CWI’s new digital history project, “Killed at Gettysburg,” is bringing together Gettysburg College students and high school students from Phillips Exeter Academy in collaborative research and shared exploration. The project, which officially launched this spring, is devoted to exploring the individual stories of soldiers killed at Gettysburg: recovering their family backgrounds and various reasons for fighting, tracing their final footsteps in battle using digital mapping technology, and exploring the impact of their deaths on their families and communities, as well the battlefield’s emerging commemorative landscape. Through focused research into individual soldiers’ experiences of war, "Killed at Gettysburg" addresses broader historical questions such as soldier motivation, Victorians’ evolving conceptions of death, 19th-century notions of manhood, bravery, and cowardice, familial relationships, and the shaping of historical memory through commemorative landscapes.
A team of three CWI Fellows and seven first-year student volunteers have been working on this project all year, delving deeply into the records housed in the Gettysburg National Military Park library and traveling to the National Archives to view the Compiled Military Service Records and Widow’s Pensions of soldiers who fought and died on the fields surrounding campus. Students enrolled in a Civil War class at Phillips Exeter have likewise been devoting much of their time this year to researching the formation and battle experiences of the 5th New Hampshire and 20th Maine. In early March, the students, accompanied by their professor, Kent McConnell, made their own research trip to the National Archives to access Compiled Military Service Records and Widow’s Pensions associated with the regiments. CWI Director Peter Carmichael met the group in Washington, DC to help them navigate the Archives.
The Exeter students spent the following three days in Gettysburg, culling through regimental files at the Gettysburg National Military Park library, touring the battlefield with Peter Carmichael and CWI’s student fellows Abby Cocco '19 and Ryan Bilger '19, and participating in project workshops and IT tutorials led by CWI’s Assistant Director, Ashley Whitehead Luskey and a small group of CWI Fellows who served as project mentors for the week. Armed with their expanded research, site-specific knowledge, and mentorship from project “veterans,” the Exeter students ultimately will produce several new soldier profiles that will be published on the KAG website. CWI and Exeter hope to continue to expand this digital initiative further in the months and years to come.
Phillips Exeter Academy was founded in 1781 by John Phillips, who believed every student should have access to an education that embraces the ideals of both goodness and knowledge. Now a co-educational residential school with more than 1,000 high school students from the U.S. and 33 foreign countries, Exeter has a centuries-old tradition of academic excellence and a commitment to empowering Exonians to find their place in the world.