Congressman Wheeler Speaks in the House on Causes of the War


Major General Joseph Wheeler

Jack Melton, publisher of Civil War News, often talks with me about little-known sources and items in Civil War history. Recently he pointed me to one such: a speech by Joseph Wheeler, later Confederate major general, then U. S. Representative from the 8th Congressional District of Alabama. Wheeler spoke on the House floor, July 13, 1894.

The House was considering a bill concerning a Union veteran. Wheeler, a member of the Committee on Military Affairs, addressed the body in a speech that touched on a number of matters, including the causes of the late civil war. 

Wheeler recalled that at a “Peace Conference” held in February 1861, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase had told the assembled delegates (not including representatives of the seven seceded states, which boycotted the convention) that the recent presidential election “must be regarded as a triumph of principles cherished in the hearts of the people of the free States.” Wheeler took this to mean that “the Northern States would not, and ought not, to comply with the obligations of the Federal Constitution,” which since 1789 had sanctioned slavery in the Southern states.

Thus Wheeler and other Southerners were justified in believing that Abraham Lincoln and the Black Republicans were out to get them, and would trample the Constitution in order to do so.

In the course of his remarks, the congressman from Alabama reviewed causes of the war. Besides slavery, “the doctrine of State rights, protective tariff [and] internal improvements” all figured as sources of sectional disagreement between North and South. As for slavery, “the New England ship owners amassed fortunes by plying the business of buying negroes in Africa, transporting them to the United States, and selling them for the most part to southern people.” In the Constitutional convention of 1787, it was the South that called for an end of the slave trade in twenty years; Northerners only turned against slavery when they found it unprofitable in their region. Then, in defiance of the Constitution, Northern states enacted laws protecting fugitive slaves. The famed Daniel Webster, speaking in Buffalo in May 1851, had predicted that if the North persisted in violating the Constitution, “the South would no longer be bound to observe the compact” (hinting at secession).

Yet, Wheeler continued, early instances of resistance to federal authority had occurred in the North: Shays’ Rebellion in New York, the whiskey rebellion in Pennsylvania. “The Southern people loved the Union,” he contended, and only with the rise of the Republican Party “they reluctantly succumbed to the conviction that the party about to take control would have no respect for their rights.”

Then, when Lincoln’s election in November 1860 spurred talk of secession, Wheeler pointed to sensible conservative Northerners who understood why. “If the cotton States shall become satisfied that they can do better out of the Union than in it, we insist on letting them go in peace” (Horace Greeley, New York Tribune, November 9–the day after Lincoln’s election). Two weeks later the New York Herald agreed that the South should not be coerced: “A union held together by the bayonet would be nothing better than a military despotism.” In late December, while South Carolinians were in convention, Greeley held forth that “if it (the Declaration of Independence) justifies the secession from the British Empire of three million colonists in 1776, we do not see why it would not justify the secession of five millions of southrons from the Federal Union in 1861.” As late as March 1861, following Lincoln’s inauguration and after seven Southern states had indeed left the Union, the Cincinnati Commercial declared, “We are not in favor of blockading the southern coast. We are not in favor of retaking by force the property of the United States now in possession of the seceders. We would recognize the existence of a government formed of all the slave-holding States, and attempt to cultivate amicable relations with it.” Gen. Gen. Winfield Scott was often quoted as saying, “Wayward sisters, part in peace.”

Obviously, Wheeler concluded, the “wayward sisters” were not allowed to go in peace. As a consequence, “the most stupendous war recorded in modern history” ensued. To illustrate its frightful casualties, Wheeler posited that Grant’s casualties from May 5 to May 12, 1864 in Virginia totaled 9,774 killed, 41,150 wounded and 13,254 missing—a number “greater than the loss in killed and wounded in all the battles of all the wars in this country prior to 1861.”

