The Triangle - The Independent Student Newspaper at Drexel University

Civil War anniversary celebrated

University of Florida professor J. Matthew Gallman gave a public lecture at Drexel April 12, in recognition of the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.

The lecture, which was held at the Mitchell Auditorium, noted the Confederacy’s attack on Fort Sumter, which began the Civil War. At the event, Gallman described what Philadelphians experienced during this period in time.

Gallman discussed a bevy of topics relating Philadelphia and the Civil War, including organized labor during the secession crisis and the Eighth United States Colored Troops. He also discussed a few notable people, including Silas Weir Mitchell, the Ingersolls, the Smedleys and Anna Dickinson. The lecture was followed by a question and answer segment.

Gallman described his extensive research regarding the Civil War. He previously wrote two books, “What Answer?” about Anna Dickinson and “Mastering Wartime: A Social History of Philadelphia during the Civil War.” In his books he provides a detailed overview of what it was like in Philadelphia during the Civil War, along with an analysis of events and experiences, based on the accounts of Philly residents in 1860. This information was based on diaries and accounts written by residents of 1860s Philadelphia.

Drexel professor Kathryn Steen was the primary faculty member of the event, facilitating the logistics of booking Gallman. For her, the Florida professor was a good speaker to bring in for a lecture because of his books, his familiarity with the city and the significance of his name being very recognizable in the historical community.

“He was an obvious first choice,” Steen said of the decision.

For the anniversary, Steen wanted to take advantage of one of Drexel’s best resources, the city of Philadelphia.

“Philadelphia was an important component of the Civil War, [so we wanted to] use the city as a laboratory,” Steen said.

Steen seeks to establish more of a connection between Drexel, Philadelphia and the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. A historian of technology and business, she taught a special topics Civil War course in fall 2009, which focused on technology. The technology that existed in the Civil War further emphasized the connection between the city, the University and the Civil War.

As Donna Murasko, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, explained, “Philadelphia was a hot bed for technology, just like Drexel is with technology.”

Drexel, much like the rest of Philadelphia, has put together a series of items and productions as part of the anniversary recognition, and the lecture was the official launch event, as it falls on the 150th anniversary of the war’s beginning.

Among the other items that are being put together for the anniversary is a Civil War music CD, which was a collaboration by students in the history, music and music industry programs and was funded by Murasko. The two-disk CD contains a combination of some of the more popular, well-known songs like “The Star Spangled Banner,” as well as some more obscure Philadelphia-based songs, which were all performed by Drexel music students. Disk one contains 14 songs, performed as they would have been in the early 1860s, while the second disk contains the same songs interpreted and performed by music industry students for a more modern twist.

A 16-page insert about the history is included in the collection, which was produced by history students. Hannah Bennett, a history and political science major who led the project, began working on the CD last summer. The disk is available in the Drexel bookstore, and there will be a CD release party Monday, April 25, from 6 p.m – 8 p.m. at 3401 Filbert St. open to the community. Copies will be available for sale and student musicians from the CD will perform.

Students interested in learning more about the Civil War can expect more courses to be offered over the next four years, as the anniversary of the four-year war continues. These courses will extend beyond the Department of History and Politics alone. Any students and members of the community interested in suggesting Civil War-related events may discuss them with Steen.

There are many upcoming Civil War events in the city and state, including a Muster and Parade of United States armed forces April 16, at 5th and 6th streets between Arch and Race streets. For a list of more events visit www.pacivilwar150.com for state events, including many in Philadelphia and www.civilwarphilly.net for events in Philadelphia.

Drexel will soon have a website listing all of the University’s events and projects. Look for more Civil War anniversary events in summer 2013, when the city and state will remember the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.