Civil War Institute

Ashley Luskey

Assistant Director of the Civil War Institute

Civil War Institute Office



Campus Box Campus Box 0435


Civil War Institute

300 North Washington St.
Gettysburg, PA 17325-1400


PhD West Virginia University, 2014
MA West Virginia University, 2010
BA The College of William & Mary, 2008

Academic Focus

19th-Century U.S. History, Civil War & Reconstruction, Public History, U.S. South, Cultural History, History & Memory

My current book project, The Last Confederate Christmas: Slaveholding Women, Ritual, and Authority in the Confederate Capital, examines the ways through which the wives & daughters of Confederate politicians, officers, & businessmen in Richmond, Virginia attempted to maintain their social & political authority in the Confederate capital during the chaos of civil war. Specifically, I analyze these women’s “social performances”--their use of cultural rituals such as theater-going, church-going, parlor parties, holiday celebrations, charity benefits, promenading, & “starvation parties” as a means to try to reinstitute order & reaffirm their precarious socio-political position in the face of constant threats from the influx of newcomers & wartime vice proliferating in Richmond. In carefully selected urban spaces--public & private--the leading ladies “performed” & negotiated for power with the city poor, prostitutes, slaves, & refugees in order to preserve the societal pillars upon which the Confederacy rested. However, their staunch commitment to these increasingly ineffectual rituals revealed a fundamental disconnect between wartime reality & that which the ladies were willing to accept, their actions ultimately alienating them from the very class of individuals whose deference they so desperately sought & needed to maintain stability on the home front. Indeed, such performances--adopted to purge the Confederate capital of its threatening social pretenders & their vices—exposed Richmond’s leading ladies as some of the biggest social pretenders of all.

I am also an active public historian with over 15 years of professional experience in interpretation, preservation, digital & oral history, archival work, & education. Prior to arriving at CWI, I spent 10 years working for the National Park Service, including 8 years at Richmond National Battlefield Park. While at RNBP, I researched, planned, & conducted a wide range of public programs (including serving as the co-planner & co-leader of the park’s Civil War 150th programs), supervised interns & seasonal staff, served as the park’s training & operations liaison for volunteers, & authored multiple operational & interpretive manuals about the park’s battlefield units. I also worked for two years as an historical consultant, writing articles, leading interpretive walking tours, delivering public talks on a range of Civil War & public history-related topics, & working as a public history instructor in WVU’s History Department. My articles have appeared on a variety of blogs, magazines, & scholarly journals. My most recent work, “From Women’s History to Gender History: Revamping Interpretive Programming at Richmond National Battlefield Park,” was published in the June, 2016 issue of the journal Civil War History.

On campus, I manage the CWI Student Fellows program, in which I work with our Fellows on a variety of research and writing projects, including: CWI's digital history project, "Killed at Gettysburg," scholarly articles for CWI's blog, The Gettysburg Compiler, Gettysburg National Military Park's new interpretive wayside project, a Civil War photography exhibition, and various interpretation projects for social media involving the battlefield, Gettysburg's civilians, and battlefield monuments. I am also the project manager for "Killed at Gettysburg." Additionally, I serve as the coordinator of CWI's annual summer conference, for which I regularly lead talks and tours.