The Johnston family recently donated wonderful artifacts from Union Army Private Robert Bradbury, who fought in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, to SU’s McCormick Civil War Institute! MCWI Director, Jonathan Noyalas says he got a treasure trove! Dozens of letters, photographs and even a self-portrait of Bradbury were packed into boxes. “I’m not often rendered speechless. But this was one of those jaw-dropping moments.”
Shenandoah University’s McCormick Civil War Institute is commemorating the 155th anniversary of the Battle of Cool Spring with tours, lectures and the unveiling of an augmented reality experience.
The commemorative event occurs on Saturday, July 20, at the university’s River Campus at Cool Spring Battlefield located at 1400 Parker Lane, Bluemont. This event is free and open to the public.
155th Anniversary Schedule of Activities
10:15 am – noon
Walking tour of Battle of Cool Spring with historian Jonathan Noyalas ’01, M.A. Tour includes vignettes with living historians.
Noon – 1 pm
Lunch on your own. Please note that there are no food vendors on site. Please bring a picnic lunch and enjoy it either in the air-conditioned lodge or the shade of the pavilion.
1 – 1:45 pm
“Dreams of War & Peace: The Remarkable Night Life of Civil War America” with Jonathan White, Ph.D., associate professor of American Studies at Christopher Newport University
2 – 2:45 pm
“Follow Him to the Death: Sheridan, Early, and the Shenandoah Valley in the Summer of 1864” with Jennifer Murray, Ph.D., teaching assistant professor at Oklahoma State University
3 – 4 pm
Unveiling of “Through Their Eyes: An Augmented Reality Experience at Cool Spring”
Through Their Eyes
The augmented reality experience, “Through Their Eyes,” is a collaborative effort between the McCormick Civil War Institute and the Shenandoah Center for Immersive Learning (SCiL).
Visitors will use an iPhone or iPad to float a holographic 3D version of the battlefield above a 2D map. Clickable flags on the map will take users into one-minute experiences of the battle using 360 virtual reality. Visitors will find themselves in a dramatic attack, retreat, camp scene, or the battle’s sorrowful aftermath.
More than a dozen scenes were filmed with actors from both Shenandoah and the community. The experience is based on the primary accounts of Union and Confederate soldiers who fought at the Battle of Cool Spring on July 18, 1864.
The second part of the project involves an immersive audio walk of the battlefield using an iPhone app and earbuds.
Jonathan A. Noyalas ’01, M.A., director of the McCormick Civil War Institute, served as historian for the project (he also appears in the production). Associate Professor of Theater and SCiL Director J.J. Ruscella, M.F.A., and his SCiL team directed the action.
I have often been bothered by the fact that some overlook the Battle of Cool Spring because statistically it pales in comparison to the Civil War’s larger and more well-known engagements – Gettysburg, Antietam, Shiloh and the like. While statistically not as big (13,000 troops engaged and nearly 1,000 total casualties), to the men who died there, to their families, and to those wounded at the battle who lived with the pain and disfigurement of those wounds for the rest of their lives, the Battle of Cool Spring was the most significant action of the Civil War. It is my hope that this experience will help people better comprehend the human element of the battle and understand the dramatic costs a nation endures when a people become divided to an unbridgeable point.”
Jonathan A. Noyalas ’01, M.A., Director of the McCormick Civil War Institute
A total of 12 students in Noyalas’ spring 2019 Civil War & Reconstruction course researched the backgrounds of the soldiers whose accounts are used as the basis for the various scenes and moments. Shenandoah history major Jessica Kronenwetter ’20 documented the process through photography. History majors John Oross ’19 and Steven Stabler ’22 played various roles in the filming.
Self-Guided Experiences Available Throughout Day of Commemoration
In addition to the scheduled activities, battlefield trails will be open throughout the day for self-guided tours, and the exhibition about Cool Spring and its aftermath will be available for viewing. Tour guides are available for free, or visitors can download a pdf with information about the site. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park bookstore is selling books by the day’s speakers, as well as other relevant titles.
This event is free and open to the public, though monetary donations are appreciated. Please email Noyalas at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 540/665-4501 with any questions. Pre-registration is not required for this event.
A group of Shenandoah University history majors are set to be published authors this year for their work on a book commemorating the 275th anniversary of the founding of Winchester, Virginia.
The history students are using artifacts to help tell the city’s story in a book to be published by the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society and co-edited by Shenandoah’s McCormick Civil War Institute Director Jonathan Noyalas ’01, M.A. (Shenandoah’s main campus has been located in Winchester since 1960.)
