As the nation marks the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, a George Fox University history graduate is helping plan events at one of the war’s most somber sites.
“This is an amazing opportunity – some of it is heartbreaking – but it is very fulfilling,” says Stephanie Steinhorst (G05). “I’m in a perfect position.”
Daily, Steinhorst walks the grounds of the Camp Sumter Prison, now more commonly called Andersonville Prison, where nearly 13,000 Union soldiers died. She’s in her third year with the National Park Service at the Andersonville National Historic Site in Georgia, working in the Interpretation and Education Division.
Built in 1864 to house 10,000 captured Union soldiers, Andersonville held more than 45,000 during its 14 months of existence and more than 32,000 at one time. Nearly 13,000 died of starvation and disease. Their final resting place, located just outside the prison site, is now known as Andersonville National Cemetery.
In addition to her work with the cemetery, Steinhorst helps supervise the 514-acre park’s National Prisoner of War Museum, opened in 1998 to honor American soldiers captured and held prisoner in all U.S. wars. As a park ranger she has a dual task: balancing the competing demands of providing a fulfilling experience for visitors – more than 100,000 a year – and preserving the historic resources.
January marked the 150th anniversary of the start of prison construction, and this August marks the deadliest month of the prison’s existence – and one of the deadliest periods of the war. “We have a major obligation to tell the story of the prison system,” Steinhorst says, “and the failure to protect human life.” A variety of “living history events,” including a Sept. 9 Funeral for Thirteen Thousand, are scheduled – “the funeral the soldiers never received.”
Steinhorst has earned honors for her creative work with the park. In 2012, she was one of seven regional winners and a national finalist for the National Park Service’s annual Freeman Tilden Award, the highest form of recognition for an interpretive ranger. She was recognized for developing the park’s Historical Interpreter Apprentice Program in which local high school students dedicate weekends to study area history, acquire interpretation skills and participate in the park’s living history weekend.
Steinhorst’s involvement in park service started while she was still a student at George Fox. She interned as a living history instructor at nearby Champoeg State Park. While earning a master’s degree in history from New Mexico State University (received in 2012) she interned with the National Parks Service at Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park in Skagway, Alaska. Before going to Andersonville, Steinhorst also gained experience as a seasonal park ranger in California’s Death Valley National Park.