Days 3 & 4 (July 16 & 17)
The first two days of the institute were packed with resources and information for the educator. However, the last two days appealed to the history enthusiast or Civil War buff. The participants were given a number of trip options for the third day and were taken on a tour of Richmond in Lincoln’s footsteps on the last day. Out of the many trip options, I chose to go to the Petersburg Battlefield and Pamplin Park.
The trip to Petersburg stood out to me because of the guide’s unique way of telling us the history of Petersburg. He intrigued the educator in us while also engaging the student in us. He engaged us by using volunteers in his demonstration of the Battle of Petersburg. A volunteer carrying the American Flag represented General Grant and another volunteer carrying the Confederate flag represented General Lee. Other volunteers held a Richmond flag, Petersburg flag, or toy trains to represent stopping points. The volunteers were connected by one of two pieces of string to portray each general’s strike path. Like Lynchburg, Petersburg was a target because it was a supply center and transportation hub for Richmond, the Confederate capital. This demonstration can be used, in any classroom, as a differentiated method of teaching about the different.
The trip to Pamplin Park was also very educational and fun. Our guide taught us about the daily lives of Confederate and Union soldiers. She talked about winter and summer quarters, and how the unsanitary housing arrangements along with a poor diet led to an increase in diseases such as dysentery. Some of us even had the opportunity to spend five minutes in the life of a Civil War soldier. Volunteers were punished just as civil war soldiers were (no physical pain was inflicted on any volunteer) and we even marched and drilled with fake weapons under the scorching hot sun. After going through the life of a soldier, our guide gave us a tour of Pamplin Park, where we saw a reconstructed earthwork.
On the final day of the institute, we were taken on a tour of Richmond following the footsteps of Lincoln after the Civil War. The tour was really interesting because our guide shared with us how his perception of Lincoln’s trip to Richmond changed. Our guide informed us that he used to start the tour at a dock until he discovered that some of the information given by General Godfrey Weitzel a “trusted source” wasn’t accurate. The guide’s recent research showed that Lincoln actually went to Richmond on a rowboat with his son and General Weitzel. In order to avoid a swarm of people, they decided to dock at a random place off the James River. In Part One of my blog, I mentioned a recurring theme of historical accuracy which reappeared in this tour of Richmond. Although Weitzel was believed to be a “trusted source”, he embellished a lot of the story to make himself sound like a safer escort for the president. This key point can be made to students doing historical research; students need to analyze the sources they use more critically.