Students catch glimpse of life during Civil War
Maurine Beechler of Buffalo, Ny., talks with Smithsburg Middle School students Jade Lee, left, and Talia Seidman about women's fashion during the Civil War era. (September 14, 2012)
“It was the stars and bars flag, which then changed to the flag that has the St. Andrew’s Cross on it,” Kristy, 13, said. “It was changed so the men on the field would know what their flag looked like.”
The Confederate Flag with the St. Andrew’s Cross is the flag commonly associated with the Confederacy in the present time, according to Nina Hernandez, who spoke to the students about the flag.
“The (stars and bars flag) resembles the banner of the Federal troops too closely from a long distance with all of the smoke and excitement of battle going on,” Hernandez, 59, said. “After the Battle of First Manassas, they still used it, but as the identifying flag, you had the St. Andrew’s Cross, which was the battle flag of the Confederacy that most people recognize.”
Hernandez, of Bowling Green, Ohio, was at the site with her husband, Greg, who was playing with the 2nd South Carolina String Band. She said she gives various living history presentations about the history of the Civil War.
“I like to teach children and adults who don’t know many little things about the Civil War,” she said. “The kids today learned something about the Confederate flag, as simple as it was. That was part of it.”
Learning about the flag was among a variety of examples of Civil War living history students were able to experience Friday.
Kristy, an eighth-grader at Springfield Middle School, said she was interested in the re-enactors portraying people from the time period.
“I’m just really getting the feel of what it was like during that time,” she said. “It’s interesting in seeing their perspectives and point of views.”
About 1,700 students from Washington County Public Schools went to the re-enactment site at Legacy Manor Farm off Bakersville Road, according to George Lomas, one of the event organizers. The farm near Fairplay also hosted about 300 homeschooled students, Lomas said.
John Mark, 13, of Great Cacapon, W.Va., is homeschooled and was watching a Confederate generals presentation with a man portraying Gen. Robert E. Lee.
“I liked seeing all the tents lined up and all the soldiers,” he said. “It’s like you’re going back in time.”
Clear Spring resident Sarah Shirk, 13, is also homeschooled. She said the outfits and photos of the war she saw stuck out to her.
“It’s interesting how the clothes have changed over time,” she said. “The property setting we’re on, including the church and the cemetery, is cool.”
At another station, re-enactors fired cannons in a demonstration of weaponry from the period.
Smithsburg Middle School social studies teacher Jesse Smith took his students to the demonstration, saying they can understand history better by reliving it.
“They’re getting both perspectives of the war and learning that it was fought for a variety of reasons,” he said. “Slavery was the main issue, but a lot of other variables were involved. There was a lot of politics.”
Leigh Face, who teaches U.S. History at Springfield Middle, said that seeing the historical events portrayed could help the students understand them better.
“A lot of times when we talk about something historic in the classroom, it doesn’t really come to life,” she said. “It really helps them to see people in the traditional uniforms.”
Other stations students visited included a presentation of people portraying Union generals, a living history village with various demonstrations by Civil War re-enactors and a sutlers village.
Jazmin Techie-Mensah of Hagerstown, an eighth-grader at Northern Middle School, said she was interested in the medical help soldiers required as demonstrated in the living history village.
“One lady was talking about how she had to take care of all the men who were fighting so they could survive,” Jazmin, 13, said. “We should pay more attention to stuff like this in class because some of this impacted our country today.”
E. Russell Hicks Middle School seventh-grader Dylan Baer said the visit gave him a better understanding of both sides in the Civil War.
“The slaves in the South had to be taken care of and the blacksmiths worked hard,” Dylan, 12, said. “Each side worked hard, but it’s good that the Union won.”