Over the summer, I had the joy of working with the Nau Center for Civil War History at UVA on the Letters Home digital history project. The John L. Nau III Civil War History Collection, housed in UVA’s Special Collections Library, contains thousands of letters, diaries, and photographs from the Civil War era. The Letters Home project will make this material more accessible to scholars around the world. It will include transcriptions of the documents along with interactive maps and biographies of the soldiers and their families.
Caroline Janney's blog
My name is Hannah Fleming. I am a 4th year undergraduate student studying history with a concentration in War, Violence, and Society at the University of Virginia. I have always been interested in military history, and my time at the University of Virginia has fostered a deep passion for Civil War history. I became involved with the Nau Civil War Center after taking a course on the Civil War and Reconstruction with the Nau Center’s director, Dr. Caroline Janney, that motivated me to pursue research outside of the classroom.
My name is Jacob Phillips, I’m a third-year history major at the University of Virginia, and I spent this summer as a Nau Center intern at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. The time I spent at the park gave me a personal insight into the world of public history and connected me with amazing historians and fellow interns that I otherwise would never have met. Working at a Civil War battlefield also gave me the opportunity to be physically present at critical national landmarks and immerse myself in the study of the war.
My name is Greyson Bettendorf, and I am a fourth-year student majoring in History and Psychology at UVA. This summer, I had the great opportunity to work as a Nau Center intern at Manassas National Battlefield Park, the site of the first major land battle of the American Civil War. The 5,000 acre park tells the story of both the First and Second Battles of Manassas and of the people who once lived in the area. My time at the park allowed me to dive into many different aspects of the National Park Service and public history.
I am, first and foremost, a storyteller. It perplexes me that some people can’t seem to comprehend my love for both history and theatre when they share so many similarities. Both ask questions, study behavior, and seek the truth: importantly, both are in the business of people.
History and theatre tell us who we are and why it matters. They tell stories with purpose.
Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, surrounded by rolling green hills and dense foliage, was the ideal location for a second-year graduate student such as myself to spend her summer. This Nau Center internship provided the opportunity to work hands-on with the history of the surrender meeting between Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee. By caring for the artifacts and documents associated with the meeting and the landscape on which it occurred, I helped to ensure their longevity for future generations.
My name is Riley Fay, and I am a rising third-year at UVA majoring in History and Political & Social Thought. I spent my summer in Charlottesville this year, and although it might seem like I did not travel far for my internship, I found myself transported through time more often than I expected.
The seventy-five square miles that comprise the Wilderness guided a heavy hand over three of the four years of America’s Civil War. Between 1862 and 1864, turmoil was commonplace from the banks of the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg, west to Wilderness Tavern, and beyond. The battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Courthouse resulted in more than one-hundred thousand casualties. Thousands of young men were ripped from the Earth, the mortality of mankind soberingly looming long after the last shots of these battles had been fired.
This summer was an atypical one. I decided to take a unique opportunity to receive some direct experience with my major. After my second year at UVA, I spent the summer working as an intern at Antietam National Battlefield. It was an unusual summer for the park, as they were finishing an $8 million renovation to update their visitor center, forcing all their operations into a temporary visitor center for most of my time there. There was also the periodic influx of smoke due to the Canada wildfires that sometimes put a dense haze over the landscape and trickled into my lungs as I worked.
Histories and memories of the Civil War often exclude the region of Southwest Virginia, including my hometown of Roanoke. Because many of the war’s most significant battles occurred in Northern Virginia and around Richmond, the lack of emphasis historians place on Southwest Virginia is unsurprising. Many residents, however, still celebrate their Confederate history with pride. Some tout Confederate flags in their homes, on their trucks, and on their clothing, repeating the phrase “it’s my ancestry” to those who take offense.