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As archaeologists excavate Stafford school site, students will learn about Union troops who lived there.
Date published: 3/7/2005
By KELLY HANNON
Students at Stafford County's next middle school won't need permission slips to visit a local Civil War site. The journey will be a two-minute trek to their back yard.
The future school site off Deacon and Brooke roads used to be a Union troop encampment. Historians believe the camp was spread across eight acres of the 21-acre property.
Between 100,000 and 140,000 federal troops camped in southern Stafford during the winter of November 1862, until May 1863. The soldiers were mustered in preparation for the Battle of Fredericksburg on Dec. 13, 1862.
After the battle, and a brutal defeat, Union troops retreated to Stafford. They hunkered down for the winter, building wooden huts that had stone hearths. They left behind everyday artifacts such as buttons and bottles--future treasure for historians, and now students, to unearth.
"I think many children think history is something that happened somewhere else, and they read about it in a history book," said Agnes Dunn, social studies coordinator for Stafford schools.
"They're living in an area that was significant in Colonial times and the Civil War, and I think this will really give them a chance to appreciate the things that are surrounding them," Dunn said.
Stafford County Public Schools worked out an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to preserve part of the camp.
Three acres will remain untouched by school construction, so school groups and the public may be able to tour the Civil War campground one day.
An archaeological dig is under way, led by Cultural Resources Inc. of Fredericksburg, to preserve artifacts beneath the soil.
Any finds will become property of the school system and will be displayed when the still-unnamed school opens. That's expected to happen in fall 2006.
But now, every step of the dig is being documented in pictures and video so elementary students too young to venture to the site can benefit from electronic field trips.
Stafford students will have a chance to help excavate artifacts in a few weeks, after Cultural Resources finishes with the mundane initial steps of the dig.
"We have some high school groups and history clubs interested," Dunn said.