By Janet Lyons, Maine Humanities Council’s Consulting Project Coordinator for Local & Legendary: Maine in the Civil War. Thanks to Nick Waugh for taking the photos.
June 3 was a busy end-of-school-year evening in the Western Foothills Regional School District, yet an appreciative audience of parents, peers, faculty, and community members gathered in the auditorium at Mountain Valley Middle School (MVMS) to learn about lesser known Civil War figures.
Local & Legendary: Rumford in the Civil War team leader, Nick Waugh, introduced team members and gave a brief overview of the year before turning things over to teacher Craig Milledge. Craig explained the Quest program at MVMS as an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in a topic across all domains of learning. Every Wednesday for a trimester students in the Civil War Quest have enthusiastically engaged themselves in math (Venn diagrams of Confederate & Union strengths), language arts (book discussions with veterans of Gary Paulsen’s Soldier’s Heart), music, science, and history through the lens of the Civil War.
This trimester Diane Farrington’s students rose to her challenge to “tell someone’s story that you haven’t heard of.” Over the course of six weeks students researched people from the past, the role they played in the war, and their motives.
Eight students wrote and performed fascinating first person Civil War monologues. Dressed in homemade costumes, Emily Shackley, Emily Davis, Faith Riddick, Darin Buono, Kennedy Hamner, Mackenzie Arsenault, Alexis Chapin, and Aanisah Smith introduced the audience to nurses, a woman on the homefront, spies, a photographer, and a special soldier. Videographers Noah O’Leary and Nick Bourgoin captured the event for viewing at a later date.
Through first person monologues, historical figures Amanda Cordelia Kimball of Rumford and Rita Sanborn introduced us to nursing during the Civil War. Both women shared their experiences of nursing: Amanda at St. Johns’ College Hospital in Annapolis, Maryland, and Rita as a volunteer in the hospital where her husband was hospitalized. Julia Pendleton Allen, wife of a Confederate soldier, shared aspects of life at home with a young son and an absent husband. Through the words of Confederate spies Isabella Marie Boyd and Rose O’Neal Greenhow, audience members were reminded that women played an important and scandalous role in the “War Between the States.” Renowned Civil War photographer, Mathew Brady told us that he was compelled to take photos of the battlefields because, “the most important thing to me is that the Civil War be remembered.” While sitting at his desk, John Summerfield Staples shared how he came to be the paid “stand-in” for President Abraham Lincoln. He received a bounty of $500 and saw little action during the year he served as the president’s representative, primarily working as a clerk and prison guard.
After the enjoyable, informative performance, the cast and audience enjoyed pizza and drinks while watching a slide show of Local & Legendary events throughout the year. This journey to the past would not have been possible without the efforts of teachers Craig Milledge and Diane Farrington, team leader and photographer Nick Waugh, and Local & Legendary team members Luke Sorensen, Nghia Ha, Jane Peterson, Mary Gamble, Adelaide Solomon Jordan, and Barb Radmore.