Ambassadors to the past: Meet the Civil War Institute Fellows

CWI Fellows

Gettysburg College's Civil War Institute (CWI) has selected ten students to serve as the inaugural group of Civil War Institute Fellows for the 2011-2012 academic year.

“We want our students to practice history in a professional setting, and before they leave the Fellows program I hope they will have a new appreciation of the many ways that historians can be relevant, civically engaged, and employable,” said Peter Carmichael, director of the Civil War Institute and Robert C. Fluhrer Professor of Civil War Studies.

The CWI Fellows program promotes Civil War-related scholarship to the general public and provides the fellows with opportunities for professional development as historians.

“We engage students, using the Civil War as a platform, from which they can bring historical perspectives to a range of contemporary issues. Their relevancy begins by making their research accessible,” Carmichael said. “That doesn’t mean that they have to sacrifice rigor or complexity. Once that occurs the students have the power to open important conversations with a range of public audiences.”

Fellows conduct research in Musselman Library’s Special Collections, focusing on artifacts and visual culture that connects directly to the Gettysburg battlefield. The students write reflective pieces on how object offer a deeper understanding of the historical landscape in 901 Stories from Gettysburg blog. They also receive support to attend conferences and lectures, and have the opportunity to travel to historical sites, such as the two-day immersion experience this April that will send five of the fellows to Antietam to learn from noted historian Gary Gallagher of the University of Virginia, and Carmichael.

Additionally, fellows support CWI’s efforts around the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize, Michael Shaara Prize for Excellence in Civil War Fiction, annual Robert Fortenbaugh Memorial Lecture, and annual CWI Summer Conference.

Meet the fellows:

Brian Johnson '14Brian Johnson ’14 is a history major with minors in business and political science from Saline, Mich. He is involved with Residence Life as an RA for a freshman dorm and is involved with Disciple Maker's Christian Fellowship on campus. Last summer he interned at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, and this summer he will hold a research internship at Stratford Hall with Gettysburg alum Paul Reber ’82.

“I also can't express how much I've gained and am still gaining from Dr. Carmichael and the rest of the CWI staff, as well as the history professors I’ve had here at the College,” said Johnson.

Favorite Civil War-related moment in history: I really enjoyed learning about a sequence of photographs taken in Fredericksburg, Va. during the Civil War. In the different frames, a Union photographer had approached a destroyed railroad bridge and set up his camera. The frames he snapped show a group of Confederate soldiers housed on the opposite side of the river who gradually come outside, came down to the opposite side of the destroyed railroad bridge, and finally did a formal pose for the Union photographer. I am not really sure of how to interpret the event, but I found it to be one of the most intriguing stories of fraternization between the Union and Confederate armies that I heard while a National Park Service intern.

Val Merlina '14Val Merlina ’14 is a history major and Civil War Era Studies minor from Pittsburgh, Pa. She is a member of the Pennsylvania College Guard reenacting unit on campus and 11th PA Fife & Drum Corps, as well as an upcoming drum major of the Gettysburg College Marching Band and Special Collections digital assistant.

“Being a fellow has given me the opportunity to further my understanding of the Civil War. I am proud to not only represent myself, but the CWI as an organization,” said Merlina.

Favorite Civil War-related moment in history: The first Civil War-related discussion I remember is of Colonel Chamberlain and the stand at Little Round Top. Since then, my studies have brought me to various battles and campaigns, still Chamberlain and the 20th Maine hold a place in my memory.

Mary Roll '12Mary Roll ’12 is an English major with minors in Civil War Era Studies and history from Chambersburg, Pa. She is a member and former vice president of the Civil War Club and associate editor of the College's Journal of the Civil War Era. She also spent last summer interning at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, is currently interning with the Gettysburg National Military Park, and will be at Stratford Hall in Va. as an archival research intern this summer.

“Civil War-related experiences have been the best of my entire time at Gettysburg. I am eternally grateful for all I have learned, the relationships I've developed with faculty, staff, and other students, and the opportunities I have been given,” said Roll.

Favorite Civil War-related moment in history: One of my most favorite moments is when, after the first night of the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864, General Grant went into his tent and wept. This is not the Grant we are used to reading about, but I think he cried so hard because he understood the staggering amount of casualties the fight would take. I realize that is a strange moment to favor, but I do so because it demonstrates the humanity in and sacrifices of war.

Natalie Sherif '14Natalie Sherif ’14 is a history major with minors in Civil War Era Studies and writing from La Canada Flintridge, Calif. She is a Community Advisor for Residence Life, the equestrian team’s secretary, and member of the Civil War Club. She will be interning with Harpers Ferry National Historical Park this summer.

