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Danville Community College history students recently visited several Civil War battlefields as a supplement to their classwork. Pictured, from left, standing, are Professor Justin Stowe, Angela Turner, Olivia Underwood, Katherine Harvell, Kathy Jones-Watson, Walter Mayo, Joseph Echols, and Brian Cendejas; kneeling is Instructor John Kingery.


DCC Students Study Civil War on the Battlefield 


(November 17, 2017)  – Danville Community College history students recently visited several Civil War battlefields in an effort to engage their present studies with the lessons of the past.
On Saturday, November 4, students traveled to Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. The park includes the Fredericksburg (1862), Chancellorsville (1863), Wilderness (1864), and Spotsylvania (1864) battlefields.
“Teaching the Civil War in the classroom can be a challenge,” said DCC Instructor John Kingery. “As an instructor, I have to hit the highlights of the war, which usually means skipping over some of the battles and focusing on the reasons behind the war. Visiting hallowed ground allows students to connect the two stories. Students can slow down, look out onto a battlefield, and reflect on the meaning of this war from the view of the soldiers and the home front on both sides. Furthermore, some 600,000 Americans died to either bring an end to slavery or defend it, to defend their homes or preserve the Union. Battlefields offer a means to understand these two conflicting viewpoints.”
Kingery added that studying the Civil War in the present day offers an opportunity to have a real discussion about controversial aspects in America’s past, including slavery, race relations, class relations, and gender relations.
“All of these topics have implications in our present,” Kingery said. “History, especially with the American Civil War, has clues on how we, as Americans, address and face the challenges of the present. Coming to terms with our past can offer hope in creating a more harmonious society in the here and now.”
During the excursion, Kingery explained, the group was treated to an unusual circumstance involving the weather.
“When we arrived at the ‘Bloody Angle’ section of the Spotsylvania battlefield, it began to rain. This was perfect because it mimicked the exact conditions soldiers experienced during one of the most brutal hand-to-hand combat situations of the entire war,” Kingery said.
The trip was both engaging and fun for the students.
“It was an absolute pleasure to see such a diverse group of students get excited about experiencing history,” Kingery said. “They asked questions, took pictures, and participated in a discussion about the events from 1861 to 1865. It was also a bonding experience for many of the students—I have noticed an increase in student interaction and camaraderie since the trip.”
Kingery said that he plans to take student groups to other historical sites each semester.
“I am looking at the Richmond-Petersburg Civil War sites, Booker T. Washington National Monument, and Revolutionary War sites in North Carolina,” Kingery said. “Students have expressed an interest in a Washington, D.C., trip to experience the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.”
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