Touring Civil War Battlefields With Ta-Nehisi Coates

I am just about finished reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’s new book, Between the World and Me, which is essentially an extended letter to his son, Samori. It’s incredibly powerful. Coates reveals a world – from the violence of the streets of Baltimore to police brutality – that I will never fully understand. What I truly value in his writing, however, is the way he weaves the past into his observations about his own childhood and the current racial environment. At times the present and the past are indistinguishable in his hands. Continue reading “Touring Civil War Battlefields With Ta-Nehisi Coates”

Gettysburg’s Lutheran Seminary Takes Courageous Stand on Confederate Flag

During my recent trip to Gettysburg I made time to visit the Seminary Ridge Museum, which is located on the campus of the Lutheran Theological Seminary. It’s a wonderful museum and I highly recommend a visit given the important role it played during the battle and for what you will see and learn inside.

Following the Charleston shootings the seminary issued a statement banning the display of Confederate flags that features the St. Andrews Cross on the grounds. This directly impacts living history events sponsored by the museum. In fact, it impacts an event that is taking place this weekend. You can read the announcement on their website. Continue reading “Gettysburg’s Lutheran Seminary Takes Courageous Stand on Confederate Flag”

“Already Bought My First Slave” at Gettysburg

Gettysburg, Confederate flagI was a bit surprised when a couple of students on my recent Civil War trip attempted to purchase Confederate flags at one of the gift shops. Without giving it much thought I intercepted the students at the checkout counter and gently reminded them to think about the history that we had already examined as well as the talk on the history of the Confederate flag that I presented to the entire school. These students were not mean-spirited and perhaps it was just a case of boys being boys, but I did want them to do a little reflection before making the purchase.

Neither student made the purchase, but if it had been made I would have insisted that the flags be kept out of sight. I stand by this decision. I’ve said before that I wish gift shops were a bit more selective about the kinds of souvenirs they sell. It trivializes the history and the very ground, where so many Americans gave their lives. Continue reading ““Already Bought My First Slave” at Gettysburg”

Report From the Field: Student Reflections

Over the past few days I’ve been going over student reflections from last week’s Civil War battlefields trip. There is simply no substitute for taking students to historic sites. The learning that can be accomplished and the connections to the past that can be forged at such places trumps all of the bells and whistles found in the seemingly endless supply of new gadgets and programs. Don’t get me wrong, I embrace technology in the classroom, but trips like this help me to put it all in perspective.

Peter Carmichael with my students at the Rose Woods in Gettysburg
Peter Carmichael with my students at Rose Woods in Gettysburg

Here are just two brief reflections. Continue reading “Report From the Field: Student Reflections”

Report From the Field: Interpreting Civil War Battlefields

Last night I returned from five days of battlefield stomping with thirteen wonderful students. I was hoping to write a few more blog posts, but I simply didn’t have enough time between the driving, walking and just trying to enjoy those few moments of downtime. All in all the trip reminded me of why I love working with high school students and teaching Civil War history. It goes without saying that there is no better way to convey the richness of this history than by doing it on site.

Thanks to Garry Adelman of the Civil War Trust and Peter Carmichael of Gettysburg College’s Civil War Institute for spending time with my students. I didn’t anticipate this, but watching these two fine historians and battlefield interpreters reminded me of the ways that we approach these sites. This was something that I discussed with the group during one of our final reflections. Continue reading “Report From the Field: Interpreting Civil War Battlefields”