Session 1 Wrap-Up – “Civil War” Course

At last, after two weeks of referring to this group of 24 students as the “Civil War” group, they finally got to move beyond the Antebellum era and begin studying the events and places that were directly affected by the Civil War.

Canal Walk/American Civil War Center/Tredegar Iron Works

Richmond.  The capitol of the Confederacy.  Industrial powerhouse of the South.  Often overlooked in the larger scope of the Civil War, Richmond played an important role and became a common destination for Pre-Col students during the last week and a half of the program.  What made Richmond an ideal location for a bustling industrial city was the James River Falls.  Students were taken on a walking tour of the Richmond Canals and ended the day at Tredegar Iron Works.  Tredegar was the primary manufacturer of iron and artillery for the Confederacy during the civil war, and though the facility is no longer in operation, it has been preserved for historical interpretation.

Canal Walk 1

Battle of Williamsburg – Redoubt #1

As mentioned in an earlier post, Williamsburg was largely affected by the Civil War.  On May 5, 1862, Union soldiers returned to Williamsburg after Confederate soldiers retreated from Yorktown during the Peninsula Campaign.  On their way back to the former capitol, Union soldiers encountered another Confederate regiment and fighting ensued.  This battle marked the first conflict of heavy fighting of the campaign, which resulted in a humiliating defeat for the Union.  Today, while Williamsburg has grown into a sprawling, suburban city, redoubts from the campaign remain as a reminder of this period in local and national history.

Fort Monroe

Though this army artillery base was decommissioned in 2011, Fort Monroe remains as a National Historic Landmark for the role it played in history.  Early in the war, Union General Benjamin Butler, who commanded Fort Monroe, was inundated with a wash of escaped slaves seeking refuge from their Southern masters.  Recognizing that slave insurrection was an Achilles Heel for the Confederates, Butler passed the (Fort) Monroe Doctrine.  Butler refused to return escaped slaves to their Southern plantation owners, reasoning that once in Union territory they were “contraband of war.”  Though it certainly did not give slaves the status of freed men, the decree met with even more people escaping the South as refugees to the North.

Mariner’s Museum

In the same way that “Colonial” students got to go behind the scenes with archaeologists at Jamestown, “Civil War” students got to explorer the Conservation Lab at the Monitor Center in Newport News.  As part of the magnificent Mariner’s Museum, the Monitor Center is dedicated to the history, recovery, and preservation of the USS Monitor, which sunk off the coast of North Carolina during the first major ironclad sea battle in 1862.  The students began their tour with an introduction by Dr. Anna Holloway, Director of Really Cool Stuff at the Mariner’s Museum.  She then led them through the lab where students could see countless artifacts recovered from the Monitor‘s underwater resting place, including the ironclad’s turret.  The visit to the Mariner’s Museum and the Monitor Center remains a favorite of Pre-Col students year after year.

Remembering the War

The last days of field trips are all about how soldiers and civilians remembered the war.  With a heart-braking record of more than 600,000 people dying during the Civil War, it is no surprise that plans for cemeteries and burial sites to commemorate the lost were laid out all up and down the east coast.  With Virginia sitting right on the border of Union and Confederate lines, soldiers from both sides were interred into its soil.  Students visited three separate cemeteries near Richmond (Cold HarborHollywood, and Shockhoe Hillto look at the different ways that generations preserved the memory of their fallen loved ones and to gauge how a nation that was once split in two remembers its own devastating past.


Published in: on July 15, 2014 at 4:51 pm Comments (0)