Thus Wheeler ended his address. He spoke unabashedly “from the standpoint of one whose feelings were and are in entire sympathy with the southern people.” From his remarks we can distinctly see that Southerners viewed the coming of the war from a perspective we don’t often think of today. To understand why three million Americans went to war against each other—and why a fifth of them died—we would do well to turn from time to time to such documentary sources as the Southern Historical Society Papers.


Reference: Joseph Wheeler, “Causes of the War. Great Speech of Hon. Joseph Wheeler, of Alabama,” Southern Historical Society Papers, vol. 22, (1894), 24-41.


A Conversation with Emma Murphy (part five)


Andrew Johnson’s grave

(part five of five)

For Women’s History Month, we’ve been talking with women who work in Civil War public history. This week, we’ve been sharing a conversation with Emma Murphy, park guide at Andrew Johnson National Historic Site. While earning her undergraduate and graduate degrees, Emma did stints as a seasonal ranger at Richmond, Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania, and Gettysburg before arriving in Greenveville, Tennessee earlier this year for her first full-time permanent position with the Park Service.

Chris Mackowski: So you mentioned that you’ve been there for two weeks, so you’re still learning your park. What do you love about the park so far?

Emma Murphy: There’s a lot to love. I think that I love the fact there’s room for the park to grow through more planning and community outreach. There’s a lot we can do with the national cemetery. The national cemetery not only has President Johnson and his family, but has veterans from decades all the way up to modern day. The cemetery is something we can still talk about up through the modern day because these veterans want to be buried in the same cemetery as President Johnson. That’s saying something about his place in the community, his place in Tennessee, and the legacy that he leaves. It’s a huge honor to be able to be buried alongside a president of the United States. 

I also love the ability to grow and to find new ways of interpretation and challenging the visitor, whether they just came for a homestead tour or something else. Many people come in for a furniture tour, or they’re presidential junkies, but there is a lot of context to work with. Johnson and his story basically sit right in the center of Reconstruction. Not many people know about Reconstruction, so I like to fill in that whole a little more.

Johnson’s trunk, on display at his homestead

I also hope to have more community outreach to bring in the neighboring communities, to be able to partner, to try new programs. It’s basically like what we did with History at Sunset [evening programs at various National Parks that expand the story beyond typical park resources.] Rangers would go and make a relationship with either a family or a community and make that connection work alongside their programming. I love how Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg did that.

The Park Service is well known in this community, and if we start showing ourselves, going out and building that community outreach, I think we could really make the park on the map. That’s what I really love about it: the ability to grow and to reach out.

CM: I was wondering, as I got off the exit from the interstate, what I was going to find out there. I was so pleasantly surprised and delighted to see all the stuff there was in Greeneville and at the park to look around and see and learn about.

EM: There’s so much to learn about, and there’s a local history museum right across the street from the homestead and a college that basically has a whole Johnson library. We have programs that are at the local state campground, Davey Crockett State Campground. I haven’t been out there yet because they haven’t started their programs yet since that’s usually more of a summertime thing. That’s a huge partnership because not only are they short-staffed, but they want to have something that engages the visitors of the local history and history as a whole. That gives us a great opportunity for community outreach that grows, because they can’t stay there forever, they travel. Word of mouth is sometimes the best way to get visitors to come to your site. That is so relevant right now that it’s important to help put us on the map.

CM: It sounds like there’s plenty of opportunity for a young professional who is just getting her foot in the door of the park service.

Johnson’s room

EM: I’m excited. I have so many ideas, and I’m writing them all down because my brain moves a mile a minute, and something I have to understand that this park is very small compared to other parks I’ve worked at. The staff total is nine people—but the nine people we have do so much, and they are truly incredible rangers that are multifaceted and multitalented because they do everything. They organize the functions of the park like a well-oiled machine. The ability to have that structure already there means we have the ability to branch out and try new things without risking that something else will crumble or be forgotten about or let go. We have the ability to all work together. It’s obvious they’ve worked together a lot. They work hard to keep the park functioning and clean and acceptable. I’m a fresh pair of eyes and someone who is all geared up and ready to go. I would be more than happy to come up with new ideas and new programs and, if they like them and want to use them, I’m absolutely ready for it. It is a great creative ground on which to build—a foundation and a base that hopefully leads to a wonderful NPS career.

