Report From the Field: Student Reflections

Over the past few days I’ve been going over student reflections from last week’s Civil War battlefields trip. There is simply no substitute for taking students to historic sites. The learning that can be accomplished and the connections to the past that can be forged at such places trumps all of the bells and whistles found in the seemingly endless supply of new gadgets and programs. Don’t get me wrong, I embrace technology in the classroom, but trips like this help me to put it all in perspective.

Peter Carmichael with my students at the Rose Woods in Gettysburg
Peter Carmichael with my students at Rose Woods in Gettysburg

Here are just two brief reflections. Continue reading “Report From the Field: Student Reflections”

The Death of a Colonel and a Cause

Today is the 150th anniversary of the battle of Five Forks outside of Petersburg, Virginia. One of the most popular stories from that fight is the gallant defense of the crossroads and mortal wounding of Confederate Colonel William Pegram. To this day Pegram occupies a special place in our collective memory of the war. Like the crossroads he defended, Pegram’s life and legacy bring together a number of important narrative threads, including devotion to the Confederacy, family and God, fearless leadership on the battlefield and a youthful exuberance snuffed out all too soon.

William McCabe’s description of Pegram’s injury and death is incredibly moving and as a close to what a “good death” should involve in war. It is easy to get wrapped up in a narrative that celebrates young Pegram’s character and martial valor. He is, indeed, an appealing young man. At the same time we should not look beyond the cause for which he never lost sight of during his four years in the Confederate army. His commitment to the Confederacy and his willingness to expose himself on the battlefield time and time again and even after the point where many believed the cause was lost were a function of firm devotion. Continue reading “The Death of a Colonel and a Cause”

Report From the Field: Interpreting Civil War Battlefields

Last night I returned from five days of battlefield stomping with thirteen wonderful students. I was hoping to write a few more blog posts, but I simply didn’t have enough time between the driving, walking and just trying to enjoy those few moments of downtime. All in all the trip reminded me of why I love working with high school students and teaching Civil War history. It goes without saying that there is no better way to convey the richness of this history than by doing it on site.

Thanks to Garry Adelman of the Civil War Trust and Peter Carmichael of Gettysburg College’s Civil War Institute for spending time with my students. I didn’t anticipate this, but watching these two fine historians and battlefield interpreters reminded me of the ways that we approach these sites. This was something that I discussed with the group during one of our final reflections. Continue reading “Report From the Field: Interpreting Civil War Battlefields”

Following the 20th Massachusetts From Antietam to Gettysburg

It’s that time of year again. In three weeks students at my school will spend time outside the classroom setting engaged in a broad range of activities. Last year I helped lead a group of 40 students on a civil rights trip from Atlanta to Memphis. It was an incredibly rewarding experience for everyone involved.

This year I will lead my own group of 12 students on a Civil War battlefield tour that will explore the war in 1862 and 1863. We will visit the battlefields of Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg as well as the town of Harpers Ferry.  The time frame of the battles will give us the opportunity to explore a number of issues, including the relationship between the battlefield and home front and the gradual shift in Union policy toward emancipation. Continue reading “Following the 20th Massachusetts From Antietam to Gettysburg”

Gary Gallagher Says Farewell to the Civil War America Series

Update: I’ve been informed that a number of forthcoming titles are being shepherded through the publication process by Gallagher. My post title probably implies a bit more finality than is warranted. I should note that a forthcoming title in the Military Campaigns of the Civil War series that is co-edited by Gallagher and Caroline Janney will include an essay of mine on the Crater. That volume will be released in the Fall.

This past week I received a number of advanced copies from the University of North Carolina Press. It’s the first batch of books, where I’ve noticed that Gary Gallagher’s name no longer appears as a series editor. As many of you know Aaron Sheehan-Dean, Peter Carmichael, and Caroline Janney are taking over editing responsibilities for the press’s Civil War America series.

I think it’s worth acknowledging just how important this series has been to our understanding of the Civil War era. The series began unofficially in 1987 with the release of Harry Pfanz’s Gettysburg: The Second Day. The series was launched officially in 1993 with Tom Cutrer’s biography of Ben McCulloch. The total number of books in the series under Gallagher’s editorship is 113. I’ve been reading books in this series since the mid-1990s and since roughly 2005 the press has been kind enough to send me review copies of all Civil War-related titles. Looking around my private library I can find Civil War America titles in every section from slavery to antebellum politics to battlefield studies, and Northern and Southern home fronts. I’ve read practically all of them. Continue reading “Gary Gallagher Says Farewell to the Civil War America Series”