The Civil War History Tour 2022

“What happened here?” 


One of our 10th grade students asked me this question as we stood before hulking dark gray stones wet with a rain that had been falling all day. Dubbed the title of Devil’s Den during the 1700s, the stones were very large, some as tall as ten or fifteen feet. 


I pointed to the stones and the tight gaps between them, “That’s where Bob said the soldiers died due to the sound echoing off the stones. Soldiers hid in between the stones to hide from shots from that hill.” I pointed to the nearby hill named Little Round Top. “But when they were hiding in the rocks, the sound from the cannons and gunfire would bounce off the stones and it killed them with the concussion of the sound. Just the sound!” The student looked up at the stones, eyes growing wide and then walked away. The history of Gettysburg finally settling in. 


The Civil War History Tour’s entire purpose is to give students the fuller, realer, and more present picture of the history they learn in the classroom. For our tenth grade, that learning distance was short indeed. Just the three days before we had left on our trip, students learned of the John Brown rebellion in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and the beginning of what would eventually escalate into the Civil War. 


The town of Harpers Ferry of 2022, as it turned out, is part small waterfront town and part national historical park. Curio shops and pubs met old brick foundations of what once stood in the 19th century. The sights of the town were met with the beauty of the two rivers of the Potomac and the Shenandoah River joining to form the frothing and surging borders of West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland. One of our students insisted on borrowing the camera to take photos of everything in every nook and cranny of the town. Later inspection of the camera roll showed such bizarre photos as pictures of lines of pots and pans to pictures of wine-scented soap from a gift shop. As strange as it may seem, the honest curiosity and desire to capture the moments experienced on this trip was encouraging. Perhaps, when seeing those photos of maps and gun exhibits, they would not only remember the times with their peers and UrbanTrekkers staff, but perhaps they would remember the events of that era. Of a man named John Brown fighting for his life in a small town with a few close friends, trying to make a difference in a world that wasn’t fully ready for him yet. Just maybe those students would remember that, even if they can’t see it, the actions they take will be remembered for the impressions and impact that they had. Just maybe they would remember how hard people can fight for what they believe.