Learning how soldiers lived during Civil War

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History, Hauntings, and Hides

The third, fourth, and fifth graders at Locust Elementary School were served a little piece of history by way of a field trip to Locust Museum. Teaming with Locust Fresh House Restaurant, the museum was able to take the students back in time to the sights, sounds, and culture of the American Civil War.

Dedicated to authentic depiction, a hospital campsite replication was set up, complete with reenactors dressed in full uniform of the time. A medical “surgeon” (holding a horn to his ear–a long ago hearing aid) told about the diseases, attempted cures, and wounds typically encountered in this mid-1800 war. He explained more soldiers died from disease than from actual war wounds.

Children listen to Civil War Doctor

Bill Tucker, spokesperson for Locust Museum, said, “The students were surprised to learn it was not yet understood that infections were caused by bacteria that was contagious. As a result, doctors did not wash their hands while going from one wounded soldier to the next.” These Civil War medics thought the only way to eradicate many of these diseases was through amputation.

Reenactment soldiers went on to tell about the conditions the soldiers survived in camp life, including lack of clothing, heat, and food. Hard tack, an earlier version of beef jerky, became a staple–and even that was often not available. They went on to explain that the soldiers had to carry all their provisions on their back including blankets and their own cooking utensils. They had to count on themselves for survival.

The storyteller keeps the attention of the students

The students especially enjoyed the volley of muskets. Using powder only and no bullets, three muskets were shot off and reloaded, depicting the lack of modern weaponry–and the noise of the battle.

What was the takeaway for the students? Mr. Tucker said, “They were amazed by the lack of technology. I think they realized things were not always so easy.”

The students were then treated to ghost stories by Susan Sharples, a local folklore story teller. Dressed in the appropriate garb of the time, she told “age appropriate” stories passed down over the years. Susan said, “The beauty of the lost art of storytelling is that it encourages children to use their imaginations, to see it in their own way. There is just not enough of that today.” She encouraged the children to be active participants in the story, and always finds them “active and eager” to listen.

The children were then transported back to modern times with a presentation by Janet Gilreath of Pee-Dee National Wildlife Refuge System. Aiming to spark an interest in in wildlife and outdoor recreation, Janet showed the students pelts from various animals at the refuge, and displayed antlers found on their property.  She went on to teach about the various mammals and reptiles that populate their grounds, their habitats, and what they eat, as well as the importance of wildlife conservation.

A lesson on antlers

Students left the museum experience with a new appreciation for antibiotics, folklore, and of creatures great and small.

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Kathy Shepler
I was an English professor at The University of Akron, Ohio before retiring and moving to Charlotte last year. My undergraduate degree is in journalism and my masters in education. Along with writing for The Mint Hill Times, I tutor in English and do book editing. I live in Mint Hill with my husband and am involved in a number community activities.