Monday, April 5, 2010

"These Disastrous Times" - Hobart College and the Civil War

While I am partial to the epic (and I do mean epic!) story of the University of Notre Dame in the American Civil War, it is by no means the only college with a great Civil War story. Indeed, some have preserved and published their own stories, such as Elsworth Eliot's Yale in the Civil War (1932) , G. Wallace Chessman's Ohio Colleges in the Civil War (1963), or Richard Miller's recent and award-winning Harvard's Civil War (2005). Other college Civil War narratives can be found in general school histories.

One of the best wartime histories I've seen is contained in the blog: "Abner Jackson Journal, 1858-67."

Jackson was the president of historic Hobart College in Geneva, NY, during those years - including the war years - and he kept a private journal. A combination of faculty, students, college archivists, and the local historical society transcribed the journal, posted it on the blog over the course of a few years (2006-9), and added photographs.

The blog accounts for the war years include some great material and gives a glimpse at some of the challenges that faced many institutions of higher education (including Notre Dame!) in those tumultuous years:

Anxiety about the impending war - "...we seem on the eve of realizing a great forward movement in the history of the College unless these disastrous times prevent, which may God in mercy forbid." - March 20, 1861

Debates among the students - "My class debated before me – Should England avoid interfering in our present troubles? Graves spoke fifty-five minutes; rose spoke long and well." - November 14, 1861

Students demand a day off to celebrate Union victories (I LOVE this one!): "Faculty meeting at ten to consider the petition of the students to get off from recitation and make a holiday of to-day and illuminate the College to-night on account of the news of the capture of Fort Donelson and fifteen thousand prisoners. Refused. First, because a leading object was conceived to be to get off from recitations; second, because we should expect other victories and other like requests. Faculty unanimous." - February 18, 1862

And Many More Great Wartime Entries!

Let's hope other colleges and universities share their own heritage in such a great and accessible way!