Andrew Ondish served this summer as a research intern at the Seminary Ridge Museum, located in the former Schmucker Hall on the campus of the Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary. During the battle, it served as a Union field hospital.
Ondish, a junior history major, researched the military service of some of the more than 600 soldiers who received treatment there.
"I'm weekly touching base with supervisors and informing them of my progress, contributing to the creation of the soldier database here, and searching for quartermaster receipts," he says. "I'm also finding and contacting descendants of these soldiers in the hopes of completing the picture of what happened to them after the American Civil War, and beyond the Battle of Gettysburg."
He particularly enjoyed contacting a living descendant of a soldier who served in the 151st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. The descendant sent a complete file on both his direct ancestor and the ancestor’s brother, including photographs.
Another surprise find was the history of Elkanah M. Gibson, a soldier in the 19th Indiana Infantry who was wounded only a few hundred yards away from Schmucker Hall. Gibson survived the war, lived through key moments of the Reconstruction era such as the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, and then moved to California, where he rose to the position of Alameda County Superior Court judge.
History on the RoadSome of the Penn State history interns do a considerable amount of traveling as part of their duties. Ashley Miller, a senior majoring in history and a research intern in the Gettysburg National Military Park's library and archives, visited the Frederick Historical Society, the Maryland Historical Society, the Army Heritage and Education Center, and the Union League of Philadelphia, looking for records the park's archives did not hold that could advance research on the Gettysburg battle.
She also examined the U.S. Christian Commission records at the National Archives in Washington, a repository where few undergraduate students ever get to work.
"While I'm at these archives, I research and handle original documents, copy them, and bring the copies back to the Gettysburg Library," she says. "While in Gettysburg, I transcribe all of the documents I acquired from my trips."
Miller then prepares the documents for inclusion in the park's archival collections. Probably her most important contribution was creating overviews, called finding aids, to help future researchers find files in the collection.
Among Miller's big finds during her travels was a series of letters and documents about John Martin Steffan, a captain in the 71st Pennsylvania Infantry. He died of wounds received in combat at Gettysburg.
"I found a letter from his brother Frederick dated July 2nd, that John never received," Miller says. "The story goes deeper and becomes more intimate."
Miller wrote an article about John Steffan for Gettysburg National Military Park's blog, which, as she says, is "something no other intern has had the opportunity to do."