How I got interested in the Civil War period.
Like many Civil War buffs, I first became interested in the War as a child. In the summer of 1991, when I was 11 years old, my dad decided to stop off in Gettysburg on a family trip to Harrisburg. The family car was a 1979 station wagon with only an AM radio and no air conditioning and it was one of those dreadfully hot and humid south-central Pennsylvania days. We spent only a few sweltering afternoon hours out on the battlefield, mainly on the site of the first day fighting and in the National Cemetery. But the seed for a lifelong interest with American history was planted. Three years later, memories of that brief afternoon on the battlefield were enough to lead me to watch the recently released movie Gettysburg. From there, I went to the library and checked out John Pullen’s book, The Twentieth Maine. And that was it. I began to voraciously read everything I could find about the Civil War, and over the past twenty years, I’ve probably visited Gettysburg at least 30 times as well as a host of other Civil War sites in Maryland, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee.
Formal History Training
I don’t really consider myself to have any. I’m just a person who has read and studied the period a lot. I do have a B.A. in History and Philosophy from Baldwin-Wallace College, and a J.D. from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law where I was an editor on the law review. So although I wish I could say I am a Civil War historian by profession, my job is nothing so noble; I am a practicing lawyer. The Civil War, and this website, is strictly a somewhat expensive hobby.
Why the monuments at Gettysburg?
I have always had some interest in the monuments and liked trying to track down some of the more obscure ones. In the early 2000s, I started to think that someone really catalog and document them all, but obviously that’s a lot of work and not an easy task when you live six hours away from the battlefield and can only visit a few times a year.
However, in February 2007 my legal career was derailed by a diagnosis of cancer. It quickly became apparent that practicing law as a newly minted lawyer and having chemo every other Friday were not very compatible aims, and so unable to work full-time and unable to run nearly as much, I quickly found myself becoming bored and depressed. Seeking a distraction, I turned back to the Civil War and came up with the idea of tracking down all of the monuments on the Gettysburg battlefield.
Initially, my idea was to just to find all the monuments and photograph them for myself. But then I got the idea of doing it as a blog with the idea that people who live too far away to actually visit Gettysburg and might have had an ancestor or other connection could virtually visit the battlefield and see the monuments. With very little computer training or background, I started in on the project.
The kind of cancer I was diagnosed with is considered potentially curable, but it was diagnosed at a very advanced stage. And so, when I started in on this website I had real doubts as to whether I would ever finish it. Happily, my cancer is in remission and after about three years of quarterly trips to Gettysburg, I finally tracked down all of the monuments and published them to this space. I continue to work on my monument project to present, adding improved photographs and any new information I happen to stumble upon.
Favorite monuments and Civil War generals …
People often ask me what my favorite monument at Gettysburg is … And that’s really hard to say because there are so many unique and beautiful pieces of sculpture on the battlefield. Some of my favorites are the Reynolds equestrian, the Hancock equestrian on East Cemetery Hill, and the North Carolina Monument. My favorite Confederate general is A.P. Hill, and my favorite Union general is Winfield Scott Hancock.
I have two main interests outside Civil War history: running and nature photography. Around my neighborhood, I am known simply as that runner. I run. I run a lot.
If you would like to check out my nature photography, or if you’d like to read some of my essays about running, or if you’d just like to know more about me for some reason, please visit my homepage.
Can I write to you?
You can send me an email at jgoellnitz*@*gmail.com or just use the contact form. Thank you for visiting my site and I hope you enjoyed viewing my monument project.
If you can fill the unforgiving minute … with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run … Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.