Civil War Study Trip Immerses Students In Historical Battlefields
Sept. 19, 2019
SHSU Media Contact: Wes Hamilton
Four snaps and seven tweets ago, nine undergraduate students from Sam Houston State University set out on a journey across history. These students escaped modern technology of the 21st century for a 17-day trip across history as they visited former battlefields for their Civil War study away trip.
Brian Jordan and Willis Oyugi, assistant professors in the Department of History, coordinated the trip in such a way that students would feel immersed in the war itself. Students stood on the rubble of Fort Sumter, gathered where Union soldiers rebuffed Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg, discussed Lee's surrender to Grant in the parlor where it took place, and even reflected on Lincoln's assassination in the room where he died.
“Each student is assigned to a Union soldier and we had some really powerful moments on the trip,” Jordan said. “The students read letters, diaries and memoirs written by their assigned soldiers. Then, I take the students to the spot where these men fought at each battlefield. Literally walking in these soldiers' footsteps--peering at the past from the perspective of historical actors--humanizes the war. Walking through the war also imparts a clear sense of how the battles fit together.”
The journey through time also counted as six credit hours in two different classes, The American Civil War (HIST 3380) and American Environmental History (HIST 3395). Jordan has a passion for history. He explained that traveling to the battle sites in chronological order helped to better connect events than any classroom lecture could, and he hopes that these trips will give students a better appreciation for the dimensions, intensity and cadence of war.
"We visited all of the major battlefields of the eastern theatre of the war, 18 battlefields in 17 days. It is almost impossible to understand what happened without actually walking the ground,” Jordan said. “I've studied the war for 30 years, and have given tours of all of these battlefields many times. However, putting them all together at once is a unique experience that imparts its own lessons about the enormity of the war.”
Jordan joked that it took longer for he and the students to walk the fields of Antietam as he lectured than it took to fight the battle, but he believes this is a trip that will stick with them for a lifetime.
“We had many wonderful discussions and debates in the field,” Jordan said. “I hope they'll never forget the men who fought to save the Union and destroy slavery--to make the Union a Union worth saving; I hope they will never forget how stubbornly men will fight--for and against freedom; And I hope they'll never forget that the stories we tell ourselves as a nation about war matter. May they never forget the costs and consequences of the war. The war's unfinished work is now ours to pick up.”
Jordan and Oyugi hope to offer this trip and others in the future. To learn more about the Department of History and other study away trips visit the Office of International Program’s website here.
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