Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Only Hindsight: Where are the Historian Futurists?

A friend who is planning a pie-in-the-sky conference (about which I'm super excited) texted me today with a quick question. "Who would be a good 'Historian of the Future?'" he asked, adding the bonus that I could dream big. "Money no object," the next text read.

I was at a loss for a few minutes. Who is the historian of the future? Who is trying to visualize that skill-set, categorize that life, read the trends of the past and plot the course of history yet to come?

My work with the NPS, and my penchant for soaking up Sci-Fi culture and fiction, has led me into contact with that interesting field known as Futurism or Futurology. No joke. It's a thing, look it up.

The revolution will be published...
just probably not on paper.
Futurists, in short, try to look to the future by studying the trends of yesterday and today. They are plotting out the probability lines for where mankind might drift.

I love this chunky sentence from the Wikipedia entry on futrists:

More generally, the label includes such disparate lay, professional, and academic groups as visionaries, foresight consultants, corporate strategists, policy analysts, cultural critics, planners, marketers, forecasters, prediction market developers, roadmappers, operations researchers, investment managers, actuaries and other risk analyzers, and future-oriented individuals educated in every academic discipline, including anthropology, complexity studies, computer science, economics, engineering, Urban design, evolutionary biology, history, management, mathematics, philosophy, physical sciences, political science, psychology, sociology, systems theory, technology studies, and other disciplines.

Historians are on that list, buried in there with their brethren sociologists and anthropologists. But where I see the sociologists trying to puzzle out the future, where I see the anthropologists attempting to see where man might move next, I don't see historians practicing futurism as futurists, simply as historians of futurism. A quick Google survey confirmed this inkling.

On one level, it makes perfect sense. Historians are chiefly concerned with the word of the past. We hunt sources and documents, read ancient letters and granite monoliths as texts left behind by a race often long gone, sometimes by decades, sometimes millennia. Historians, though, taken as a group, tend to be wholly retrospective. We look back at closed systems, oftentimes ceaselessly complex systems, but still inherently closed with a finite amount of data in play.

The best historians play those systems off of the modern era, helping to use the complex system of the past to show that where we are today makes sense, that all the effects have a cause somewhere.

Even when we are studying the field of history, we section off the past into eras and epochs. The Dunning School, though it may express itself in dribs and drabs today, was the 1910s to the 1950s. It is a fixed point in time, with impacts on the present, but often simply studied as an event like every other chunk of history.

Futurism has had an influence on the field of history, but seemingly that influence has been mostly epistemological and functional. Asa Briggs summed up his view of how futurism might influence the historian's craft in a very good 1978 article as, in essence, a framework to investigate problems in the past, using the thought processes of the futurist. But that's not quite what I mean either.

So many books on the history
of the Civil War. But so few
among them about the theory
of the history
of the Civil War.
And even fewer on the future
of the theory of the history

of the Civil War. Dizzy yet?
So what am I hunting, then? Futurists use the trends of the past and present to outline where the future lies. Where we have a great dearth of work among historians, particularly in the Civil War field, is in applying futurism exactly as it is wrought, what I would term Historiographical Futurism.

OK, I just made up a useful concept, but play with me for a moment before I layer yet more frosting on the funky cake.

Where is the study of history, where are the trends and (to put it in a vulgar sense) fads which express themselves today heading? What might the act of studying the past 5 or 10 years from now functionally look like? How might technology and shifting social structures alter how we study the past next year, next decade, next century? What is the future of history?

These are the futurist's questions about history, not within the flow of history. To put it quite succinctly: whither the craft?

OK, on to that added frosting.

If there are inherent questions framed around Historiographical Futurism, then there can also be those revolving around Public Historiographical Futurism. Where is the practice of history with the public heading? What might the act of interpretation 5 or 10 years from now functionally look like? How might technology and shifting social structures alter how we interpret historical resources with the publics next year, next decade, next century? What is the future of public history?

And there we his this funky wall. Historians are very busy living in the present, crafting understandings of the past today. I'm not quite sure, in either ends of the historical house, we're very concerned with the future of our profession, only it's base, short-term maintenance.

There are glimmers of hope.

Ed Ayers, now the president of the University of Richmond, was very big in envisioning public usable pasts and vibrant databases, trying to chart the course to a future not yet created. The Valley of the Shadow project was truly earth-shattering when it hit the web in early 1990s, thanks to Ayers' inspiration and the work of the Institute of Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia. Ayers has hopped into one future of history in co-hosting BackStory, one of few historians leaping on the podcast train in an engaging and meaningful way.

