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War Institute

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Student Historians

"Cowardice at Gettysburg" Seminar Visits the National Archives

Stephanie at the National Archives

From history books to the silver screen, tales of bravery at Gettysburg abound -- but they are not the whole story, as students of Gettysburg College Professor, Peter Carmichael discovered at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

In Carmichael's "Cowardice at Gettysburg" research seminar, students examined the court-martial, medical, and pension records of soldiers charged with misconduct in 1863's decisive Civil War battle, during which troops swept through the Gettysburg College campus and adjoining town.

Amazing discoveries resulted from the seminar's visit to the National Archives this past February. For instance, among the hand-written antique documents, Stephanie Dioro '11, who is majoring in history and minoring in Civil War Era studies, found photographs of the man she had been assigned to study.

Each student was tasked with uncovering the experience of an individual soldier and linking it to larger cultural, political, and military issues. The resulting papers will be gathered in an anthology and submitted to Johns Hopkins Press for possible publication following a review by academic experts.

"I don't know of many other undergraduate seminars that go on to produce a book," said Rachel Santose '11, another history major and Civil War Era studies minor. "I think that is a great experience to have under your belt, especially for students who want to continue in the academic field. You learn so much doing research and getting feedback through the peer review process."

Santose is considering the records of Captain Henry Krauseneck, a member of the 74th Pennsylvania, an all-German regiment with a bad reputation. Captain Krauseneck's regiment was sent to garrison duty in South Carolina in 1864, and that is when his court-martial case occurred -- long after the episode of cowardice at Gettysburg. By examining Krauseneck's compiled service records and the regimental order books of the 74th Pennsylvania, Santose hopes to establish the context in which the court-martial happened and connect those circumstances to larger issues of military justice.

The students got an inside look at life as an archivist when they met with John Deeben '87, a professional in the National Archives' research support branch who specializes in genealogy and military records. Santose, editor of the Gettysburg College Journal of the Civil War Era and editorial board member of the Gettysburg Historical Journal, said Deeben provided important insight as she considers grad school in history and library science and a possible career in archives.

The trip to the Archives was also right up the alley of Lisa Ungemach '11, a history major with a Spanish minor who hopes to pursue a career in the archives or library science field as well. Much like Santose, Ungemach is involved in historical and Civil War organizations. She is editor of the Historical Journal, on the editorial board of the Civil War Journal, and a member of the Civil War Club.

Ungemach is looking into the history of Andrew J. Mandeville, a 2nd Lieutenant in the 8th New Jersey Volunteers. A superior officer accused Mandeville of dropping to the rear to avoid fighting, while Mandeville claimed it was due to injury. During his court-martial, he presented a medical certificate for a shell fragment in his side, for which he was granted leave. With this information, Ungemach hopes to examine the larger impact of medical practices on soldiers.

For his project, history major Joseph Cook '11 is examining the service records of George Gillis, a lieutenant from New York who fell out of the ranks during the march to the field of battle and wandered in search of a field hospital for two weeks claiming he was injured or sick. Gillis was later accused of purposely avoiding the battle.

By studying pension records, Cook, who previously worked as a researcher on Prof. Gabor Boritt's Gettysburg Gospel, hopes to make determinations about how the stigma of being accused of cowardly acts during the war affected soldiers for the rest of their lives.

"I didn't know what to expect from our trip to the Archives, but I was amazed at the level of detail in their files," said Cook. "This was a fairly unremarkable person from 150 years ago, and the pension records on him alone came to 90 pages."

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition that includes Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate and other distinguished scholars among its alumni. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Contact: Nikki Rhoads, assistant director of communications, 717.337.6803

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