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McConnell delivers check for Perryville preservation project

August 26, 2003|LIZ MAPLES

PERRYVILLE - Jodi Holsclaw, a freshman at Danville High School, said she appreciated that U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell had worked for the $248,000 that will be used to preserve the Johnson House on Merchants Row.

She and a group of history teacher Ryan Montgomery's students came to McConnell's presentation of the check to the Perryville Battlefield Preservation Association.

"I'm here to congratulate you," McConnell said to the local officials there. "We want to make this a pleasant site for Civil War buffs to visit."

The Johnson House, which was a field hospital during the Battle of Perryville, will house a town visitors center, museum and office space. Work will begin in early September. The dilapidated structure sits on South Buell Street and has stood empty for years after it was used as a private residence.

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The money came from the Save America's Treasures program that was begun by President Bill Clinton.

Clarence Wyatt, president of Perryville Enhancement Project, explained that the house and all of Merchants' Row is unique because it, along with the battlefield site, give people a glimpse both of social and military life at the time of the war.

Montgomery brought his classes, who have just finished studying the Reconstruction, to get just such a feel for the period just following the Civil War.

McConnell suggested the students read "April 1865: The Month That Saved America" by Jay Winik. It examines the month that the war ended and how the events began to reunify the country.

Montgomery said he plans to read the book, stock it in the school library and put it on a summer reading list for advanced placement history students.

Brittany Griffitts, a freshman, said that visiting the site made her feel like there was a purpose in studying the war.

"It's interesting because it happened so close to home," she said.

The students didn't visit the Johnson House, but one day student visits may begin there at the future museum. A cannonball crashed through the roof and lodged in an interior door on Oct. 8, 1862. Evidence of the damage is still visible.



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