Student ‘soldiers’ live history

To learn the story of their own backyards, a group of Rappahannock County High School juniors recently trekked the hallowed ground of historic sites in Rappahannock County. Led by historians and Civil War re-enactors, including senior Robert Yowell and local historian Art Candenquist, American history and literature students spent a day in late October on a bus tour of noted Civil War sites around the county.

Historian Arthur Candenquist, as Confederate Capt. Thomas Robinson Sharp, left, and student Robert Yowell, in his 7th Virginia Infantry Company A uniform, get ready to tell RCHS students about the hallowed ground they’re visiting. Photos by Melissa Delcour.
Historian Arthur Candenquist, as Confederate Capt. Thomas Robinson Sharp, left, and student Robert Yowell, in his 7th Virginia Infantry Company A uniform, get ready to tell RCHS students about the hallowed ground they’re visiting. Photos by Melissa Delcour.

Beginning at Ben Venue, historically known as Gaines’s Crossroads, the group learned about the William Fletcher family homestead, including the slave quarters and the site where Union General William Powell’s 2nd Cavalry captured two of Mosby’s Rangers.

For the rest of the day, students filed off and on the bus to walk the ground where soldiers marched and fought during the Civil War. At each stop, Yowell, dressed in his 7th Virginia Confederate uniform, regaled the group with tales of actions and human interest stories. Candenquist, who portrayed Confederate Capt. Thomas Robinson Sharp, added his rich knowledge of local history with official reports from the pens of the participants.

During one of the late-morning stops, scholars learned of actions near and on the Fannon Farm in Castleton. In addition, Yowell taught students how to march and turn in proper Civil War military formation. He also led them in a mock drill exercise designed to stir the imagination and help the “soldiers” learn how to fire by rank.

The graciousness of the Amissville Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department allowed students to have an indoor lunch and a brief “at ease” time before beginning the afternoon phase of the tour.

Yowell teaches his fellow students how to march and turn in proper Civil War military formation.
Yowell teaches his fellow students how to march and turn in proper Civil War military formation.

After stops in and around Amissville, leaders finalized the tour in Flint Hill and beyond as they followed the fate of one Mosby’s Rangers who was captured on the Fletcher farm in Ben Venue. Students stood at Albert G. Willis’ gravesite on the Flint Hill Baptist Church grounds to learn how he volunteered to take his friend’s place in the hangman’s noose. The tale of selflessness moved many to awe. The stories of the day also moved many students to a new understanding of their own backyards.

Yowell, who planned, organized and led the trip as part of his local history independent-study project, had his own assessment of the day. “The field trip was a great success. Instead of visiting a national battlefield, they got to see someplace local. For several on the trip, their families may have been involved during the war or been impacted. The fact that I got to lead this one was a great privilege of mine. I hope the school does more field trips like this.”

Wakefield swimmers star in first meet

From contributed reports

Members of the Wakefield Country Day School swim team recorded five first-place finishes and seven second-place medals in their opening meet Nov. 16 at St. Michael’s High School in Fredericksburg. Both the boys’ and the girls’ teams – and the team as a whole – finished in third place in the meet.

The first-place finishers included senior Rachel DuMez in the 500 freestyle (5:34.65) and 100 backstroke (1:02.09), with both times qualifying her for the postseason state championship meet; senior Will Scaring in the 200 freestyle (2:41.54); sophomore Anne Katherine Burns in the 200 individual medley (2:43.71); and the 400 freestyle relay team of eighth-grader Tatumn Vaught, freshman Mollie Miller, DuMez and Burns (5:21.50). This was the first relay first-place finish for a girls’ team in the school’s history.

Second-place finishers were senior Conor O’Heir in the 100 butterfly (1:01.66) and the 100 backstroke (1:09.25), Burns in the 100 butterfly (1:11.01), eighth-grader Lucas DuMez in the 200 individual medley (2:26.72), plus the boys team in the 200 medley relay, the 200 freestyle relay and the 400 freestyle relay. C. O’Heir, L. DuMez and Shane O’Heir swam on all three of the relays; Scaring swam on two and Michael Chen swam on one.

Almost every swimmer recorded a personal best time at the meet and, collectively, the team had just over 50 seconds in total dropped time.

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