CM: The other day, [a mutual friend, ECW author] Doug Crenshaw, said, “I’m so glad you got to talk with Emma. She tried real hard to get the job out there.”

EM: Doug was on one of my programs at Cold Harbor in 2013 where we had a couple that had no concept of the Civil War, and asking if Grant was in the trenches at Cold Harbor, and if Cold Harbor was the beginning of the Civil War. They had no idea, so I was trying to give the Battle of Cold Harbor tour and it just kind of turned into a basic Civil War explanation: this is the Confederate side, this is the Union side. Doug said, “This isn’t your normal tour.” I said, “No, it’s not, but don’t worry about it—they’re trying really hard.” He was just enamored that I brought it down to their level, and he said he’d never seen a ranger do that. But they’re visitors, too, and I wanted to make it as accessible to them as possible, even if it meant I had to sacrifice all of the details of the battle of Cold Harbor. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that they walked home with an idea of the significance of the Civil War and what that significance means. Maybe Cold Harbor is tucked in there somewhere, but not the main focus, because if it had been, they would’ve been confused and unhappy.

CM: Good luck as you get settled in at ANJO!


A Conversation with Emma Murphy (part four)


Murphy, Emma @ ANJO(part four of five)

Emma Murphy is a park guide at Andrew Johnson National Historic Site. In yesterday’s segment of our interview with Emma, she discussed the philosophical battle Johnson engaged in with Radical Republicans in Congress in the wake of the Civil War. Johnson, who believed states should control their own destiny, opted for a more reconciliation-based approach, while Congress pushed for a harder reconstruction of the social, political, and economic order. Congress finally set up a showdown over a piece of legislation called the Tenure of Office Act.

Chris Mackowski: It was the Tenure of Office Act that serves as the excuse for the impeachment trial.

Emma Murphy: Yes, and it’s a very weirdly worded bill. Many years later, it’s deemed unconstitutional and irrelevant, but it basically says that anyone in the cabinet or anyone appointed by the president cannot be removed from office without the approval of the Senate. But Johnson had not appointed any of his cabinet because it was Lincoln’s leftover cabinet. 

There was a lot of tension between [Secretary of War] Edwin Stanton and Johnson when Johnson was military governor of the state of Tennessee. Johnson wasn’t getting along with the military commanders in the state, and so he was constantly writing back and forth to Stanton and to Lincoln. So that tension was already there and growing by the time Johnson became president. When he gets to 1867 and 1868, he’s had it, and he wants to fire Stanton—but with the Tenure of Office Act, he technically can’t. To Johnson, the act is unconstitutional because he, as the president, should have the right to remove or add anyone in his cabinet. He also points out the fact that he hadn’t appointed Stanton; Lincoln had—and it was even Lincoln in early 1862, not 1864, so at the time, it wasn’t even the current presidential term, it was the previous one. It was kind of just a battle for language.

CM: Wasn’t the Senate’s premise that they had to provide “advice and consent” to confirm, so they also had to provide advice and consent to fire?

EM: Yes, and that’s something that they brought up in the articles of impeachment, which said that Johnson could not only not remove Stanton, but also couldn’t put Thomas Lorenzo in his place. Johnson didn’t even turn to the Senate and ask if he had their approval on it. He has the power as the commander in chief, but also as the president, to remove without the consent of the Senate. So it turns into a battle for power.

CM: Do you find people have misconceptions about what impeachment is?

