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A piece of history: Students visit Civil War sites

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Posted on Friday, April 26, 2019

Sitting at the core of what Westminster College believes in as an educational institution is that experience elicits learning. By visiting sites still alive with history in Gettysburg, Harper’s Ferry and Antietam, students from Dr. Timothy Cuff’s American Civil War class and members of the history honor society Phi Alpha Theta learned about important Civil War events, firsthand.

Senior history majors Peter McMaster and Dominic Boston, junior history majors Chessa Caylor, Jonathan Munk and Shirley Witherow, junior English major Erica McNatt, junior Spanish major Nick Lutz and first year exploratory major Colin McVey took part in the trip and learned about sites they’ve studied.

“Visiting sites where monumental events happened is important in understanding what happened,” Boston said. “When you visit a historical site, you get a sense of the geography. Visiting the site helps you place the events in that space.”

The highlight of the trip was Gettysburg, where students toured the Museum & Visitor Center at Gettysburg National Military Park. They also visited the Gettysburg National Cemetery, recited the Gettysburg Address in the same spot as Abraham Lincoln did in 1863 and took a driving tour through major battle sites.

“There's always something different about seeing a location in person than just reading about it,” Caylor said. “Being able to see where something happened helps make the information stick. Having a professor like Dr. Cuff who can point out details that may not be marked by a plaque or who can ask you questions and make you think instead of just look is what truly makes the trip worth it.”

While at Harper’s Ferry, students walked through the historic Upper and Lower Towns and learned about John Brown’s attempt to take over a Union armory and begin a slave rebellion while walking the same streets in which the event took place in 1859. Additionally, the students walked the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal path and a small portion of the Appalachian Trail. On the way back to campus, the students dined at the Jean Bonnet Tavern, where George Washington’s encampment was located during the Whiskey Rebellion.

“If you are ever given the opportunity to travel, take it,” Boston said. “It does not matter where. The act of traveling and experiencing life outside of New Wilmington helps the student better understand Pennsylvania, the United States and even the world a little better. This type of experience is but one piece to the wonderful system of a liberal arts education.”

~ Megan Simpson ’19