Civil War camp teaches lessons

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 11, 2009

NATCHEZ — The smell of gunpowder, the sound of mud squishing under walking feet and the feel of a cool, muggy Mississippi morning set the scene at Saturday’s Black and Blue Civil War Living History Camp.

Civil War re-enactors, adults and children met at Historic Jefferson College to attend what would be the start of a historical walkthrough of the Civil War in the shoes of black Union servicemen and women.

Children and parents arrived at 10:30 a.m. to participate in a training camp for young Union soldiers — an experience in which the children were sworn in to the Army, told what conditions to expect to survive through and shown how to operate muskets.

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Patrick Shell, Natchez Trace Parkway district supervisor, took on the role of a U.S. Colored Troop member and showcased the workings of a real musket as those participating in the hands-on activity followed along with their wooden firearms.

“This is a way for the children to have a hands-on experience of the freedom they take for granted so they can take a look at our history and appreciate what we have now,” Operation Shoestring Family Development Coordinator Ada Robinson said.

Robinson, who is a resident of Jackson, brought four children affiliated with Operation Shoestring’s leadership teams and watched as their eyes were opened to the living and war conditions present during the Civil War.

The program’s purpose was to highlight contributions black people made during the Civil War to help obtain their own freedom.

Based on the lives of real black Union soldiers, naval men, cooks and nurses, a play presented to guests drew its information and script from preserved Union documents.

Richard and Susan Martin moved to Jackson two years ago from Fairfax, Va., and said they have always known the history of the Union, but were not well acquainted with the black history associated with the Union’s fight.

“Coming from Maryland and Virginia, you’re on the other end of the war,” Richard Martin said.

“This is interesting because you’re getting to see the other side.”

Susan Martin said one of the key factors to learning is travel and seeing.

“I’m a tourist, and if I’m going somewhere, I’m going to try to see as much as can while I’m there,” she said.

The Martins said they were impressed by the backdrop of Saturday’s re-enactment.

“This is a perfect setting for historians to meet,” Richard Martin said.