What I learned at the Spring Symposium 

Our Spring Symposium scholarship recipient was Shepherd University Freshman, Hayden Kreitzer. Here is he’s recap of the Symposium.

            I would consider myself comparatively well versed in American History, but not particularly the Civil War. The conflict was, in most teachings in my school, dully and sometimes inaccurately summarized: The South had the better generals and the North had more people and an industrialized workforce. They fought for a while and then Gettysburg happened, and the Union won with some other non-important events and battles happening in between then and Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House. That was the incredibly basic interpretation that I had heard for years and because of that, the Civil War never really peaked my interest like the later conflicts that have come to dominate the American History Curriculum. However, being not only a History Student but also Shepherd University History student, I figured it would be important for me to attend the Spring Symposium and learn more (or the actuality) of the Civil War, particularly Lee’s ill-fated Maryland Campaign of 1862.


Kevin Pawlak

  I will admit: I thought this event would be boring. While I did display much enthusiasm the previous day at the Shepherdstown Battlefield Walk, I had lost much of that the night before following a fundraiser for Relay for Life. Despite that, I  made a promise to myself that my personal tiredness wouldn’t get in the way of me paying attention to the speakers. I toughened out and figured I would be correct but I wasn’t. Instead, I found myself entrenched in Kevin Pawlak’s speech. Pawlak is a very, very knowledgeable man who gave an enticing view on the days following Antietam. While Pawlak is still a great speaker, I feel the subject matter was also interesting. The climax of a battle is discussed but not usually the aftermath. I also learned of the  plan of Robert E Lee to take Martinsburg and then cross a captured bridgehead into Hagerstown. Antietam may have marked the end of Lee’s campaign but he still had some fight in him. This is contrasted by the thousands of dead and wounded men and the various skirmishes happening all around the battlefield. The front lines were still up and running, and the chance of dying was still very high. Lee’s army was just defeated and the aftermath further proved this. On top of that, command was seemingly nonexistent with troops scattered all around, wandering aimlessly. It got so bad that some of these men were practically forced back into the army. Morale on the Union side wasn’t much better, for as they had won a victory, they had done so at a massive cost.  There’s a reason why Antietam is so infamous.

Dr. James Broomall

            Wartime politics are always interesting but overlooked, and I’m glad that a man like Dr Broomall would be able to make the topic interesting. It seems crazy to some that Lincoln, arguably one of the most revered Presidents, was actually quite disliked and contended even in the North. From the perspective of many Northern citizens, the war was going south (no pun inteneded). The Democratic Party in 1862 was gaining a foothold in many offices in the North much to the dismay of Lincoln. Lincoln, meanwhile, became less and less favorably viewed by the press. These opinions would be further validated when Southern-sympathizing newspapers were being shut down. In short, 1862 looked to be a disastrous year for Lincoln and if things were continuing the way they had, he probably would’ve lost re-election. Like the rest of the talks, Antietam is the main vocal point. This victory would provide support for Lincoln and help in the later elections, although many would remain skeptical of Lincoln. In fact, his first 18 months of presidency were described as a “warming up” period by some scholars, which explains Lincoln’s early ineptness. He was an unknown who had won with less than 40 percent of the popular vote and he was in charge of a nation that was seemingly destroying itself. He was already unpopular and was becoming so as the war progressed. Antietam would be a remedy, but it wouldn’t be a cure. It wouldn’t be until later in the war that Lincoln would become the almost mythical figure we see him today.

Jess Rowley

            The struggle for Freedom and Emancipation for many African Americans during the war was often overlooked. I feel that Rowley does a great job at explaining the reasoning behind the emancipation and how it directly came from Antietam. Onto the actual conflict itself,  Lincoln’s perspective was from a goal of preserving the Union. This would make sense, given how the majority of the North weren’t exactly ardent abolitionists. Why would they be? They figured that if slavery was abolished, the enslaved African Americans would just go up North and compete for jobs. For as much of a blight as slavery may have been in the eyes of some Northerners, it was not the chief issue amongst the general populations, and Lincoln would have to set aside his personal narrative just to maintain order in the Union. Lincoln was already losing popularity in the Northern states, so it would be political suicide for Lincoln to begin emancipation. Instead, he would need a great victory that would not only justify the war, but also Lincoln’s own personal ambition. A victory that would not only change the course of the war, but also the course of history. Lincoln wouldn’t have to wait long, as this victory would eventually come in Antietam. The justification given at Antietam shifted focus from an individual attack on slavery to an attack on the Institution as a whole, as stated by Rowley. It was through this attack that Lincoln would be known for and so revered in the eyes of future generations.

