and the work is always rewarding. It has given me the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented historians and passionate educators. On moving to Boston I decided to explore opportunities beyond the classroom and the NPS was high on that list. Over the past few weeks I’ve made some wonderful new friends in the NPS here in Boston and it looks like I will be involved in organizing events over the course of the next year for the Civil War sesquicentennial.
As for more permanent work, the response has been less than enthusiastic. It’s not that my new contacts don’t believe that I am qualified for most of their positions as an interpreter/educator; in fact, I’ve been told numerous times that I am over-qualified. The problem is with the hiring process and what comes up more than anything else is the veteran’s preference. If I understand it correctly the federal government gives preference to candidates who have served in the military. If a veteran meets the minimum qualifications for a position he/she is given preference. I recently came up against this wall when I decided to apply for an entry-level position as an interpreter (GS-05).