“And when Longstreet approached the battle scene what were the words uttered by Daniel Sickles?” This was one of the many questions posed by Dr. Prushankin to students as they stood on the Gettysburg battlefield. “Sickles spoke two words…I’m sorry.” Prushankin answers his own question as he
proceeds to explain the story of Daniel sickles, American traitor and scoundrel.
I had the pleasure of being apart of the Gettysburg staff ride, which offered students a hand on experience with the Gettysburg battle. Students researched a key battle figurehead and narrarated their role while hiking through rocky terrain and high grasses and being able to physically see what the setting for the battle looked like and better picture how it occurred.
I was responsible for researching Daniel Sickles who was an interesting fellow, he lead a life of womanizing and consuming alcohol, he was convicted of killing Francis Scott Key’s son for having an affair with his wife, was aquitted on the terms of temporary insanity (this was the first time it was ever used) and was given his seat back in Congress. Sickles can also be noted for his insubordination in that during the battle of Gettysburg he moved his troops to a position where they were virtually destroyed, and where he was later struck in the leg by a cannon that resulted in amputation.
As an education major I have always felt strongly about the benefits that field trips can have on students. It is one thing to read about the Battle of Gettysburg in wordy text and it is quite another to stand on the ground that soldiers once stood, and seeing what they saw risking their lives for what they believe. Field trips are beneficial because they take the student out of the everyday environment and provide variety. Students are given a new place to explore and often have fun doing so thus learning without even realizing it. As a takeaway experience for me I can now recall important facts and better understand the battle tactics of the union and confederates that I would not have easily been able to grasp without visualizations.
This was truly a fantastic experience. I learned so much about the battle of Gettysburg and wish that more history professors utilized field trips-what better way to experience something then to experience it for yourself.