In a Gettysburg classroom over the past nine months, seventh grade students have been researching the history that took place in their backyards 150 years ago. They use their knowledge, coupled with primary source documents such as diary entries, newspaper articles, and photographs to create a short podcast about the citizens, the soldiers and the freedom seekers who lived in their town during those most trying days in July 1863. The students, who are attending Gettysburg Area Middle School, have been taking part in the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership’s Of the Student, By the Student, For the Student® project and their work will become official National Park Service interpretive materials. Approximately 500 miles away, eighth grade students from Hartford Memorial Middle School in Hartford, Vermont have been writing biographies of Civil War soldiers from Vermont through an initiative sponsored by the nonprofit organization ValleyQuest. These students have focused their research on 74 soldiers from their home state that fought at the Battle of Gettysburg, many of whom died at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, which was transformed into a hospital during that time.
Thanks to a grant from The Prince Charitable Trust the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership has been working with Hartford Memorial Middle School teacher Jennifer Boerl-Boyce who will lead a small group of her students from their hometown in Vermont to join the students of Gettysburg Area Middle School to take part in a joint ceremony to honor these soldiers. More specifically, these students will be part of creating a national service learning program in conjunction with the Living Legacy Project, a sweeping and ambitious effort to plant or dedicate a tree for each of the 620,000 soldiers who died during the American Civil War. This project of national significance was launched by the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War.
A tree planting ceremony will take place at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg on May 21st, which includes the dedication of a Witness Tree that was on the property at the time of the battle to an unknown soldier. The students from Gettysburg and Hartford will each plant a new tree, dedicated to fallen soldiers from their respective hometowns. Gettysburg students will honor George Shriver and Hartford students will plant their Living Legacy tree to honor Pliny White. In both cases the stories of these men’s lives will be geotaged to the tree and made available to smartphone users. The remaining trees will be planted in the Fall. The ceremony will begin at 5 p.m. at the Church of the Abiding Presence on the Seminary campus (61 Seminary Ridge, Gettysburg, PA) and conclude at 6pm.
As part of the ceremony on May 21, Lutheran Theological Seminary President Michael Cooper White will be providing keynote remarks. In addition, author and Pulitzer Prize Nominee Kent Lawrence Gramm, a visiting Professor at Gettysburg College, will share stories of the Civil War and speak to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice on the grounds of the Lutheran Theological Seminary.
“These students, through their individual and collective efforts are helping to make history not only relevant to themselves, but to each of us,” said Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership President Cate Magennis Wyatt. “More, these students are honoring the fallen who, in many cases, have never been rightfully commemorated. We owe those soldiers a living legacy to honor their lives and we owe these remarkable students our enormous gratitude.”
The Living Legacy Project will stretch along the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway, a 180-mile swath of land that runs from Gettysburg, PA to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, VA. The JTHG National Scenic Byway, which crosses the Mason Dixon Line, serves as a link to the largest concentration of Civil War battlefield sites in the country and connects over 30 historic communities, each of which was gravely impacted by the Civil War. Within the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area holds lies the beginning of the Civil War (Harpers Ferry and Manassas), the middle (Antietam and Gettysburg) and the end of the War (Appomattox).
The Living Legacy Project will create a unified color palette that reminds visitors that they are, indeed, on hallowed ground. Upon completion, this initiative will create the first 180-mile landscaped allée in the world and the only allée dedicated to honoring the most defining moment in American history. A signature palette of seasonal trees and plantings, including redbuds, red oaks, red maple, and red cedar have been selected to represent the courage and valor of the individuals being honored with this project. A secondary palette, including canopy and understory trees, evergreens, shrubs, and ground coverings, will also feature red as a predominant color, with plantings including black gum trees, sassafras, and winterberry. The native selection is appropriate to the diverse landscapes along this historic corridor, and remains sensitive to the local ecology, scenic views, and development patterns.
Several hundred trees have already been planted or dedicated in Virginia, and this is the second major ceremony as part of this program. The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership is actively engaged in raising the necessary funds to complete this $65 million initiative. Individuals, businesses, schools, and community groups from around the world can contribute to this project. The JTHG Partnership is seeking $100 contributions to support and plant each tree. Donors may select a soldier to honor, as the trees will be geo-tagged to allow Smart Phone users to learn the story of the soldier, providing a strong educational component to engage interest in the region’s historical heritage and literally bringing the tree to life. Over 350 organizational partners of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership are already engaged with the Living Legacy Project. For more information on the Living Legacy Project, visit www.hallowedground.org.
For more information about the Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Museum and to reserve tickets, including reservations for the Exclusive-Access Cupola Tour, visit www.seminaryridgemuseum.org
The JTHG Partnership is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of the unparalleled historic, natural, and cultural landscape within the swath of land from Gettysburg to Monticello. This is the region Where America Happened™, as it contains more history than any other region in the nation and includes: World Heritage sites, 16 National Historic Landmarks, over 10,000 sites on the National Register of Historic Places, 49 National Historic Districts, nine Presidential homes, 13 National Parks, hundreds of African American and Native American heritage sites, 30 Historic Main Street communities, sites from the Revolutionary War, the French-Indian War, the War of 1812 and the largest concentration of American Civil War sites in the nation.