News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Life During Wartime
BY COLLETTE CAPRARA
FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR
Imagine that our community was suddenly under siege and neighbors rolled into action. Dads at the front lines and moms with children at their side preparing supplies and medical kits. In fact, 150 years ago, that was the scenario in Fredericksburg and the folks at Kenmore and Ferry Farm will bring those events to life with the second annual Civil War Camp, Aug. 6–10.
“Participants will realize that these weren’t just stories written about and books, but real-life events that happened in our own backyard,” said Ferry Farm’s tour manager Vickie Hayes.
Offered during the first week of August, the camp’s activities will be held for two days at each of the two sites, with a final round-up session on Friday.
The first two days will take place at Ferry Farm, once the site of a Union encampment, and will highlight aspects of the daily life of soldiers, from both the North and the South.
Campers will learn about the important role of the pontoon bridge that was constructed from Ferry Road to Rocky Lane, enabling troops to cross the Rappahannock. They’ll work together to their own version with paper towel rolls and popsicle sticks to gain an understanding of the basic concepts of the process. Afterwards, they will hike down to the river to see the site of the actual pontoon bridge and examine photos and illustrations of it from the 1800s.
Unlike the army from the North that marched under one Union flag, the various Confederate regiments each had their unique flag. Campers will also design their own symbol for a flag that they think best expresses their character.
Children may be amazed to learn that espionage was, in fact, one of the roles the women took on during the war, in addition to serving as nurses and supportive “camp followers.” Even more surprising is the fact that some women actually disguised themselves as men and went to the front lines to join in the battle. (Among these was Sarah Emma Edmonds who took on the roles of both soldier and spy and chronicled her exploits in 11 distinct espionage missions.)
Under the guidance of staff member and experienced re-enactor Jennifer Gibbons, participants will learn about drill maneuvers and practice with wooden muskets. She will also discuss the roles played by their peers during the Civil War, including that of the drummer boys—who served the crucial mission of relating officers’ commands to the soldiers—and girls who served as flag bearers, leading parades in their own special uniforms.
Participants can help to pitch a tent and set up a small campsite, examine replicas of the bedrolls, haversacks and canteens that soldiers on both sides would have carried. They will also find out about the foods that the troops relied on for sustenance, including the infamous “hardtack.”
In addition, campers will discover how soldiers spent their “down time” and even try their hand at the 19th-century version of baseball, which was just emerging at the time.
Campers will spend the following two days at the Kenmore estate where the focus will be on how the war affected civilians. They will learn about the daily life and war-related activities of women and children during that era, including the four Gordon siblings who lived on the estate and were evacuated before cannon-fire reached their home.
Kenmore served as a hospital in the war, and one focus will be the medical care of the soldiers. Participants will create bandages from strips of rags and a care package to be sent to the troops.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for both girls and boys. Most of the camp will be action-oriented and there won’t be too much talking, just to explain the activities they’ll be doing,” said historical interpreter Diane Buser, who will be coordinating the sessions. “For example, they will try to load a ‘wounded soldier’ on a stretcher and carry it. They’ll learn that this is not an easy thing to do: Poor Stonewall Jackson was dropped two or three times as his soldiers rushed to carry him off the field!”
On the second day spent at Kenmore, participants will try their hand at the daily chores their peers once performed: helping to carry heavy pots for cooking, bringing in firewood, and maybe even beating a rug. They’ll also see the games their counterparts played for recreation, including Hoops, Graces, and Ball and Cup.
DIGGING UP HISTORY
On the camp’s final day at Ferry Farm, staff archaeologists will display some of the Civil War artifacts found at their dig and will explain the information these objects provided. Campers will also have opportunity to hold and examine authentic minié balls and cannonballs.
Children interested in archaeology may also enjoy taking part in the final “I Dig George” event of the summer next Thursday. In a “mock dig,” they will be guided through the processes of sifting, cleaning and mending objects, and will have an opportunity to watch archaeologists at work in their actual dig.
What: Children’s Civil War Camp (ages 9–12)
Where: Ferry Farm, 268 Kings Highway, Stafford, and Historic Kenmore Plantation, 1201 Washington Ave.
When: Aug. 6–10, 9 a.m. to noon.
Cost: $125 per child. Pre-registration is required.
Info/registration: 540/371-3363 ext. 24; kenmore.org
Collette Caprara is a local writer and artist.