CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Gettysburg battlefield's role in the historical memory of America and its development into a national military park will be discussed during a free public program scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday in the University of Charleston's Geary Student Union ballroom.The main speaker for latest installment in the 2013 Civil War Scholars Lecture Series will be Jennifer Murray, author of "On a Great Battlefield: The Making, Management and Memory of Gettysburg National Military Park, 1933-2013." Murray, an associate professor of history at the University of Virginia's College at Wise, is one of the nation's leading scholars in the area of history versus historical memory, and how historical memory influences battlefield interpretation and preservation.The Kanawha Valley Civil War Roundtable is sponsoring Murray's Charleston appearance with financial support from the West Virginia Humanities Council and additional assistance from the University of Charleston.
"For many Americans, the July 1863 Battle of Gettysburg is the defining moment of the Civil War, and it holds a very special place in American memory," said Beth White, program director for the lecture series. "The effort to memorialize the site began almost as soon as the battle ended. Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the national cemetery came just four months after the battle."
While the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg was in the national spotlight this summer, the key Union victory at the July 4, 1863, Battle of Vicksburg was virtually ignored, White said. Murray's talk, she said, will help "explain how and why Gettysburg holds this special place in our history.""Gettysburg became associated with the articulation of Union war aims and the vision of the nation's 'new birth of freedom,' " said Murray, who worked as a seasonal ranger at Gettysburg while completing her undergraduate and graduate school requirements.