Picture, if you will, it’s the end of 1862. Oakland County, the State of Michigan, and a divided nation are in the thralls of the conflict happening at the borders of the Union and Confederacy. The war affects everything as poet Walt Whitman revealed in 1861’s “Beat, Beat Drums.”
Even a small community like Troy Township is waiting to receive news from the boys and men who went off to join the Union. (At least 93 or more local men are part of the 2661 men who made up the just the 22nd Mich. Infantry.) Homes like the Caswell House and Log Cabin were emptied of their young men—with family left behind to worry, to write, and to remember. “Into the solemn church”–Troy Corners Methodist church—“and scatter the congregation;” muting the celebration of the 25 years since the church was built. Schoolboys, Union men and soldiers now, from the farms between Royal Oak and Pontiac attended one room schools when they were boys. Their teachers and fellow students think of them.
Change your focus to the 21st Century where 8th graders are trying to appreciate the enormity of a war that will forever change how America thinks about itself. Here at Troy Historic Village each May for a number of years Troy and Fraser Middle Schools have brought their students for an immersion experience on the Civil War. These students and teachers are thinking about soldiers, too.
And it’s not only soldiers they think about, although 8th graders drill as soldiers, and learn the weight of the burdens they carry as they march and shoulder arms. 8th graders also sit with the Medical Doctor to see the tools of the surgeon. These 13 and 14 year-olds see images of wounds, and find out more about the practice of medicine through a terrible, but necessary, procedure. Even away from the war, social occasions such as dances happened in the context of the war—numbers of men and women probably unequal. These are stark, but important, lessons.
In May of 2016 as the Troy Historical Society commemorates its 50th anniversary, we will once again host the scholars who actively participate in the lessons of more than 150 years ago.
MAYBE YOU’D LIKE TO COME NEXT YEAR WITH STUDENTS
Social Studies Teachers, Curriculum Directors and Administrators: You are invited to preview our Civil War Days program May 16 – May 20. Presented to 8th grade students, this program is a full day of activities and presentations related to the American Civil War. Call 248.524.3598 for more details and to reserve your place.