Saturday, June 21, 2014

Valley Forge!

BHow could I not realize how close Valley Forge is to Philadelphia?

Life lesson: keep your eyes open for unexpected opportunities!

The freeway sign said Valley Forge and so we went.

Not sure what I thought I'd find, but certainly not the lovely rolling valley. But the isolation made the suffering of Washington's men easily understood.  Where would they get their supplies? What if the British headed out of Philadelphia? The desperation was almost palpable.

The highlights.. Von Steuben is pronounced: Von Stoy-Ben. (I hate mispronouncing  things)

This year we will look at the letter Washington sent to Congress. It's so readable! I think my students will love hearing Wasington's voice but more importantly, I think they'll be able to gather from the text the desperate circumstances of the Continental Army during that oh, so, dreadful time.

The Declaration--An Interesting Coincidence & Important Message to the Future

Did you know that the real copy of the Declaration is incredibly faded?  

Folks didn't know much about preserving important things like documents for a long time. So, there's not a whole lot to see.

However I felt it quite interesting that the phrase: "free and independent states" can still be clearly seen.

Four explosive, powerful words. 

Yes, the world knows and has embraced Jefferson's grand words..."that all men are created" and "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness."

But what made the document so world changing, wasn't just that, but that the Colonies decided to leave. To break away. To become..."free and independent states." (I'm still stunned that King George didn't just shred the thing and toss it in the fire in a pique of anger.)

Our future generations are and will face the supreme challenge. Not remaining independent...but how to guarantee that we remain free.  And they will be deciding what that means--to be free.

To borrow from another era--Abraham Lincoln once said...
"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."

Let's hope those words on the Declaration are emblazoned on the hearts and minds of our future generations...we must remain "free and independent states."

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Constitutional Signatures....More than Names on a Page

The room is kept dark. The glass thick. Guards and crowds abound. But for one moment in time, I was inches from names I've come to know well. 

The Constutional signers.

Washington's bold hand.
Franklin's swirl.
Madison's tight precise and careful lettering.
And Alexander Hamilton's name almost squeezed in. (Since he couldn't vote but wanted New York included in the historic creation.)

I am lucky enough to talk about these men. To try bring them off the flat pages of history to 13 and 14 year olds.  And I work to plant the seed of democracy and freedom in my students' hearts. To help them gain an appreciation for the miracle that was created that day in Philadelphia.

And today, I stood inches from their names and marveled.

And yes, it brought tears to my eyes.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Our Past Come Alive

Colonial Williamsburg is sort of like Disneyland for history buffs. 

Period costumes. Amazing homes, furniture and details. 

One can buy tricorn hats or booents with ribbons. Old fashioned games and beautifully crafted decorations. 

I came to Williamsburg two years ago thanks to Driven to Teach, an organization funded bythe Larry H. Miller family trying to engage teachers into teaching better history.  I LOVED it. (See my past blog).

This trip with my daughter in hand, I wondered if she would catch the magic and if I would find that same breathtaking delight.

We are not used to humidity and that made our adventure tough. But...

Standing at the Capitol listening to the Declaration of Independence read to the townspeople as it was over 200 years ago. It was worth it all. 

 And best of all?

Those words are like familiar friends and it felt like I'd come home.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Personalized Gettysburg 13th New Jersey

How can a brief visit to Gettysburg capture the vast fields of death and desperate struggle that faced the men here? How can numbers like 75,000, 50,000, 23,000 be made understandable?

We chose to take a ride onto the battlefield by horseback. It's a wonderful experience especially for people who love to ride. We had a guide who spoke to us over a headset. That meant that we could listen as we moved, instead of struggling to hear if we were at the back of the pack. 

It was a gorgeous day. In the 70's with a cool breeze. Not like the bone-melting 90's of 1863.

We passed Trossel farm made famous by Alexander Gardner's photos.  Understood how Pickett's men could move into position and never be seen. Marveled at the Roundtops and knew of the deadly Devil's Den at their feet. 

