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A ",field_main_title:"good place to focus on the human cost and agony: the interpretation of violence and trauma at Gettysburg National Military Park

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This thesis examines the evolution of the interpretation of the battle of Gettysburg, as well as how the analysis and presentation of the battle by multiple stakeholders have affected the

This thesis examines the evolution of the interpretation of the battle of Gettysburg, as well as how the analysis and presentation of the battle by multiple stakeholders have affected the public's understanding of the violence of the engagement and subsequently its understanding of the war's repercussions. While multiple components of the visitor experience are examined throughout this thesis, the majority of analysis focuses on the interpretive wayside signs that dot the landscape throughout the Gettysburg National Military Park. These wayside signs are the creation of the Park Service, and while they are not strictly interpretive in nature, they remain an extremely visible component of the visitor's park experience. As such, they are an important reflection of the interpretive priorities of the Park Service, an agency which is likely the dominant public history entity shaping understanding of the American Civil War. Memory at Gettysburg in the first decades after the battle largely sought to focus on celebratory accounts of the clash that praised the valor of all white combatants as a means of bringing about resolution between the two sides. By focusing on triumphant memories of martial valor in a conflict fought over ambiguous reasons, veterans and the public at large neglected unsettling and difficult conversations. These avoided discussions primarily concerned what the war had really accomplished aside from preserving the Union, as white Americans appeared unwilling to confront the war's abolitionist legacy. Additionally, they avoided discussion of the horrific levels of violence that the war had truly required of its combatants. Reconciliationist memories of the conflict that did not discuss the violence and trauma of combat were thus incorporated into early interpretations of Civil War battlefields, and continued to hinder understanding of the true savagery of combat into the present. This thesis focuses on the presence (or lack thereof) of violence and trauma in the wayside interpretive signage at Gettysburg, and argues that a more active interpretation of the war's remarkably violent and traumatic legacies can assist in dislodging a faulty legacy of reconciliationist remembrance that continues to permeate public memory of the Civil War.

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Date Created
  • 2013

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Alternative slaveries and American democracy: debt bondage and Indian captivity in the Civil War era Southwest

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This dissertation analyzes two regional systems of involuntary servitude (Indian captive slavery and Mexican debt peonage) over a period spanning roughly two centuries. Following a chronological framework, it examines the

This dissertation analyzes two regional systems of involuntary servitude (Indian captive slavery and Mexican debt peonage) over a period spanning roughly two centuries. Following a chronological framework, it examines the development of captive slavery in the Southwest beginning in the early 1700s and lasting through the mid-1800s, by which time debt peonage emerged as a secondary form of coerced servitude that augmented Indian slavery in order to meet increasing demand for labor. While both peonage and captive slavery had an indelible impact on cultural and social systems in the Southwest, this dissertation places those two labor systems within the context of North American slavery and sectional agitation during the antebellum period. The existence of debt bondage and Indian captivity in New Mexico had a significant impact on America's judicial and political institutions during the Reconstruction era.

Debt peonage and Indian slavery had a lasting influence on American politics during the period 1846 to 1867, forcing lawmakers to acknowledge the fact that slavery existed in many forms. Following the Civil War, legislators realized that the Thirteenth Amendment did not cast a wide enough net, because peonage and captive slavery were represented as voluntary in nature and remained commonplace throughout New Mexico. When Congress passed a measure in 1867 explicitly outlawing peonage and captive slavery in New Mexico, they implicitly acknowledged the shortcomings of the Thirteenth Amendment. The preexistence of peonage and Indian slavery in the Southwest inculcated a broader understanding of involuntary labor in post-Civil War America and helped to expand political and judicial philosophy regarding free labor. These two systems played a crucial role in America's transition from free to unfree labor in the mid-1800s and contributed to the judicial and political frameworks that undermined slavery.

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Date Created
  • 2016