Historical Imagination at Civil War Sites

Bloody AngleWhat has been the experience so far in the Adventure that has been the easiest or most difficult to imagine having actually occurred:

 Quinn: The Bloody Angle was the most incomprehensible part of today. We were walking on ground that was, during the battle, stacked with bodies seven deep. The fighting continued for twenty-two straight hours where 17,000 men died in a field that stretched little more than half of a mile. I still struggle imagining the field filled with corpses and the battle itself raging for almost an entire day.

Nick: I really liked the meeting with the historian at Gettysburg. The amount of knowledge that he game us be it being leading up to, during, and after the war. The culture of the time and how it contributed to the way armies fought and how people thought and just overall was awesome for me.

Paul: The most difficult event / tradition that was most shocking to me was the Jesuit influence in Maryland and how they embraced the social culture of the south. I was surprised how strategically the Jesuits chose their land while settling in the new colony, while at the same time attempting to exempt themselves from the local politics. The Jesuits had a couple thousand acres of land for their convents and plantations. In addition, they had acquired roughly one hundred and forty slaves, and used them like any other plantation owner. Our history books often illustrate the church to be separate and not entrenched in southern society such as the heavy control of land and slaves. By visiting the different Jesuit institutions in Maryland, I soon realized that the Catholic Church was fully entrenched in every aspect of life and participated in all the social practices that were normal for the time period.

Sam: I find it easy to imagine that Point Lookout prison in Maryland happened. From a northern perspective, we study the brutal prisons in the South, such as Andersonville, but we do not focus much on the Northern prisons. I had never heard of Point Lookout before camping there, and we learned that it was one of the most brutal prisons in the North. I think it is important as students studying the Civil War that we look at the poor conditions that both sides faced due to the enemy. Point Lookout was an eye-opening experience that exposed me to the brutality of Northern prison camps.

Connor: I found it easy to imagine and visualize the layout and effectiveness of the 3 forts protecting point lookout hospital and prison through our tour of Fort Lincoln. The reenactors working on rebuilding the fort really allowed me to step into what was happening during the war, and the thought that went into creating the brutality and destruction experienced during the war. The men working diligently for such a long time on the preservation of this history really spoke to me, reminding me that history is something that we cannot let slip from us.

John- I thought the determination of the Union was impressive. They suffered defeat after defeat. Especially the defeat at Fredericksburg when they just did charge after charge. Yet through all this loss they were able to keep their spirits up and push through the next day. Yet in the confederate army when they started to lose it gave them problems in desertion. Why would the north have more determination than the south when the south had so much more to lose? I think that maybe an immoral reason doesn’t give as much justification to anyone to die for. That maybe everyone knows deep down what is right and wrong in a modern society.

Jacob– Today, we visited the battlefield of Spotsylvania Courthouse. At the Bloody Angle, 17,000 soldiers died in 22 hours of continuous combat. I simply could not imagine the bodies piled six high, blood filling the Confederate ditch ankle-deep. Throughout this Civil War Adventure, we have talked about a major theme of motivation to fight. There was no way, I thought, that Union and Confederate soldiers would continue to fight with such conviction after seeing their comrades die and charging over their lifeless bodies. Seeing the battlefield brought the image alive in a way that no lecture or work of writing could.

Peter– Despite its non-existence Spotsylvania was the third stop of our day. The United States National Parks Service has outdone itself with its most recent production. The cast of Gary and Jordan portrayed convincing portrayals of real park rangers of a real battlefield. The dialogue and choreography was expertly memorized and reproduced for our group. Complete with martial arts, tool analogies, and stunning visual simulations, the USNPS’s production of Spotsylvania: A Real Battle has lived up to its expectations as one of the company’s highest budget show. The production value was incredibly high, dwarfing the previous ventures of the Battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. I am proud to present Spotsylvania with a rating of 9.4 of 10 for its mastery of storytelling. Go grab a significant other and see the show next time it is in town. You will not regret it.

Robert: The most simple experience for me to imagine is my experience at Effingham. Here, we examined the plantation grounds to discover any marks left by the slaves upon the grounds. When examining the plantation house, we found the depressions left by the hands of the slaves when they made the bricks for the house. These marks brought to my mind a new understanding of the impact of these men and women that, in many ways, literally built the South.


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