This is one of those weekends when I truly miss living in Virginia. Right now I would be with my fellow Civil War enthusiasts walking the fields along the Orange Turnpike and thinking about the events that took place 150 years ago this weekend. This is the period of the war that I have always found to be the most interesting and challenging. By 1864 it seems as if the entire nation had become unhinged with no clear answers or road forward discernible. The Wilderness as metaphor works so well in thinking about the totality of the war and the challenge that each of us faces if we have any hope of coming to terms with the legacy of the war in 1864. Continue reading
Earlier today I shared some thoughts about the ongoing controversy surrounding the appointment of Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell as the new president of the College of Charleston. As you already know, the controversy surrounding this choice has to do with his close identification with the Confederate flag and Confederate heritage generally. This past July McConnell was invited to speak at the 150th anniversary of the assault at Battery Wagner, which highlights the story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. It’s well worth reading. Thanks to Brent Everitt of the National Park Service for passing this along. Continue reading
Shortly after the publication of Common-place’s special issue on the Civil War sesquicentennial I was contacted by Timothy Good, who is currently the superintendent at the Ulysses S. Grant Historic Site. He wanted to respond to John Hennessy’s essay on the challenges of interpreting the Civil War on National Park Service battlefields. I suggested he write a response as a guest post for this blog, which is featured below for your consideration. Continue reading
I’ve said it before, but I don’t mind repeating that no one has taught me more about the challenges of interpreting the Civil War at America’s battlefields than John Hennessy. John’s contribution to Common-place explores some of the more recent sticking points that have arisen as a result of shifts in battlefield interpretation away from the original intention behind the creation of or national battlefield parks. National Park Service historians have fully embraced an expansive interpretation of the events that transpired on their landscapes that go beyond the experience of the soldiers without any reference to causes and consequences. Continue reading
Yesterday I learned that Scott Hartwig, Supervisory Historian at Gettysburg National Military Park, will retire from the National Park Service at the end of this week. Unfortunately, I only had the opportunity to chat with Scott in person on a few occasions over the past few years. On the other hand, few NPS historians have taught me more about a broad range of topics related to public history and the challenges related to interpreting our nation’s Civil War battlefields. Scott’s list of accomplishments is extensive, from his most recent study of the Antietam Campaign to his work on developing interpretation and exhibits at Gettysburg’s new Visitor Center.
He is a talented historian, educator, and most importantly, a trusted custodian of some of our nation’s most significant treasures. His impact at Gettysburg and elsewhere will surely be felt for decades to come.
I trust that Scott won’t stray too far from the battlefield and a public that values his voice. Hopefully, retirement will give him the time to focus on research and new ways to engage the general public’s appetite for good history. No doubt, he deserves it.
I know I speak for everyone when I say thank you for all that you’ve done on behalf of the American people.