FreshPlans Visits a Battlefield

Pea Ridge National Park

We went to Pea Ridge National Military Park to learn more about the Civil War. We have a couple of battlefield parks here where we live, and we find it sobering to stand where so many lost their lives. It’s also very interesting.  Pea Ridge has excellent interpretive exhibits examining not only the historical events of the battle but also questions about leadership and decision making. Visitors can read about the circumstances and the decisions the leaders made and determine whether they made the right decisions or not.

See more scenes from the park in this video:

The song, “Shenandoah,” is of uncertain origin, but one theory is that it is sung by a soldier homesick for the Shenandoah Valley. Students can try out the NPS Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System and see if they have ancestors who fought in the Civil War, learning at the same time how to use an online form and database.

Elkhorn Tavern, Pea Ridge

There is a driving tour as well as tours designed for walking and horseback travel, and visitors can see the Elkhorn Tavern, which was used as a hospital during the conflict. A yellow cloth was used to signal hospitals, since they were set up in any building or spot available.

Civil War field hospital

Inside the tavern, a member of the Benton County Historical Society showed us the tools and medicines that were used in field hospitals during the Civil War. There wasn’t really much that field hospitals could do. Amputations were one of the main responses to injury, laudanum (made from opium) was given, and the poor level of hygiene meant that patients generally ended up with septicemia and gangrene.

Find a lesson using math and graphing to understand the casualties of the Civil War at our Civil War lesson plans page. Another resource on this topic is Clara Barton: Angel of the Battlefield, an informative book from Time for Kids.

Trail of Tears

Pea Ridge is also on the Trail of Tears, where Native Americans traveled from their homes to “Indian Territory” in Oklahoma thirty years or so before the Civil War. At Pea Ridge, Cherokee Brigadier General Stand Watie, then a colonel, led his troops into battle on the Confederate side. Discuss with students why Native American soldiers might have chosen to fight for the Confederates rather than the Union.

One of the things we like about historical sites like Pea Ridge is that it makes the people involved in historical events seem more real to students. This is also why we like lesson plans using letters for studying the Civil War:

  • PBS has a writing lesson plan using Civil War letters.
  • Artsedge has another, with drama.

Thanks for joining us on our battlefield visit. If you can’t take your students on such a visit, we hope this virtual visit has inspired your Civil War anniversary lessons.

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