Fifth Graders Discuss and Learn about Confederate Memorial
September 20, 2017 by
Near the New North Campus, on the edge of an old graveyard, stands a memorial to Confederate soldiers. After noticing the stone obelisk at the start of school, the fifth grade Stars & Stripes class wanted to learn more. During the first week of school, we used a Thinking Routines exercise called “See, Think, Wonder.” Students looked closely at the memorial and noted what they observed, what they thought about it, and what it made them wonder.
The students then brainstormed ways to find out more information about the memorial (without using Google). The Reverend of the church next to the graveyard knew the history of the monument, so we invited him to talk to us. Students asked Reverend Walter thoughtful questions, and were engrossed and respectful throughout our talk. Following are some of questions and answers from the discussion:
Are any people buried at the memorial, and why?
Yes. The soldiers were originally buried on a farm, but were moved in 1864 to this spot because the reverend at the time was sympathetic to their cause.
What does it mean that the memorial says they “fell in front of Washington, D.C.”?
The soldiers were trying to go into Washington, D.C., but reached Fort Stevens and ended up fighting in that battle.
Who paid for the marker?
Local Confederate sympathizers paid for it.
What side was the church on politically during the Civil War?
The congregation was split. Some people even had slaves. The church has a separate area which is where the slaves were allowed to sit to listen to the service.
Do many people know about it and is there any controversy surrounding it?
Yes. After the events in Charlottesville, Maryland state legislators called to see if they could remove it. The church said no, because this was not a memorial for the Confederate cause, but rather for the seventeen unknown soldiers who fell. There is a stained glass window inside the church with a Confederate Battle Flag and General Early, which is going to be removed.
After the Reverend’s visit, we had a brief discussion about the recent events in Charlottesville, VA. We talked about different people’s reactions to seeing the Confederate flag or Confederate monuments and memorials, and what they may think about and feel upon seeing them. We then began a discussion about the difference between remembering or learning from parts of our history and respecting or revering those parts. We also talked about whether you can learn from history without having these memorials or statues to Confederate soldiers up. This conversation is not even close to being over, and we will come back to it again and again throughout the year as we learn about different periods of American history. Thank you to Reverend Walter for joining us for this interesting and thoughtful conversation.