Kyle Gaffney

The national tragedy that was the Civil War began in April of 1860 and did not cease until April of 1865. Every state in the Union committed troops to the fight and became a prelude to the Industrial Age military war machines that dominated the battlefields of Europe. For Chester, New Jersey, however, the first shot on Fort Sumter began a boom time that it had never experienced before or since.

Chester, like most of Northern New Jersey, was blessed with an abundance of iron beneath the soil. As the demand for cannonballs, mortar shells and other weapons of war increased, Chester joined the mines of New Jersey and those in Ohio in arming the Union army. As iron production increased in the mines the small mountain town grew into the vibrant municipality we know today.

This web site will aim to study Chester's mining industry during the Civil War. We will seek to understand how the development of the mining industry, who worked in the mines and cannonball factories, quantify the amount of ammunition produced by the Chester mines and explore the social aspects of the town during it's boom times.

New Jersey is not often thought of when the issue of ammunition production during the Civil War is raised. Often the more famous ironworks in Pennsylvania and Ohio come to mind despite Northern New Jersey's rich mining history. Through careful research and firsthand local knowledge, we can now attempt to establish Chester's place in this important aspect of US Military History.

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  • Kyle Gaffney

Prof. Hajo

Website Review

The Gettysburg Museum & Visitor Center website at www.gettysburgfoundation.org is an interesting history website. Though the battle is considered by many Civil War historians to be the turning point of the war, the Gettysburg Foundation’s website generates interest in visiting the museum and the battlefield yet leaves much to be desired with regards to historical content. The latter issue is surprising, as one would assume the intense interest in the battle would lead the foundation to make more materials available online. Why would a site addressing such a popular topic be so lacking in historical resources?
The primary objective of the Gettysburg Foundation’s website is to attract tourists to the museum and the battlefield. It devotes a great amount of space to tour packages and area hotels, as well as local attractions within the town itself. In this respect, the site is similar to the National Park Service’s website. What mention of historical material the website does make pertains to the museum’s exhibits, though there are few if any pictures of artifacts or digitized materials. The few materials the website does mention are minor and are simply a taste of what a visitor to the museum can expect to view.
While understanding the primary objective of the website is critical to understanding how and why it is set up the way it is, the programmers have done an excellent job on the site. It is extremely user friendly and definitely does generate interest in visiting the park. Information about tours and some of the artifices in the museum could ultimately decide whether the viewer commits to a trip to see everything for his or herself. When viewed in this light, the website is extremely effective.
It is curious that the Gettysburg Foundation or the National Park Service has not digitized much of the materials it has on hand. The museum within the Visitors Center is one of the most impressive collections of Civil War artifacts in the nation. Along with the epic Cyclorama depicting all three days of the battle, the Foundation would definitely benefit from digitizing items within its exhibits online for the public to view.
The Gettysburg Foundation would do well to perhaps learn from an independently run website www.gettysburgdaily.com. A website run by local historians and journalists, it not only posts panoramic pictures of the battlefield, it’s thousands of monuments and local news related to conservation efforts. Granted, it is not the easiest website to navigate and has simply set up it’s posts in chronological order. Yet a visitor to this site, with time and patience, can learn a great deal both about the battlefield in its historical context as well as drum up excitement for an upcoming visit.
Digitizing even parts of the Gettysburg Museum’s vast collection is much easier said than done. The National Park Service simply does not have the funds and the manpower at the moment to execute such a project. Making such materials freely available on the web also conceivably has the downside of making a visit a bit less likely. However, students of the Civil War would never pass up a chance to walk Pickett’s Charge or view the red trousers from the uniform of a New York soldier. While we must recognize that the Gettysburg Foundation’s website, like the National Park Service is concentrated on bringing tourists to the park, putting a focus on the history of the battle would not only bring in business, but also assist both professional historians and Civil War buffs alike.

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