EM: Yes. I think a lot of that has to do with the way that the text is worded, even in the visitor center. The exhibit was put up right around the time of the Clinton administration and his impeachment trials, so a lot of that impacted the language that was used. Not that it was a bad thing, but the staff was discussing this with me, and I didn’t want to tell them I was four years old when that was all going on. I have no memory about Clinton’s impeachment trial! A lot of people do, though, so when they come in, that’s how they view Johnson’s impeachment, which is different but is also, in our current political climate, hard to talk about.

There’s one line in the display that talks about trying to take a president out of office because you simply don’t like him. That’s a precedent that probably would’ve been set if Johnson had been impeached. That is kind of taking a stance that Congress was trying to take Johnson out of office simply because they didn’t like him.

Yeah, there were a lot of problems, but a lot of the articles had to do with Johnson’s actions and how he read the constitution. I keep coming back to that, but it’s really important. It’s not just personal, but a lot of it has to do with the political agenda of both sides.

That is not something visitors understand about impeachment. They say it’s the removal of the president from office, and it’s almost sort of a lump term: Johnson’s impeachment, Nixon’s almost-impeachment, Clinton’s impeachment—they’re all the same. But they’re not. The reason they’re brought up on these different charges is because there are many different ways to try to impeach a president, but there’s no direct definition of “you can only impeach a president because of X,Y, and Z.” There are many ways around it, and that’s what Congress did: they made a way around it to get him impeached.

CM: So he stays in office, does not get reelected, but his political career is not over. He goes back to Washington eventually.

EM: He does. He does return and is the only living president that leaves office and then returns to the Senate. He makes a little bit of a snarky, passive-aggressive comment to Grant, since Grant is president. Johnson still feels betrayed by the, at the time, general because Johnson had tried to appoint him to the Secretary of War office, but the Senate came back and said “That’s unconstitutional,” and Grant just backed off and disregarded the whole conversation he had with Johnson about how he was going to take the office. Johnson felt personally hurt.

So, when Grant is inaugurated, Johnson doesn’t go. In the Senate, he is constantly battling over whether Grant’s policies are working or not and challenges them frequently., and a lot of that has come from his personal feeling about how he was hurt by Grant. So, Johnson has a very prominent post-presidential political career, but there are instances where his personal feelings do get in the way.

When he does return back to Greeneville, he hasn’t lived there for a while. Unfortunately, he doesn’t die in his house. He dies at his daughter’s home of a stroke. But his home stayed in his family’s name and someone lives there or has some relationship with the house giving tours until 1992. The Johnson family was very conscientious about the history and the story, and that’s why a lot of the artifacts, I think it’s 80% of the artifacts, are not only in the house but in the local museums and the college. They have so much of Johnson’s stuff because the family kept it there and wanted to keep it preserved.


When we wrap up our conversation with Emma tomorrow—part of our Women’s History Month commemoration—she’ll talk about the things she loves about her new park as she learns more about it story. “There’s a lot to love,” she says.

A Conversation with Emma Murphy (part three)


Murphy Ranger Hat(part three of five)

We continue our conversation this week with Emma Murphy, a park guide at Andrew Johnson National Historic Site. Emma started her job at the park back in February, so she’s still learning her new park and her new subject matter.

Chris Mackowski: Now that you’ve found yourself at Andrew Johnson, what do you like about the park? What have you discovered about it that has excited you so far?

Emma Murphy: There’s so much in the Johnson story that influences Andrew Johnson himself in his push against Congress during his presidency—there’s a lot of that in his growing up in Tennessee but also because of the political ramifications of being a Democrat from a Unionist territory. 

Something that is difficult to reconcile—for us and the public—is his view on race and his view on how the Constitution should read. I hate to say this because it always burns off into the reasons for the Civil War, but Johnson is super-focused on States Rights: the right for a state to run their own Constitution to then reapply to the Union. He wanted it not to be Reconstruction, but reconciliation only, and not much of a rebuilding and reconstructing. He wasn’t concerned with destroying the lifestyle from before the Civil War started, in the Antebellum Period. He wasn’t focused on trying to pull it apart and make a social, political, and economic change to the American South.

