The House Divided Project builds on the experience of Dickinson College’s graduates to interpret the war era. Dickinson boasts a president, a chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and others among its 19th-century alumni who played roles in both the Union and Confederacy.
Readers who prefer to start the day with a historic newspaper will love the site’s opening page. After clicking “Enter,” a series of images appear, linked to biographical sketches of “Dickinsonians” born on that day. Scanning down to “Events,” readers find documents or summaries of major events. In some cases there is no document, just a notation (e.g., in May 1857, Harriet Tubman was helping her enslaved parents escape to freedom). More detail can be found with events tied directly to the college, such as when in 1847 Professor John McClintock and the free black community in Carlisle, Pa., tried to stop slave catchers from returning escaped slaves to Maryland. Visitors can follow links to newspaper coverage of the event, as well as brief bios of McClintock and others involved, and they will also find links to broad discussions of slavery, fugitive slave laws and the Underground Railroad.
Started in 2008, House Divided is separated into subcategories of User’s Guide, Almanacs, Teacher’s Guide and Collections. Visitors can search the site by calendars (under “Almanacs”) or subject headings (under “Collections”)—or they can opt to use the search bars to narrow their investigations.
House Divided’s creators warn that the site is still under construction and likely will be through 2011. Anyone searching for information on battles and combatants may chafe at the limited attention these issues currently receive. The site is only completed through portions of 1861 at this point, so it is difficult to judge whether its designers will address the war with the same sophistication they brought to the crises of the 1850s.
Originally published in the August 2010 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.