Children learn about Civil War on re-enactment grounds

Friday, June 17, 2011 | 7:47 p.m. CDT; updated 12:18 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 24, 2011
Children prepare for a blast from a replica cannon at the Boonville Civil War reenactment Friday afternoon. From left are Hunter Cook, 10; Trae Williams, 10; Dominic Barber, 10; Ricky Pacenza, 8; and Treyvon Korte, 10.

BOONVILLE — The doctor pulled out a pair of rusty surgical scissors as a dozen children gathered around his table full of Civil War-era instruments.

“This would cut off the last of a piece of meat, maybe your arm,” Charles Cunningham said, snipping the air with the authentic sheers. The children, laughing and screaming, motioned to more medical tools and asked the actor about their grizzly uses.

The children at the medical tent were from the Summer Youth Program in Boonville, which is just one of the multiple day camps that came to visit the Living History School Day Program Friday afternoon, a part of The Battle of Boonville 150th Commemorative Festivities.

Event organizer and co-chairwoman Maryellen McVicker said several hundred children attended the educational event. She said it’s important for children to get hands-on experience with American history.

“The Civil War impacted every person in the United States, so you have to understand the culture of the time," McVicker said. "You don’t find that out in a four-walled classroom.”

Kids in Civil War costumes and camp shirts swarmed around the grounds, going to and from each actor’s station.

“Heavy ain’t it?” a tall bearded actor asked a little girl as she struggled to lift a 19th-century rifle. “It’s like holding a hunk of scrap iron.”

The man in uniform explained that many Missouri secessionists fought with whatever they could find.

“The ones that didn’t have a stick or a corn stalk brought a hunting rifle from home,” he said.

The kids from Boonville walked to a large spectator tent where Dianne Moran waited to begin her performance.

Dressed in an ankle-length dress and bonnet, Moran scurried up to the front of her makeshift stage. She looked at the audience with wide eyes, telling a composite story of war-torn Missouri families fighting on opposite sides of the battle line.

“My boys wanted to go to war,” she said, “but when they came down the stairs to leave, they were wearing different uniforms.”

“We want you to know that such things should never happen again,” she said. Like many at the Boonville re-enactment, Moran has been traveling to battles since 1992.

“I could have easily lived in Revolutionary War times," she said. "I love it.”

Hunter Cook, 10, rummaged through Moran’s table at the end of the tent, which was lined with objects from the era: a doctor’s leech box, a bloodletting basin, family portraits and confederate dollars.

“I think it’s cool because so many people find this stuff laying on the ground,” Hunter said, referring to bullets and other artifacts that have been excavated throughout the years.

One of the last stations featured toys from the 1860s and an area where children could create toys that were popular during the Civil War. Trae Williams, 10, made a button yo-yo, which boys would use to flirtatiously flick girls in the head, according to a sign on the table.

He got it to work, whirling it up and down while the button buzzed on its string.

“It was pretty cool,” Trae said.

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