Brattleboro Students Revisit Civil War History
09/21/11 5:50PM By Susan Keese  Download MP3
(Host) One-hundred and fifty years ago, a thousand men of the Fourth Vermont Infantry became the first Vermonters to be dispatched for service in the Civil War.
They mustered out of a military camp that stood where the Brattleboro Union High School and Middle School now stand.
On Wednesday, Brattleboro students celebrated that anniversary, and VPR's Susan Keese was there.
(Keese) Every year students in Joe Rivers' middle school social studies classes study some aspect of the land the school now occupies.
Rivers says it's a rich site.
(Rivers) "We've done projects about when this was a fairground, which it was after the time when it was the military camp. When it was a hospital, during the Civil War as well. There were 4,500 soldiers that were here being treated for illnesses and injuries."
(Keese) Rivers says nine other regiments mustered in and out of the Army here. But the Fourth Infantry was the first to leave the camp. And that's the unit these students chose to study.
The regiment fought in 27 battles and suffered a 50 percent casualty rate.
Ninth-graders Rissa Smith and Bailey Paige were among the students who recalled individual soldiers who passed through the camp.
(Smith) "Robert John Coffey was a sergeant in the Fourth Vermont Infantry. He single-handedly captured two officers and five privates of the Eighth Louisiana Regiment."
(Paige) "Lorenzo Frissel, a soldier in the Civil War from Brattleboro, enrolled in the First
Regiment Vermont Artillery in 1862, receiving a $30 bonus for three years of service."
(Keese) A 1906 monument commemorating the site's military history was also rededicated.
Brian McCarthy read from a speech delivered at the time by Kittredge Haskins, then the U.S. congressman from Vermont.(McCarthy) "We dedicate this monument to perpetuate the remembrance that from 1861 to 1865 the green sod of this broad plain resounded to the tramp of feet of more than 15,000 of the young men of our Green Mountain State who with uplifted hand were here sworn in for freedom for their country and for God."
(Keese) Middle School vice-principal Chris Day, himself a recent veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, echoed some of the sentiments in that 1906 speech.
(Day) "Let us rededicate this monument and this land, and let us commit ourselves to the time when, as Congressman Haskins spoke in 1906, the true aspiration of the Civil War will be at hand, when equal rights shall be fully accorded to all."
(Keese) The students also produced a video about the school's history, which will air on local public access television.
For VPR News, I'm Susan Keese.