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The Richards Center would like to welcome Rick Daily to Penn State!

Rick graduated from the University of Redlands, Johnston Center, with a degree in Inspiring Happiness: The Social Psychology of Race, Gender, Sexuality and the Arts to Better Understand Humanity in 2011. After working in Admissions at Soka University of America for 6 years, he will be joining Penn State's dual-title History and African American Studies PhD program this Fall. He plans to study 19th and 20th century US History, and intersections of race, gender and sexuality. Rick will be bringing his extensive collection of bow ties, California smile and quick wit across the country to Penn State!

The Richards Center would like to welcome Kellianne King to Penn State!

Kellianne graduated from The George Washington University in 2014 with a degree in History. She is joining Penn State's dual title PhD program in History and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies this fall. Her areas of interest include the 19th and 20th century United States, social reform, and the intersections between gender, sexuality and psychiatry.

Teaching with Statistics: A Case Study by Joseph Glatthaar

My great friend Kevin Lambert at California State University, Fullerton says, “Nothing is more humanistic than numbers.” They bring order and precision to our lives, offer definitive and powerful evidence for us, and determine outcomes and decisions on the most difficult and emotionally wrenching issues.

Although the work of historians is an evidence-based profession, most historians are reticent to use evidence from social sciences and sciences, especially statistics. In our quest to better understand the human condition, we draw theories from the fields of humanities, social sciences, and sciences, yet most of our evidence comes from the humanities. Too many historians are completely intimidated by numbers and refuse to embrace them, while others understandably find quantitative studies either tedious reading or insensitive to the joys, hardships, and brutality of the past. But the truth is that numbers and statistical evidence help to enrich and accentuate more humanistic evidence. The question is not only how historians can learn to embrace quantitative evidence, but also, how can we teach this to our students?

The goal in my recent article, “A Tale of Two Armies: The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and the Union Army of the Potomac and Their Cultures,” published in the September 2016 issue of The Journal of the Civil War Era, is to expose readers to the value of combining qualitative and quantitative evidence.[1] I have certainly utilized more conventional sources, such as personal letters, diaries, and official correspondence. More importantly, I use statistics based on a kind of random sample (technically, a stratified cluster sample) to explain how the culture of the Army of Northern Virginia played an important role in its defeat and how the culture of the Army of the Potomac lay at the heart of its success. On my university webpage I have placed simple-to-follow charts in a PDF that are based on the statistical studies from the article, and also some statistical charts from my book Soldiering in the Army of Northern Virginia: A Portrait of the Troops Who Served under Robert E. Lee, so that individuals may use them for instruction purposes.[2] The statistical charts not only provide interesting information about military service, but they also give background information on the soldiers who constituted these armies. Such statistics can be an engaging way to help students understand the experiences of common soldiers whose lives might otherwise remain closed to us, and to help them understand aggregate trends within each army.

There are some key themes uncovered in my research that can be used in the classroom to help students reconsider myths that no longer hold true. For instance, the statistical evidence indicates that nearly half of all soldiers in the two armies (taken from my sample of 1,400 total men) were not heads of households.[3]

The entire article can be viewed on the Journal of the Civil War Era Muster blog.

Welcome to Penn State Dr. Alaina E. Roberts!

Welcome to Alaina E. Roberts, the 2017-2018 Richards Center/Africana Research Center Postdoctoral Fellow!

Roberts received her PhD in June from Indiana University’s History Department. She received her Bachelor of Arts in History with honors in 2011 from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and in 2013 obtained her Master of Arts in History from Indiana University. Alaina has received research grants from the American Philosophical Society and the Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society. Her research interests in Chickasaw freedpeople and the historical context of African American and Native American cultural connections stem from her own family background--her paternal great great grandparents were slaves of Chickasaw Indians.

Alaina's research explores the lives and identity discourses of the African American former slaves of Chickasaw Indians. Her dissertation delves into the intersection of Civil War and Reconstruction in the Chickasaw Nation and the actions of Chickasaw Freedpeople to gain Chickasaw or U.S. citizenship, establish schools for their children, and stake claims on land within the Chickasaw Nation that they and their families had come to call home. Alaina is also interested in tracing the way dialogues about Chickasaw Freedpeople and Afro-Chickasaws have been maintained through family oral histories.

"Digging through old papers and such.” A Summer of Research at Gettysburg.

The park has been fortunate to have a friend in Dr. Carol Reardon, who recently retired from her position in the Department of History at Penn State. With her guidance and the assistance others, the Division of Interpretation has sponsored a research internship during the summer months where college students can acquire on the job research and writing skills while searching for what are often elusive resources related to the Battle of Gettysburg and the story of its evolution as a park.

Arianna Sabatini, Joe Tinsley and Shane Billings
Research interns Arianna Sabatini, Joe Tinsley and Shane Billings with a small example of the material they researched and brought to the park this summer.

For eleven weeks this summer, Shane Billings (Penn State University), Joseph Tinsley (Allegheny College) and Arianna Sabatini (Allegheny College) took hold of their assignments and searched for textural and photographic resources in various depositories including the National Archives and Records Administration, the Library of Congress, Massachusetts Historical Society, and Vermont State Archives as well as a handful of historical societies and other libraries. The primary resource material gathered and cataloged by these interns will be used by park rangers and writers to provide factual information and sources for ranger programs, exhibits in the Museum and Visitor Center, and educational outreach programs the park will provide in the next couple of years.

