Is it a good sign that the top two moments of the trip to Stones River National Battlefield today were 1) the amorous couple at the Slaughter Pen (more on them later); and 2) the CUAlert text about a pit bull roaming campus?
Actually, I think the trip was very informative. In HIS 300 (the Civil War course), we have reached 1861 and the preparation for the war. Today’s visit to Stones River was helpful in touching on some of the military aspects of the war, which is not what I tend to focus on in class.
Upon arrival, the students went directly into the gift shop. I took that as a positive sign . . . until I saw that they were looking at animal crackers and stuffed animals and not at the books. Okay, they were looking at the books, too. We then ventured into the museum. One of the more interesting attractions was the database of soldiers who were buried in the cemetery. No Cheathems or Popes were listed, but there were quite a few Bells.
Elizabeth Goetsch, the NPS ranger who gave us our tour, was very helpful in providing the context for the Battle of Stones River (or Murfreesboro, if you prefer the Confederate name). We learned that Stones River was a necessary battle to boost U.S. morale after the defeat at Fredericksburg, that it resulted in the highest percentage of casualties of any Civil War battle, and that it allowed U.S. forces to move down to Chattanooga and, eventually, Atlanta.
While we were standing in the Slaughter Pen, I noticed a white cup on a rock about twenty yards behind the ranger. It took a few seconds for my eyes to register that there was also a couple sitting there. They were fully clothed, but they didn’t move the entire time we were in the Slaughter Pen. It seemed like odd behavior, but, as I told the students, maybe the guy was proposing. After all, nothing says “I love you” like a proposal in the Slaughter Pen.
After our personal tour, we stayed for a short presentation on a Union surgeon who was captured at Stones River and sent to Libby Prison. We also stayed for a “junior ranger” program on the firing of an artillery piece. I never knew that a good artillery team could fire a cannon every fifteen seconds; that information seems even more remarkable considering the steps that the men had to undertake. We were hoping for a demonstration, but, alas, the cannon is only fired on special occasions, and celebrating a coupling in the woods did not qualify.
On our way out, I took the chance to snap a picture of the Hazen’s Monument. (And by chance, I mean I hopped out of the van and told the students that they better not steal the van while I was taking the picture!) This monument has an interesting background, but even more interesting to me was the story of William Holland. I’ll let you read the story on your own.
We are very fortunate to be able to have such significant historical sites so close to campus. I plan on doing more of these types of trips, both for classes and for fun.