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Children get a taste of history through battlefield programs

September 05, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

SHARPSBURG -On Saturday, Clara Barton awaited battle wearing black Vans and a camouflage fishing cap with Washington D.C. written around its brim.

During an "Angels in the Battlefield" re-enactment program for children Saturday afternoon at Antietam National Battlefield, the founder of the American Red Cross was portrayed by Siri Palm, aka "Turtle," a 10-year-old red-headed South Dakota girl.

Until she was told to take cover at the "hospital," Siri, wearing a Clara Barton name tag, stood holding a woven basket filled with bandages about 20 feet between the Union army, made up of four boys and a mother, and a Confederate army, made up of twice as many children and adults.

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As the armies approached each other, adults mimicked cannons by bellowing "boom boom" until park ranger Christie Stanczak blew her whistle, alerting about one-fourth of the armies to fall slowly to the ground. The first round of fallen "soldiers" had been shot in the head. Another whistle alerted the second round of fallen "soldiers" to double over with stomach wounds and a third whistle signaled a group of "soldiers" to stagger with shots to their legs. Siri ran out to the field with other "hospital workers," giving priority to those who had been shot in the leg because bandages were sparse and those with serious injuries were expected to die, Stanczak told the children.

Siri, who had Stanczak sign her educational pamphlet after the program, said that she recently had been to Boston and Washington, D.C., to learn about history. She said that she learned a few new things Saturday while at Antietam.

"It was weird because it said on my card to stay out of the battle, but I thought that she went into the battle and got them when they fell," she said.

Stanczak told the group of "hospital workers" to help both Confederate and Union soldiers because back then, aid was given to soldiers equally, a notion that surprised 10-year-old Brian Webb of Mechanicsville, Va.

He said he won't forget that "the surgeons and medical people didn't leave anybody behind, that they took the Confederates and the Union soldiers into the hospital."

Stanczak said that "Angels in the Battlefield" and another program, "Battlefield in a Box," in which the children walked in a miniature replica of the battlefield, are two programs the park is trying to hold more often on weekends to teach visiting children.

"It explains history in a way that they can understand," she said.

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