One hundred fifty-one years ago this June, the Union Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia converged upon a small town in Adams County, Pennsylvania in a battle that would prove to be the turning point in the Civil War. On Thursday and Friday April 10 & 11th, Field's 11th grade embarked on the History Department's capstone trip, tracing Union and Confederate footsteps through the hallowed ground of Gettysburg.
How long has the History Department been taking students to Gettysburg? Well, as long as anyone can remember. The trip has seen much iteration over the years, but the trip as it exists now was the brainchild of former History teachers Emily Kleinman and Neil Gibson. In History 11, second semester is dedicated to 19th century America—and we feel that you can’t truly understand current American history unless you understand the cultural buildup to and events of the Civil War. So, simply in terms of curricular design, a trip to Gettysburg is a logical piece of the puzzle.
In terms of Field culture, the trip has become a rite of passage for students. “At this point in the year,” explains Ryan Reese, “juniors are starting to think about being leaders and existing as a 'united front'. The history aspect of this trip is obviously important, but equally as important is the community building."
THURSDAY: SCAVENGER HUNT & MARCHING DRILL
The trip begins, of course, on the battlefield. On arrival at Gettysburg, students head to Cemetery Ridge—the primary defensive position of the Union Army—for a scavenger hunt. Before the scavenger hunt begins, students are divided into Union and Confederate armies, and then into small battalions with 8 or 9 soldiers and a General (chaperone). Each battalion is responsible for coming up with a name and rallying cry. Points are awarded for creativity, style, and enthusiasm, and the battalion with the greatest number of points at the end of the day will receive an awesome Gettysburg t-shirt. Following the scavenger hunt is a marching drill, where everyone will learn to march as they did during the war.
FRIDAY: SUNRISE RUN & BATTLEFIELD GAME
Friday begins with a three-mile optional run/walk to Little Round Top to see the sun rise. After the run and breakfast, the Battlefield Game—a civil war version of capture the flag—begins. Each battalion is given three objectives, based on finding a specific marker and collecting important information to report back to their general. On completion of each objective, battalions receive a one-word clue that will help their army solve a riddle that points to where the flag is with the other army. Once they solve the riddle, they march as a group to capture the flag. After the game, there’s a picnic lunch at Devil’s Den, students visit the visitor center and Cyclorama, and they return to school!