Kids learn gray lifestyle of rebels

May 12, 2000|By TARA REILLY

Winter Street Elementary students on Friday got a taste of what life was like for members of the Confederacy in the 1860s, and it was more than just cornmeal, tobacco and unroasted coffee beans.

"I can't write, and I can barely read," Emily Wagaman, 14, a Civil War re-enactor from the 1st Tennessee Battalion told the group of about 60 third-grade students. "They closed all the schools after the war broke out. I've just been following the army around.

"The Yankees came to Tennessee and burned our house."

Eight members of the battalion donned their Confederate grays to put on the presentation at Elgin Park in Hagerstown.

Students watched the battalion practicing movements, firing rounds and even cooking sides of meat on antiquated pans over a small campfire.

Re-enactor Sandy Andrews showed students small sacks of food, explaining that soldiers often had to make do for three days with one pound rations of peas, unroasted coffee beans and cornmeal to make pancakes.


He also told them that the soldiers' shoes, made of leather with steel plates around the heel, would wear out every 21 to 28 days from the constant marching.

"They wouldn't last too long," Andrews said.

Another re-enactor said some soldiers got new shoes by taking them off the feet of dead soldiers.

Kurt Wagaman, Emily's father, told the students many soldiers rarely took baths and were infested with bugs.

"The only time they took a bath was when they crossed a creek," the re-enactor said. "And they had bugs real bad. They had lice."

Emily, garbed in heavy layers of clothing and a long, white flowered dress, passed around a bottle of patchouli and said women often wore the perfume to cover odors.

"That's nasty," 8-year-old Jodi Fleegle said after taking a whiff and disapproving of the smell.

Kurt Wagaman told the students soldiers were paid $11 a month in Confederate money and had to send most of it home to their wives and children.

Re-enactor John Krausse showed students old journals kept by soldiers describing their daily regimen, before teaching the students the "rebel yell."

He also held up the Confederate flag and told the students being a re-enactor was his way of honoring Civil War soldiers.

"Not everyone who flies this flag is a bad person," Krausse said. "It's up for people to know how the soldiers lived, why they died and what they fought for."

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