Symposium Spotlight: An Overview of Turning Points


Dunkerly@Podiumby ECW correspondent Lucas Sperduti

Historian and award-winning author Robert M. Dunkerly will start off the 2018 Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge as the first speaker to take the stage.

Dunkerly holds a degree in history from St. Vincent College and a Masters in Historic Preservation from Middle Tennessee State University. “I always liked history. I could read it and understand it. The books just felt right,” said Dunkerly. 

In school, history was his favorite subject. Dunkerly knew that was going to be his career path, he just wasn’t sure how to make that a reality heading into college. Teaching was something that never really appealed to him. “I just knew I didn’t want to be in a classroom,” Dunkerly said.

As a senior in college, Dunkerly took road trips with some of his friends to historical sites in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. They specifically went to a few national parks. “National parks have some of the best historical sites,” Dunkerly said. “That’s when I realized, that was what I wanted to do.”

After graduation, Dunkerly was “full in” on being a historian and working as a Park Ranger at historical sites. Currently, he is a Park Ranger at Richmond National Battlefield, but in his career, he has worked at nine historical sites and visited over 400 battlefields and 1,000 historical sites worldwide. He’s written nine books and more than 20 articles, and his research interests includes archeology, colonial life, military history and historic commemoration.

Dunkerly takes pride in his work as an active participant in historical preservation and research. Sometimes the lack of information or sources can make historical research challenging. Other times, it’s just the opposite. “There might be so many accounts or so many records that it can sometimes be impossible to sort through it all,” said Dunkerly.

The theme for the 2018 ECW Symposium is Turning Points. As the first speaker, Dunkerly will present an overview of turning points of the Civil War.

“People tend to gravitate towards turning points because they help make sense of what happened,” he said.

His opening presentation will focus on many intertwined events that played a huge impact on the Civil War. Dunkerly will also look at the military’s impact away from the battlefield. While battles are important, Dunkerly said, his presentation will pay closer attention to political events, social changes and economic fluctuations. “One thing influences the other, and they all play into how something happened,” Dunkerly said.

The Turning Points theme will offer a different perspective than traditional topics and even more room for educational debates.

“Sometimes it’s fun to hear what other people have studied and also things you might not have considered,” said Dunkerly. “A good historian changes his opinion from time to time. That’s how you learn,” he added.

“Hopefully I can offer something unique for the people.”


The Fifth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge will be held August 3-5, 2018, in Spotsylvania, Virginia. Tickets, $155 each, are available here.

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