Twenty-nine teachers and I had an outstanding learning experience last week in Gettysburg, DC, and other regional Civil War related sites. Over the course of a few entries, I’ll do my best to archive elements of the experience. I hope that participating teachers will add critical components that I’ve missed.
Before beginning the post, it’s important to thank a few people. Victoria Lain from The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and Tina Grim from the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College have been collaborating with me in planning this trip for months. Their expertise – in both historical content and logistics – were fundamental in insuring the program’s success. So too the involvement from early on of our two featured historians, Matt Pinsker and Craig Symonds, whose planning ahead of time and on the ground execution made for an amazing week.
Sunday night, Monday and Tuesday were focused on Gettysburg. Sunday night, Craig Symonds (US Naval Academy, Emeritus) began the discussion with an overview considering the biggest questions to consider when teaching the Civil War: What caused it? Why did people fight it? How did the Civil War change America? What did it mean? What was it’s historical impact?
Symonds – Teaching the Civil War (audio)
Monday morning, our sessions with Dr. Symonds continued in the classroom, discussing the war leading up to Gettysburg and the battle itself. He usefully broke the war into four phases: The Amateurs’ War; The Organized War; The Confederate High Point; and Hard War. After the programs in the classroom, Craig took us on a tour of the battlefield. After visiting the site known as the “Confederate High Water Mark,” we went to the Visitor’s Center for a behind the scenes tour of the Cyclorama.
Symonds Gettysburg Tour Part 1 (audio)
Day Two began with a session exploring history, myth, and memory. Symonds discussed The Lost Cause myth and the role of E.A. Pollard’s book. He led us to interrogate two versions of Longstreet’s actions at Gettysburg, one authored by him shortly after the battle (part of the Official Record) and the other published in 1887 by Century Magazine. Later, we focused on sites related to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address*, going to the Historic Railroad Station, the David Wills House, the Soldiers National Cemetery, and the Visitor’s Center. We had dinner at the Cashtown Inn: Yet another site leading to the conclusion that the Confederates won the war in American mythology.**
After two very full days, Craig Symonds hit the road and Matt Pinsker took over. The archive continues on the next post…
** No sooner do I publish this than I read that Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell proclaims April “Confederate History Month.” Who says history is written by the winners?