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Snell lectures on Civil War’s causes

By Staff | Sep 23, 2011

Shepherd University Professor Mark Snell dispelled common rumors and misnomers about what really caused the Civil War in a lecture to town residents and students Tuesday.

Snell spoke to a packed auditorium at the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies, opening his lecture with a quiz for attendees about some basic Civil War knowledge. Unsurprising to him, most got his questions wrong. Afterwards, Snell sought to clarify many of the common misperceptions which made the audience fail his quiz. Snell argued that the Civil War was primarily caused by slavery, despite what many history textbooks say about state’s rights.

Snell’s lecture spanned topics from early Northern and Southern compromises all the way to Abraham Lincoln winning the presidency. Snell said that he usually covers this in a third of a semester of teaching and cramming it all into one hour was very challenging.

“I tried to take this complex subject and make it as understandable as possible,” Snell said.

Snell was happy to give the lecture as he feels understanding the integral role that Shepherdstown played in the Civil War is important for residents and his students alike.

“The poor people of Shepherdstown suffered a lot,” Snell said. “Every house in town had wounded soldiers in it.”

Many community members turned out to get a dose of history. For some the lecture was very enlightening.

“I’m from California, and for us, the Civil War was always something that happened elsewhere. I didn’t realize how much California fit into the picture,” said Shepherdstown resident Clifford Sanbongi of Snell’s lecture.

Shepherdstown resident and a student of Snell’s, Marianne Davis, described the lecture style as “absolutely straightforward.” Fellow student Heather McSharry agreed but added that Snell’s classes certainly were not easy, but she still enjoyed them.

After the lecture Snell hosted a signing of his book “West Virginia and the Civil War: Mountaineers Are Always Free.”

Snell’s lecture, entitled “The Course of the Civil War: A Primer,” was part of the West Virginia Humanities Council’s “History Alive” program. The lecture was hosted by the Friends of the Shepherdstown Library.

Those interested in WVHC’s upcoming events can visit www.wvhumanities.org.