|Linnaean Hall on the Pennsylvania |
College campus / GettDigital Collection
It continually surprises me how little has been unearthed from archives and newspapers on any topic I research. How any historian can 'discover' a source which was published in a newspaper in 1863 and has been sitting on a roll of microfilm for 20 years, or how they can discover a source which comprises part of the official record of an institution spanning more than 175 years of history and sitting in that institution's archive for over a century is a mind-boggling concept. Historical research is one never-ending instances of the thing you need being hidden in plain sight.
So, what did I find hidden in plain sight the other night in Gettysburg College's Special Collections?
The finding aid listed the following in the files of the Board of Trustees from 1864:
1 May 1864 - Letter to members of the Lenean [sic] Association, presenting them with two globes bought in Murfreesboro, TN from the sale of confiscated property of a professor
That date, that description of the content... it was just too tantalizing. My 'discovery' of the document was, in fact, exhilarating.
Earnshaw's globes were, "purchased at the sale of confiscated property in," Murfreesboro. The provenance of the globe was sketchy at the auction, Earnshaw admitted, but he relayed to the college that, "so far as I can learn they belonged to Professor Henderson formerly of the 'Union University.'” The previous owner of the hemispheres, "at the Commencement of the Rebellion," had given, "all his force against the dear old flag."
The globes immediately reminded the minister of the small college in the town in south-central Pennsylvania where he had made his home for a short time. "And remembering the kindness of the able President of the Penna. College, and many pleasant associations with the Professors + Students," Earnshaw explained, "I felt and now feel great pleasure in commiting [sic] to the care of your noble society," the globes.
Earnshaw was present at Gettysburg during the battle and hospital period, nursing the wounded and ministering to soldiers' destroyed bodies and souls alike. The "kindness of the able President," could refer to Henry L. Baugher's care of over a dozen wounded Federal soldiers in his home over the course of the three-day battle. The, "pleasant associations with the Professors," could refer to the amiable Martin Luther Stoever and his penchant for inviting any wayward soul wandering the streets of the town after the battle into his parlour for tea. If he did in fact set foot inside the hallowed walls of the college, he witnessed how the halls of the, "noble," Linnaean Society had been soaked with the blood of hundreds of wounded soldiers dashed to pieces by three days of carnage.
In Tennessee, Earnshaw experienced a new sort of carnage: reinterment of mangled men. As the war drew to a close, he was put in charge of the military cemeteries at Stones River and Nashville, later to be placed in charge of the cemeteries at Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Corinth and Memphis as well. Frank Conover explained in his Centennial Portrait and Biographical Record of the City of Dayton and of Montgomery County, Ohio in 1897 that, "in the presence of thousands of unreconstructed rebels, and of women and children who were imbued with the idea that secession was just and the northern soldiers usurpers, this duty was most arduous." Earnshaw, assisted by the men of the 111th United States Colored Troops, "in the face of insult and intimidation and personal danger," helped to find a final resting place for, "the bodies of 22,000 fallen Union soldiers... gathered from their shallow, temporary graves." Earnshaw reported to the War Department in 1866 that all of his, "assistants were brave soldiers who had served throughout the war." He cherished the thought that as long as he lived he would, "remember how tenderly they performed this work amid untold difficulties; how cheerfully they set out on long and toilsome journeys through rain and storm in search of their fallen comrades, and the proud satisfaction expressed by them when the precious remains were laid in the new made grave."
|College mueseum collection inside |
Linnaean Hall / GettDigital Collection