Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Melissa Bingmann

Committee Co-Chair

Jason K Phillips

Committee Member

Melissa Bingmann

Committee Member

Elizabeth Fones-Wolf

Committee Member

Jason K Phillips


The 75th Anniversary of the American Civil War was both the last major anniversary influenced by living Civil War veterans, and the first commemoration to occur with a number of key Civil War battlefields under the administrative control of the National Park Service. Although largely overlooked by historians, remembrance of the Civil War in the 1930s represented a key transition from commemoration primarily for the veterans of the conflict to a wider commemoration, finding from the Civil War a usable past and a landscape of national memorialization. Through this process, administrative and interpretive shifts changed the very purpose of Civil War battlefields, allowing for broader education and mass tourism. The landscape was also transformed, due to the influx of labor made possible by New Deal programs, into a representation of an idyllic 19th century environment appealing to nostalgic Americans during the tumultuous years of the Great Depression. Finally, commemorative events themselves focused primarily on narratives of bravery, sacrifice, and perseverance, emphasizing the redemption of democracy, and largely ignoring the suffering, sectional bitterness, and racial strife wrought by the Civil War. Despite the presence of veterans at these events, their stories were largely usurped into this larger collective narrative, and the veterans often became sources of amusement or curiosity, even a part of the battlefield landscape itself. This anniversary was an example of the intertwined nature of built commemorative environments and historical memory, as well as an example of aging veterans being appropriated as living monuments. The in-depth analysis of two very different battlefield landscapes, Gettysburg National Military Park and Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, provides a window through which this pivotal transformation can be examined.