Saturday, June 23, 2018

My Passion Project - Little Round Top

This weekend I am in Gettysburg for the annual Gettysburg College Civil War Institute. This is the first time I've attended their conference and I must say that I'm impressed with their list of speakers, accommodations and board, and how organized everything seems to be.

Before registering yesterday I made a drive through part of the Gettysburg battlefield. Although I don't see Gettysburg as the "great turning point" in the war that I once did, it still resonates strongly with me and brings me back to my late childhood years and early adolescence, when I became so interested in the Civil War.

One of the stops I always try to make when I am in the area is Little Round Top. Way before the movie "Gettysburg," Little Round Top stood out in my early reading about the battle. When I was in 7th grade my social studies teacher offered us the opportunity to do National History Day. This was like 1982. That year's theme was turning points in history. I started the project with a classmate, but he soon bowed out, or perhaps I nudged him out due to his lack of commitment on the project. Anyway, as mentioned above, at the time I thought of Gettysburg as the main turning point in the war, as did many historians. So, I figured, what better than doing my History Day project on the turning point of the battle of that was the turning point of the the Civil War that was the turning point of American history.

I set about constructing a diorama of Little Round Top made of paper mache based on the birds-eye-view battle maps in the American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War, a book that had a profound impact on me. I painted pewter soldiers blue and gray and arranged them to highlight the 20th Maine's defense and the 15th Alabama's assault of the famous hill and provided some contextual information and primary source accounts.

Our district contest was at local Hanover College. I was chosen as first place in my age group in the exhibit category, which offered me the opportunity to compete in the state contest at the University of Indiana in Bloomington. Although I didn't fare too well against the top projects in the state, the research and construction process stayed with me as a very enjoyable and beneficial experience.

It would be only two years later, when as a freshman in high school that we took a class bus trip that included Gettysburg, and I got to see Little Round Top in person for the first time. It all came back to me standing there on the hill. While my buddies were scrambling over rocks and taking pictures with the monuments, I envisioned those Confederate soldiers pouring up the hill and the determined defenders blazing away.

History is powerful and powerfully important. If you have the opportunity to share history with a young person, please do, it may change their lives forever.

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