Our Teacher Ranger Rob Finkill is back again and will be posting throughout the summer. Rob is an 8th grade teacher at Derry Township School District in Hershey, PA.
Last year, following my 8th graders field trip to Gettysburg, I had the students fill out a survey asking for their feedback on the trip. Of course there were comments like:
“Too much walking.”
“We should be allowed to go to Friendly’s for lunch.”
These are 13 year olds….
Several comments that caught my attention were about the monuments on the battlefield.
“I wanted to learn more about the monuments and what they meant.”
Many veterans who began placing monuments on the battlefield probably wanted to be remembered for their bravery , gallantry, and devotion, but there are several monuments that got my attention as being slightly different then the norm. In a previous post, I had encouraged allowing the students to learn from the soldiers themselves, Civil War monuments are another way that allows us to see a little glimpse into a soldier’s experience. The monument to the 116th Pennsylvania Infantry at Gettysburg is one such monument that can allow a different view.
The 116th had been through heavy fighting prior to Gettysburg. Part of the famed Irish Brigade, this regiment had only 142 officers and men when it marched into the fight that July (many regiments had started with around 1000). The commander of the regiment was Major St. Clair A. Mulholland. A lull in the fighting occurred that terrible day and Mulholland walked to an area where another regiment had fought earlier. The monument , located just off Sickles Avenue near a place call “The Loop”, depicts what Mulholland saw, and would never forget. His eyes beheld a young solider shot through the head lying dead, with a faint smile on his face. The detail of this monument isn’t showing a brave soldier fighting the enemy like the 72nd Pennsylvania’s monument on Cemetery Ridge, but maybe it’s trying to tell us what it was like to be there in 1863.
There are many websites and books dedicated to the monuments at Gettysburg. Even if your students can’t take a field trip here, allow them to explore and see what they can learn about this battle and an infantryman’s experience from these primary sources in stone. Upon close inspection of the 116th’s monument, more details arise possibly leading to a deeper understanding of a soldier’s experience. Things such as the position of his hands on his rifle, the broken bayonet scabbard and a damaged farmer’s fence all are telling us something today. This could be a great activity for students of all levels. Have students generate questions by looking at the detail of this monument - and others, that symbolize what many soldiers took away from this “cruel war”. Many images can be found on sites like Flickr and even YouTube.
Click here to download the Power Point in PDF format
Here are a few other monuments at Gettysburg that could be interesting to use:
Monument Web sites
excellent site for all Civil War monuments
Draw the Sword
site dedicated to all the monuments and markers at Gettysburg