Falling Branch Elementary brings Civil War to life
CHRISTIANSBURG — Taking the battlefield has become a tradition for fifth-graders at Falling Branch Elementary School.
Five classes took part May 13 in the grade’s rite of passage by spending the day learning from members of the 24th Virginia Infantry reenactment group and then participating in their own Civil War battle reenactment.
Despite being just the third year the school has held “Civil War Day,” fifth-grade teacher Amanda Sheppard, who spearheads the occasion each year, made it clear that the event has taken root with the students.
“On Meet the Teacher Night, that was the first thing they asked, ‘Are you the teacher that does Civil War Day?,’” Sheppard said.
The enthusiastic students spent much of their day rotating through learning stations led by reenactment group members.
Civil War era food, clothing and weapons were on display, and lessons on life during the war were given by fully-outfitted Union and Confederate soldiers.
The students were also drilled on Civil War era battle tactics; the formation of battle lines, marching by file and firing by company.
The fruit of their labor was then put on display as the classes, divided into three Union and two Confederate units, paraded around the school and then took to the school’s soccer field to stage an epic battle.
Led by officers from the 24th Virginia Infantry, the groups entered into battle.
Some were declared casualties by the officers according to their birth month. In the end, history did repeat itself as the Union was victorious, however, aside from a touch of grass stain, no lasting scars were endured.
The event ended with the customary playing of Taps by a group of students on recorders and the presentation of $107 collected by the students for the reenactment group’s project of restoring an actual flag from original 24th Virginia Infantry.
Principal Julie Vanidestine said the day was great for all the students involved.
“It brings all their SOLs to life.” Vanidestine said.
She added that memories of Civil War Day are often the first thing mentioned by returning former students.
Although now a veteran of Civil War Day, student Julia Moschella said the harsh conditions she learned soldiers endured made her very skeptical about how she might have fared during the actual time period.
When asked what she would have done if she had been a part of the actual war, she answered with the blunt honestly you might expect from a fifth-grade student.
“I think I would have died,” Julia said.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1643
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