For 34 years, history “re-enactor” Jeff Sanders has visited classrooms to teach kids about the life of a Civil War soldier, he writes on PJ Media. From public and private schools to homeschool co-ops and juvenile detention centers, students are eager to learn.
“They learn what a ‘housewife’ is (it’s a sewing kit), how my toothbrush is made from animal bone and hog’s hair bristles (‘oooooh! gross!!), and how they made hardtack (a big flat cracker) and ate salt pork fried down to mush and mixed with bug-infested flour (yuck!),” writes Sanders.
He shows them his rifled musket and bayonet.
He finishes with a Northern song (“Battle Cry of Freedom”), a Southern song (“Goober Peas”) and the favorite hymn of both sides (“There Is A Fountain”).
Students love stories, says Sanders.
He always talks about Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. A Bowdoin professor and minister, he left his wife and children to command the 20th Maine. His defense of Little Round Top prevented a Confederate victory at Gettysburg.
I talk about how hot it was that day. . . . How Chamberlain was given orders to fight to the death.
. . . The kids hear about the ferocious gunfire and hand to hand fighting. And how tired both sides were: the men of the 15th Alabama were dying of thirst because their guys with all their canteens had been captured! And now, as the Confederates were coming up the hill for one last charge, Colonel Chamberlain received the worst news: “Colonel, sir, we are out of ammunition.”
That’s when I turn to the kids and ask them, “What should he do? What would YOU do? Go home? Run and hide? Start crying and telling everyone that you’re too tired?
Some day it may all come down to just YOU and what YOU will do. What are you going to do?”
Chamberlain ordered a bayonet charge.
You can hear a pin drop as I draw my bayonet and fit it to my rifle. Then, I reach for my sword, and scare the kids half to death by yelling “CHARGE!!!!!”
The 20th Maine drove the Confederates off the hill and saved the Union army, Sanders tells students. They love it. “Give your kids real flesh-and-blood heroes,” he says. Batman isn’t enough.