Nina Simon, too, is piloting the future, both with her physical work as director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History and her virtual futurist way-finding work at Museum 2.0. Some of her ideas are amazingly precient, and the shifts she's made in her museum's offerings have shown real changes in numbers and participation, data validation that perhaps some of her visions of the future might be feasible.

Larry Cebula rounds out my list, prof. at Eastern Washington University and editor of Northwest History Larry talks shop in nearly every aspect of the future of the field, particularly virtual visitor experiences and digital archiving. I first met Larry when I bummed around the OAH conference in Milwaukee last year, where he was pimping the Spokane Historical app.

Those were my three names for my friend when he asked, "Who would be a good 'Historian of the Future?'"

When there are only three prominent names in the field which immediately float to mind for someone in the thick of public history and interpretation, perhaps we have a problem...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Her Bright Blazon Forever Unstained

Just a few lyrics today, nothing more, nothing less. Lyrics of joy. Lyrics of home. Lyrics of who we are as a nation. Might we never forget who we are again.

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
-Francis Scott Key, 1814

When our land is illumined with liberty's smile,
If a foe from within strikes a blow at her glory,
Down, down with the traitor that tries to defile
The flag of the stars, and the page of her story!
By the millions unchained,
Who their birthright have gained
We will keep her bright blazon forever unstained;
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave,
While the land of the free is the home of the brave.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., 1861

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Martin L. Stoever: Moving His Abolition Needle

Two letters appeared in the Lutheran and Missionary in the late summer of 1864 signed, "M.L.S."

The summer session had ended at Pennsylvania College. The campus was quiet, the classrooms were empty. For professors at the college, the brief breaks between semesters were a much-needed respite from the daily grind of professorial life. Any sane professor would use the few brief moments to unwind.

But for Martin Luther Stoever, who had begun the war as a simple professor of Latin, Literature and History, too much had gone by to sit idle. Witnessing the work of the United States Christian Commission in the month after the battle of Gettysburg, operating out of the vacant store on the first floor of his home, Stoever saw firsthand how Christian precepts might ease the pain of the suffering soldier. By 1864, Stoever was heading up Gettysburg's new local chapter of the Christian Commission, organizing supplies and coordinating donations.

But in the summer of 1864, he might have done more.

During Pennsylvania College's break that summer, an aid worked arrived on the outskirts of Petersburg, Virginia. "You will no doubt be surprised to receive a letter from me at this point," the correspondent opened. "I have been here for some days, among the wounded and the dying."

Martin Luther Stoever had seen suffering on a battlefield before. In the months after the battle at Gettysburg, Stoever moved from field hospital to field hospital, aiding the wounded and praying with the dying.

The letter in the Lutheran and Missionary noted all of the valorous shows of courage by the Federal soldiers as they suffered after the assault on the Weldon Railroad. TIn their sufferings, these men were, "showing the spirit of our noble soldiers who are willing to endure so much for the cause of freedom. It is a costly sacrifice. Many victims are required to secure the end. But it is only through tribulation, that great results are achieved."

Before the war, Martin Luther Stoever made a last ditch effort (as did many Americans) to stave off war. He signed a set of petitions from citizens of Adams County supporting compensated emancipation and forced colonization. America's sundry colonization societies were the most lackluster of abolitionist, believing that black shouldn't be slaves, but also shouldn't be Americans.

But something shifted for Stoever as the war dragged on.

In 1864, the correspondent to the Lutheran and Missionary noted he was, "very much interested in what I saw of our colored troops. They are noble, brave men, their hearts earnestly in the work, and many of them sincere Christians." One he met was from nearby Hagerstown, Maryland and knew some of the author's friends. When questioned whether he was afraid of battle, the black soldier responded resolutely, "No! God will take care of me. When I started in defence of my country I determined to stand by her till I died."

"This," M.L.S. noted, "is the spirit which I have seen exhibited by many of these men. God, in his wondrous providence, is doing marvellous things by means of this war... One of the results will be the elevation of the African race, in the confidence it has isnpired in themselves, in making them, as well as others, feel that they have capacities, that they are immortal beings, that they can accomplish something for the good of their fellowmen."

The following year, when Abraham Lincoln was murdered by a bloodthirsty zealot, Professor Stoever confessed in a eulogy to Lincoln that, "we must now admit, even if we did not before, that there is a barbarism in slavery."

