The Afterlife of the American Civil War

Bowdoin Alumni College Sesquicentennial

A hands on study of culture, music, art & poetry following the Civil War.
August 8-11, 2013
Bowdoin College Campus

From the birth of Uncle Tom's Cabin on Federal Street in 1852 and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s victories on the battlefield to William Pitt Fessenden’s political victories in the Senate and O.O. Howard’s command of the Freedman’s Bureau, it is hard to overstate Bowdoin’s role in the Civil War. The 2013 Alumni College, “The Afterlife of the American Civil War,” offers participants the opportunity to engage with the history and culture of the Civil War era through a study of the people and places that helped shape it. 

Drum and fife corps, 30th Maine Vol. Infantry (Hubbard Family Papers)
Drum and fife corps, 30th Maine Vol. Infantry (Hubbard Family Papers)

Marking the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, this year’s Alumni College will showcase Bowdoin's collection of rare primary documents and archives, including an exhibition of manuscripts and photographs that illustrate how Bowdoin’s own were engaged in the causes of union and secession as well as an intimate viewing of Winslow Homer’s Civil War engravings.

Drum Corps, 8th Maine Vol. Infantry (McArthur Family Papers) Officers in camp, 30th Maine Vol. Infantry (Hubbard Family Papers)  Elisha Coan (ME Medical School Class of 1870), Corporal, 20th Maine Vol. Infantry (Elisha Coan Coll.)
Drum Corps, 8th Maine Vol. Infantry (McArthur Family Papers)
Officers in camp, 30th Maine Vol. Infantry (Hubbard Family Papers)
Elisha Coan (ME Medical School Class of 1870), Corporal, 20th Maine Vol. Infantry (Elisha Coan Coll.)

In conjunction with the Pejepscot Historical Society and spanning three days across Bowdoin’s campus and the town of Brunswick, participants will discover Bowdoin's lasting impact on the Civil War and America through workshops, lectures, and discussion.

Bowdoin Faculty and Alumni Speakers

“Up Closer with Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain” | Patrick Rael is a specialist in African-American History and regularly teaches courses on the Civil War and Reconstruction, including the popular course "The Civil War in Film."  Patrick will speak on Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and other Bowdoin alumni who fought in the Civil War. He recently recorded a short video with his thoughts on how Steven Spielberg's Lincoln departs from historical reality. Patrick is also featured in an upcoming symposium on the Civil War susquicentennial hosted by the Maine Humanities Council and the Maine Historical Society.

“Northern writers speak to War:  Whitman, Melville, Longfellow, Hawthorne”  | Peter Coviello   teaches "The American Renaissance" at Bowdoin and is the editor of Walt Whitman's Memoranda During the WarHe will be speaking on the response of Northern writers - specifically the work of Whitman, Alcott, Longfellow, Stowe, and Hawthorne - to the Civil War.

"Marking Bowdoin’s Civil War:  A walking tour” |Tess Chakkalakal is a scholar of 19th-century African-American literature and a leading expert on the works of Harriet Beecher Stowe.  She teaches "Literature of the Civil War era" and "Reading Uncle Tom's Cabin in the 21st-century." She and John Cross ’76, Secretary of Development and College Relations, will lead a tour of important sites in Brunswick related to Civil War history, including Memorial Hall and the Harriet Beecher Stowe House.

Civil War Photography |Dana Byrd is a specialist in the history of American photography and currently teaches "Shoot, Snap, Instagram: A History of Photography in America."  Mike Kolster is currently producing ambrotypes, or wet plate collodion process photography, a technique first seen in 1850 and frequently used in capturing Civil War images.  Together, Dana and Mike will be lead a seminar on "The Civil War and American Art" and a hands on lesson on how to produce your own ambryotypes.

“Library Exhibition Gallery Talk – Bowdoin Boys in Blue. . .and Gray” |Richard Lindeman, Director of the George J. Mitchell Dept. of Special Collections and Archives, oversees the popular blog, On this Day in Civil War History. Richard will deliver a Library Exhibition Gallery Talk related to the ongoing exhibit entitled Bowdoin Boys in Blue…and Gray. The discussion will provide unprecedented access to some of Bowdoin's most prized Civil War related documents. 

"Winslow Homer's Long Civil War"|Linda Docherty, a specialist in American art, will be leading a session on Winslow Homer using the college’s extensive collection of Homer’s prints. These images will be available for a rare up close inspection led by one of America's leading experts.

Abraham Lincoln's Historic Photographs |Frank Goodyear The Civil War tore the nation apart and in the process reshaped the contours of American life.  Artists reacted to the war in myriad ways.  In the North some like Winslow Homer ventured to the front lines, creating paintings and sketches that recorded life in the Union army. Photographers followed as well, and their cameras brought to national attention scenes previously unimagined.

Presentation and Conversation|Martha Hodes '80 Professor of History, New York University,  will discuss her forthcoming book, Mourning Lincoln.  She will also sign her previous books, The Sea Captain's Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century and White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth-Century South.

'Otis,' Charles, and Rowland: Sourcing the Wartime Legacy of the Howards | David K. Thomson '08, a doctoral student at the University of Georgia and Richard Lindemann, director of the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, will lead a session on the Civil War experiences of brothers O.O, Charles, and Rowland Howard. Drawing on documents from the Howard collections, Thomson and Lindemann will share the stories and larger legacy of this accomplished Bowdoin family. David K. Thomson has published an article, entitled "Oliver Otis Howard: Reassessing the Legacy of the Christian General," and a recent book on the letters of Charles Henry Howard.

Insiders View at the Bowdoin College Museum |Frank Goodyear Co-Director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art will host a reception and tour of the new exhibit "The Mighty Scourge of War": Art of the American Civil War, which opens to the public August 8.  The exhibit brings together paintings, prints, drawings, and photographs from the collection of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art that highlight the artistic response to the war.

The reception will also feature a book launch of the book entitled "Blessed Boyhood": The early memoir of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. This is a limited edition printing and copies will be distributed to registered participants as a special gift. The book features a foreword by Maine Senator Angus King and annotations by Bowdoin alum David K. Thomson '08.

Keynote Speaker

Nina Silber is Professor of History at Boston University. Her books include The Romance of Reunion: Northerners and the South, 1865-1900 (1993); Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War (1992); Daughters of the Union: Northern Women Fight the Civil War (2005); and Gender and the Sectional Conflict (2009). She has also worked as a consultant for the Gettysburg National Battlefield, the United States Constitution Museum, and the “American Experience” television series. She will deliver the keynote lecture entitled “The Afterlife of the American Civil War.”

Limited Edition Printing

A limited edition printing of the "early memoir" of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain will be distributed to registered participants as a special gift to commemorate the sesquicentennial. The book features a foreword by Maine Senator Angus King and annotations by Bowdoin alum David K.Thomson '08.


Schedule of Event (pdf)

Alumni College Brochure (pdf)


Tess Chakkalakal serves as Faculty Director of the Alumni College. This program is offered in partnership with the Dean for Academic Affairs, The Office of Alumni Relations, and Summer Events and Programs. 


Civil War Sesquicentennial

The Alumni College is one of many programs planned to commemorate Bowdoin's place in Civil War history. Past and future programs include: