Thursday, October 06, 2016

The Battle of Bladensburg

Bladensburg field trip
Owen's class has been studying the War of 1812 fairly intensely this term and since the DC area was the center of much of the action, it was natural that his class would plan a field trip and he would want one of us to join him. So Owen and I and a bunch of other parents and teachers along with 24 other fifth graders took the D8 bus to the Rhode Island Station and then transferred to the T18 bus in order to relive the Battle of Bladensburg.

It was a long trip, but was going fairly well until about four stops from our destination, another field trip, consisting of 80 kindergarten and first graders with only four chaperones in tow, hopped on the bus. The kids were horrified, as were the other passengers who had been less than thrilled to be sharing their daily commute with one grade school field trip, let alone two. But we muddled through until we were dropped on the grounds of the Battle of Bladensburg visitor center, where at least one fifth grader fell to ground and kissed it in relief (it wasn't Owen).

For those unfamiliar (like me, prior to the field trip), the Battle occurred two years into the war, when British forces sought to cross the much more narrow and traversable Eastern Branch of the Potomac River in order to invade Washington. The Americans were outflanked and unsuccessful in defending their land, ultimately resulting in the torching of the White House, Capitol and the Library of Congress. But while the defeat stung, it was not defining: a few weeks later the U.S. successfully defended Fort McHenry in Baltimore and destroyed much of the British fleet in Lake Champlain which ultimately led to the Treaty of Ghent and a lot of rebuilding in DC.

The kids watched a movie about the war, made some fairly insightful observations (Owen knows far more about blockades than I did at that age) and looked at several exhibits before we picnicked on the banks of the Anacostia River. Shortly thereafter, we headed back to Bladensburg road to catch the return bus, but unfortunately, this required crossing Bladensburg, which wasn't as easy for Ms. Wertheimer's fifth grade class as it had been for the British. Ultimately, Ms. Wertheimer blocked traffic to allow her students to pass safely, only to wait twenty minutes outside a pawn shop for the T18 to arrive.

Fortunately, the ride home was pretty uneventful, and it all made for a really good story, so really everyone won (except for poor Brigadier General Tobias Stansbury).

1 comment:

Mike Zimmerman said...

Sounds like an impressive lesson in our nations history.