Slavery, made incarnate in the rebellious Southern nation, had, "showed its real character in the various atrocities committed during the war, in the heartless treatment of our prisoners, in the brutal massacre of our colored troops, in plotting arson, in attempting to diffuse malignant disease, in commissioning its secret emissaries to burn and pillage our large towns and cities, in striking at every thing that opposed its progress and perpetuity, and crowned its wicked career in the perpetration of a crime unknown in our history," the murder of the President.

Stoever was quite clear on how America could best remember their fallen chieftan:
It is a duty, then, we owe to the memory of the illustrious dead, that this evil be utterly eradicated, that the letter and spirit of the Emancipation Proclamation, be fully acknowledged and faithfully executed; that domestic slavery be forever obliterated from American soil, that the great principles which underlie our Government be vigilantly guarded, that hereafter all, who live beneath the folds of the American flag, be protected in their inalienable rights and treated as freemen, and every human being occupy the position assigned him by his Creator."

Something made that historian's mind shift and change, morph and progress. Perhaps that something was a trip south in 1864, and an opportunity to see black men fighting valiantly for their nation, and kindly shake their hands.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

America's Pastime: Base Ball's Battlefields

Somewhere in a field just north of the Pennsylvania College campus, a hurler threw a ball to a striker. The air was undoubtedly crisp. Novembers in Gettysburg can be cool. The local papers were already predicting that the winter of 1865-66 would come on early and bitter. Standing on the bases, men readied to run home and score another point for their team.

Beneath their feet, the frosty ground certainly crinkled and cracked. The game was the last of the season between the Aurora Base Ball Club and the Gettysburg Base Ball Club. The bat swung, wood connected with leather, and the run was driven home.

On the horizon just to the west of campus loomed Oak Ridge, where Federal troops had stood against a North Carolinian tide. To the north rose Blocher's Knoll, recently renamed Barlow's Knoll after the young commander whose men had retreated off of the soft hill. Exactly two years earlier, the President had arrived in town and Gettysburg rejoiced all night long. Now that President was dead, the intractable war was over and a new struggle over civil rights was emerging.

But today all eyes were on the game. Strikes and misses were called by local attorney A.J. Cover. The game continued and the score mounted. In the 3rd inning, the Gettysburg Club bested the Aurora boys, students of Pennsylvania College, 3 runs to 2. Last week's game had been a rout; Aurora beat Gettysburg 55 runs to 40.

The local citizens intended to put up a fight against the college kids today.

If a stray foul ball rolled back toward the College Edifice it might have hit a few mounds of earth or a wooden board, remnants of the battle fought there just a couple years before.

Would it have knocked into the last earthly reminder of Lieutenant William Cornelius Austin? The Lieutenant marched into battle at Gettysburg alongside his men in the 18th Virginia. Austin was struck in the left knee and foot by enemy fire on July 3rd, 1863. He died shortly after and was lain beneath foreign Pennsylvania soil behind the college's main academic building.

Perhaps the ball would have rolled to a stop above the mouldering bones of Daniel Wilson Partin. The private took a round to the left arm, just above the elbow on July 3rd while fighting in the 14th Virginia. Sheltered in the College's halls of learning, Partin lingered until the 23rd of July when he breathed his last. A wood board was carved and placed at his head bearing simply the misspelled inscription "Porton."

The crusty November ground saw grounder after grounder, run after run pound across it. The townie Gettysburg club and the student-led Aurora club fought valiantly for nine solid innings.

South of town, work progressed on a massive monument to the battle and the nation's dead at the center of the National Cemetery. And in the nearby Evergreen Cemetery, frozen earth was moved by pick and shovel for even more sainted dead. Each week pine coffins arrived in town in rail cars, native sons making the last trip back to Gettysburg. The Monday after the fierce base ball contest was ended, just two days away, two more coffins would arrive. One held the body of Isaac Sheads, returning home sealed in a wooden crate, never again to rise.

Sheads met his fate at the battle of Cold Harbor on the outskirts of Richmond in June of 1864. The 49-year-old carriage-maker died fighting alongside his comrades in the 87th Pennsylvania. The cold ground would fold over his rotting corpse just a week after the base ball game.

Behind the College buildings, the Gettysburg Base Ball Club was fairing well, mainly because of one star player: Theodore C. Norris. Norris pitched a decent game, giving up only 12 runs (the previous week's pitcher had given up 40 runs).

But more importantly, Theodore Norris crossed home five times, never being tagged or caught out through the whole game.

