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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Civil War History Tour: Harper's Ferry

Harper's Ferry, West Virginia has some interesting stories.  It changed hands between the north and south 8 times.  It was sought after because it was on the railroad, canal, Potomac River and Shenandoah River.  It was a nice little port town to have control of for supplies.
The town is built on the side of a mountain and has an interesting layout.

 John Brown made his stand against slavery here in this fort.  He and his abolitionists were later hanged for his skirmish.
 The Potomac.

People in this area were tired of being controlled by the military, said they were always under martial law.  I don't remember all the details, but they joined the union later in the war, when West Virginia broke off from Virginia.

I feel I learned the least here because it was a self-guided tour.  It was really hot this day too, about 92 degrees and no breeze.  It might need to be revisited in the spring or fall for a better understanding of the area.

The frozen custard was the best part of this stop for me and it was beautiful. 

I spent Thursday and Friday in class learning from professors from different colleges.  I think my favorite part was learning about the treatment and rights of the African-American soldiers. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Civil War History Tour: Gettysburg

I was in Gettysburg about 10 years ago after a family reunion in PA.  We only have about 2 hours to dedicate to this and my Mom wasn't feeling well so we did not get to see much.  Boy has it changed.  The visitors center that I went to then no longer exists.  The new one is spectacular.  This year marks the 150 year anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.  July 1-3 in 1863 were the dates of the turning point in the Civil War.  If the South had won at Gettysburg we might have had a different outcome...

Things I learned today:
1.  The Emancipation Proclamation is what stopped England from joining the South in the war.  England did not want to support slavery.

2.  Mistakes in commands from General Robert E. Lee lead to the South not winning at Gettysburg.  If General Lee's orders had been followed as intended on July 1st they might have won this battle.

3.  The Devil's Den is named after a snake.  The soldiers found a snake pit and needed to use it as a bunker.  They got out all the snakes, but one.  They couldn't catch it, so it got nicknamed Devil.

4.  That civilians clean up the battlefields when a battle is over.  The people of Gettysburg cleaned up the battlefield and buried the dead from July through November.  It took that long to dig the graves and find all the soldiers.  I cannot imagine having that responsibility thrust upon me.  The battle wiped out most of their crops and due to all the deaths their drinking water was contaminated.  Gettysburg had to depend on the charity of neighboring town for a season because the soldiers ate up all their supplies and ruined all their crops.

5. Jenny Wade was the only civilian to be killed during the battle.  A bullet went through two doors and struck her in the chest.  Other civilians died during the clean up with accidental misfires of loaded guns and live cannon balls being removed later.
 The next three pictures are from the cyclorama.  This painting is 42 feet high and circles a giant room.  It took the artist a little less than a year to paint it.  It is the view point of Cemetery Hill and a little video effects lets you know what it would feel like being in the middle of a war.  (Scary!)

 In the museum you weren't allowed to used flash photography so most of my shots are junk.  The next two pictures are of men who lost their lives in this battle.

 The next  several pictures are in the National Cemetery.

 These markers only have a number on them, they are unknown soldiers, over 1,200.

 These arches were mass graves.  They placed coffins right next to each other in a trench.

 Each State has a number of bodies that were unaccounted for.  George Nixon is an Ohio soldier who was the great-grandfather of president Richard Nixon.  (We won't hold that against him.)
Re-enactors coming in for the 150 year anniversary reenactment.  Next week is going to be busy here.
 The Gettysburg National Cemetery was dedicated in November of 1863.  Abraham Lincoln was not going to attend, but changed his mind.
 His speech was given in this approximate area.
 On the way to Little Round Top.
 Little Round Top from the bottom of the hill.  Very rugged terrain.  The Union army fought from the top of this hill.

 Each state makes a memorial monument of their own design.  There are monuments all of the battle fields.
 Cannon view from the top of Little Round Top.  The engravings on the cannons let you know if they are reproductions or were actually at the war.  This was used during the war.

 The Devil's Den. 
 General Warren of the Union Army defended Little Round Top.
 The 1st Minnesota Infantry helped to hold of the Confederates during Pickett's Charge.  Only 47 men survived this battle from this Infantry.
 Pennsylvania build this memorial.  Around the bottom are the names of 32,000 soldiers who fought during the Battle of Gettysburg.
 Not sure if this Samuel Crawford is related, but will check that out later.

 Statue of General Meade.

It takes 6 horses to move a cannon and it's equipment.  Each cannon requires a ammunition wagon and a caisson, which they hitch together.  This brought meaning to...and the caissons keep rolling along.
Things I never realized as a high school student...


The size of a battlefield.  Both Antietam and Gettysburg showed me the space it needs to contain 100,000 of fighting men.  How far a cannon ball can actually go.  When you see it vs. imagine it it is amazing.  To understand that Civil War cannon ball explode in the air and not on impact and rely on shrapnel to do the work. 

My father-in-law put it best when he says history should be taught to us when we are older and not teenagers.  I wish I could retake that class now that I understand a little better about what my teacher was talking about.  Instead of being distracted with the cute boy sitting in the room. :)

Tomorrow: Harper's Ferry.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Civil War History Tour: Antietam

No words can express how much I LOVE to learn about history.  I have the pleasure of teaching social studies and enjoy every lesson taught, every year.  I try not to be that history teacher that bores her students to death, but to engage them in the era and what it must have been like to live there....

My principal back in March gave me a huge gift.  She signed me up for a history grant through our local educational service center.  I get to tour Civil War sights on a bus tour with other history teachers in a three county area.  It is an all expense paid trip with tours of Antietam, Gettysburg and Harpers Ferry.  Plus, I get to spend two days with OSU history professors learning how to use primary sources, poems, songs within the curriculum.  I get a college semester credit for free too.  It was like winning the history lottery without buying a ticket.

Today we left Wooster, Ohio at 7 am and arrived in Sharpsburg, Maryland about 2 pm and started touring.  Antietam (see link for more info) battle was the bloodiest of the Civil War, over 23,000 men died here.  Neither side called a truce so that they could help the wounded soldiers. 
Our tour guide was amazing and told the best stories.

Interesting facts about Ohio troops are that the 23rd regime contained both Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley, both future presidents of the United States.  William McKinley got a promotion to Lieutenant after he ran food and hot coffee to men who were in the trenches fighting.  One of the Ohio troops held off a band of Confederate soldiers with only a third of their regime due to losses in battle.

One man, put a bible in his coat so he didn't have to carry it.  Then was struck by a bullet and the bullet was stopped in the bible.  It traveled through the entire Old Testament and stopped in the book of Acts.

One man, received a bullet wound to his face that removed a lot of his jaw.  He fell face first into his hat.  Had there not been a hole in his hat he would have drown in his own blood.  He thanked the Yankee soldier who put a hole in his hat.  He was later a governor in Georgia.

So many stories, such a tragic time in history. 


 This is the saddest place, the front line of the battle field. It's called Bloody Lane. This literally filled up with dead men.  They had to unbury men who survived their wounds from among layers of dead soldiers.  So sad, that a nation can be so angry at each other.

Today was so interesting for me.  The town of Sharpsburg passed an ordinance that no fast food or hotel chain can build within three miles of the battlefield to preserve how it looked during the Civil War.  I think that is a neat idea.  Last fast fact for the day: Antietam was named by the Union Soldiers after the Antietam Creek, but the Confederates called it the Battle of Sharpsburg.  Tomorrow: Gettysburg.