The Historic Shepherdstown Commission Speaker Series will feature Kevin Pawlak, Historic Site Manager for Prince William County’s Historic Preservation Division, on May 12 at 7pm.
Pawlak’s presentation will be based on his 2015 book titled Shepherdstown in the Civil War: One Vast Confederate Hospital, September 1862.
In September 1862, Western Maryland became the focus as Robert E. Lee’s thus-far victorious Confederate army advanced north across the Potomac River to deal the final blow to a United States that seemed to be on its last leg. Lee began his campaign with the goal of defeating a Union army on northern soil and gaining independence for the eleven states of the Confederacy, while U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and George McClellan, commander of the Union Army of the Potomac, struggled to keep the United States as one nation instead of two. This decisive campaign culminated along the banks of Antietam Creek, stopping the Confederacy’s quest for independence and helping to grant freedom for enslaved people. The Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single-day battle of the war, changed the course of the Civil War and of the United States itself. It also turned Shepherdstown into “One Vast Confederate Hospital.”
Pawlak is a 2014 graduate of Shepherd University, where he majored in History with a concentration in Civil War and 19th Century America and minored in Historic Preservation. He is a Certified Battlefield Guide at Antietam National Battlefield and Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, He is on the Board of Directors for the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association, the Save Historic Antietam Foundation, and the Friends of Ball’s Bluff Battlefield.
In addition to his book about Shepherdstown, he has written “To Hazard All: A Guide to the Maryland Campaign, 1862”, with Robert Orrison, published in 2018, and “Antietam National Battlefield”, published in 2019. He is a regular contributor to the “Emerging Civil War” online blog, and is currently working on a study of George B. McClellan and the Army of the Potomac in the Maryland Campaign.
May is also Historic Preservation Month, and HSC’s annual Historic Preservation Award winners will be acknowledged before Pawlak’s talk. Austin and Carmen Slater will receive the Preservation of Historic Structures Award for their restoration of the Christian Clise House. Bruce Massey and Jerry Bock, the inspiration behind the Shepherdstown Tour of Historic Churches, will receive the Preservation of Historic Legacies Award, also known as the Dr. James C. Price Award. Finally, longtime HSC board member Vicki Smith will receive the Service to Historic Shepherdstown award.