Our Country's Fiery Ordeal
Our Country’s Fiery Ordeal
A blog about the American Civil War, 150 years after it occurred, focusing on Antietam, Gettysburg, as well as other subjects of interest. Written and maintained by Daniel J. Vermilya, a Park Ranger at both Antietam National Battlefield and Gettysburg National Military Park.
Dedicated to my great-great-great grandfather, Private Ellwood Rodebaugh, Company D, 106th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, killed at the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862.
"And may an Overulling Providence continue to cause good to come out of evil, justice to be done to all men where injustice has long prevailed, and finally, peace, quiet, and harmony to come out of this terrible confrontation and our country's fiery ordeal." -- Albert Champlin, 105th Ohio, Diary entry of June 19, 1864 (Western Reserve Historical Society)
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Just wanted to post a quick note. I am currently settling in to my new confines for the summer--the Codori Farm House at Gettysburg. Yes, THE Codori house, as in the one right smack dab in the middle of Pickett's Charge, where the division of George Pickett actually had to maneuver around the house, just a few hundred yards away from Cemetery Ridge. Yeah, that Codori House. That's where I am living while working as a park ranger at Gettysburg for the 150th anniversary of the battle.
I know what you are thinking. Yes, God is good, and he does answer prayers. I'm not lucky. Just blessed.
It has been a long day. I worked at Antietam this morning, did a program for about 90 people, moved up here and settled in this afternoon and evening. Time to hit the books then bed.
Over the next few months, this blog will be focusing very heavily on Gettysburg. I am living in the middle of the battlefield, it is the 150th anniversary this summer (which I have already nicknamed the "Civil War Super Bowl" because it will be ridiculous how many people will be here). I hope to chronicle lots of my experiences on here, as well as give you a view as to what it is like being a ranger here from my perspective. Also, another big plus, the Codori House has INTERNET! So, I can actually be a 21st century ranger now...
Stay tuned! It will be a great year.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
I have some big news that I have been holding off on sharing for quite some time. Now, because the summer sesaon is fast approaching, this seems like as good a time as any to post about it on here. Starting on May 19, I will be working as a park ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park for the 2013 season!
For most of the winter, I was uncertain whether I would have any NPS work this year at all. In fact, for awhile it appeared as though I was done with the Park Service due to sequestration. Then, in late March, I found out I would be coming back to Antietam, and the next day I was offered a seasonal position at Gettysburg for the summer. Thankfully, because I work for some great people, I was able to arrange things so that I am working at both parks this year. Lots of prayers were answered, to be sure.
Needless to say, I am very excited about this. I will be at Gettysburg from May 19 to mid-August, when I will be returning to Antietam for the fall. Thus, I will be able to work at Gettysburg for their 150th anniversary and be back in time for Antietam's 151st!
Working at Gettysburg has long been a dream of mine, along with working at Antietam. This year, I am blessed to say I will be working at both parks. When I was younger I went on many, many trips to the Gettysburg battlefield, more trips there in fact than I made to Antietam. I still remember how excited I was every time we drove into Gettysburg on Route 30, seeing the First Day battlefield when coming in from the west, seeing the statues of Reynolds and Buford along the road, knowing that in just a few minutes I would be out of the car and on the battlefield. My blue Union kepi hat saw lots of use on many of those trips. I would always try to pick up a cool new book or a cool new Union uniform piece every time as a souvenir of the trip. I remember one trip where Dad and I packed up the van to go camping near the battlefield, only to have the van break down on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on our way there. Dad was not deterred, though; he got a rental car, we continued on, and spent the weekend camping, cooking out, and hiking all around Gettysburg. I'm sure it wasn't fun for Dad having to deal with a non functioning car, but I still remember it fondly today.
Several years ago, in 2008, Dad and I made a trip to Gettysburg during the summer between my Junior and Senior year at Hillsdale. That summer, I was trying to make some big decisions about my future. I had recently read David McCullough's biography of John Adams for the first time, and was so moved and inspired that I decided that some day I wanted to write a book about American history as well. During that trip in 2008, I decided that I was going to try to be a professional historian. I told Dad on that trip that no matter what, I wanted to go back to Gettysburg for the 150th anniversary of the battle to at least be there for the events. Now, not only will I be there, but I will be working as a Park Ranger. A dream come true.