Dr. Tom Clemens

            Logistics have always been an important albeit overlooked part of war. The logistics and the statistics make everything possible for an army, from the troops to the horses. For as seemingly boring as they are, they can be quite interesting in certain contexts like this lecture. Given by Dr Tom Clemens, the talk provided a greater insight into the sheer size and complexity of the Union Army. The movement of supplies behind the front lines and the civilian war effort can not be underestimated. In Clemens’s speech, he lists numerous examples of ingenuity on the behalf of the Union Army. For example, the shipment and the usage of the railroads to move supplies from DC to Harrisburg and then from Harrisburg to Maryland in the course of a day seemed nigh impossible. Despite that, the Union Army managed to do so. On top of that, McClellan had a fighting force of an estimated 72,199 people (brought to you by Hartwig ironically) in comparison to the 37,600 Confederates, also estimated by Hartwig. What I also found interesting was the fact that many first person testimonies weren’t accurate to the actual size of the armies. When both armies would march through the small villages, many of the villagers would over or underestimate the actual size of the armies. When you have never seen more than a thousand people gathered, they are not going to have any way to gauge the actual size of the army. This helped McClellan oddly enough, who seemingly had a habit of overestimating the size of the opposing forces (on top of general indecisiveness). So, the Union had already won the logistics game and had a clear advantage over the Confederates, although you would’ve never had guessed that by the carnage displayed following the battle.

D. Scott Hartwig

Suffice to say, war is hell. Ironically quoted by Sherman, this can still nonetheless apply to the Army of Northern Virginia following Antietam. Downtrodden, depressed, and broke. This talk given by Scott Hartwig encapsulates the misery of Lee’s army.  Even before the battle, Lee had to reduce the number of troops who would engage in Antietam because many of them simply didn’t have boots to make the march. Lee was already at a size disadvantage despite McClellan’s false estimates, and the plan to scavenge food wasn’t as well thought out as previously believed. So, you ended up with a hungry and under-clothed army. Too ragged for battle, but ragged enough for Antietam. I also noted how the Confederates were portrayed differently than how many would imagine them. It seems to be the common view that many of the Confederates were hesitant to invade the Union. Besides, this was a war about protecting the motherland from invasion, no? Instead, the Confederates are almost gleeful that they are heading North and expected the local population of Maryland to welcome them. They would soon find out what the campaign was really about. Of course, the rest is history and Lee is unable to progress past Antietam due to a wide array of reasons. He fails, puts into motion a plan to take Hagerstown which is halted by the Union advance previously discussed. In short, it was a failure of large proportions and this failure served as a cooling period for Lee and his now demoralized troops. Unfortunately, they weren’t quite done and Lee would later find himself in Pennsylvania where like in Maryland, he would be repelled.

In short, I would say these talks were highly knowledgeable and expertly articulated. I will admit that I did feel out of place given my younger age, but I found the people there to be welcoming. I enjoyed the talks and all of the speakers. I would like to thank all of them, and I was also like to think those who attended the Symposium. Overall, I am just highly grateful for the chance to be invited to such a wonderful event. The talks were a resounding success, unlike the Confederate war effort.

Our youngest member, David Hsueh a college student in California
with Hayden Kreitzer.

Hayden Kreitzer is a Public History and Historic Preservation student at Shepherd University. He has a strong interest in History and would love to work within his degree and looks forward to doing an internship during his time at Shepherd. Hayden hales from Charleston, WV where he graduated Charleston Catholic High School.

Hayden stands on the porch of the farmhouse where Robert E. Lee got his horse, Traveler in Greenbrier County, West Virginia.