2015 Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College Day Two

The second day of the conference was Saturday, June 20, and was also the first full day. C-SPAN 3 broadcast the conference live for most of the day.

We started off with Professor Joan Waugh of UCLA telling us about Ulysses S. Grant and the Meaning of Appomattox:


Next up was Professor Stephen Cushman of the University of Virginia on Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s writings about the Appomattox surrender ceremony:


We also heard Harold Holzer speaking on Lincoln and the Press:


After lunch we broke for concurrent sessions. Jim Downs talked about The Medical Crisis of Emancipation, which C-SPAN broadcast:



I opted to attend Carrie Janney’s excellent presentation on “Removing Gettysburg’s Confederate Dead to Virginia.” We learned that anywhere from 4500 to 5,000 confederates were killed at Gettysburg along with approximately 5200 Federal soldiers. We also learned that by 1864 about 700 Union soldiers and perhaps around 12 killed confederates had been shipped home. It took from $50 to $150 to embalm a body and ship it home. Many relatives had come to the battlefield looking for loved ones, and many of them had opened graves in their search. By late July there was an informal meeting among Northern states to decide what to do with the bodies of Union soldiers. An association was formed, which purchased the ground that became the National Cemetery. It was overseen by Samuel Weaver, a local physician, who was aided by a work crew led by the prominent African-American resident of Gettysburg, Basil Biggs. Over 3,000 bodies were moved. Weaver issued a report with a detailed account of how he distinguished between rebels and Federals, but his system wasn’t perfect and today we believe that there are at least nine confederates buried in the National Cemetery due to misidentification. Groups of women formed Ladies Memorial Associations across the south. Their goal was to provide confederate cemeteries and erect early monuments to the confederate dead. At various confederate memorial days there were speeches denouncing Reconstruction and “Yankee rule.” Many confederates remained buried on battlefields at Gettysburg and Antietam, and lists of the dead and missing were published in southern newspapers along with encouragements for people to “rescue” the bodies. R. E. Lee initially favored letting the confederate dead stay in Gettysburg, but newspapers continued to call on the women of the South to “rescue” their dead from the North. Weaver was contacted and agreed to help find the confederate dead, but soon after that agreement he was killed in an accident. The ladies turned to his son, Dr. Rufus Weaver. He was able to exhume and ship several confederate bodies, though the great majority of them were unidentified. There were a number of Ladies Memorial Associations in Virginia, such as the Hollywood Memorial Association of Richmond, the Oakwood Memorial Association, the Ladies of Church Hill, and the Hebrew Ladies. From June of 1867 through 1869 they asked for help to bring Virginia’s dead back to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. In the fall of 1870 they were able to get a designated section in Hollywood Cemetery for Gettysburg soldiers. The Virginia Legislature in Richmond appropriated $1,000 for this effort, but it was nowhere near enough and they went on a fundraising campaign. Lee himself donated a “substantial amount.” They were able to raise $4,000 for the effort. In November of 1871 Elizabeth H. Brown, the recording secretary, wrote to Weaver saying they wanted to take care of all the confederate dead. Charles Dimmock, former engineer in the Army of Northern Virginia, went to Gettysburg to survey the battlefield and the buried dead. Approximately 500 soldiers were identified, and about 2,000 were unidentified. Dimmock found remains scattered all over the battlefield. In April of 1872 they began removing remains, starting with the locations of field hospitals, which had kept very detailed records. On 15 June, 700 confederate dead in 279 boxes arrived at Rocketts Landing on the James River. There were five more shipments from August of 1872 through October of 1873. The Ladies owed Weaver over $5,000, but the secretary told him they didn’t have the money. He continued his work for them, and by the end they owed him over $6,000, which he was never paid. More than 3,000 war dead were returned to the South as a result.

After our concurrent sessions we had the first of our tours for the conference. These were held on the Gettysburg Battlefield, following in the footsteps of selected soldiers.

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I was on the tour with Supervisory Ranger Chris Gwinn, following Randolph McKim, an aide-de camp to George “Maryland” Steuart. We took the bus out to Culp’s Hill for the tour. Chris, as always, did an outstanding job in detailing who McKim was and what he did, saw, and heard during the battle, with details drawn from his post-battle letter to his family and two postwar writings, one an article he wrote and the other his memoirs. Chris told us about the fighting on Culp’s Hill, how the confederates were able to occupy Lower Culp’s Hill but could never dislodge George Greene’s brigade from Upper Culp’s Hill. They were finally pushed off the hill on July 3.

That evening, after dinner, we were treated to Professor Gary Gallagher of the University of Virginia giving a lecture on “Robert E. Lee, the Army of Northern Virginia, and the Reality of Confederate Defeat.” Professor Gallagher talked about what he called “The War That Never Ended Syndrome.” He told us the war did end with the defeat of the confederate forces, the dismantling of the confederacy, the destruction of slavery, and the demobilization of the army. The postwar conflict in Reconstruction, he told us, should not be considered a continuation of the war. It wasn’t as violent and the confederates had greatly scaled back their goals. Reunion was a tortuous process and they settled for a watered down version of what the confederacy had provided. He told us that any exploration of confederate defeat must take into account the unique position Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia held. Appomattox marked the practical end of the war because Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia were so important they had become synonymous with the confederate nation. The surrender of Lee’s army brought the reality of confederate defeat home to the confederacy. It was so important because it was Lee who had surrendered.

The final event was a panel discussion on a new book, The Lens of War: Exploring Iconic Photographs of the Civil War. The panel consisted of Stephen Cushman, Joan Waugh, Aaron Sheehan-Dean, Matthew Gallman, William Blair, Harold Holzer, Caroline Janney, and Gary Gallagher discussing their contributions to the book and why they chose the photographs they chose.

So ended the second day of the conference. We had outstanding presentations and learned a great deal. We were all looking forward eagerly to the rest of the conference.

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