HPU Civil War expert discusses Battle of Gettysburg and Hawai‘i

June 24, 2013

Justin Vance
Justin Vance, Ed.D., associate dean of Military Campus Programs at Hawai‘i Pacific University, will speak at a June 29 event at O‘ahu Cemetery commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Vance is pictured in a corporal's Union Infantry uniform, which his great great grandfather Joseph M. Vance wore in the U.S. Civil War.

HONOLULU — Civil War expert Justin Vance, Ed.D., associate dean of Military Campus Programs at Hawai‘i Pacific University, will speak at a special program commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and its Hawai‘i connections. O‘ahu Cemetery and the Hawaii Civil War Round Table host this program on Saturday, June 29.

Vance, who also teaches history at HPU, will join other historians at the event, which will examine the storied U.S. Civil War battle and the men from Hawai‘i on the frontlines.

"Our research shows that at least three men from the Kingdom of Hawai‘i fought at the Battle of Gettysburg," Vance said.

Maj. Samuel Chapman Armstrong and Pvt. Nathaniel Bright Emerson served in infantry regiments in the Union Army and 1st Sgt. Allan Abbot Brinsmade served in an artillery regiment in the Confederate Army. 

Many people are unaware that people from Hawai‘i were involved in the war, noted Vance,  co-writer of an article examining Hawai‘i and Hawaiians’ surprising roles in the Civil War, published in the history journal World History Connected.

"About 200 people from Hawai‘i served in the armies and navies of the Union and Confederacy and as we approach the 150th anniversary of the most important battle of the war, it is fitting that Hawai‘i remembers her sons that served in that battle," said Vance.

Vance will speak about the historic battle that waged July 1-3, 1863. "Gettysburg is the largest battle ever fought in the Western Hemisphere," he said.

More than 157,000 infantry, cavalry and artillery men fought at Gettysburg, Penn. More than 50,000 men were dead, wounded, captured or missing, making it the most costly battle of the entire Civil War. 

The program will also feature a talk by noted local graveyard historian Nanette Napoleon about the Hawai‘i Sons of the Civil War, a memorial ceremony at the grave of Nathaniel Emerson, a visit to the Grand Army of the Republic (Union veterans) group plot where Civil War historian Bruce Barham will tell a true story about a lost and found watch at Gettysburg, and a recitation of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. 

Afterward, participants can see re-enactors from the Hawaii Civil War Round Table, who will be encamped nearby and will talk about army camp life during the Civil War. Hardtack biscuits, which were a staple ration of soldiers, affectionately known as “jaw breakers” and “tooth dullers,” will be on sale. Proceeds will support the production of a documentary film, "Hawai‘i Sons of the Civil War," which Vance serves as an associate producer. The film is expected to be complete in early 2015 — see hawaiisonsofthecivilwar.com.

The June 29 event at O‘ahu Cemetery is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon. Admission and parking on the grounds is free. For more information, contact Nanette Napoleon at 261-0705 or email nanetten@hawaii.rr.com.