Norris had only been back in Gettysburg for five months. In late June, he began a long journey northward from New Bern, NC. The 28-year-old Gettysburgian spent most of the war serving in the 87th Pennsylvania. At Cold Harbor in 1864, he helped lead his company into action. Lieutenant Norris survived to play base ball with his friends in Gettysburg; Sheads was killed and buried in some godforsaken tangle of brush in Virginia.

America was a land changed. Soldiers brought a new game back home, a game which would infect the American soul. Some of the scars of that war which had killed over 600,000 souls would fade. Some were more permanent. Base ball, it seemed, was one of those permanent reminders of the war.

The Gettysburg Base Ball Club and the Aurora Base Ball Club walked off the field after nearly 3 hours of combat. They knocked the frozen soil from their shoes. The students from the college had bested the team from the town in gentlemanly combat.

As they walked to their warm homes along Gettysburg's streets or cozy rooms inside the College Edifice, they left behind those frozen Confederate bodies beneath the campus' ground. Somewhere rolling north in a cold boxcar, Isaac Sheads' body wended its way home. South of town, a monument to the valiant men who perished on a hot July day stood frosty and incomplete.

America was a land forever changed; Gettysburg was a land forever changed.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Echoes on the Gettysburg Battlefield

Back at the beginning of the summer, I was asked by the College to write a piece on the history of the battle and its many resonances for what turned out to be an obscure periodical and not the actual USA Today. That means next to no one got the chance to read the piece, which I was quite happy with. So I wanted to share that piece with all of you.

How does Gettysburg's unique history echo backwards and forwards?

CC / Wikipedia
On the afternoon of July 1st, 1863, an artillery shell passed through the upper floor of Dr. Henry Huber’s house in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It sailed in to the brick wall, punching a clean hole near a window and shattering glass as down in the streets below Federal soldiers retreated from a horde of onrushing Confederates. Plaster fell to the floor inside the home. The shell kept flying, piercing another of Dr. Huber’s walls, driving back through another brick wall and sailing on its way. The Huber family saw war pass through their home in the guise of a steaming, speeding hunk of iron.

War changes landscapes. It is what war does first and foremost. Whether it is a beach in Normandy morphed from quiet seaside to hellish, pockmarked moonscape or a peaceful library reduced to jagged rubble in Sarajevo, war destroys. It destroyed a few bricks in a wall and some window glass for Dr. Henry Huber, local doctor and Pennsylvania College instructor, in 1863.

But war touches more than buildings. War touches people.

The Huber family had felt war before. Their son Frederick, a promising young man who hoped to be a doctor, was killed a year earlier fighting with the United States army at Fair Oaks on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia. “It is only when we see those who left us… returning with mangled form,” Huber wrote of his son, “or stricken down in the prime of life, that we can realize the horrors of our war.”

Gettysburg, at its heart, is the story of America. It is the story of who we are as a people and how we’ve moved through the rivers of time. Sometimes that tale is about sorrow, like that felt in Henry Huber’s parlor in 1862. Sometimes it is about joy, hope and opportunity. As with anywhere in our grand narrative, there are heroes, there are villains and there are those men and women who you can never quite categorize. Gettysburg seems like it is a place stuck in time, forever trapped in three days in July of 1863.

But it simply is not. Gettysburg is as much about who we are and where we are at today as it is about men suffering, fighting and dying in some godforsaken farm field one hundred and fifty years ago.

Just down the street from Henry Huber’s house, on the campus of Pennsylvania College (modern day Gettysburg College), president and professor Henry Louis Baugher felt war too. His son Nesbitt was wounded in spring of 1862 at Shiloh in Tennessee. The college president rushed to his son’s side, only to watch helplessly as his son took a turn for the worse, and now the, he later wrote, “the soldier is once more in the battle field, and it is his last.” Nesbitt Baugher died in May of 1862, and his father brought his body home to Gettysburg to be laid to rest.

Everywhere you turn in Gettysburg, you find these stories. They are the stories of people who lived through extraordinary times. Even without a massive battle that would see nearly 9,000 men killed and 30,000 men wounded, Gettysburg had seen suffering as the war entered its third year.

The landscape is maggoty with tales of heartache and sorrow, much as the bloody ground was maggoty in 1863 for entirely different reasons. And if you walk too far for too long across this battlefield or through this town, you will run into the ghosts of the past. This is not the hokum and humbug of the local cottage industry of ghost tours; this is finding the real people of the real past still echoing in this place. Your mind begins to paint them into the picture even without your asking.

