Friday, February 27, 2015

History Major Daniel Leopold on His Internship at the Campus Archive

After visiting places like Gettysburg and studying it for most of my academic life, the Civil War has proven to be both a provocative and extremely interesting topic for me. There are so many layers to uncover about each battle, political move, and social change that sprang from the time period that learning about it now is just as much about preserving history as it is about dissecting the far-reaching influence it has on current issues.

That’s why I was ecstatic to find out I would be able to participate in an internship at St. Bonaventure dedicated to a collection based on the Civil War. The collection focuses on the 154th New York Volunteer Infantry, a regiment of the Union army that drafted in Cattaraugus County. The 154th fought in critical battles during the Civil War, including Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.

The compilers of the collection, Mark H. Dunkelman and Michael J. Winey, contacted over 1,200 of the descendants members of the 154th to acquire all the records, which were donated to Bonaventure after Winey’s passing.

The internship has let me look through records assembled for soldiers of the regiment, which includes personal letters, diary entries, and photographs of the soldiers and their personal effects. These files provide a unique and personal way of observing a war that effected both individuals and society. The letters written by soldiers served as communication between them and loved ones, and now serve us as introspective windows to the complexities of the Civil War.

After only a month spent with the collection, I’m already impressed at how much I’ve learned about one of America’s watershed topics. I can’t wait to discover more and more as I keep rummaging through records and connecting personal stories with the immense political and social changes that stemmed from the Civil War.

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