It gave a pallet on which I could the pen a few more touching more personalized moments. 

Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine. The Bloody Wheatfield and the terrible slaughter there. The powerful North Carolina monument. The massive Pennslyvania monument holding thousands of names.

But then we took a moment and searched for him. Our family. The 13th New Jersey. 

We found them. Their monument on Culp's Hill. Where they stood there few momunments rose--which immediately explained why they managed to only lose 1 man and a few wounded. They were far from the main action.

Considering that during our ride we heard artillery firing--one gun four times over a short period of time and we were told that in the battle the sound was five times louder for each gun (they used five times more powder), and knowing that on the third day 250 guns fired for more than two hours at each other,,,the sound was so loud, people 60 miles away heard it. 

We were certain that Hank Van Orden and the NJ 13th must have been grateful that day to be out on the edge of the battle.

And on the distance...on the breeze, we heard a distant bugle playing taps. (A Civil War song)

Day is done
Gone the sun
From the lake
From the hills
From the sky
All is well 
Safely rest
God is nigh.

Rest easy...we will remember. 

Distant Cousins & the Civil War - Henry "Hank" Van Orden and the New Jersey 13th

Bringing history down to individuals is always a treat.
Thanks to the National Parks Teacher Kit available free at Antietam, I not only found primary sources, but a family link to the Civil War.
New Jersey Monument
Antietam Battlefield
Let me first explain that quite honestly, my teachers growing up sent me the message that the Civil War was "their" war. "We" weren't really a part of it, so other than the big names on a map, we didn't spend much time or effort on it.
Well, having this packet from the National Park, I wanted to see how I might use it in my classroom.
So, I opened the file of journals and letters from soldiers who fought at Antietam and began purusing. (This was about 2 months ago.)
Much to my shock and delight, my maiden name "Van Orden" popped up on the screen.
I knew that all my Van Orden ancestors were well entrenched in Utah by that point, but all Van Orden's are related since the name was created here in America. So...who was he? How could we be related?
Thanks to a magnificent tool for historian and family history buffs alike...I found him!
The New Jersey 13th. He and several from his neighborhood in Paterson Passaic--including his brother Lewis (Lew) all joined the Army on the same day.
During my research I found a book (a firsthand account written by Joseph Crowell) which mentions Hank several times. And with that book and the original letter from the National Park collection in hand, we set out at Antietam to find where Hank had fought and where he had earned his place as a sergeant.
We did it!!  I think he was at Gettysburg!  Get out the magnifying glass and the deerstalker.  The game's afoot!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Four National Parks in One Day

For someone from the West, it can be challenging to grasp how close together everything is in the East.

We visited four national parks today. Granted two were tiny--focusing on the C&O canal system, but nevertheless we managed to see four!

One challenge traveling with a teenager is that they can get tour burnout. So pick and choose where time will be spent. Ask for their input and listen!

A visit to Jefferson Rock seemed to appeal to me until the heat and humidity nearly did us in just touring the town of Harper's Ferry. I asked her if she minded if we didn't go. Her response? 

"I'm not that interested in it anyway. I was just going for you."

What a sport. So when the choice between starting our of Gettysburg in the evening or swimming came along...swimming it was. Gettysburg will be there tomorrow.

Sometimes the Best Plans are Not Planned

We were driving across Pennsylvania on our way to Maryland when we saw a sign for the Flight 93 Memorial.

In pouring rain and racing against time due to closing, we flew across the winding Pennsylvania country side. Up one hill, around a curve in a seeming unending maze of roads. 

We missed it by 10 mins. 

But as we sat outside the memorial looking into the open, peaceful landscape with the rain now just pattering down and the evening light dimming the scene, I shared the story of the brave men and women of Flight 93 with my daughter.

We looked at the National Park flyer--which I always love btw--and talked of love, loss and sacrifice.

It was well worth the trip.