Though it is long since demolished, the home of Jack Hopkins rises again in the imagination, a squat structure behind the imposing Pennsylvania Hall on the Gettysburg College’s campus. Hopkins was the college’s janitor. The joshing students loved their Jack, a character and fixture among the hundred or so young men who teemed across the campus when war broke out. They even called him, penned in neat letters in a yearbook, “our vice president.” A joke, of course, because the janitor could never be vice president of Pennsylvania College. A double joke because the students could never imagine an African-American man as vice president of their beloved alma mater, or anything for that matter. Hopkins’ skin became a target in the lingering months of spring 1863. As Lee’s army marched northward, they snapped up and sent south the free black population of southern Pennsylvania. Jack Hopkins and his family ran for their lives from the oncoming Confederate juggernaut and the prospect of spending a lifetime in slavery.

But it is not simply the ghosts of men like Hopkins or Baugher who haunt these fields. Other men and women linger here, impelled by the battle in their own era, but throwing stark light on its changing meanings for our eyes today.

From 1925, ghosts in white sheets march into our streets once again: the knights of the Ku Klux Klan, come to Gettysburg to rally and unite on the fields where just over 60 years before the best men of a generation of North Carolinians bashed their heads against a powerful United States army. If you squint hard enough, you can see their Model-T Fords chugging down the street into town, the words, “Klan to Gettysburg,” painted on the sides. You can also squint hard and imagine Harry Viener locking up his shop along York Street early on that Friday, heading home to celebrate Rosh Hashanah as the denizens of hate, against not only African Americans, but Jews and Catholics as well, streamed through his town’s streets.

That next day, September 19th, 1925, the streets were filled with white hoods, American flags and cheering throngs. One contingent of Klansmen stretched a flag across the street; spectators dug into their pockets and hurled dollar coins into the folds of Klan-lofted the red, white and blue to show their support. Near the edges of the crowd, some students from Gettysburg College scoffed. “Anyone who can stand by the avenue of Klan parades and watch docilely the stars and stripes used as a promiscuous coffer to catch coins,” one student later groaned, belonged, “to a land where national respect and self-respect are a grotesque hallucination.”

CC / Christopher Rice
In that field where the Klan met in 1925, just a few years later, another massive group of men and women gathered in that place again precisely because it was Gettysburg. The 75th anniversary of the battle brought thousands of veterans and their entourage to the small-but-noteworthy Pennsylvania burg. They were there to dedicate a new memorial, nestled at the crest of Oak Hill on the first day’s battlefield: the Eternal Light Peace Memorial.

But across the ocean in Europe and Asia in 1938, peace was anything but eternal. It was obvious to anyone paying attention that war had already been in progress for more than a year, with an invasion of China on one front and Hitler’s voracious hunger for Lebensraum in the other. America would need to once again defend freedom; even the most bumbling of politicians could see the pressing need.

In Gettysburg, they dedicated a monument that looked like it was ripped from Berlin’s recent Olympics, a monument to peace eternal in a land that knew quite clearly that eternal peace was not assured. President Franklin D. Roosevelt stood at a podium to accept that granite and limestone shaft topped with a gas flame, a monument atop Oak Hill where just a decade before the Klan had burned crosses in a rally of pure Americanism.

The President spoke of his own day, when, “a conflict as fundamental as Lincoln’s,” would be fought, “not with glint of steel, but with appeals to reason and justice on a thousand fronts.” In Europe, Hitler was making it quite obvious that words were not his tools of choice. And across Gettysburg College’s football field, Civil War veterans watched the latest military technology roll in a grand parade of military might and bombastic pomp. “We are near to winning this battle,” FDR told the crowd on that hill. But it would mean another 70 million open, festering graves like those that had been dug at Gettysburg to ensure a shaky peace at best.

But the stone shaft has a more important and powerful element than the flame at its top or the carved pseudo-Egyptian figures on its face. The foundation of the monument, the grading of the land it sits on, stands as a hidden monument all its own.

To plop the Eternal Light Peace Memorial on top of that hill meant grading a new roadbed, leveling off the slope and readying the plot for its new streamlined tower. And in the economic disaster that was America in the 1930s, this meant that the Civilian Conservation Corps was the prime candidate for the job.

