The woods and fields of the Historic Latta Plantation echoed with the sounds of gunfire, rebel yells and shouts as skirmishes broke out.
Forty-three recruits attending the Civil War Camp were re-enacting the Bloody Lane battle in 1865 at Appomattox Court House, Va., pitting the 2nd N.C. Union Troops against the 53rd N.C. Confederate battalion.
Matthew Waisner, site director and commander for the camp in Huntersville, said, “These kids do better than most re-enactors. They take to the drill real well.”
Each recruit “enlisted in” one of the two battalions that would fight in the battle and was outfitted with gear that was as historically accurate as possible. A toy musket, haversack, canteen and kepi hat that matched the regiment they would represent was provided to each camper.
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The toy musket must be cocked and a fresh cap put in place in order to fire, similar to the one shot musket used by soldiers during the era. Wearing the colors of their allegiance — blue for Union and gray for Confederate — the recruits studied the Hardee’s Field Manual, which outlined drills, formations and tactics used during the Civil War to prepare for the battle on graduation day.
Waisner, a re-enactor for more than 24 years, said most people didn’t know that the Sample brothers, sons of the plantation owners during the Civil War, served in the Confederate army, “and all made it back home safely,” he said.
Many of the campers go on to become volunteer officers at the camp when they age out and participate in the 53rd Camp for those 13 and older.
A few boys gave us a hard time and said it wasn’t right for us to be here because girls didn’t fight in the Civil War.
Kendall Aguirre who leavned those boys were wrong
The officers add authenticity to the battle as they wear official uniforms and are allowed to use real muskets during the battle. “All my sergeants are former campers. Many have gone on to become re-enactors,” he said.
With temperatures reaching into the mid 90s, the troops took water breaks in the heat of the battle, but the action never stopped.
During one skirmish before the big battle, Charlotte residents Abby Shonce, 9, and Kendall Aguirre, 10, were both trying to reload under heavy enemy fire.
Hearing their sergeant shout, “Die in the shade,” the girls stumbled over into the shade and laid down. Soon they were joined by many of their fellow Union soldiers, some who may have died just to escape the heat.
Once the battle for Bloody Lane started, the sound of orders being shouted and caps firing, almost without interruption, simulated the constant fire of the historic battle. The two battalions pushed forward and back as the Confederates defended Bloody Lane, many falling as the boom of a musket rang out over the unending cap fire.
The battle ended in a stalemate when the Union forces turned back and the Confederates celebrated holding their ground.
The girls said that they had enjoyed the camp and learning about the Civil War.
“A few boys gave us a hard time and said it wasn’t right for us to be here because girls didn’t fight in the Civil War,” Kendall said.
But they were wrong. Waisner said there were many women, who hid their gender by dressing like men and fought in the war.
Kendall smiled and said, “It’s OK. I found out there are a couple of boys who like us.”
Waisner said the goal is to educate people about history in a fun and exciting way. He feels honoring the past and learning from it will provide a better future.
“We’ve got to start with the young, start with these kids, because they are our future,” he said.
Marty Price is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to go?
The next Civil War Soldier Camp, for children ages 8-12, will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday-Thursday, July 31-Aug. 3 at the Historic Latta Plantation, located at 5225 Sample Road in Huntersville.
There will also be the Miss Jane’s Academy, a camp that allows girls ages 8-12 experience what life was like for women during the Civil War, during the same times July 31-Aug. 3.
Historic Latta Plantation has several historical reenactments throughout the year including the Civil War, Revolutionary War and World War II.
For information on the Historic Latta Plantation, its summer camps and historical reenactments go to: www.lattaplantation.org
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