Lake Norman & Mooresville

Campers relive the Civil War at Historic Latta Plantation

Matthew Waisner, site director of Historic Latta Plantation, front, portrays a Confederate colonel and commander over the whole camp. He led his battalion, with the Union battalion close behind, as they marched to the house on the Historic Latta Plantation.
Matthew Waisner, site director of Historic Latta Plantation, front, portrays a Confederate colonel and commander over the whole camp. He led his battalion, with the Union battalion close behind, as they marched to the house on the Historic Latta Plantation. Marty Price

Historic Latta Plantation holds several day camps over the summer, but the most popular has always been the Civil War Soldier Camp offered in July and August for children ages 8-12.

“We teach the recruits about the history of the Civil War and the tactics the soldiers used in battle,” said Matthew Waisner, site director and commander for the camp in Huntersville. “Many of our campers come back to volunteer as officers and then go on to participate in our historical reenactments.”

During a practice re-enactment on July 22, the volunteer officers, dressed in uniforms reflective of the time, were the only soldiers allowed to carry real muskets and swords. The officers drilled the recruits on how to handle their “weapons” while marching and engaging in battle.

“We are trying to create a love of history,” Waisner said. “Campers’ families turn into volunteers, getting families to love and participate in historical events.”

The campers signed up for, or “enlisted in,” the two battalions that would fight in the re-enactment. The battle, set in 1865 at the Appomattox Courthouse, Va., pitted the 53rd NC Confederate battalion against the 2nd N.C. Union (US) Troops.

“I picked this battle because most people don’t know that the Sample brothers, sons of the plantation owners during the Civil War, served in the Confederate army,” Waisner said. He said that Hugh Sample was serving under General Robert E. Lee when Lee surrendered.

We are trying to create a love of history.

Matthew Waisner, site director at Historic Latta Plantation

The campers studied Hardee’s Field Manual from the Civil War era that included rifle and light infantry tactics to help them prepare for the re-enactment that they would present to their families on the last day of camp.

Each recruit was issued a toy musket, haversack, canteen and kepi hat that matched the regiment that they would represent. Waisner played the part of a Confederate colonel as he led the campers to the house for water. They also practiced the parade they would perform for families during the awards ceremony.

The only girl in the group, Union recruit and Belmont resident Katie Blackett, 8, dodged between the boys as she tried to fill her canteen before the drills and morning battle. Blackett said, “This is fun and we get to bring home things from the Civil War.”

Approximately 700 women fought in the Civil War. Waisner said Blackett could represent Union soldier Frances Clayton, who dressed herself as a man, took the name Jack Williams and served in both the artillery and cavalry regiments.

This is fun and we get to bring home things from the Civil War.

Katie Blackett, camper

After the drills the recruits were ready to practice the battle. The toy muskets, similar to the officers’ real muskets, could only shoot one cap at a time, forcing the recruits to stop and reload between shots, much like the soldiers they were representing.

During drills, Blackett struggled with her toy musket, but in the heat of battle with the Confederate forces, she kept her cool. She cocked the hammer on her toy musket and advanced the strip of caps to align them for the next shot while under fire from the advancing enemy.

As the two battalions fired at each other, the officers shot off their muskets to add the authentic noises of battle. When the loud shots were fired, some of the recruits would fall to the ground as if they had been killed by the mighty blow.

Marty Price is a freelance writer: martyprice53@gmail.com.

Learn more:

The next Civil War Soldier Camp will be 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Aug. 3-6 at the Historic Latta Plantation, 5225 Sample Road, Huntersville.

For information on the Historic Latta Plantation, its summer camps and historical re-enactments go to http://lattaplantation.org/latta/index.php?page=home

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