Ouachita history students take a step back in time at Shiloh National Battleground and Military Park

Students majoring in history were given the opportunity this past weekend to take a trip to visit the Shiloh National Military Park in Pittsburg Landing, Tenn. Chris Mortenson, chair of the history department, took a group of six students to visit the Shiloh National Battlefield. The majority of students are currently taking Mortenson’s Civil War and Reconstruction class. Prior to the trip, the class was assigned to read a book on the history and tactics of the Battle of Shiloh.

The group was able to take the trip at no personal cost because of a Paul and Virginia Henry Academic Enrichment Grant. The grants support innovative programs related to any phase of instruction, and in this case it was an off-campus learning experience. This trip fit the parameters of the grant, and the group was able to receive the necessary funding.

The group departed at 3 p.m. Friday to Savannah, Tenn. After spending Friday night at a hotel, the group made their way to the battlefield for a day of experiences and education.

The Shiloh National Military Park was built to commemorate the battle that occurred around Shiloh church and Pittsburg Landing. The Battlefield sits on the Tennessee River where the battle took place April 6-7, 1862. Roughly 110,000 Union and Confederate soldiers participated in this engagement. Over 23,000 casualties were produced in this battle, which was one of the largest engagements during the Mississippi Valley campaign. The two-day battle was the bloodiest battle at the time. The park itself contains key locations from the battle such as: the Hornet’s Nest, the Sunken Road, the Peach Orchard and Ruggles’ Battery.

“My class spent a large amount of time studying Shiloh, so actually seeing the field in person was equally eye opening and chilling,” said Nina Hefner, a history and English double major from Poplar Bluff, Mo. “Getting to see the place in person made the battle, as well as the people, so much more real to me.“

“The trip was nothing short of amazing,” said Chris DiGiovanni, a history and mass communications double major from Leesburg, Virginia. DiGiovanni aspires to be a Civil War historian after graduating and felt that he absolutely had to go on this trip.

While at Shiloh and the surrounding area, the group attended an audio tour that included sites and landmarks that marked locations that they had learned about in their Civil War and Reconstruction class. Once making it to the actual field itself, the group received assignments in order to create a mock battle.

“When we got to the field, we were assigned specific commanders to ‘give orders,’ and in that sense we could say we fought the Battle of Shiloh,” DiGiovanni said.

Dr. Mortenson even lent his commanding services to the group, having members of the group guard a picket, as well as “charge” toward the enemy.

After a day of taking what they had learned in the classroom and being able to put a real life experience with it, the group headed back toward Ouachita to return later Saturday evening.

“I’m really grateful for the opportunity to visit the battlefield; it was an experience that I know I will carry with me and continue to learn from,” Hefner said.

By: Will Blase, Staff Writer

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