In honor of America’s sesquicentennial celebration, TOW eighth graders participated in a recreation of the American Civil War era on Friday, May 17.
This event was ideal for eighth graders, whose curriculum had them studying the Civil War for about a month in the autumn, according to history teacher Mark Johnston.
The day began with a presentation by three members of the 148th Gallant Volunteer Infantry Division of Waterloo. Dressed in Civil War era uniforms, they spoke about the life and times of a soldier. They also demonstrated use of various props which were used during the Civil War era.
Suellen Leonik, civilian co-coordinator of the 148th New York Volunteers, is a cousin of Lisa Hanford, who works with Town of Webb School’s dining services. Ray Derby and Jim Goloski posed as soldiers during wartime in 1863.
Chelsea Hanford, a Webb graduate who is a member of the volunteer organization and now teaches in Alaska, provided the presenters with pilot bread, which is modern-day “hard tack” available only in Alaska. Students were able to sample hard tack and take home copies of a recipe to make it themselves.
Students heard about the shortage of food Union soldiers often suffered, having to fend primarily for themselves, and the diet they did consume. Salted meats, dehydrated vegetables, rice, beans and coffee complemented the hard tack they ate. A soldier might drink up to a gallon of coffee a day.
Confederate soldiers had access to cornmeal, which they’d cook in the grease of meat they’d already cooked. Students learned from Derby’s character that five or six soldiers would share the cost of a frying pan, a valuable commodity at that time, and taking turns carrying it.
Each soldier carried a “shelter half” and assembled a small tent by buttoning his half with his partner’s. If one of the pair died, the other would have to find a new shelter partner.
After breaking for lunch, the Webb students reconvened for breakout sessions in small groups, with teachers who offered Civil War-related activities, according to their respective disciplines.
“The English teacher had the student ‘soldiers’ writing letters home,” Johnston said. “Home and Careers teacher Diane Amos sewed quilts with students and discussed a typical dinner menu. Quilts made by Amos and students will be donated to a VA hospital following this event.”
“The nurse, also in period costume, manned a hospital tent and discussed the medicine of that age. Tech instructor Steve Bradish had a military camp set up with white dorm tents. The math teacher had students calculating things such as the speed of a cannon ball and I drilled the students as if they were in the cavalry.”
Musicians including buglers and drummers were on site playing period pieces. Fifth grade teacher Anne Phinney showed one of her “calvary” horses and spoke of how cavalry members cared for their horses. Confederate and US period flags were flying.
Home Ec. Teacher Diane Amos has been busy sewing blue and grey bandanas which were used to create the two sides in the war. Some senior speech students circulated in character as Ulysses S. Grant, Mary Todd Lincoln, Sarah Barton and Robert E. Lee.
All who teach eighth graders were involved, including music and tech teachers. After breakout sessions, students played a baseball game.
“Baseball was huge back then,” Johnston said. “They played with the rules which existed in 1863. For example, the pitcher had to pitch intentionally so that the batters were able to make contact with the ball, and balls caught after a bounce counted as outs.”
This is the second year TOW has hosted a Civil War event. The trio who presented on May 17 head to Gettysburg, Waterloo and the Genesee County Museum in Mumford next.