The spirits of these workmen are just as palpable walking the fields surrounding Gettysburg, particularly near their camp at McMillian Woods along the former Confederate battle lines. Gettysburg’s CCC camp was quite unique within the service. Where other camps typically had leadership that was lilly white, regardless of the color of skin of the laborers who worked there, Gettysburg was one of only two places in America which had a CCC camp with both black labor and black leadership. The hands that leveled the ground for this new monument were black, the same color as the hands of the men and women over whose fate the Civil War had been fought.

The Civilian Conservation Corps did more than simply make room for new monuments. They made sure that the old ones survived for us to see today, perpetual landmarks on a landscape of carnage. No place is that landscape’s blood more palpable than in the National Cemetery perched atop Cemetery Hill, the key ground around which hinged the entire battle.

In the 1930s, frost and shifting earth had taken their toll, and the neat rows of adjacent headstones were a jagged and gap-toothed mess, unbecoming of a simple churchyard let alone the resting place of thousands who, “gave their lives that that nation might live.” The black workers of the Civilian Conservation Corps undertook the herculean task of hoisting each segment of headstone from its hole, regarding the ground beneath and leveling the stone once again above the sainted deads’ final repose. Black laborers who, in their work were honoring the men who in 1863 fought for the freedom of four million men and women with the same hue of skin.

It was not the first time that black labor had worked in between those neat rows of graves. The CCC laborers had the ghosts of their forbears right by their sides. As the blood was still drying on the field in the late months of summer 1863, plans were underway in town to create a cemetery to house all of the loyal sons who had died in the battle. Like all good Government contracts, the award went to the low bidder, who used local African-American men as his workmen. The black crew’s foreman Basil Biggs netted a small fortune from reburying the Federal dead through the fall and winter of 1863. For him and his fellow workers, each shovelful of dirt and rough pine box with its soldier’s identity nailed to the lid meant real, honest opportunity. These mens’ death literally offered Biggs the right to rise up the ladder of society; he went from poorer tenant farmer to honest-to-god property owner nearly overnight.

Just over the crest of the hill from where Biggs and his crew reburied the men who fell in the battle sits the town’s own burial ground, Evergreen Cemetery, from which Cemetery Hill garners its name. And in that graveyard lie the original cast of characters from the drama that was Gettysburg in the harrowing months after two armies descended on her streets.

In one neat grave is buried Michael Jacobs, mathematics and science professor at Pennsylvania College during the battle and meticulous 19th Century mind. Before Lee and Meade decided to duke it out around and through the streets of Gettysburg, Jacobs had exerted his painstaking nature to the recording of atmospheric conditions. As shots rang out in the streets, his fidelity to his thermometer was undeterred. At 2pm on July 1st, as the Eleventh Corps fought less than a mile from his house, Jacobs recorded that it was 76 degrees Fahrenheit, with cumulostratus clouds covering the whole sky. By 9pm, after the frantic retreat through town, a soft 12-mile-an-hour breeze blew from the south.

But after the battle, Jacobs set to work on another painstaking effort at recording the what and where. He became the first historian of the battle of Gettysburg, with the first published history of the sanguinary conflict. Working through J.P. Lippincott in nearby Philadelphia, the college professor was selling his history of the conflict by October of 1863, only months after rebel troops paraded in front of his home on Middle Street as they moved toward a beleaguered Federal army.

As he stood at the National Cemetery’s dedication on November 19th of that same year, Michael Jacobs’ heart must have swelled with pride as the day’s speaker, Edward Everett of Massachusetts, endorsed him and his book in his address. “The highly valuable ‘Notes’ of Professor Jacobs of the University in this place, to which I am greatly indebted,” Edward advised the crowd as he began to launch into an account of the battle, “will abundantly supply the deficiency of my necessarily too condensed statement.”

In that same cemetery where Jacobs now finds his eternal rest, another of Gettysburg’s citizens lays entombed. Under a broken gravestone, shattered and sad looking, lays the body of Frederick Huber, the promising young man who Dr. Huber and his family saw off to war, never to return. Frederick had studied at the college under Professor Jacobs. Now they lie together in the same churchyard, citizens of another, undiscovered town from whose bourn no traveller returns.

But even death could not protect the studious Huber. As he lay in eternal slumber in his grave in 1863, above his moldering face the boots of war trampled the ground. His comrades had come to his hometown; their enemies were here too. And sometime during that battle, as shot and shell plowed through the air and tore into flesh, an errant shell collided with the brittle marble of the young soldier’s gravestone. It shattered under the sheer power of that flying iron bolt.

Even in death, war is inescapable. It shapes who we truly are, who we’ve truly become and where we are truly headed. And at Gettysburg, that truth lingers around any corner you turn.