I also remember going to Gettysburg (with a side trip to Antietam) in 2009 with my Mom. My grandpa had recently taken a turn for the worse with his lymphoma, and the trip Mom and I took to Gettysburg that summer was the bright spot of our year. The rest of the year we spent at Grandpa's house caring for him every day until he passed in late October, but for a few days we got to spend some quality Mom and son time together in Gettysburg, enjoying Civil War history the way we have done since I was a kid.
Thus, you see, I have some very special memories of going to Gettysburg throughout the years, and those memories only make it so much more special that I will be able to work there as a park ranger this summer. I am incredibly blessed.
Gettysburg starts one week from tomorrow, so I am spending all my spare time either working on my Kennesaw Mountain book or reading up on Gettysburg. There will hopefully be many new blog posts and topics on here relating to Gettysburg and the 150th commemorations there this year. I am thoroughly thrilled at this new opportunity. Antietam has been my home for the past few years, and I am very glad I am here now and will be back in the fall, but I am also very excited to be branching out to Gettysburg in the year of their sesquicentennial.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Hope everyone is enjoying the warmer weather that May has brought!
Friday, April 19, 2013
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
So, last week, I moved back to Maryland and returned to work for the 2013 season. I don't have an internet connection where I am staying, which limits the posts. Thus, I wanted to post a short note to let everyone know I am doing quite well. I have some other new and exciting news about my 2013 season to share on here very soon, news that only adds to my great relief and gratitude for the opportunities I have right now. The paperwork isn't finalized, so I will hold off on sharing this news for a little while yet.
In the meantime, here is the view of Antietam's Bloody Lane at sunset from two days ago. I am very blessed and fortunate to have the opportunity to continue working here and doing what I love. God is very good, indeed. I'm taking each day at a time, knowing that every day is a blessing.
Saturday, March 23, 2013
A better image showing that most of the Sunken Road is barely visible from this spot. In the distance is Reel Ridge, which was covered by Confederate artillery pieces firing into the ranks of oncoming Union soldiers in French's and Richardson's divisions.
Friday, March 22, 2013
Hands down the best program of the weekend was led by Scott Hartwig and Peter Carmichael. It was on Saturday afternoon when the temperatures were in the mid 30s with driving rain and sleet. I know, sounds fun, right? The program was a walk of Pickett's Charge (I have NEVER walked the field in those conditions before, so it was illuminating from that perspective alone). The focus was on new interpretive possibilities of Pickett's Charge. So, not only did we talk about the charge itself but new stories that illustrate various soldier and civilian experiences that can normally fall by the wayside in traditional battlefield interpretation. It was the most informative and helpful program of the weekend.
However, while I enjoyed the conference, at nearly every one of the individual discussion groups, there was at least one speaker who made it clear that he or she was not a Civil War historian but rather a social media expert, a communications expert, or a social historian (just a few examples). It seemed as though many of the presenters had only been to Gettysburg (or any battlefield) perhaps once or twice before, and even then maybe not in any capacity other than taking the basic battlefield tour.
This ended up being problematic on some of the panel discussions. There were scholars who were not familiar with Civil War battlefields discussing how to interpret Civil War battlefields. Many were entirely unaware of how programs work at NPS sites and what visitors at those sites are like. I heard it said numerous times that visitors to Civil War battlefields are thirsting for more discussion of emancipation, civilians, and gender history. That could not be any further from the truth. By and large, visitors avoid those programs like the plague. They want battle stories. That is what makes doing battlefield interpretation so difficult. We have to give the people what they want while still educating them about other important aspects of the Civil War that they may not know about.
That was, as I understood it, one of the purposes of the conference: to bridge the divide between academic historians and public historians to figure out how to interpret better Civil War history sites.
Perhaps the biggest thing I learned at the conference is that sites like Antietam National Battlefield are doing exactly what they should in leading the way for the next wave of Civil War history. Antietam now has a park blog, uses facebook and twitter accounts to reach people, and focuses on emancipation as one of the main interpretive themes of the park. I am very proud to work there and call the rangers on the interpretive staff there my colleagues, and I look forward to all of the great programs that we will offer in the year ahead.
While I found the disconnect between some of the presenters and the reality of battlefield interpretation frustrating at times, I still greatly enjoyed the conference because if anything it reinforced my feelings on the direction of Civil War history. Civil War historians do need to include more discussion of emancipation, African Americans, civilians, and women into their presentations, especially in the National Park Service. It was good to see that discussed in a meaningful way.
I think the best part of the conference was bringing together academic professors and public historians to discuss the field of Civil War history together. Peter Carmichael and his staff at Gettysburg College did a fantastic job with the conference, and I think it was overall a very productive experience.