Civil War

Students Ditch Textbooks, Learn History First Hand

Posted on October 2, 2012. Filed under: Civil War, College, Personal Growth | Tags: , |

Article by  Philip Zielinski, Study Away Program Marketing and Promotions Intern

Jordan Parks was hesitant at first about the Civil War Study Away program but when he found out that he could get out of the classroom and go to Washington, DC, the decision became a lot easier.

“I would rather not be in a classroom if I have the opportunity to go to Washington DC and see the different battlefields and have the experience first-hand, rather than read about it in a text book,” Parks said. “You do a lot of reading in textbooks to learn the material and gain that knowledge, but when you are out there experiencing it, it is a completely different ball game.  When I realized that is when I knew I should probably take advantage of this trip.”

Parks and three other students, accompanied by history professor Roger Rosentreter, left East Lansing on May 29 to spend 17 days visiting various battlefields and other Civil War sites in and around Washington, DC.

“The program in a nutshell consisted of: about every other day we drove to a Civil War battle site and he gave lectures the night before about the significance of that battlefield,” Parks said. “For example, when we went to Fredericksburg he gave us all the main characters, which side won the battle and the significance towards the ending of the Civil War.”

These visits to battlefields allowed student Elizabeth Koroleski to finally take the extensive knowledge she had learned about the Civil War and connect it with real world places and locations.

“Pictures and movies can only get you so far,” Koroleski said. “When you can actually walk on the battlefield, walk down Bloody Lane at Antietam, be at Gettysburg; it was all very surreal.”

The group stayed with the other Study Away students that were spending the summer as interns in Washington, DC, providing a great opportunity to explore the nation’s capital and bond with other students.

“I would say 80 percent of the nights we were hanging out with the interns.  So there was a good balance between the academic aspect of the trip and the social aspect where I got to meet all these new people,” Parks said.

Washington DC also provided some important Civil War lessons as well, including a visit to the Ford’s Theatre.

“We were able to see the booth where the president was killed,” Koroleski said. “It was a really interesting and great way to end the trip because at the beginning we started with one of the first battles, First Manassas, and at the end was the assassination of Lincoln.”

The group was also treated to a performance of the play “One Destiny”, a two man show that portrayed different figures who were involved in the goings on at the Ford Theatre the day Lincoln was assassinated.

During the Civil War program, Parks gained an appreciation for the level of leadership that was necessary to lead soldiers in such a bloody and rugged war.

“You understand the importance of leadership and officers, how they really decided the outcome on the battlefield for the war,” Parks said. “You have a bunch of soldiers who are not all West Point graduates and don’t all understand combat or strategy; so the power is really in the elite few who can set up flanks, who can bravely charge their men in war and make those decisions that really show the outcome of the war and determined why it went one way or the other.

By the end of their two weeks, the students had a gained a whole wealth of information and perspectives about the Civil War that they could not have found in a classroom.

“Everybody knows the major issues of the Civil War,” Parks said, “But when you are out there and you see all the different things that also went into the Civil War and how it played out, you understand it a whole lot more.”

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