Sometimes the best moments will sneak up on you. Don't be so heads down charging forward in life that you can't stop and teach of values that will hold your children up in times of trial.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ohio--a surprising amount of history

Ohio is full of history. Really! 

I'll admit that growing up in Utah, Ohio was little more than that state that is uh--Iowa/Ohio--whatever. However, Ohio has some really cool history that folks ought to know about.

What was one of the main issues of the French and Indian War?  The Ohio River Valley--and who was going to control all that wonderful fur and luscious farm land.

And the Proclamation of 1763. Why we're the Colonists mad? Because the king wouldn't let them have access to the Ohio River Valley.

The War of 1812? The British wouldn't leave their forts--uh our forts after the Treaty of Paris of 1783 ending the Revolution--in the Great Lakes region and stirring up the native people--keeping Americans out of the Ohio River Valley.

And the Northwest Land Ordinances of 1785 & 1787? No, of course you haven't.  But my students know that the delineation of lands with slaves and no slaves planted the seeds of the Civil War even back then.

And you thought I was just kidding about its importance.  There's more.

Ever heard of the Serpent Mound? An amazing ancient creation that from the air looks like a snake swallowing an egg. 

Sad to be four hours away and not get to see it. Can't imagine what the white settlers must have thought when they found it.

That great battle in the War of 1812--the Battle of Lake Erie--with one of my heroes--Oliver Hazard Perry where he fought the British fleet to a standstill. That's the British Navy--the greatest navy in the world at that time (and many others too)...took place not far from Cleveland. There's an international peace monument there celebrating it. Cool, eh?

We went to visit Historic Kirtland and heard not only about the early Mormon saints, but realized the importance of the Erie Canal and the canal systems in Ohio in developing the Kirtland area as they could send trade good as far as New York.

And who could forget the Underground Railroad helping the escaped slaves and the devout Quakers who risked so much to follow their beliefs. Doing the right thing because it's the right thing.

See? Tons!

And this is not including the six presidents from there--James Garfield, William Henry Harrison (ssshhhh--he's not actually from Ohio since back then citizenship was based on where you were born and not where you lived. And the Constitution says the President and Vice President can't be from the same state so technically when he was elected with John Tyler, his not very far away childhood neighbor in Virginia, they obviously didn't care about legal stuff, right?), Grant, William McKinley and uh...excuse me, I've got to go Google the other ones.

Gee, you don't expect me to know everything historical, do you? 

Well...more learning and experiences tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

​Travel Lesson Number One

​A long road trip is NOT the time to become the Department of Redundancy Department.

​I get that I'm haunted by skin cancer--and rightly so, but four types of sunscreen is a bit much.  

​Even a scout will tell you that there's be prepared and then there's be obsessed lol.

​So here's hint number one: unless you're planning to stay put--DON'T OVERPACK!!! 
I was taught once to pull everything you think you need, then take half out.
 Man, I wish listened to myself.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Grand American History Tour

In days of old, young men and young women went on the Grand Tour of Europe to complete their education. It’s what the cultured folk wanted for their children.

Well, today, I believe that our children need the Grand Tour of American History to help inspire them to love our country and to bring these important moments of our history to life. To this video generation especially, I want a 3D experience.

So…I have created a Year’s Worth of History in Two Weeks for my daughter. School's out and it's time to hit the road!

Of course, there are places I would still have liked to take her and we have more purpose in going than just seeing American historical sites—we going to visit sites important to our religious history as well. This affected our choices of where we are going in some cases.

But how will it be done and where are we going? I’ll share our adventure.

Political Periods (which follow my class curriculum):
Early Explorers and Pre-Colonial Era
Early Colonial
Colonial – Revolutionary War
Constitutional Development
Early Republic
Issues Leading to the Civil War:
Industrial Revolution (Including the Erie Canal)
Westward Expansion
The Civil War
Not bad for two weeks, eh?

Well hang on for the ride of the summer!