Commonwealth Speakers:The Civil War Era


The 22nd USCT regimental flag was designed by David Bustill Bowser who's featured in Four Black Pennsylvanians in the Civil War. Graphic courtesy of Library of Congress.

As the sesquicentennial of the Civil War approaches, it is appropriate that this category offers many different stories and perspectives on the era—ranging from an in-depth look at Lincoln, to black Civil War heroes, to the music of the era.

Abraham Lincoln: A Study in the Paradox of Greatness L
As the 150th anniversary of the Civil War moves into high gear, it seems appropriate to focus on Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln's contemporaries knew little about this relatively inexperienced candidate when he ran for president—and they had good reason to doubt his abilities. But, Lincoln became one of America's best known and most honored leaders. This presentation explores Lincoln's claim on posterity, which rests not just on his victory in the Civil War, but also on the unique combination of Lincoln's personal qualities, his historical context and the American imagination.

Equipment: PA sound system and podium.

Roger Lane, Haverford
Social Sciences Research Professor, Haverford College

Civil War Era Music F H L P
The trauma of the Civil War produced a tremendous amount of music as the nation mourned and sought relief from the death of over 600,000 Americans. Songs about soldiers' lives, domestic scenes, minstrel traditions and the fight to end slavery give us insight into what it was really like to live during that time. Performing on hammered dulcimer, button accordion, harmonica and banjo, Thomas Jolin shares Lincoln and Liberty, Battle Cry of Freedom, No More Auction Block and more. He also discusses the origins of the songs and the instruments. Audience participation is encouraged.

Equipment: Chair. PA sound system for audiences of 40 or more.

Thomas Jolin, Orrtanna
Musician. Instrument Maker

The Harriet Tubman Living History Experience F P
The most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman helped thousands of enslaved Africans to escape to freedom. Her life story is a monument to courage and fearless resolve. This living history performance depicts this 19th century icon by blending accounts of Tubman's life with an acute sense of Tubman's personal qualities—her emotional depth, profound spirituality and immense intelligence. Included are Negro spirituals sung by Tubman, often as coded messages designed to facilitate the guiding of her fugitives northward. At the conclusion of the portrayal, actor Millicent Sparks interacts with the audience, responding in character to questions about Tubman's life in slavery, the Underground Railroad and the Civil War.

Equipment: For large spaces, lapel microphone.

Millicent Sparks, Philadelphia
Actor. CEO, Millicent Sparks Productions

Homegrown Heroes: Pennsylvania Communities in the Civil War F L P
Heroes don't always wear uniforms. Actor-storyteller Steven Anderson shares remarkable true stories of the Civil War as experienced by civilians who found themselves in harm's way. How did people just like you react when their neighborhood became a battleground? How did the ideas and concerns that matter to you play out in Gettysburg, along the Underground Railroad and throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania? You might even hear Civil War stories that are rooted right in your own backyard. This classic American storytelling is performed in 19th century garb and invites audience participation and the use of the imagination.

Equipment: No equipment needed.

Steven Anderson, Lemoyne
Living History Interpreter, Pennsylvania Past Players

Meet General George G. Meade F H L P
Using Meade's own words and extensive background research, Anthony Waskie, speaking as General Meade, recounts the general's career and services to the nation. From his work as an engineer and lighthouse builder, to combat in the Seminole and Mexican Wars, to his assuming command of the Union Army on the eve of the Battle of Gettysburg (where he handed Lee his first defeat), Meade was integral to the survival of the Union. Not only successful in war, Meade also designed Philadelphia's Fairmount Park, founded two schools for orphans of Civil War veterans and helped integrate surviving veterans back into peaceful pursuits. Audiences are encourage to ask the "General" questions about his life and work.

Equipment: No equipment needed.

Anthony Waskie, Philadelphia
Assistant Professor, Temple University

Nursing in a Civil War Field Hospital L
This interactive lecture depicts life in field hospitals as seen through the eyes of Anna Morris Holstein, a nurse and a matron during the Civil War. Smadar Shtuhl uses Holstein's viewpoint to demonstrate how gender and racial assumptions were compromised to answer the demands of a major conflict. While listening to excerpts from Holstein's diary, audiences are introduced to society's expectations of women in mid 19th-century America and to Holstein's personal struggles with male physicians. Audiences also learn how whites like Holstein handled their racial attitudes towards black soldiers during this turbulent time.

Equipment: Podium. If possible, laptop computer (with PowerPoint installed), projector and screen. PA sounds system needed for large spaces.

Smadar Shtuhl, King of Prussia

Key to Presentations
F Family/Younger Audiences
H Hands-on/Active Participation
L Lectures
P Performances
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