Gettysburg: The Lay of the Land

Two Johns Hopkins experts examine the rocky terrain of Gettysburg and how it impacted the historic battle

For three days in the beginning of July 1863, two great armies met and clashed in the fields surrounding the township of Gettysburg in Adams County, Pennsylvania. Standing today atop the boulder-strewn, treeless plain known as Little Round Top on what is now the Gettysburg National Military Park, it’s easy to understand why historians assert that the battlefield’s unique topography – an eclectic mix of rolling fields, hills, and rocky protuberances – had a profound impact on the movements and strategies of both the Union and Confederate armies during this historical battle now considered the turning point of the American Civil War.

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Echoing Questions: Acoustic Shadows and the Battle of Gettysburg

Johns Hopkins physicist Bruce Barnett and alumnus Guillermo Bosch discuss the questions that still exist regarding a reported phenomena during the Civil War.

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Maryland: A House Divided

The blood lost on the battlefield provides the most indelible image of the conflict that shaped America, but the tensions that grew hundreds of miles from the combat are what tell the stories of individuals and their families that were greatly impacted by the Civil War. Two Johns Hopkins Ph.D. graduates, Edward Papenfuse, ’73, and Bob Brugger, ’74, share two of these stories that happened to common citizens of Baltimore that exemplify the Maryland’s status as a house divided.

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Baltimore: The Monumental City

The mixed feelings about the Union and Confederacy remained present long after the war was over and as the city began commemorating the conflict with statues during the first half of the 20th century. In building its testaments to the war and those who fought in it, the pro-Southern spirit prevailed: Despite the fact that Maryland never seceded from the Union and the Union won the war, three of four Civil War monuments in Baltimore were dedicated to the Confederacy.

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National strife pits brother against brother

A border state where there was popular support for slavery but no secession, Maryland stood on the brink of Union and rebellion. It was a long and arduous battle pitting brother against brother, with about 60,000 Maryland men serving the Union Army and more than 20,000 joining the Confederacy, according to the Maryland Historical Society. Families ties unraveled as relatives took up arms for opposing sides.

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Streets of Baltimore witness the first bloodshed of the Civil War

Baltimoreans of the mid-1800s had a thing about brawls. Dubbed Mobtown because of the spats that broke out between gangs in competing firehouses, the city was ripe for a big fight and on a Friday afternoon in 1861, it got it. While many locals were celebrating the end of a work week at the bars downtown, about 700 Massachusetts soldiers arrived at the President Street Depot, their very presence the trigger for the most famous street fight the city has ever seen.

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Visit Pratt Street Riot: A first-hand account riot-large

Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Pratt Street Riot: A first-hand account

The battle at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, launched the Civil War. But the divided nation didn’t suffer its first causalities until a week later, hundreds of miles to the north in Baltimore, Md. A rowdy gathering of citizens attacked the 6th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and Pennsylvania troops as they attempted to transfer trains along Pratt Street. George W. Brown, mayor of Baltimore and future founding trustee of the Johns Hopkins University, attempted to quell the tensions to avoid violence before the conflict turned deadly.

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Visit Johns Hopkins, his family and slavery johnshopkins

Photo Credit: Ferdinand Hamburger Archives in the Special Collections of the Sheridan Libraries

Johns Hopkins, his family and slavery

It happened long before the bombardment and surrender of Fort Sumter that marked the start of the American Civil War 150 years ago this week.

It happened long before the war’s first blood was shed, when secessionists and Confederate sympathizers fired on the Union’s Sixth Massachusetts Regiment through Mr. Johns Hopkins’ own city of Baltimore in a battle that came to be known as the Pratt Street Riot.

It was decades before all that when the Hopkins family grappled with the issues of freedom, morality, democracy and slavery – issues that eventually set North against South in 1861.

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Contributing Experts


Bruce Barnett


Barnett has taught a variety of graduate and undergraduate level courses and is particularly adept at explaining complex scientific concepts to non-scientists.


Bruce Marsh


Transferring his knowledge of geology to battle strategy, Marsh annually takes students to Gettysburg to discuss land structures.


Edward Papenfuse

JHU alumnus

The director of the Maryland State Archives, he teaches courses through the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

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Mary Elizabeth Garrett: Society and Philanthropy in the Gilded Age

As the youngest child and only daughter of the B& O Railroad mogul John Work Garrett, Mary Elizabeth Garrett was bright and capable, well suited to become her father’s heir apparent.


Maryland, A Middle Temperament

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