That’s hard for us to reconcile with because we always hear about Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, but not of Johnson, who is like the polar opposite of Lincoln, not just in personality, but in political views. So that’s really exciting to try and bring forward a lot of the story.

Obviously, a lot of the story we tell is about his impeachment because he’s the first one to get anywhere close—only acquitted by one vote. It’s a very dramatic story. But there’s a lot that can get left out from right after the Civil War is over to his impeachment trial.

Something I didn’t realize until I was researching his presidency was that he was trying to charge the Confederate hierarchy—not only the placeholders, but also the Confederate leaders—with treason, and when you bring out the word “treason,” it makes you cringe, but Johnson is ranting and raving against the South and ex-Confederates. He wanted to bring up charges on Robert E. Lee, and the only person who stopped him was Ulysses S. Grant—and that blew my mind.

The whole conversation on reconciliation, not reconstruction—and what the ramifications of it were even all the way up to today—kind of centers around how the Civil War ends and the definition of victory and defeat for both sides. Johnson is really trying to take a stand against the Confederacy, but not necessarily the social hierarchy. I am super pumped to bring that into the tours of his homestead, of his house, because the house itself is kind of a representation of not only the country, but of himself and his family. It is damaged and destroyed during the Civil War, by both sides, and the Johnsons have to go back and rebuild the house after his presidency. A lot of that has to do with what he wants to present to the public, but he also wants to provide for his family, for the town of Greeneville. In a way, what he’s trying to present to the country is a way to go back to normal, but when Congress isn’t controlled by Johnson’s party, what is normal for Johnson is not normal for the rest of Congress or the rest of the country. East Tennessee is kind of a pocket of Union territory, Union sentiment. It is difficult to spread that idea over the entire South. It’s almost impossible.

CM: You mentioned he was an advocate of States Rights, but it’s sort of a different vision of States Rights than the view the Confederate states had set up as their reason for seceding.

EM: It’s the right of the states to change up their constitutions, with only three things that needed to be added to be admitted back into the Union. First, basically, ratifying the 13th Amendment. Then taking an oath of allegiance. Then a proclamation that said that anyone who could have possibly been an ex-Confederate could not have $20,000 worth of property—so he’s taking the war out on the plantation and planter class. If you have certain amount of money, you’re not allowed to vote and you won’t be able to have representation in Congress. But if you take this oath of allegiance and write into your state constitution that you disregard and basically erase any sort of secession sentiment—as long as you met those requirements, you would be allowed back into the Union and have a representative in Congress.

CM: That was very similar to Lincoln’s “Let ‘Em Up Easy” philosophy, wasn’t it?

EM: It’s based off of Lincoln’s initial push to have the freemen have some rights, but Lincoln doesn’t get far enough to where he can define that, so the Radical Republicans are pushing really hard to try and get the Freemen’s Bureau Act and enfranchisement for these African-Americans who are now no longer in bondage, but also have no representation in Congress. What the Radical Republicans are afraid of is that the planter class, these white citizens, are going to be reinstated in their powerful places in their governments and be able to reintroduce laws to disenfranchise African-Americans—basically set up Black Codes, which they did. And the Republicans don’t want that, so they fight Johnson to keep the states from rejoining the Union if they only ratify the 13th Amendment. Republicans also want the states to ratify the 14th and 15th Amendments and take in the Civil Rights Act and the Freeman’s Bureau.

So Johnson and Congress keeping have vetoes back and forth, back and forth. Because Johnson is vetoing this, and it’s not just because of his view on race—he flat out admits that he doesn’t believe in the equality of the races—but it’s more on the principle that he doesn’t want the states to be controlled and be told what to do from a big government. He is against that.

So, to Johnson, the Freeman’s Bureau and demands about who has the right to vote is unconstitutional because it should be the state’s right to designate who has the right to vote and who doesn’t. He’s basically stepping back and saying, “In South Carolina, if they decide to let these freemen vote, then have it, but if the state decides not to, the state doesn’t have to.” But Congress does not want that.