“I feel extraordinarily lucky to have the opportunity to work with all of the Civil War Institute fellows and staff. Gettysburg College is one of the best things to happen to me and I am so glad that I found my way to Pennsylvania,” said Sherif.

Favorite Civil War-related moment in history: I think the Lincoln assassination is especially intriguing, insofar as how it affected Lincoln's image and popularity and set the stage for Reconstruction. On a related note, the Gettysburg Address really speaks to what the Civil War means to me, and how I think about it.

Caleb Sisak '12Caleb Sisak ’12 is a political science and philosophy major from Camp Hill, Pa. He studied in Washington, D.C. through the Lutheran College Washington Semester, where he interned at Circle of Friends for American Veterans, a non-profit organization dedicated to issues facing homeless veterans of past and current conflicts. He also went on a Center for Public Service Immersion Trip to Leon, Nicaragua over winter break 2012.

“I have always had an interest in history, and although the focus of my studies isn't history directly, I find that many of my CWI experiences connect to my fields of interest. Being in Gettysburg, it seems natural to be curious and explore the topic that is so integral to the history of the area and the College,” said Sistak.

Favorite Civil War-related moment in history: I find the Lincoln-Douglas debates an incredible piece of political history. The sheer weight of what that election meant is difficult to fully describe. These discourses acted as a prelude to Lincoln's eventual rise to the presidency, as well as the main issue he would face: slavery. Lincoln lost the Senatorial election, however the words he spoke during these debates provided the foundation for his incredible rise and decisions as President of a divided Union.

Katelyn Stauffer '13Katelyn Stauffer ’13 is a history and political science double major, with minors in education and Civil War Era Studies from Ephrata, Pa. She is the vice president of the class of 2013, vice president of the Phi Alpha Theta history department honor society, treasurer of Alpha Phi Omega, historian of the Kappa Delta Pi education honor society, program coordinator for the Center for Public Service, member of Omicron Delta Kappa, and a member of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority. She interned at President James Buchanan's home, Wheatland, and Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, where she will return as a park guide this summer.

“I think CWI does great work on and off campus. After hearing about all of the events they co-sponsor and work on, I was excited to get more involved and see how this type of organization was structured and worked,” said Stauffer.

Favorite Civil War-related moment in history: During my summer internship at Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, we did a program for kids about John Brown and his raid. The kids debated whether or not they would have gone with John Brown on his raid. Seeing middle schoolers get excited and passionate about history was really inspiring to me, and I loved hearing some of their arguments.

Logan Tapscott '14Logan Tapscott ’14 is a history and classics double major with a minor in Civil War Era Studies from McLean, Va. She is a member of the Civil War and Classics clubs, and this summer plans to research the freed slaves living in the Arlington House plantation, the home of Robert E. Lee until 1861, when he left Arlington to fight for the Confederacy.

“I wanted to be a Civil War Institute Fellow in order to conduct research and enhance my knowledge of the Civil War. I’ve really experience, and love living at Gettysburg College, near the battlefield,” said Tapscott.

Favorite Civil War-related moment in history: I’m very impressed by the 54th Massachusetts' bravery on July 18th, 1863 at Fort Wagner on Morris Island, S.C.

Alexandra Ward '14Alexandra Ward ’14 is a history and philosophy major from Severna Park, Md. She is involved in the College’s service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, and is a Community Advisor for Residence Life, and a member of the Honor Commission. She attended the CWI Summer Conference in 2011, and was able to sit in on presentations given by historians and participate in the battlefield tours. In April she will attend the Robert E. Lee Symposium at Antietam to learn from professional historians.

“I wanted to be a CWI Fellow because the program offered me the opportunity to work actively with history both in an academic and practical sense. I knew being a CWI Fellow would help me to grow as an individual and a future historian. The opportunities for networking and learning have been invaluable,” said Ward.

Favorite Civil War-related moment in history: I really enjoyed visiting Shepherdstown with another fellow, Sherif, and learning more about that battle, as well as the need to preserve historic places.

The CWI fellows also include Thomas Skaggs ’12, a history major with classics and Civil War Era Studies minors and Dan Willever ’12, a history major.

The Civil War Institute engages with Gettysburg College students, general audiences, graduate students, and scholars in a dialogue about Civil War history through an interdisciplinary approach dedicated to public interpretation, historic preservation, public policy, teaching, and academic research.

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. 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

Posted: Mon, 5 Mar 2012

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