Miller Elementary students in Bradenton experience Civil War

jdeleon@bradenton.comFebruary 21, 2014 

MANATEE -- The Yankees are coming! The Yankees are coming!

Third-grade students at J.P. Miller Elementary were taken back Thursday to the Civil War era with a special presentation: "The Life of the Civil War Soldier."

"I really like the Civil War. I like history a lot," Roy Bauer said.

Roy said he enjoyed learning some of the games children played during the Civil War era and seeing the sleeping quarters soldiers and officers had.

The presentation was made possible thanks to one of Gettysburg National Military Park's traveling trunks, which was reserved for the students by parents Lela and Mike Hartsaw. Their daughter, Emily, is in the third grade under teacher Tiffany Mason.

Roy was so enthused after watching the presentation from his fellow student and her family, that he is considering becoming involved in Civil War re-enactments.

"I'm going to get Emily and her family to help," Roy said. "I might get my cousins and my mom to help, too."

Some third-grade teachers will use the trunks, which includes materials for teachers in addition to a child-sized uniform.

"I'm very excited," Mason said. "There are seven stations and we are

going to do two stations a day."

Mason will share the trunk with three other third-grade teachers next week.

"We are going to try and make this a yearly thing," Mason said.

Two students were chosen to wear the soldier uniform, and girls participated, too, because as students learned through the program, some women during the Civil War pretended to be men so they could serve.

"I think this is cool," Jordyn Simon said. "I learned about what children did."

Jordyn also loved learning about the guns and soldier gear from the era. Students got a hands-on look at bullets and a gun.

"It was kinda cool, but I was kinda scared," Jordyn said.

Kaitlyn Gaylord also liked the presentation.

"I liked it when he showed us how to use the gun," Kaitlyn said.

The students also learning about societal norms of mourning in the Civil War era. Lela Hartsaw played a mother mourning the death of her infant, dressed in black and carrying a memento mori, or photo of the dead loved one.

"I liked how we got to see the picture of the dead baby," Kaitlyn said. "It was interesting and sad."

The practices were explained to the students.

"Today nobody knows to be kind to you because you are hurting inside," Lela Hartsaw said.

The Hartsaw family began participating in Civil War re-enactments a couple years ago after Mike Hartsaw began doing a genealogy of his family and discovered a relative who fought and was later a prisoner of war. The paper trail ended there, but his fascination with the history did not.

"This is the first time I have done this particular presentation," Lela Hartshaw said.

The trunks which are circulating nationwide, are in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. In addition to getting on a waiting list, the park also required a $150 donation.

"It's worth every moment," Lela Hartsaw said.

This weekend the family of four will participate in the live re-enactment of the Battle of Ballast Point, which took place in Tampa, at Ft. DeSoto. The trunk and all its contents will also be on display there.

Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.

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