One of my many projects this semester is to put together a podcast walking tour of something in Harrisonburg. I decided to look at the Turner Ashby Monument. For this project, we had to record ourselves for the podcast, do some research on the site, and find historical photographs. My goal in this project was to not narrate the biography of Turner Ashby. Rather, I wanted to examine the role the monument had within the U.D.C and the local community in the 20th century.
The first place I went for my research was JMU Special Collections. One of the collections they house are the local U.D.C. chapter papers. The Turner Ashby Chapter was the organization that erected the monument in 1898. The collection contained historical photographs, transcripts of speeches, and newspaper clippings to name a few. These documents aided in my ability to frame my historical argument. I also referenced a blog. In this entry from 2011, the blogger voices concern over the lack of attention JMU was giving to battlefield presentation.
You can visit the site and listen to my podcast here.
Read my take on Turner Ashby from last year here.
This past weekend was just like any weekend at the park. I took part in research, prepared programs for the 150th weekend, and conducted interpretative programs. One of my programs took place on Saturday October, 4th. It was the real first fall day in the Valley. The leaves were changing colors and the breeze was crisp. I had four visitors on my program. A couple from Arlington Virginia and a couple from Kentucky. The program went well as I discussed the Civil War in the Valley in 1864. After the program I answered some questions and headed back to my office. What seemed to be a typical weekend went on as planned.
Come to find out, one of the visitors on the program is a fellow National Park Service Ranger. He sent an email to my superintendent at the park. It read:
“I wanted write to let you know of the exemplary program that Kyle provided yesterday afternoon at Belle Grove. He gave an in depth presentation of the area Civil War battles and relationship of the property during the time period. It was evident that he devoted a great deal of time in researching and preparing for the program. Kyle was professional, knowledgeable, and kept us engaged. The front line ranger is emblematic of our agency and Kyle exceeded our expectations of the interpretive experience. Thank you and your staff for a great afternoon.”
This made my day! It is always comforting to hear that I can make such a positive impression on visitors in such a short period of time. As we rapidly approach the 150th events in ten days, this is just the fuel I need.
Originally posted on Emerging Civil War:
As one weekend wraps up and we stare at the conventional work week that unfolds in front of us, it is human nature to wonder about the upcoming weekend and start to think of plans. For some this is the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. If that describes you, then you want to keep reading. Or if you are a person who is looking for weekend plans but do not want to go through the hassle of making them yourselves, well keep reading also!
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One of the beauties of the internet is the ability to reference primary sources. Many primary sources have been digitized in recent years by Google, and other organizations. One website I often find myself on is archive.org . The amount of information easily available to a researcher is amazing.
I was doing research for the upcoming 150th events at the park next month. When doing so, I was researching the battle of Hupp’s Hill, which took place on October 13th, 1864. During the battle, a Union colonel was killed. Col. George Duncan Wells commanded the 34th Massachusetts infantry was killed during the fight. In an effort to find out some more information on him, I headed to Google. The first thing that came up in my search results for his name was a document on archive.org .
This document was entitled, “Address at the Funeral of Col. George Duncan Wells.” When I clicked the link here, I was brought to a page that displayed the document. Scanned digitally, the pamphlet was the ten page oration read at Col. Wells funeral. When the reader reads the oration, it is filled with terms such as sacrifice, bravery, honor, and courage. All terms used extensively to remember the dead of the war. What was interesting is that the date on the pamphlet. October 21st, 1864. This leads me to think a couple of things. First, Col. Wells was brought home to Massachusetts for burial only eight days after his death in Virginia. Secondly, he rapid transfer of his remain signifies his prominence in his community. I would like to do some more research on this matter.
Regardless, I am once again amazed by the amount of primary source information readily available via the internet. Who knows what I may uncover next. Click below to read the document for yourself.
Address at the funeral of Col. George Duncan Wells
After months of planning and coordination, the 150th Commemoration Guide for the 150th events this October has been made public. This guide lays out the numerous programs taking place during the sesquicentennial weekend of October 17th-20th. I will be personally involved by leading numerous tours and programs. These include the following: the Signal Knob and History at Sunset Programs on October 17th, Cavalry at Cedar Creek on October 18th, and leading Real Time Programs all day on October 19th.
For more information on these events download the CEBE 150th Guide . Or, visit our website at, http://www.nps.gov/cebe.
I am back in the weird and unexplored side of the internet again, this time on YouTube. Do not ask me how I found it, but I came across an interesting video. Entitled, “Alabama: Heart of the Confederacy” this short 10 minute clip looks at Alabama in 1937. The interesting aspect of this, is that it was produced by the National Park Service and the C.C.C.
The video begins with no effort to explore the causes of the Civil War, but rather focuses on the importance Montgomery Alabama as the first Confederate State capitol. The narrtor continues by idolizing Jefferson Davis and and the Confederate cause, with no word of slavery. One man even seems to be a Confederate Veteran as he points to where Davis stood in 1861. Scenes continue with pictures of the current state of affairs in Alabama; showcasing the public works of the C.C.C. One the motives of the producers is evidently to show the public utility C.C.C. workers are to the community and their role in creating these spaces such as parks.
Examining this film piece from a 1930s perspective reveals some interesting ideas. With the Depression in full swing, the United States Government wants to produce films that bring Americans together, not divide them. I would argue that is why there is no mention of slavery, reconstruction or post war racial relations. All the audience sees are white, smiling faces. Not one African-American was shown in this clip. In this video the National Park Service is trying to show one, clear image of the past. However, as we know today, history is not as clear as this video portrays it to be. That is the challenge of a historian. To showcase the complexities of history, but at the same time to present a message that is understandable to the public.
One thing this video does, is present one clear Anglo-centric view of 1930s Alabama heritage.
Unknowingly to my knowledge, my professor from last semester nominated my term paper for an undergraduate conference this October. The MARCUS (Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference of Undergraduate Scholarship), “is devoted exclusively to the scholarship and research activities of undergraduate students.” I am privileged and honored that my professor found my paper of this quality. My research focused on the Blitz in England in 1940-41 and the effect on English morale.
Here is my abstract for my paper:
When bombs began to drop on England in the fall of 1940, the German air offensive began. Houses, public institutions and families were ruined by this coordinated effort to destroy the English will to fight a war. Through the use of contemporary diaries, journals, newspapers, and government documents, the author argues that this German offensive had an adverse effect. The morale and will of an England did not break, but in fact was solidified behind this shared experience. Through his examination of these documents, the author also puts the Blitz within the geopolitics of the time. By revealing these sentiments, he concludes that writing acted as a tool to cope with the destruction taking place at this time.
I am excited to represent the James Madison University History Department this October.
More information on the conference can be found here.