Friday, October 1, 2004

Students touch piece of history

Hooper Battery is being unearthed, restored

By William Croyle
Enquirer staff writer

Civil War re-enactor Bob Clements of Edgewood demonstrates how a Civil War soldier would use a bayonet to a group of Bishop Brossart High School students who were visiting Hooper Battery, Fort Wright.
Jason Hutchinson (seated), an archeology student at Northern Kentucky University, discusses the excavation of what is believed to be a cistern with students from St. Agnes Elementary.

FORT WRIGHT - As 6,000 Confederate troops marched from Lexington toward Cincinnati on Sept. 10, 1862, they stopped in Fort Mitchell.

Staring down at them from hilltops that stretched eight miles from Ludlow to Fort Thomas were 72,000 Union troops and militia. The Confederates camped for two nights before withdrawing.

Cincinnati was defended without a shot being fired.

"It was one of the most famous Civil War battles that never happened," Dave Brown told fifth-graders from St. Agnes School on Wednesday at the Battery Hooper site. Brown, dressed in Civil War garb, is a member of the Mid-States Living History Association, a group that re-enacts Civil War history. They were taking part in Battery Hooper Day, celebrating the preservation of one of only six Civil War fortifications left in Northern Kentucky.

Students from St. Agnes Elementary, Fort Wright, and Bishop Brossart High School learned about life in the 1860s and sifted dirt for relics.

"We're getting to interact," said Erin Robinson, a junior from Bishop Brossart who found three bullets. "You actually get to touch a piece of history."

"I like learning about history when you can see it like this," said 10-year-old Michaela Beechem from St. Agnes.

The battery is a U-shaped wall made of soil, about 30 feet long and 6 feet high. Behind it is an artillery wall where two cannons were stationed. The battery and wall have been preserved underground since the late Sheldon and Fern Storer built their house and planted grass on the land in the early 1940s. Fern Storer died in 2002 and bequeathed the house and 14.5 acres to the Northern Kentucky University Foundation. The school sold it last year to Fort Wright for $790,000. The money is being used for scholarships. The land and home will be a park and museum.

The battery site is being unearthed and restored by Fort Wright, NKU and the Behringer-Crawford Museum with a $32,000 grant from the Scripps Howard Foundation Center for Civic Engagement.

"This is hallowed ground," said Dr. Jim Ramage, history professor at NKU. "It's a perpetual monument to when this community came together during a crisis."

The house will hold relics that archaeologists find on the site. So far they've found buttons, pencils, marbles, dishes and tobacco pipes.

"This is where these kids live. They need to know all they can," said St. Agnes teacher Gail Osborne. "I know when we get back to class, we're going to be bombarded (with questions)."

Added Fort Wright City Administrator Larry Klein: "Any time you can learn from something like this in your own back yard, its better than learning from a textbook."


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