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The George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, is home to Shepherd University's Civil War and 19th century America concentrated track of studies. The program requires students to complete a program of specialized courses in addition to those required of all history majors. Courses concentrate on various elements of 19th century history such as the American Civil War, 1850-1865; the Reconstruction Era; African American History; Soldiers and Society, 1861-65; and the Old South. Students also will conduct primary research within the topic area and must intern at one of various historic sites in the region, such as Harpers Ferry National Historic Park.
Shepherd University’s location in "Civil War country" and the resources of the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War are attractive incentives to prospective history majors who desire in-depth study of the Civil War era. Students in this track take advantage of the proximity of Antietam National Battlefield, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Gettysburg National Military Park, and the many battlefield sites of the Lower Shenandoah Valley as they pursue their studies of the American Civil War.
The idea to create a "Center for the Study of the Civil War" at Shepherd University came as a result of 1990 discussions between officials from the University and Antietam National Battlefield. The role of the Center was envisioned as a "keeper of the standards" for the National Park Service's (NPS) "Civil War Soldiers System" (CWSS) database that was to be developed. The CWSS consists of several fields of basic data taken from index cards that are keyed to a soldier's service records kept at the National Archives.
In August 1991 a Civil War Soldiers Database Planning Conference was held. Participants included Park Service personnel, Shepherd University staff and faculty, and noted Civil War scholars. The conference attendees concluded that Shepherd could enhance the NPS project by overseeing the academic integrity of database enhancements and assuring that proper data standards are maintained. It also was suggested that Shepherd could initiate its efforts by demonstrating how a database subset (to the NPS database), such as West Virginia's Union soldiers, might be enhanced by including data gleaned from census records, pension files, and other sources.
A second conference was held at Shepherd in March 1993. A Scholars' Advisory Board had been named, and all board members were in attendance. Other conference attendees included NPS personnel, Shepherd staff and faculty, local and state educators, and interested citizens. It was generally agreed that the NPS database would not be of much use to scholarly historians; Shepherd should include information from the soldiers' "Compiled Service Records" and "Pension Files" in the National Archives. It was debated whether data from the 1860 and later censuses should be included; the consensus was priority should be placed on the service records and pension files. Finally, most of the conference attendees agreed that the educational function of the center would be as important as the database itself. A scholarly question-and-answer period followed, which was broadcast on C-SPAN.
The Center's first director
In September 1993, Civil War historian Mark A. Snell, a retired Army officer and former assistant professor of history at West Point, was hired; he began his duties in November 1993, soon after his retirement from the United States Army. He has a B.A. from York College of Pennsylvania, an M.A. in American history from Rutgers, and the Ph.D. from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Snell is a former assistant professor at the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY.
As an associate professor of history at Shepherd University, he teaches courses on aspects of the Civil War, the two-semester U.S. history survey, and courses on World War I and World War II. Snell chairs the “Civil War and 19th Century America” and the “Public History” concentrations in the history major.
He has written or edited several books on the Civil War, including From First to Last, The Life of Major General William B. Franklin (Fordham Univ. Press, 2002). His most recent publication is about the U.S. involvement in World War I: Unknown Soldiers: The American Expeditionary Forces in Memory and Remembrance (Kent State University Press, 2008). Snell is an adjunct professor in the Masters of Military History degree program at Norwich University.
Snell’s great-great grandfathers served in the 87th Pennsylvania Infantry during the Civil War, his grandfather was in the US Army Air Service in World War I, and his father fought in World War II as a member of the U.S. Army’s 215th Field Artillery Battalion in the European Theater of Operations.
Programs and facilities
Since Dr. Snell's arrival, the Center has hosted a summer seminar for social studies teachers (1994) that was made possible by a grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council and annual summer seminars since 1995 that are open to the general public (for a fee).
The Center's database manager/programmer has developed the data-entry software and two historical-records specialists have been entering data since August 1996. The records specialists work on only one regiment at a time, with random quality control audits occurring weekly.
The Center is concentrating on entering data only from the soldiers' service records; they begin entering data from the pension files at a later date. A group of dedicated volunteers has been entering data for smaller projects, such as collecting information from the service records of West Virginia Civil War soldiers buried in our national cemeteries. Volunteers have completed Antietam, Gettysburg, and Andersonville national cemeteries.
The Center is developing an interactive educational software program about West Virginia's role in the Civil War. Funded in part by a grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council, the program (for CD-ROM) will be issued free of charge to secondary schools in West Virginia.
The Center has hosted several evening and weekend courses on various Civil War topics and produces a bi-annual newsletter.
The Conrad Shindler House
In September 1995, actress Mary Tyler Moore donated the Conrad Shindler House to the Center. This house, erected around 1795, was owned by Ms. Moore's great-great-great-grandfather during the first half of the nineteenth century. During the Battle of Antietam in September 1862, the Shindler House, like most of the other buildings in Shepherdstown, received wounded Confederate soldiers. All operations of the Center relocated to the Shindler House in April 1996. In honor of Moore's father, the Center was renamed The George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War.
The ongoing research at The George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War involves the compilation of figures from the soldiers' compiled military service records which will lead to a more definitive number of veterans born in West Virginia. Within the next five years, data gleaned from the service records of soldiers serving in all of West Virginia's Union regiments and (Western) Virginia Confederate regiments will be compiled in the center's electronic database. Once completed, a simple query will be able to provide a very accurate total for both sides including data heretofore unavailable.
The Center maintains Shepherd University's large selection of reference materials, including many published primary sources. Materials are for reference use only and may not be checked out. The materials are cataloged in the Shepherd University library system.
Civil War seminars and lectures
Every summer the Center offers a weekend-long seminar with a topic of interest related to the Civil War era. Civil War scholars and enthusiasts alike attend the educational event and are offered a glimpse into cutting-edge research in Civil War history. In 2008, the seminar was "Gettysburg: Retreat & Pursuit" and featured Kent Masterson Brown as the scholar-in-residence.