A Civil War Rennactor goes to School!!

     Well the last time I wasted your time I gabbed about giving a magic show for my  daughters kindergarten class.  A number of years rolled by and I became a grandfather to my son’s little boy.  He eventually started to school and progressed to the second grade.  The school he attended during his elementary years was located in the city of La Mirada, Ca. and was a presidential citation school for excellence.  One day during a visit to their house it was mentioned that his second grade class was studing   the Civil War, which suprised me as I did not know it was studied it that young age.  Once again my foot got inserted into my mouth with out thought.  I volunteered to come to his class in uniform as his show and tell, “Bonk me on the head!!”.  Well Jeremy’s mother went to school and discussed it with his teacher, this led to a conference on the school office with the principal.  While this was being discussed it was overheard by a fifth grade teacher.  She excitedly interrupted to ask if I would consider doing the fifth grade also, as they were deeply involved with the Civil War at that time.   By the time I was notified of the results I was committed to doing the second grade in the morning, both classes aprx. fifty kids, and the three sixth grade classes after lunch aprx. sixty kids.  This had expanded from going to a class room in uniform and being shown off to a full course demonstration of    thirty minutes for the second graders and a hour for the fifth grade.  Once again I was totally unprepared for something of this magnitude.  What the hell could I talk about for a hour?  Well I had enough junk to haul around with me so I hastily made notes of facts I thought would interest them.

     On the big day I took a personal leave day from my place of employment and set off for school with my wife.  I arrived a hour early to set up and was able to borrow a rolling flat cart from the janitor.  Borrowing a eight foot table from the cafeteria I proceeded to set up my display.  I was dressed in my Lt’s. uniform I placed the Confederate Naval Jack across the front of the table as a drape (this is the red flag that most people call the confederate flag, with the cross bars and stars, rectangular in shape).  Behind the table on a stand I had made out of a patio umbrella stand I hung my thirty-six star Union Flag to the left and the First Confederate National Flag to the right ( this is the real stars and bars, one large white strip bordered by two red stripes and a blue field with the circle of thirteen stars).  On the table I laid out a large collection of pistols, swords, model cannons, cannon balls and a large collection of other collectibles I had amassed over the years.  I must say I was impressed by the display myself.`

     Finally the children of the second grade was ushered in and seated.  My red headed grandson introduced me and I began.  I was amazed how fast the thirty minutes flew by, and how attentive the kids were.  I tried to stop but the teacher told me to keep on going.  We stretched the session out to forty-five minutes.  We had to quit so they could have the assembly room for lunch.  I told the story of Johnny Clem the drummer boy of Shiloh.  He was a youngster of nine years of age that tried to enlist in several Indiana Regiments and was turned away.  When the troops marched off after initial training he marched beside them pretending to beat a drum.  This amused the troops and some of them began sharing their rations with him.  Eventually one found a broken drum and repaired it and gave it to him.  He taught himself the different beats and stayed with the regiment.  Eventually he was given elistment papers and received rations and a stipend.  Someone cut the barrel of a musket down and gave to him.  At Shiloh the  legend is that when the troops faltered and started to retreat he held his position and beat his drum shaming the troops to hold fast.  Nowhere in official records can this be verified but the legend was widely believed.  He was captured by the confederates and was paraded around the south to show how desperate the north had become as they were using children to fight with.  He was eventually paroled and rejoined his regiment.  After the war the army tried to boot him out of the service as he was to young to keep.  He wrote a letter to President Grant begging him to reinstate him.  Grant had him appointed to West Point where he eventually graduated.  He died in the service as a general in 1918 and is burried at Fort Sill, I believe (I have the actual facts somewhere).  Needless to say this story was a big hit with both grades.

     At one twelve-thirty the large group of fifth graders were marched in.  Now I love this grade, I taught this grade in the Catholic Church one year.  They are not babies, but not yet teenagers.  They are bright and inquisitive , and you have to be on your toes with them.  The first think they noticed was I had a diet coke can setting on the table, and it was quickly pointed out to me that was not appropriate for the era.  Oh, did the ball roll with them, hands shot into the air constantly until the teacher told them to wait until I finished and then they could ask questions.  I told the main teacher that I had run over in the last session and what time did I need to stop.  She told me they needed to be out of there by one-forty-five, OK.  So we got started I showed guns and rifles, swords and lord only remembers what else.  I recited facts, numbers and told storied.  And talked about reenacting  and books and good movies and all I could think of.  At about one thirty I said well your teacher said you need to be out of here soon, so I’ll start taking questions, She said no keep on going.  So on I speed, finally I started taking questions and boy, did they fly.  Everything from how did the bayonet stay on the rifle to what was Goober Peas (peanuts, they sang the song goober peas for me afterwards).  We ran on until almost two-thirty.  They were smart and inquisitive.  Before they left they sang Dixie, Goober Peas and When Johnny Comes Marching Home, they had praticed for a play they invited me to attend for open house in a week  It was a real blast but I was totaly wore out when I finally got home and got everything unloaded and put away.  My wife took several rolls of photos and they are treasured memories for me.

        I do not think I would have the energy to tackle either one of these experences today the magic show or civil war display (hell I’m pushing seventy real hard) but it was fun at the time. 

     Well gonna try to spell check this mess, a real chore for me, then ramble on out of here.

      Well I stand corrected!  Since I posted this chapter I received a correction on the Johnny Clem story, He is buried in the National Cemetery at Arlinigton, Virgina.  This was supplied by a lady at the Fort Sill historical office.  Thanks to her information I stand corrected, much  of my fuzzy info. reaches back thirty or forty years, and my library is all boxed up, in taped shut boxes awaiting a remodeling job that never seems to get started.



3 Responses to “A Civil War Rennactor goes to School!!”

  1. Steve Says:

    Another good story! Your not pushing seventy real hard you are just kind of sliding in there.

  2. Nancy Elliott Says:

    Clem is not buried at Fort Sill but at Arlington National Cemetery. Follow this web site for more info.


    However, we do have Geronimo here!!

    Fort Sill Public Affairs Office

  3. Raven Says:

    I don’t recall the Johnny Clem story so it was fun to read about. You werre always a good story teller and havea way of capturing attention when you speak about something you love!

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