The Southern states want to basically reinstate the old social hierarchy, and that, unfortunately, ends up happening because—I guess this is kind of personal opinion—there’s so much time between when Johnson starts presidential reconstruction until Congress starts Congressional reconstruction. When Johnson is in, while Congress is out of session, he’s throwing out all these proclamations, amnesty policies, to say to Congress, “You didn’t have to do anything, I did it. Ta-da.”

Johnson described himself as Moses leading the way for African-Americans, but in reality, he’s not giving them any right to vote or right to citizenship at this point. He wants it to remain at state level. But that takes so long and a lot of it floods up against the policies that Congress is trying to pass, which is why there are so many vetoes. That’s why Congress ultimately brings in and ratifies the Tenure of Office Act, because they’re sick and tired of Johnson not cooperating, so if he isn’t cooperating, let’s just take him out of office and we can get our way.


The Tenure of Office Act sets up the showdown that leads to Johnson’s impeachment. In tomorrow’s segment, Emma will explain more about that—which is happening 150 years ago right now.

A Conversation with Emma Murphy (part one)

Emma Murphy 01(part one of five)

As we continue our series of interviews for Women’s History Month, we spend time this week with Emma Murphy, a park guide at Andrew Johnson National Historic Site in Greenville, Tennessee. Emma has a bachelor’s degree in history/Civil War studies from Gettysburg College, and a master’s degree in public history from the University of West Georgia. Before landing her full-time gig at Andrew Johnson, she worked as a seasonal historian/ranger at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, Richmond National Battlefield, and Gettysburg National Military Park.

The interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Chris Mackowski: How did you end up at Andrew Johnson? 

Emma Murphy: I wish I could say that it was because I had a love and passion for the president who came after Lincoln and everything with Reconstruction, but it actually was by chance. It was from the Pathways database that the NPS has on their employee website. If you are a student and you are part of the Pathways program, you put your information in, and when you’re going to be graduating—either from undergrad if you’re lucky enough to get into the system when you’re still in college, or when you get your degree if you are in grad school. I put in extra details about my thesis topic and my field of studies.

Andrew Johnson is the only site that directly contacted my supervisor at Gettysburg, Christopher Gwinn. They wanted to make sure they had a candidate that would not only like to work at a site like this, but also had a career goal—that the NPS wouldn’t be just a job, but a passion and something they want to succeed in and continue on in. They asked about me, and I hadn’t heard anything in while, so I got kind of nervous because I wanted a job with the NPS so badly that I actually ended up putting on my big girl pants and calling the chief of interpretation here.

So that’s how I landed at Andrew Johnson. It was very much by chance, but I feel very fortunate and lucky to have gotten a site that is in my field of study, Reconstruction and Civil War memory. A lot of first-time positions that my other friends and co-workers had—they usually had to sacrifice a GS level [general schedule level—the pay scale of Federal government employees] or a job that they wanted at a certain park or theme at a park to get in where there’s an opening, which is usually a spot that’s out in the middle of nowhere, doesn’t have many visitors, or doesn’t have a lot to do with interpretation. I’m really lucky, and I do not take this job for granted, because I know that it could’ve been 8 hours a day in a booth, collecting fees. I think I would’ve jumped out the window after week one.

Here, I don’t have to worry about just being the person that collects money or who sits at the front desk all day. I get to design programs and try something new. They’re redoing their interpretive planning, so they wanted someone that had fresh eyes—not only fresh eyes out of masters of public history, but also fresh eyes that come from a massive park that does a lot of interpretation. They’re trying to revamp their interpretive plan and programming, so they wanted some of that experience while also having someone who has the knowledge base.

