By Pamela Johnson Reporter-Herald Staff Writer
Loveland Classical students hit the battlefield
05/02/2015 01:59:09 PM MDT
An army of school kids walked in the shoes of Union and Confederate soldiers Saturday.
“My heel is already killing me,” said 11-year-old Justin Grundy, a sixth grader at Loveland Classical Schools who participated in a Civil War re-enactment.
“We’re experiencing one day, and they had to go through 1,500 battles.”
He and other students from the charter school said the ability to re-enact the Battle of Antietam helps them have a real understanding of what happened and what people went through during the battles from 1861-1865.
“It’s better to learn this way than in a stuffy classroom,” said 14-year-old Molly Miller.
“It’s definitely something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Loveland Classical Schools has hired the nonprofit group You Can Live History for the past three years to offer students a living lesson in history. The Aurora company brings costumes, teaches the students and orchestrates a ball and a battle reenactment after school and on the weekend.
Any students who wants to can participate. The cost is borne by the parents; however, for those who can’t afford the cost, there are scholarships provided through donations and fundraising, so no one is left out.
The school and the company transformed a field, west of Loveland, into several locations around Sharpsburg, MD, on Saturday and filmed several battles that occurred on Sept. 17, 1862, as well as events that led up to the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day of the Civil War.
Smoke filled the field as the Confederate and Union soldiers – in this case young students – squared off and let sparks fly from their weapons. Row after row of bodies fell.
And that is what happened during the many battles of the Civil War – sons, fathers, brothers and uncles died or were injured from muskets, bayonets and even canon fire.
“There were 23,000 casualties,” said Kathy Miller, history teacher who organized the event. “It was horrible and bloody.”
This particular battle was the first time Gen. Robert E. Lee brought his soldiers into Union territory during the war between two sides of a young country, fractured over the issue of slavery.
The union commander, George B. McClellan, thought he had a leg up because his side discovered Lee’s plans written on cigars, according to Miller. However, in the time the man spent planning his attack, a southern sympathizer alerted Lee of the found plans, and in a surprise to the Union Army, the Confederate Army altered its plans, according to Miller.
The battles were intense and bloody on a single day around Sharpsburg. Eventually, the south retreated, changing the course of the war, Miller said.
Their retreat is thought to have kept European countries from siding with the south and bringing in allied troops and boosted the north enough that President Abraham Lincoln soon gave the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves, Miller said.
The students, she said, are learning this history in a unique and memorable way, experiencing a small sliver of what these soldiers went through during the war.
The battles and weapons are not real, but the lessons are, as are the experience of spending all day on your feet in different kinds of weather, hiding in bushes and trees as well as squaring off in dirt and grass, fighting until someone falls.
“It’s hot and you’re tired, but by the end of the day, you want to do it all over again,” said Miller, who has participated all three years.
Joining her on the battlefield those same three years, for the Confederate side, was 14-year-old Wyatt Swanson, who said he loved the “real life experience.”
“It’s not just studying it in a textbook,” he said. “You get to experience what it was like in their shoes.”