It’s time for Field Trip Friday and I have to tell you that this month has been so full of field trips that I had a really hard time determining which one to share! This week alone, we’ve gone ice skating for the first time, toured WAY-FM, a local listener supported Christian radio station and have plans to attend a ballet. I could have shared any of those outings, but this week I decided to transport you back in time, 150 years to the last days of the Civil War.
We didn’t travel to Appomattox Courthouse, but instead to the Earlyworks Children’s Museum in Huntsville*** to listen to a conversation between Generals Grant and Lee as the Army of Virginia surrendered to the Federal Armies, which set in motion the surrender of the Confederacy.
I have to preface this post by saying that this program was intended for 4th grade students, but I was assured that our teen group would find the material interesting. I was convinced, but you should have seen the looks my children gave me when we stepped into the great hall and all the little kids turned to stare at the big kids. However, once the debate began, my kids were transfixed while the younger kids bounced up and down in their seats.
We’ve studied the Civil War and visited many battlefields and sites relevant to the war but the debate was also great for those that had no knowledge of that era. Not only did they provide insight into the reasons behind the War between the States, they also spoke candidly about the character of one another, the reasons they fought, the soldiers they’d lost along the way, and the devastation that ensued.
Meet the generals, who graciously allowed me to capture their images with the camera before continuing on their way.
General Ulysses S. Grant General Robert E. Lee
After we met the Generals, we made our way through the rest of the museum where we met other key figures from the time period which included a female Civil War spy, a Buffalo Soldier and some names that you should readily recognize.
We talked to Harriet Tubman, also known as the conductor of the Underground Railroad. During her lifetime she led thousands of slaves to freedom in Canada. What I didn’t realize is that she also fought for women’s rights and was part of the Woman’s Suffrage movement.
We met Clara Barton as she described gathering bandages and aid for the wounded during the Civil War and later went on to become the founder of the Red Cross.
We listened spellbound as Union General O.M. Mitchel described how he captured the Huntsville Depot without firing a single shot. In April of 1862, General Mitchel and his troops left Shelbyville, Tennessee and began the long 50 mile walk to Huntsville. They crossed over Monte Sano mountain and stepped out of the fog as the sun was rising in the early dawn. The Confederate Army thought they were ghosts and ran.
Finally, we met Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln as she spoke of her girlhood, meeting Honest Abe and eventually becoming his wife, though her family was disappointed that he was only a poor lawyer. She recounted the hardships she encountered as First Lady, during the Civil War when some of her own family members fought for the Confederate States, she shared the heartbreaking loss of several of her children and the anguish she felt as she sat in Ford Theater, clasping her beloved’s hand as a man snuck up behind them and murdered him with a gunshot to the head.
As we left the steps of Earlyworks, and returned to the year 2011, we were reminded of the hardships of those that have gone before and the words of a humble general who saw too much bloodshed in a battle that he’d rather have not fought.
After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.
I need not tell the survivors of so many hard-fought battles who have remained steadfast to the last that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them; but feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that would have attended the continuance of the contest, I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen. By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged.
You may take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you his blessing and protection.
With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration of myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell.
~ Robert E. Lee
***FYI- Earlyworks is one of the largest children’s museums in the South and though you’d enjoy a visit at anytime, our experience encompassed a special school program so your visit will differ from ours.
Have you been on a field trip lately? You can link up to Field Trip Friday so we can learn right along with you. You’ll find the guidelines here.