Center

 

History of the Center . . .

 
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 initially was envisioned as a "keeper of the standards" for the Park Service's "Civil War Soldiers System"(CWSS) database that was to undergo development. 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 at Shepherd College (now Shepherd University). Participants included Park Servicepersonnel, Shepherd University staff and faculty, and several noted Civil War scholars. The conference attendees concluded that Shepherd could enhance the NPS project by overseeing the
 
The Conrad Shindler House, circa 1880 and in 1998


academic integrity (quality control) of any database enhancements and assuring that proper data standards are maintained. Additionally, the packaging of subsets of data for educational uses was seen as a possible function of the center. During this conference it also was suggested that Shepherd could initiate its efforts by demonstrating how a database subset (to the NPS data base), such as West Virginia's Union soldiers, might be enhanced by including data gleaned from census records, pension files, and other sources.

After much planning and debate during the next year and a half, a second conference was held at Shepherd in March 1993. By this time, a Scholars' Advisory Board for the Center 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. Much discussion occurred over the scope of Shepherd's efforts in the development of the database. It was generally agreed that the NPS database would not be of much use to scholarly historians; as such, Shepherd should include information taken from the soldiers' "Compiled Service Records" and "Pension Files" located in the National Archives. In addition, it was debated whether data from the 1860 and later censuses should be included; the consensus of the group was that adding census data would be even more time consuming, and that 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 the C-SPAN television channel.

During the next several months a nationwide search began for the first director of the Center for Study of the Civil War. 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 on November 16, 1993.

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 on a weekly basis.

       
At the current time we are concentrating on entering data only from the soldiers' service records; we will 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. Our volunteers have completed Antietam, Gettysburg and Andersonville national cemeteries. In addition, 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. Finally, the Center has hosted several evening and weekend courses on various Civil War topics, and we produce a bi-annual newsletter.

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 Ms. Moore's father, the Center has been renamed the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War.

Mary Tyler Moore Presenting the Key to the Conrad Shindler House to Center Director Mark Snell, May 1996.
 


Although we still work closely with the National Park Service and its Civil War Soldiers System, the George Tyler Moore Center of the Study of the Civil War conducts its mission independently. We are a division of the Shepherd University Department of History.

Go to Top

 

Our Staff . . .

Denise E. Messinger, Assistant to the Director >

Denise joined the staff of the George Tyler Moore Center in the fall of 2000. Before transferring to the Center, she worked in the Department of Administration and Finance at Shepherd University. Denise graduated from the University of North Carolina at Asheville in 1998, where she earned a bachelor's degree in history. A native of Adams County, Pennsylvania, she now resides in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.

At the Center, her responsibilities include coordinating plans for the annual Civil War seminar, held in late June each year.  These seminars have begun to be held off-site, an exciting development in the Center’s mission of outreach to the public.  Denise also plays a large part in the logistics for organizing and awarding the Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship.  In summary, she oversees the many day-to-day administrative details at the Center.  E-mail: dmessing@shepherd.edu

 

Tom

   
Denise

 

< Thomas E. White, Research Associate/Historical Records Specialist

Tom earned degrees from Montana State University (BS'59 -General Studies, MS'63 - American History). He retired from the National Park Service in 1997, after 34+ years service. Some of his NPS assignments included Park Historian, Manassas NBP, VA (64-66); Supervisory Historian, Fort Laramie NHS, WY (68-72); and Interpretive Planner at Harpers Ferry Center, WV (87-97). Tom's side interest is working on his family genealogy and researching the Civil War records of three great-grandfathers who were Union army veterans. He joined the staff of the George Tyler Moore Center in October 1998.

At the Center, his responsibilities include:  maintaining the Center’s extensive reference library resources of books, periodicals and microfilms; assisting students and other researchers in using our library resources; assuring the content and accuracy of the searchable databases of the common soldiers of West Virginia during the Civil War – which now consists of over 19,000 soldiers in 14 regiments and burials of West Virginia soldiers at seven national cemeteries;  and  providing the Center’s primary, front line public contact services, whether by telephone or in person.

Over the past twelve years on the Center staff, Tom has completed the databases for three West Virginia regiments and the West Virginia soldier burials at five national cemeteries.  He was also the primary preparer of the content of Mountaineers of the Blue and Gray — the Center’s new, interactive, multimedia CD, which strongly emphasizes the common soldier of the Civil War. This CD, which is over 1000 pages long, is essentially a special topic, visual encyclopedia focused on the Civil War and West Virginia.  In addition to researching and preparing information about Civil War personalities, military units, places, events, battles, campaigns, emblems, and music, he prepared over 150 new maps and 13 site-specific video vignettes.

E-mail: twhite@shepherd.edu

 

   

Albert J. Pejack, Jr., Database Administrator/Programmer>

A graduate of Westminster College, PA with a B.S. in economics and Clemson University, SC, with an M.S. in management, Al was a professor of computer studies at several colleges and universities before coming to Shepherd University in 1988. Since February 1995, "Uncle Al" has been working at the George Tyler Moore Center developing and managing the Center's database, as well as working on other software projects. He is a veteran of the US Air Force.

 

Al

Visiting Shepherdstown . . .
 
 

Few other areas are better situated geographically for the research and study of the Civil War.

 

Shepherdstown, located on the banks of the Potomac River, saw the passing of hundreds of thousands of soldiers as the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia waged their various campaigns during the four years of conflict. In addition to several skirmishes around Shepherdstown itself, the bloodiest day of the war, the Battle of Antietam, occurred just a few miles north of town near Sharpsburg, Maryland, with Shepherdstown becoming a vast Confederate hospital in the wake of that battle.
 
Nearby lie Harpers Ferry and Charles Town, the sites where John Brown staged his famous raid and was later tried and hanged. In nearby Martinsburg, Belle Boyd, the famous Confederate spy, made her home. Within short driving distances of Shepherdstown lie the battlefields of: South Mountain, Monocacy National, Battlefield, Gettysburg National Military Park, Manassas National Battlefield, Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park

Go to Top