One hundred and fifty-one years ago, Union and Confederate soldiers converged on farmland outside of Gettysburg, Adams County, for what historians would later call the “turning point” of the American Civil War.
Recently, Clarks Green resident Barry Phillips was chosen to participate in a National Endowment for the Humanities-funded workshop designed to bring the causes, effects and outcomes of the Battle of Gettysburg to life.
“On Hallowed Ground: Gettysburg in History and Memory” is a part of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ “Landmarks of American History and Culture” initiative. The program is a series of one-week residence-based workshops for a national audience of K-12 educators, taking place in a variety of locations significant to the study of American history, such as sites of the American Revolution, the American Civil War and the War of 1812.
“They try to emphasize a lot of content in conjunction with the teachers primarily doing the methodology,” Phillips said. “It is meant to help teachers deepen their understanding and broaden their awareness of how history can be used in schools.”
In conjunction with site visits, the participants also had the opportunity to listen to lectures from well-known Civil War scholars, which, as Phillips said, helped change his perspective on the event.
“I probably have a strong states’ rights viewpoint, but this experience suggested more to me on the civil rights aspect,” he said. “There seems to be primary sources that would affirm the idea that some of the leaders of the African-American community consciously did some activities that prompted the Civil War from a political viewpoint, like John Brown’s Raid. The idea was that the raids like that were to enhance the tension that was in the country at that time. It was interesting to grapple with those ideas.”
Phillips also said that getting the chance to interact with participants from across the country — many of whom were from southern states or states where Civil War battles weren’t fought — also helped broaden his perspective.
“The participants were from all over, like California, Nevada, North and South Carolina; there were only two or three from Pennsylvania,” he said. “The people I met from Minnesota had a more northern perspective, while the people from Texas and South Carolina had a more southern perspective. Each brought their own understanding of the Civil War to the setting and then many would have had their preconceived ideas challenged in some ways, as mine were.”
“Most of the teachers were really open, you didn’t get the feeling by the end that someone was hanging on to a preconceived idea as understood by the opposing viewpoint,” he continued. “There was a lot of collegiality in the group.”
The National Endowment for the Humanities runs workshops of varying lengths throughout the year. Applications for next summer’s “On Hallowed Ground: Gettysburg in History and Memory” workshop will be accepted until Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015. For more information, visit gettysburgneh.org.