POSTPONED –Noted Military Historian To Speak From Gettysburg Address Lectern

THIS EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED DUE TO CORONAVIRUS CONCERNS BUT THE SAME PROGRAM WILL GO FORWARD NEXT YEAR ON SATURDAY, MARCH 27, 2021.  THANKS TO EVERYONE FOR THEIR PATIENCE.

On Saturday evening, March 21, 2020, prize-winning military historian and Dickinson College graduate Eric Wittenberg (Class of 1983) will deliver the second annual J. Howard Wert keynote address from the lectern that was on the speaker’s platform at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863.   Wittenberg will speak about some of the enduring myths from the Battle of Gettysburg. This event is free and open to the public and will be held at the Anita Tuvin Schlecter (ATS) auditorium (campus map).  Doors open at 6pm for those who would like to view the lectern and other rare artifacts from the Gettysburg battlefield.  Wittenberg’s lecture begins at 7pm and will continue until 815pm with a book signing to follow.

WittenbergEric J. Wittenberg is a proud member of the Dickinson College Class of 1983 and is an award-winning Civil War author. A native of southeastern Pennsylvania, after graduating from Dickinson, Eric was educated at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. He is a partner in the Columbus, Ohio law firm of Cook, Sladoje & Wittenberg Co., L.P.A., where he manages the firm’s litigation practice. Wittenberg is the author of 22 critically acclaimed books on the American Civil War, several of which have won awards, as well as more than three dozen articles published in national magazines. He is in regular demand as a speaker and tour guide, and travels the country regularly doing both. He serves on the boards of trustees of the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust and the Little Big Horn Associates, and often works with the American Battlefields Trust on battlefield preservation initiatives. He is also the program coordinator for the Chambersburg Civil War Seminars. His specialty is cavalry operations in the Civil War. He and his wife Susan reside in Columbus, Ohio.

 

The J. Howard Wert Lectureship is named in honor of J. Howard Wert (1841-1920), one of America’s great private collectors and pioneering educators.  Wert was a young abolitionist and resident of Adams County, Pennsylvania who was present when Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address in 1863.  The House Divided Project launched this annual lecture series in 2019 in partnership with the J. Howard Wert Collection and its current owner and curator, G. Craig Caba.  Christy Coleman, former CEO of the American Civil War Museum in Richmond, Virginia, was the first Wert lecturer at Dickinson in 2019 to speak from the Gettysburg Address lectern.  On March 21, 2020, the lectern will be on display along with a chair from the platform used by Edward Everett, the dedication ceremony’s main orator. 

Teacher Workshop (Saturday, March 21, 2020, from 10am to 3pm)

Earlier in the day, the House Divided Project will also host a teacher workshop on slavery and resistance featuring guest historians Michael Birkner (Gettysburg College), G. Craig Caba (Wert Collection), Deanda Johnson (National Park Service) and Stephanie Townrow (Lancaster History).  Matthew Pinsker, Pohanka Chair for Civil War History and Director of the House Divided Project, will lead the workshop, assisted by Dickinson students Dana Marecheau (’20) and Cooper Wingert (’20), who will discuss the recent Dickinson & Slavery initiative.  The workshop is free and open to all types of educators but advance registration is required.  To find out more, please go to this page.


Background on the Collection

Howard Wert

J. Howard Wert was a young Adams County resident from a prominent anti-slavery family in 1863

Everett

Orator Edward Everett spoke for two hours at Gettysburg

lectern

Lectern from Gettysburg cemetery dedication, 1863 (Courtesy of J. Howard Wert collection)

The J. Howard Wert Collection is considered one of the finest privately held collections of Civil War era artifacts in the country.  Wert came from a prominent antislavery family in Adams County, Pennsylvania.  The Wert family collected a number of important historical artifacts, dating back to the 18th century. Wert himself was a graduate of Gettysburg College who served as a scout for Union forces during the 1863 battle and was present for the Gettysburg Address later that year.  Wert eventually enlisted in the Union army and became a teacher, author and noted school superintendent in Harrisburg.  He died in 1920.  During his lifetime, however, he was renowned for his collection of  important historical artifacts.   A 1910 newspaper profile claimed that Wert “had gathered a collection of relics at Gettysburg that could not be duplicated in any museum in the country.”  In his own Gettysburg battlefield guide, which had been published in 1886 when he was forty-six years old, Wert wrote about how his collection of relics inspired him to try to recount the conflict for future generations:

As these lines are penned, from the walls around, cartridge-box and cap-box, bayonet and sword, canteen and canister, with a hundred other relics gleaned twenty-three years ago from the fields and woods we are now traversing, look mutely down upon the writer and vividly recall the sorrowful appearance of the bloated and distorted and blackened dead that lay close beside; noble, stalwart men were they, arrayed in garb of gray, who had bravely fought for what they deemed the right. (J. Howard Wert, A complete hand-book of the monuments and indications and guide to the positions on the Gettysburg battlefield, 1886, pp. 109-110)


Lincoln

Lincoln, hatless, on speaker’s platform while Everett is speaking (Library of Congress)

Dedication Day, November 19, 1863

There are no eye-witness accounts or photographs from 1863 that actually depict the lectern or the chairs on the speaker’s platform.  However, the photographs that do exist make very clear that the scene was more than a little chaotic and that most of the standing crowd would have had a limited view beyond the shoulder line of the speakers.  Many of those present at the ceremony were impressed that the main orator Edward Everett seemed to have memorized his two-hour address, and some near the platform also remarked on how Lincoln slowly read his now much-more famous two-minute address, but few took note of other physical details from the platform itself.  Yet, J. Howard Wert, then 22 years old, was definitely present at the ceremony.  So was his friend, Henry Eyster Jacobs, a 19-year-old fellow graduate of Pennsylvania (later Gettysburg) College.  His father, Michael Jacobs, was also there, and was at the time a professor at the college, writing a history of the battle.  In fact, Prof. Jacobs had taken Everett on a tour of the battlefield in the days prior to the dedication ceremonies.  We know this because Edwards himself mentioned the tour in his diary.  Then, according to notes in the Wert Collection prepared decades later by J. Howard Wert, it was Professor Jacobs who provided his teaching lectern for the ceremony, along with at least one side chair, that was used by Everett, the former Massachusetts governor and U.S. senator while he was waiting to speak.  These notes (previously unpublished), and various other relevant primary sources, including recollections by Wert and both Jacobs men, are provided below.

Wert note

Courtesy of the J. Howard Wert Collection

Chair note

Courtesy of the J. Howard Wert Collection