15 July 2008 by Published in: Research and Writing 2 comments

My regular readers know that I am member of Dickinson College’s 210th graduating class, otherwise known as the Class of 1983. Some of you may also know that my friend and mentor Brian Pohanka was also an alumnus of Dickinson College. Brian was a member of the Class of 1977, although I didn’t come to know Brian until well after both of us had left Carlisle.

When it became obvious that the melanoma that took Brian’s life had returned and that things were looking bleak, Brian’s family decided to honor his life and dedication to history by endowing the Brian C. Pohanka Chair of Civil War History at Dickinson. Brian, in very typical fashion, felt it was “unseemly” (to use his word) to have such a memorial to someone who was still alive, and refused to permit the position to bear his name while he was still alive. Consequently, it was called the Dickinson College Chair of Civil War History until after his death. I was one of the few outside of the family and outside of the college administration to know about it, and I was sworn to secrecy. I respected my friend’s wishes and didn’t say anything about it until after Brian passed.

With Brian gone, the name was then changed. Prof. Matthew Pinsker was hired in 2002 to fill the position, and he has done so quite well. For those not familiar with Matt’s work, he is one of the brighter lights in the younger generation of Lincoln scholars, and Dickinson is fortunate to have a historian of his caliber filling the position.

The College has launched a wonderful project called A House Divided: The Civil War Era and Dickinson College, an on-line archive of information about my alma mater’s many contributions to the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. The project, under Matt’s direction, is still being developed and is still in the beta testing stage, but there’s some really useful and interesting information to be found there. And best of all, the dedication page on the web site says, “The House Divided website is dedicated to the memory of Brian C. Pohanka (Class of 1977).” I think Brian would be pleased. It’s a wonderful and worthy tribute to his memory and his life’s work.

For some time, I’ve been toying with the idea of researching and writing about Dickinson’s contributions to the Civil War–for some reason, an unusual number of Civil War cavalry officers were Dickinsonians–so I contacted Matt to discuss the idea. Matt has suggested that my idea be folded into A House Divided, an idea that I wholehearted embraced. It will be my honor and my pleasure to be a contributor to the project, and it will give me a way to honor the memory of my friend.

I commend the site to you, even though it’s still in the beta phase, and hope you find it interesting.

Brian C. Pohanka

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Comments

  1. Mike Peters
    Wed 16th Jul 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Eric wrote the following:

    For some time, I’ve been toying with the idea of researching and writing about Dickinson’s contributions to the Civil War–for some reason, an unusual number of Civil War cavalry officers were Dickinsonians …”

    Eric,

    Great idea! Or maybe a bio on Capt. Brian Caldwell Pohanka?

    Mike

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