Megan Kate Nelson, a Harvard professor and Civil War historian, gave a lecture on Tuesday from her latest book “A Man Among Ruins: Charles F. Morse Encounters Wartime Destruction 1861-1865.”
The lecture, held in Webb Hall, was part of the Boertman lectures, in honor of long-time Emporia State professor C. Stewart Boertman, who taught for 41 years. The lecture was co-sponsored by the Social Science department and the Lyon County Historical Society.
“My lecture uses the experiences of Charles F. Morse as a window into Civil War destruction because he fought during the entire course of the war. He was in multiple theaters and encountered the ruin of cities, houses and forests and the bodies of man,” Nelson said. “So instead of giving you an overview or talking about ruins generally, I wanted to bring it down to that one individual’s experience because I think those kinds of stories are more compelling to tell and listen to.”
Brian Miller, assistant professor of social sciences, said Nelson’s work, in many ways, brings fresh insights into thinking differently about the Civil War.
“I think that the history of Civil War environments and the history also of the body in the Civil War are really new fields and the people who are working in them are on the cutting edge of Civil War history, sort of pushing the boundaries of what we actually know and can know,” Nelson said.
There were several reasons why she chose Charles F. Morse as her window. Nelson had a complete set of his letters. He had really good penmanship, and his sketches and views of the environment, both natural and manmade, interested her. She was also interested in the fact that he was a soldier.
“She definitely put a new view on the Civil War,” said Jessica Goertzan, sophomore psychology major. “I think her idea of the different types of ruin were very insightful and made me think about the war in a new light, not just as a series of battles, but about everything, that war destroys homes, cities, the environment and, of course, the people involved.”
Ashley Washington, junior communication major, said that Nelson was a great speaker and she liked how Nelson zoomed in on the life of a particular soldier.
Nelson’s book is available in the Memorial Union Bookstore. There are a limited amount of signed copies.