In 1981, military historian Richard H. Kohn argued for a new appreciation of the social history of the American soldier. The House Divided Project at Dickinson College has launched various efforts in recent years to help convey some of the social history of Civil War soldiers, both Union and Confederate.
We have featured the story of John Taylor Cuddy from Carlisle, both within our augmented reality studio and in a short documentary film about his unit, “From Carlisle to Andersonville.” Cuddy became a prisoner-of-war in 1864 and served time in the notorious Andersonville prison camp before his death late in that year. Also, check out the exhibit on “William Elisha Stoker: A Texas Farmer’s Civil War,” for an intimate (and often grumpy) bottom up view of the conflict from the perspective of a private in the Confederate infantry. Stoker’s letters are available at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg and have been digitized and curated at the House Divided research engine.
Or watch this video excerpt (below) as House Divided Project Director Matthew Pinsker describes the poignant story of Sergeant Amos Humiston of the 154th New York, a man who died fighting for the Union at Gettysburg. Humiston was one of thousands of fatalities during that battle, but what made his story stand out –and what turned him into a celebrity for a time– was that he died clutching a photograph of his three children. That photograph, in fact, was how Union officials eventually managed to identified Humiston’s body. What’s fascinating about considering the stories of ordinary soldiers like Stoker and Humiston together is how their experiences overlapped. Both men desperately missed their families and each struggled to hold onto their memories through the relatively new technology of photography.