And just how important is this newly gathered information to the mission of the National Park Service at Gettysburg? More than one may realize! The park’s interpretive staff base their ranger programs on historical content from many sources, both primary and secondary sources housed in the library. Finding new documents such as soldier letters, unpublished memoirs and accounts, enhances the general knowledge of our understanding of battle events and adds the human element- the words of the soldier or civilian who witnessed the battle- to the story our rangers pass on to our park visitors. And while the internet and on line resources have provided historians with smoother access to historic materials and archival holdings, the most reliable method is still a visit to the facility to look at the original material first hand. Likewise, the research trips and organizing of research material accomplished by Shane, Arianna and Joe can be applied by them in their studies in the new school year. The experience they have during the summer months is invaluable to them as students and future professionals.

Transcribing letters
Transcribing letters and back checking the sources ensures accuracy.
A selection of the materials gathered and transcribed by Shane, Joe and Arianna this summer include papers of the honorable Edward Everett, (famous orator who spoke at the dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery on November 19, 1863), several letters related to Gettysburg written by soldiers after the battle, the medical case book of Dr. Henry Janes, chief surgeon in charge of Camp Letterman General Hospital at Gettysburg, individual Medal of Honor case files for a number of the soldiers given the award for exemplary actions at Gettysburg, and pension records for selected individual soldiers that will be used for ranger programs on Civil War medicine and post-battle treatment of the wounded. Overall, it was a very successful couple of weeks for our research interns and the park.

So, after all this time and with countless books, magazine articles, journal articles, and studies already published on the subject of the Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg National Cemetery, is there really more to be discovered about this great moment in our history?

Arianna Sabatini
Arianna Sabatini (Allegheny College) compares a transcription with the original letter scanned from the collection of the Library of Congress.
We never stop learning. As the old saying goes, “What once was lost is now found,” and though some of the finds this summer may not upset the apple cart of battle history, the textural materials recovered by the research interns adds to the base of knowledge for Gettysburg’s rangers to further enhance the story of this great battle, it’s horrific aftermath, and provide further understanding of the American tragedy that was the Civil War. The National Park Service could not provide this story to our visitors without the hard work of our research interns and we certainly wish them good luck as they return to their college courses this fall, hopefully inspired by their experience this summer. The results of their hard work have certainly inspired us!

-John Heiser
Historian, Gettysburg National Military Park

 

 

 

Article shared from The Blog of Gettysburg National Military Park.

Journal of the Civil War Era Editor's Note

Journal of the Civil War Era Editor's Note by Judy Giesberg

As we do with each issue, below you will find the editor’s note for our forthcoming September 2017 issue. You can access these articles by subscribing to the journal, or through a Project Muse subscription.


The essays in this volume should inspire us to reconsider how we measure the changes wrought by the Civil War. Two essays highlight how the postwar South remained littered with traps that ensnared freed people and poor whites in poverty and dependency. Confederate widows, too, were directed to new roles that looked a good deal like the old ones–although in their case, there were benefits to accepting them. We begin with an essay that suggests a new way to mark one critical change the war set in motion.

Mark Noll uncovers a robust criticism offered by American Catholics of Protestants, whose focus on an individual relationship with and interpretation of the scriptures tore at the social fabric and propelled the country into civil war. By contrast, Catholic approach to scripture, critics insisted, offered a “surer guide for the nation’s future,” because among other things, it was nurtured and guided by proper authority. This critique, launched in the Catholic press early in the war, put church spokesmen in a good position to exploit the chorus of postwar critics who sought to condemn Protestant fanaticism for nearly destroying the nation during the war. And, Noll suggests, this may in part account for the postwar move toward religious pluralism.

While the Catholic Church engaged in the work of critiquing the causes of the war, Confederate widows were enlisted to the work of memorialization through a new type of condolence letter that came into wide usage during the war. “Notification letters,” as Ashley Mays refers to them, were distinct in form and substance from condolence letters, for whereas the latter offered instruction about how widows should grieve, the former enlisted widows to the work of caretaking their husbands’ memories. Both forms could comfort and coerce, at the same time, opening up new questions about what Drew Faust once described as a “uniformed sorority of grief.” Did loss bring Confederate women together?

Erin Mauldin’s essay examines catastrophic ecological changes underway in the postwar South and pinpoints their human causes. Mauldin argues that to understand the New South’s economic stagnation, we must look carefully at how postwar tenancy set in motion changes to the land, such as erosion and the depletion of critical nutrients from soil. These changes exacerbated the economic dislocations suffered by poor tenant farmers and sharecroppers and fed a growing tide of indebtedness and bankruptcy.   Mauldin’s essay explores the deep irony that, in seeking to negotiate the terms of their post war labor contracts, freed people unintentionally helped to set in motion ecological changes that would threaten their economic autonomy.

Dale Kretz uncovers a similar irony in his study of USCT pension files. When applying for pensions, former slaves were asked to prove that their injury or disability—to be qualified for pensions, applicants had to prove they were disabled—did not result from their time in slavery, that upon enlistment, they were in “perfect health.” This stipulation required formers slaves to assist federal agents in covering up the serious health consequences of slavery, and, as Kretz suggests, undercut simultaneous efforts to pass an ambitious slavery reparations law. As USCT veterans filled out forms and stood for health examinations, then, they unwittingly participated in what Kretz calls “national reconciliation struggles writ small.”

Lorien Foote’s review essay revisits historians’ use of the term “home front,” which is often invoked as a way to underscore the blurring of lines between combatants and noncombatants but which Foote suggests reproduces the same binary it seeks to dismantle. In its place, Foote proposes a number of alternatives, including “a people’s war,” “house hold war,” or more simply, “insurrection.” The benefits of this new vocabulary are clear when Foote takes account of a number of recent studies of slave resistance and guerilla warfare. We need not choose one from the alternative list she provides, but in trying them out, Foote suggests, we might get “a more accurate picture of the kind of war southerners confronted.”