Of the many challenges one faces as a National Park Battlefield intern, preparing and delivering tours is certainly the most daunting. The process involves research, lots of writing, and finally the presentation. I would have thought that by now – having just completed my sixth tour outline – I would have the process down pat. Unfortunately I do not. Tour development is not an art one can master; each experience is completely unique (and a little nerve wracking). Still, the process is undeniably rewardable and serves as a learning experience for both tour guide and guest.
I didn’t think twice when I found out my internship at Stones River would include writing up to five tour outlines. Not only had I done this plenty of times before, but I also have considerable experience writing public history programs and interpretations during my two years as a graduate student. I was in for a surprise when I started researching for the first tour. I had forgotten just how much time and effort is involved…which brings me to the realization that, with nearly three quarters of the summer gone, I have only three tours finished.
Research, Research, Research
The single most difficult aspect of tour writing is creating a “flow” that visitors will be able to follow and understand. While you may be an expert on a certain battle, it is the overall tour concept that makes a successful tour. In other words, knowing the facts of a battle is one thing; knowing how to convey that story to the public is another beast entirely. Interns are not experts. Heck, even our bosses can rarely be called experts on Civil War history. Yet visitors come in every day and expect everyone at the part to be an expert. My many internships have taught me that it’s okay to say “I don’t know.” While I certainly wouldn’t want to disappoint a visitor, a single person cannot have all the answers. Continue reading
This first edition of Grant’s memoirs is on display at Grant’s Tomb in NYC.
Part two of two comes from my “author’s note” in Grant’s Last Battle: The Story Behind The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant.
As kids, my brother and I had a poster of the presidents on the closet door in our bedroom. My brother picked Lincoln as his favorite. I picked Ulysses S. Grant. I liked how grand the name sounded, and I knew he smoked cigars, which also seemed grand. That was about the extent of my knowledge.
My first real introduction to Grant came as it did for Robert E. Lee: in the Wilderness of central Virginia. There, I learned about the “dust-covered man” who had vowed that there would be no turning back. I have since spent a great deal of time on that battlefield, as well as the ones at Spotsylvania and North Anna, sharing stories of Grant’s time in the east. I have also visited the sites of his major battles out west. I have come to admire him a great deal. Continue reading
Back in the 1990s when I was a starving graduate student, I had the good fortune to spend some time with Professor Merrill Peterson who was recently retired from the University of Virginia. I was working on a seminar paper on American historiography and had chosen Peterson’s work as the subject. I chose him because one of his books had played a significant role in my decision to become a professional historian – The Great Triumvirate: Webster, Clay, and Calhoun (1987). As I explored Peterson’s published works, I became a bigger and bigger devotee. Among the many wonderful books he authored were two that examined how individuals were remembered in American culture: The Jefferson Image in the American Mind (1960) and Lincoln in American Memory (1994). Though the two were written more than thirty years apart, they quickly secured a hold on imagination and nearly derailed my project because I could not put them away. I was transfixed by Peterson’s study of how America used and abused the reputations of Jefferson and Lincoln. Over and over I read these words: Continue reading
The clock at Grant Cottage still reads 8:08—the time of Ulysses S. Grant’s death on the morning of July 23, 1885.
Having worked so much at the Wilderness, I don’t buy into that whole “Gettysburg as the turning point of the Civil War” nonsense. Aside from that premise, though, there’s little negative to say about Chris Brenneman and Sue Boardman’s stunning new book The Gettysburg Cyclorama: The Turning Point of the Civil War on Canvas.
Published by Savas Beatie, LLC, as an over-sized 8.5 x 11 hardcover, this book is a full-color Cadillac: more than 400 photos printed on glossy paper, accompanied by detailed text, exploring a fascinating subject. The book is as handsome as it is interesting. Continue reading
Revolutionary War Wednesday and Emerging Revolutionary War is pleased to welcome guest historian Mark Maloy this week.
African-Americans fought for the Americans during the Revolutionary War, right? Many of us remember learning about Crispus Attucks dying during the Boston Massacre or have heard the oft-repeated saying that the Continental Army was the last integrated American army until the Korean War.
In this lithograph published in 1855, Crispus Attucks is portrayed front and center. Crispus Attucks was lauded as the first martyr in the War for Independence much from the insistence of abolitionists like William C. Nell. A Crispus Attucks Day was created in Boston in 1858 and a memorial placed for him and the other victims on Boston Common after the Civil War. Despite all this, according to John Adams (who defended the British soldiers in court), Attucks was a rabble-rouser who actually helped precipitate the massacre.
Posted in Emerging Civil War, Memory, National Park Service, Revolutionary War, Slavery
Tagged African Americans, American Revolution, Boston, Bunker Hill, Colored Patriots of the American Revolution, Crispus Attucks, Death of General Warren, Emanuel Leutze, Ethopian Regiment, Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, George Washington, John Trumbull, Korean War, Mark Maloy, Patriots, Washington Crossing the Delaware, William C. Nell