We’re pleased to welcome another great historian to our ranks here at Emerging Civil War: Phill Greewalt.
Phill currently works as an NPS historian at George Washington Birthplace, but he has roots in Civil War history. His particular interest is in the role played by his home state of Maryland in the war—which can sometimes give poor Phill an identity crisis—but his many, many hours battlefielding have led to a breadth of interest and some great insights. We’re glad to have him with us.
We’ll let Phill introduce himself….
This may sound cliché, but I was hooked on my first trip to a battlefield. My father took me to Antietam National Battlefield and to a reenactment that was being held on lands near that hallowed ground. I watched the entire reenactment, the infantry charging, the cavalry horses, and the explosions of the canons. I was transfixed.
Between the bonding with my father and the events of that day, an interest was born in me and I have been an enthusiast in the American Civil War ever since. From the battlefields near where I grew up in Baltimore, the war’s bloodiest battles were fought—Antietam, Gettysburg, Manassas—were all within a short drive away.
After I took the internship with the National Park Service at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, I came into contact with the diaries and other primary sources left from soldiers that fought and civilians that survived. From the photographs—the first war to use this new-fangled technology—these people looked like me. I wanted to know more about these ordinary people who did extraordinary things, like serving for a cause you wholeheartedly believed in and suffering numerous experiences of loss, destruction, and continually facing death. Yet these men persevered and continued to serve and believe, whether for an independent Confederacy or a reunited United States, their commitment and sacrifices still awe me.
That is the one theme that I want to bring into this blog and help share, the stories of the common soldiers and civilians and their roles in this bloody four-year conflict. The men in the ranks served through hellish conditions, shortages of food, clothing, and any other comfort, yet persevered and deserve our recognition (and hopefully we can learn something from them to help us here in the present). The civilians who suffered on the home front yet stayed strong and committed—these people were like us and their stories are worth their weight in gold and deserve to be retold, too. Their accounts make the battles more understandable, the social and political realms more clear, and the history more relevant.