Posts tagged ‘Gettysburg’

A Gettysburg Question from a Reader

I received an email over the weekend from a 1954 alumnus who apparently had read Lori Shontz’s Gettysburg story in our May-June issue. He asked an interesting question:

When I was an undergrad, we would drive out to Whipple Dam in hopes of meeting a coed at the beach. One day, we noticed a stone landmark at an intersection on the way to our swim spot. We got out and we read, I believe, that one or two Confederate soldiers who had run from the Gettysburg battle and made their way to this location, when they were shot dead by local farmers.  Do you know if the stone is still standing and if there is any more to the story?”

Has anyone else ever seen the marker this guy is referring to? Just curious.

Tina Hay, editor

August 5, 2013 at 8:55 am Leave a comment

Gettysburg: A Media Blitz on the 150th Anniversary

310699_10151369402601500_1451090511_nThis week is a good time to be a history buff, specifically one with an interest in the Civil War. The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg is in full swing. Even if I didn’t know the dates—the battle raged July 1, 2, and 3, 1863—it would be obvious from a quick scan of my Twitter feed, where many of the people I follow are linking to some really interesting stories.

I’m a newbie, I’ll admit it. I didn’t get interested in the battle until August 2012, when I attended the Penn State Alumni Association’s Civil War Study Tour, which toured Gettysburg for three days. I figured plenty of other media outlets would be writing about the battle when the anniversary came, so for my magazine story, I focused on the people who are regulars on the tour. I wanted to know why they keep returning to Gettysburg and what they could possibly still be learning about it after all this time, and I wrote a piece for our May/June issue called “The Visitors.” You can download a PDF of my story by clicking here.

Among the Gettysburg pieces I’ve read over the weekend, these stand out:

My former employer and hometown newspaper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, has published an interactive piece, “Gettysburg: Panic in Pittsburgh, Then a Nation Saved,” that has a lot of the characteristics of the New York Times’ Snowfall feature. This will take a substantial amount of time, but it’s worth it.

Donald Gilliand of The Patriot-News in Harrisburg also focused on why people keep returning to Gettysburg—but he took a different approach than I did. His piece focuses on the town, and it contains this great line, which one of my former students, Anna Orso, quoted on Twitter: “Gettysburg still resonates with Americans—despite, and sometimes because of, its roadside tackiness.” That pulled me in, and it was worth it.

My Centre Daily Times this morning featured this piece about the “Centre County Regiment,” the 148th Pennsylvania, that I’ve heard some people call the Penn State regiment (although it really wasn’t, of course). The 148th fought in The Wheatfield, one of the best-known and bloody parts of the three-day battle. For more about Penn Staters and Gettysburg, this piece by Matthew Swayne, a writer/editor at Penn State, tells the story of how Evan Pugh was trying to keep the school alive at the same time the soldiers were fighting for the union.

I also really enjoyed this Washington Post profile of William A. Frassanito, a historian who focuses on the photos of Gettysburg, and who is a true character. (Jim Roberts of Reuters (@nycjim) linked the story this morning; he’s got a wide range of interests and is a great person to follow on Twitter if you’re similarly inclined.)

If you’ve come across any others, please let us know in the comments. My reading list is long, but I’ve always got room for another Gettysburg story.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

June 30, 2013 at 5:11 pm 1 comment

A Gettysburg Battlefield Guide with a Penn State Connection

19780807835258About 10 minutes after I returned home from last year’s Alumni Association’s Civil War Study Tour to Gettysburg, I began suggesting to my husband how nice it would be to return. “You’d love it!” I said. (Read: “I really want to go back, and I don’t think you’ll hate it. You did minor in history.”)

We’ve not made it there yet, but he did promise. I’m confident that when our schedules line up for a weekend away and the crowds dissipate after the 150th anniversary of the battle, July 1-3, it’ll happen. (Although there are cool programs for the anniversary; check them out here.)

When we go, we’re going to take a new book by Penn State professor Carol Reardon and retired Army colonel Tom Vossler: A Field Guide to Gettysburg: Experiencing the battlefield through its history, places, and people. Reardon, George Winfree professor of American history, is probably best known for her book on Pickett’s Charge (which is on my reading list), and she’s led tons of Gettysburg tours. So has Vosser, who’s a licensed battlefield guide and former director of the U.S. Army Military History Institute.

