It’s always exciting to obtain fresh perspectives and insights on the county’s past, something that is often provided when scholars take a serious look at our history. These thorough investigations, requiring months of intensive digging into original documents and a critical evaluation of the sources, are valuable as they focus on specific research questions and use the highest principles of historical inquiry and analysis to piece together an understanding of things that came before us.
Eric Mease is one of those bringing a scholar’s fresh eye to an unstudied subject in Cecil County. As a University of Delaware graduate student he launched an investigation two years ago that sought to piece together the story of the United States Colored Troops from this area. His Master of Arts thesis, Black Civil War Patriots of Cecil County, Maryland, was just approved by the University’s history department.
His investigation began at the Historical Society as he reviewed the literature on a few things that had been done earlier, such as a 1960s register of Civil War era African-American Troops from the county. Eric moved on from that baseline to visit cemeteries to verify his information and to add new patriots to his list. He continued by talking to families, visiting archives, studying wills and legal records, and using newspapers. In addition, he poured over old newspapers, studied slave tax records and manumissions, and extracted data from census registers. Through all of this, he was able to piece together this far-reaching story for the first time. Source he investigated indicated that between 200 and 400 African-Americans from Cecil County volunteered during the Civil War. His fieldwork specifically developed information on about 200 of these men.
Another person doing fieldwork for a professional monograph is Dr. Guy Alchon of the University of Delaware. His focus is on the impact of World War-II on Elkton. For a couple of years, the professor has been conducting fieldwork, taping oral histories, searching through old World War-II federal documents at the national archives, examining local government materials, and studying aging newspapers. From that he is planning a monograph that will be published and presented at one of the national groups, such as the American Organization of Historians. This labor intensive project is still ongoing.
We’ll look forward to having these valuable research titles become available to everyone as these academics add reliable sources for our understanding of the county’s story. Meanwhile congratulations to Eric for successful completion of this academic milestone, as he adds a postnomial to his credentials.