They asked me in my interview if I had any knowledge of Andrew Johnson; I did of his presidency and the aftermath of his presidency and his legacy throughout Reconstruction and reconciliation, but not much of him personally. But they already had so much on him personally that they wanted someone who knew about Reconstruction and the historical context of the time period, so that kind of hit the nail on the head. That’s a benefit of coming in fresh.

CM: I want to talk to you about Andrew Johnson in a second, but first, I want to circle back to something you said about being “in the system” for the Park Service. It seems to me a lot of people on the outside see the Park Service as this big, iconic entity, with the Smoky the Bear hats, but when you see how the sausage is made, it is a government bureaucracy. How is that to reconcile those extremes?

EM: It’s very difficult. It’s also very difficult to stay positive. There are a lot of people I know that have left the Park Service because they basically can’t wait any longer. From when I started in 2012 to now, it’s become increasingly, excruciatingly difficult to get in. There are a lot of sacrifices you have to make. If I had just gone into the private sector with a master’s degree and a lot of experience at different parks and programs, I probably would have been paid a little bit more and also had a career that isn’t reliant on whether the government had a budget or not. So it’s something you do have to renegotiate with what you want in your future. Also, you have to be willing to uproot and move anywhere. It is something you have to reconcile personally, but also career-wise.

The love of the job itself makes it bearable. It’s not just a job where, every time you put on your Smokey the Bear hat on, you don’t think about it. Of course you do! Every time I put my hat on, I think that I look awesome and like a superhero. [She laughs] Even if the uniform isn’t flattering [she laughs again], I still feel like I have this powerful presence even just walking in and opening the visitor center. That’s something that is empowering, and that alone is enough to overcome the other bureaucratic problems that you can face being a federal employee.

It is kind of scary if there’s a shutdown. You don’t know when you’re going to get paid or go back to work, and that is something that is kind of terrifying, especially in real life where you have student loan payments and bills to pay. I’m not there yet, but some people have a family to support. If I had a husband and a kid I was trying to support as the main breadwinner for a couple years, if I’m not able to go to work, that’s going to put a financial strain, so it is something you have to negotiate with yourself and people around you.

My family has understood since I started—and came to my first program at Chancellorsville—that this is what I want to do. I’ve wanted to be in the history field talking to people before I even realized the Park Service did anything like this. So I’ve always wanted to be in something like this and understood the sacrifices that might have to be made—like this year for Thanksgiving, my family is coming up here because, as a Federal employee, I work all the way up until Thanksgiving Day. I can’t travel very much, but they can, so they’re coming up here from Illinois.

In the end, the question you have to ask yourself is if it’s worth it. The fact that I burst into tears when this park called and offered me a permanent position shows, to me, that it’s definitely worth it. It’s a long process, and it’s very difficult to try and stay positive, but if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. If you know that’s what you really want to do, you just have to keep fighting through the bureaucracy, and that’s what I did. I’m not going to say that it’s for everybody, because it is soul-sucking at times. There are no answers, and you don’t know what’s going to come next, and it’s terrifying, but that spark and that fire that is burning under my butt that tells me to keep going—that doesn’t go away. I knew I couldn’t reconcile with myself if I didn’t try with the Park Service, and that was worth battling it out with the red tape.


In tomorrow’s segment of the interview, Chris and Emma talk more about the process she went through to get her first permanent position in the Park Service. “I fully admit that you can fall in love with the park and want to stay there because you love it so much,” she says, “and your goal is to be there for the rest of your career—but that’s not how the park service is designed.”

From ECW’s Archives: Port Royal Experiment

In 2015, Ashley Webb wrote a four part series for Emerging Civil War, discussing the Port Royal Experiment as a prelude to the Reconstruction.

We thought it was a series to revisit during 2018 Black History Month.

Port Royal Experiment – Setting The Stage For Reconstruction, Part 1

Port Royal Experiment – Setting The Stage For Reconstruction, Part 2

Port Royal Experiment – Setting The Stage For Reconstruction, Part 3

Port Royal Experiment – Setting The Stage For Reconstruction, Part 4