Civil War re-enactors show students details of life in 1850s

More than 350 children put away their cell phones and turned off their computers Friday for a chance to delve into a history lesson many won’t soon forget.

“These were used to keep the eyes closed when someone died,” said Ray Billings, a Civil War reenactor with the 22nd Louisiana Infantry, as he showed the children two heavy coins, receiving a grimace from 11-year-old Justin Woodring. “It took three to five minutes before they kept the eyes shut.”

Nicole Woodring brought Justin and his twin sister, Maiah, to the 11th annual Civil War reenactment’s Kids Day Friday in hopes of teaching her children more about history.

“I learned how painful it was to live back then,” Justin said, as he talked about the antiquated tools and lack of pain medicine in the 1800s.

“Back then, you didn’t want to see the doctor,” he said.

Youth — from home schooled students to students at Springfield High — walked into Fayard Field to find tents set up just as they had been in a Civil War camp.

Everything from shooting demonstrations and marble making piqued the interest of Brie Sandifer, who carefully packed gun powder into paper and then tightly wrapped the ends of the paper.

Paper packets of gun powder were used as bullets during the war from 1861 to 1865, said event chairwoman Denise Martin.

As she showed the students how to make bullets they could take home, she explained that women were the ones who packed the paper with gun powder, created a pack of 10 bullets, and sent them to the soldiers.

“I liked how to make the bullets and how to make marbles,” Brie said, quickly admitting, however, that she wouldn’t have liked to live in the 1800s.

“I like my electronics,” the 8-year-old quipped.

Brie’s mom, Melanie Sandifer, said she brought her three children to the Civil War reenactment because she thought it would be a good field trip for them. The students also got to watch a blacksmith, see period clothing and ask questions about the war.

“I just want them to see how people lived back then and how hard they had it and how easy they have it today,” Sandifer said of the reenactment, which was continued through Sept. 22.

Springfield High School history and physics teacher John Hill was especially excited for his students to watch the shooting demonstration. With only 30 minutes to spare at the event before heading back to class, more than a dozen of his students watched as members of the militia loaded and fired their weapons.

“When we get into physics, I will talk about this and the physics of how the gun goes off,” Hill said.