AP Gov. and History Students Tour Charleston


Lindsey Powell, Journalist

Piedmont students visited historic Charleston, South Carolina for an overnight field trip May 12 and 13. With the bus leaving at 6 am Friday and returning at 10 pm Saturday, it was a fully booked schedule.

AP U.S. History and Civil War teacher Dawn Stegall and AP Government teacher Brian Pitoniak coordinated with one another to create a tour that showcased the city’s rich history. “[Charleston] is about colonial origins,” said Stegall. “It’s also about Revolutionary War battles, and the loss of that city to the British. It is pivotal in understanding the Civil War and the restoration of our nation after the war.”

The trip began with a tour of the Nathaniel Russell house, where the focus was on the enslaved people who lived in it and the interior design and architecture of the house. Much of the house had been restored, especially after all the damage done by the earthquake in the late-1800s. One of the most distinguishable features was the floating staircase whose artistry has never been claimed. 

“I found it cool that in the Nathaniel Russel house, the staircase went up three stories but was only connected at the bottom,” said junior Cheyliece Wilson.

Next was a stop to the market, where Kilwins and Byrd’s Famous Cookies enticed students more than the various delis and eateries. After that, students boarded the ferry to Fort Sumter, exploring the influential base and learning about the history surrounding its involvement in the Civil War and beyond.

“My favorite thing was Fort Sumter,” said sophomore Jackson Sells. “I really like Civil War history [and] could stand where the first shots that started the war were.”

Junior Jorja Wickline also enjoyed Fort Sumter. “Seeing a scene like that so up close after learning about it for weeks on end in my classes this year and last year seemed so surreal to me.”

Once back in downtown Charleston, the night ended with an evening tour of downtown, including Washington Square Park, the French Huguenot church, the Anglican church, and the Old Exchange building.

“[Washington Square Park] was the site that involved the first female serial killer’s hanging, it was where Edgar Allen Poe went crazy, and many other interesting things,” said Sells. The female serial killer he was referring to was Lavinia Fisher, believed to be the first of her kind in the United States, and Edgar Allen Poe’s descent into madness was caused by the loss of his love Anna, a young girl who died early in life (and who inspired the famous “Annabel Lee”).

“I enjoyed learning all different kinds of stories in history I had never heard,” said sophomore Cade Griffith. “I learned that George Washington danced with over 200 women in one night.” And to make it even more interesting, the Old Exchange building where Washington’s dance card was overbooked also held a dungeon beneath it (Provost dungeon).

Day two was marked with a horse-drawn carriage ride first thing in the morning, which was Wilson’s favorite tour. “Seeing the beautiful houses and hearing about the cool history behind them was one of the most memorable moments,” she said.

The next stop was a trip to the Tea Gardens, where students learned about the local American Classic Tea company, and their methods for producing tea. After this, students took a tour of Middleton Plantation, with its prominent slave history, various livestock, and multiple gardens. The main focus of this particular tour was on the Civil War, and the importance of the enslaved workers in providing the Middleton’s with their wealth.

“I definitely think learning/informing [people] on Charleston’s history is important! The historical aspects from Charleston tie into so many major events that have taken place throughout our country,” said Wilson. “Also, who wouldn’t want to know about Charleston’s history?! It’s beautiful, shocking, and thought-provoking all at once.”

“I believe everyone should know their history,” said Sells. “It prevents similar events [from happening] as well as making people who do not understand see and appreciate things. I believe that learning history in Charleston will make people more appreciative with the lives they have than complaining over everything.”

Any history buff interested in traveling to Charleston or learning more about these famous landmarks can see Mrs. Stegall or Mr. Pitoniak for the student’s itinerary or for recommendations on what to see and do.