I’ve been reading the book off and on over the past couple of weeks, and even with my limited Gettysburg experience, I can tell it’s really useful. It’s divided into 35 stops (the official auto tour has 16), and for each stop, Reardon and Vossler answer six questions: What happened here? Who fought here? Who commanded here? Who fell here? Who lived here? What did they say about it later?

Their philosophy, articulated on page 7, comes across on every page: “The best way to explore Gettysburg’s rich battle history is to spend time out on the battlefield itself.”

Absolutely. That’s why as much as I’m enjoying my Civil War-heavy summer reading, I can’t wait to go back to Gettysburg and walk it again.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

June 21, 2013 at 4:00 pm Leave a comment

Next Stop: Antietam

Parker Hills (left) and Terry Winschel, who expertly led the study tour to Gettysburg, will return in 2013 for a trip to Antietam.

I got home from Gettysburg on Sunday night and immediately began inundating my husband with stories about how the Union generals exhibited leadership, stories about heroic acts by individual soldiers, stories about how the citizens of Gettysburg coped with the battle. I even threw in a bit about military strategy, much to his shock.

I’m hoping my enthusiasm was catching, because Saturday night, the Alumni Association’s travel and education staff announced next year’s Civil War Study Trip: to Antietam, site of the bloodiest one-day battle in U.S. history. Side trips to Harpers Ferry and South Mountain are expected, too.

The faculty leaders, once again, will be the entertaining and knowledgeable Terry Winschel ’77 and Parker Hills, who are responsible for my Sunday night dinner conversation. The dates are Oct. 16–20, 2013 (that’s the off weekend for the football team), and registration begins on Nov. 1. You can click here for more information as it becomes available.

I’ll be ready. (I just need to check The Penn Stater publishing schedule …) I can’t walk out of a bookstore empty-handed, so Saturday night at the battlefield’s visitor center, I consulted with Nancy Crago ’88, who was consulting a list of her 200 Civil War books before making her purchase. She said my next read should be Battle Cry of Freedom, a one-volume history of the entire Civil War by James McPherson. (It won the Pulitzer Prize.) Her suggestion was enthusiastically seconded by everyone within earshot, so I bought it.

It’s on my (large) reading pile. If anyone has additional recommendations, let me know in the comments.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

August 27, 2012 at 5:01 pm Leave a comment

Gettysburg Day Three: On Courage

Gettysburg file photo by Tina Hay

Everything really hit me Saturday afternoon when I was standing on the Union line, just to the right of the famous “copse.” That’s the umbrella-shaped group of trees that was the focal point for the Confederacy’s final, doomed offensive of the Battle of Gettysburg, Pickett’s charge.

I’d read about it. Listened to a lecture about it. And on the previous two and a half days of the Alumni Association’s Civil War Study Tour, I’d stood on other famous parts of the Gettysburg battlefield. But something about standing on the low stone wall, gazing out at the open field made everything real.

That’s partly a tribute to the National Park Service. The fields have been restored so that my view was the same as the soldiers had on July 3, 1863. We had also stood at the Point of Woods, where Robert E. Lee had watched the battle and apologized to his men (more…)

August 26, 2012 at 8:16 am 3 comments

Gettysburg Day Two: Heroism and Humanity

It’s easy, when you’re learning about the Battle of Gettysburg—or any battle, for that matter—to get caught up in the tactics, the heroism. On Day 2 of the Alumni Association’s Civil War Study Tour, we got an important, moving reminder of war’s human cost.

Guest speaker William Williams, a retired Associated Press newsman turned amateur historian, discussed his book Days of Darkness, which details how the town of Gettysburg coped with the battle—and its aftermath. Gettysburg’s population was 2,300; when the armies pulled out, they left behind between 20,000 and 30,000 wounded. Both armies left doctors behind, too, but the citizens had to help the men who, as Williams said, “were begging for water, food, prayers.”

Williams told incredible stories (many of which he’s found in diaries from the time), including one of a woman cradling a dying teenage boy who thought she looked like his mother that made me tear up. But what honestly stuck with me (more…)

August 25, 2012 at 8:44 am 2 comments

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