Noyalas said he suggested the book’s creation as an item to leave behind for future generations. And, it’s a project that allows the historical society to achieve a goal of further interaction with the university.
The book will tell the city’s story through short explorations of 50 artifacts chosen by Noyalas and the historical society’s director, Cissy Shull. The book is intended for general audiences, with the artifacts, their importance, and their connection to Winchester’s history described in approximately 1,000-word essays, Noyalas said.
The writers & their artifacts
Kim Oliveto ’20 is writing about a lock of George Washington’s hair and a Quaker marriage certificate. Washington, the nation’s first president, worked as a surveyor in the Winchester area prior to the American Revolution, was elected to his first office from the city, and oversaw the construction of Fort Loudoun, which sat where North Loudoun Street is today. Even so, Oliveto noted that it’s unclear how exactly the lock of the nation’s first president’s light auburn hair ended up in Winchester.
Winchester, the first city west of the Blue Ridge Mountains to be settled by European immigrants and their descendants, has a longstanding Quaker community. Oliveto said certificates, like the one she is researching, were how American Quakers proved that they had married. In her piece, she is also explaining why Quakers relocated to the area from Pennsylvania.
Sarah Powell ’19 is telling a story of immigration and business development by focusing on a mortar and pestle used by early German immigrant Godfrey Miller. The family business grew to include dry goods as well as an apothecary, which was once the longest continuously operating drugstore in the nation. Miller’s apothecary is now on display at Shenandoah University’s Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy.
Shelby Sprague ’22 is exploring Fort Loudoun and the French & Indian War. Steven Stabler ’22 is focusing on 20th-century history through a Korean War uniform, a World War II Purple Heart awarded to one of the first Winchester residents to die in the conflict, and a grouping of artifacts connected to Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s Antarctic expeditions. Through his artifacts, he’ll tell stories about how the city’s residents felt about war, as well as discuss the development of science and technology through the 20th century.
The artifact handled by Zach Thompson ’19 is a chest, owned by James Mason, a mid-19th-century U.S. senator who authored the Fugitive Slave Law in conjunction with the Compromise of 1850. The chest was part of Mason’s baggage when he was captured during the Civil War, along with Louisiana politician John Slidell, in what came to be known as the Trent Affair. Some of the story he will focus on includes the last-ditch efforts of the republic’s political leaders to keep the nation united during the tumultuous decade of the 1850s.
Jessica Kronenwetter ’20, who also photographed the artifacts for the book, is focusing on two areas. One allows her to talk about the Devil Diarists of Winchester, who were Confederate sympathizers who went to sometimes scandalous lengths to irritate Union troops during the Civil War. She will write about the many times Winchester changed hands, how the city’s women felt during the conflict, and how Union soldiers were perceived in the city. Her other area of focus allows her to explore the work of Frank Turgeon, a prominent aerial photographer and pilot who worked with National Geographic in the early 20th century.
Noyalas is also writing about a couple of artifacts. The Orrick Cemetery gravestone of Edward Hall, who served in the 30th United States Colored Troops during the Civil War, allows him to discuss racism, slavery and the 167 African Americans from Winchester who served with the Union Army during the Civil War. Additionally, he’s writing about a rifle presented by a group of Union veterans to Confederate veterans in Winchester in 1888 as an act of reconciliation – one that he said appears to have been unique in the post-Civil War south.
All told, Shenandoah faculty, alumni and students are writing about approximately half of the artifacts featured in the book, Noyalas said.
Becoming published authors
Sprague said being part of such a project, particularly as a freshman, is an honor. She said her friends at other colleges and universities don’t have such an opportunity available to them. And, the writing and research “gives me a better understanding of why I want to be a history major,” she said, noting that, at 19 years of age, she’ll be a published author.
The writing and research is providing the student authors with a unique extracurricular opportunity, said Oliveto, a grandmother who never thought a chance to be published would “happen to little ’ol me from Winchester, Virginia.” She’s loved the thrill of digging for information, and she said her experience in the history program shows that “It’s never too late to go back to college. Pick the right college and you can be published, whether you’re a freshman or a grandma.”
“We’ve gotten to showcase our talents to people outside of Shenandoah and prove our worth as prospective historians,” Kronenwetter said of the book project.
The book’s launch
Noyalas said that the hope is that the book will pique readers’ curiosity and inspire them to visit local museums or read more in-depth histories of Winchester and its demographically diverse population.
The book will be released in mid-October, Noyalas said, with the release celebrated during a special event on campus, with some of the artifacts available for viewing at the event.
Photo credits: Jessica Kronenwetter ’20 and https://www.mygenealogyhound.com/