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Archive for Thursday, April 8, 1999

STUDENTS LEARN ABOUT LIFE ON THE BATTLEFIELD

April 8, 1999

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The blue and the gray met on a windswept field west of Lawrence this week.

The battlefield was relatively silent, but had the Confederates taken up arms against the Union soldiers, history would have repeated itself and the North would have been victorious.

The "soldiers" dressed in blue greatly outnumbered the gray uniforms outside the Community Bible Church west of Lawrence Tuesday afternoon. Fortunately, the students were there to learn, not fight. Sitting on the grassy field, they ate hardtack and jerky, learned how to shoot a musket and found out about life -- and death -- in the mid-1800s.

About 75 home-schooled children -- more than half of them members of The Learning Co-op (TLC) -- spent three hours lining up for military drills and learning about food, toys and clothing of the Civil War era.

The lesson didn't come without a moral.

"I enjoy learning about this as much as you do, dressing up and learning about what our ancestors did," said "Col." Jeff Reinhard, Lawrence, who has re-enacted history for the past 10 years.

"But this war wasn't something that was pleasant. They went through some horrible experiences," Reinhard said. "... It was without a doubt the most far-reaching catastrophe that struck our nation."

Six months out of the year, the TLC students meet on Tuesday afternoons at the church to learn about different subjects picked by parents in the cooperative. Shannon Nelson, who has three children in TLC, chose the Civil War.

"This is my way of allowing the kids to go back in time and experience what we've talked about," Nelson said.

In the church, Reinhard's wife, Christine Reinhard, demonstrated how many layers of clothing young ladies and women wore, from corsets and drawers to hoops.

"It took forever to put on those dresses," said Elizabeth Bartlow, 9, of Baldwin. "There's a lot of pretty dresses, but I don't think I'd want to wear them every day."

Prior to loading and firing a gunpowder charge from his rifle, Jeff Reinhard led the ragtag army of students -- many of them dressed in anything blue or gray -- in drills. As a colonel, Reinhard explained, he wouldn't usually stoop to talking to the enlisted men.

Dressed in his wool uniform, Reinhard marched the army around the field, but they obviously could stand some more practice.

"Anyone who doesn't want to try it again will have cleanup duty after lunch," Reinhard barked, a cigar clamped between his teeth.

The response was more enthusiastic after that.

Jesse Schultz, a 10-year-old from Baldwin, said he joined as a Union soldier because he "doesn't like slavery."

Garrett Jones, 8, Lecompton, said he wouldn't mind being a soldier, but the marching part wasn't his favorite.

"I could walk in mud, but I wouldn't walk in rain," he said.

-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is ckoger@ljworld.com.

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