Students bring little-known local battle down to size

May 20, 2006|by ROBERT SNYDER

FALLING WATERS W.Va. - The Battle of Falling Waters will be fought anew and on practically the same ground it was fought on nearly 145 years ago when students at Spring Mills Middle School compete next week in a round of historical miniature games of the not-so-famous Civil War battle.

Part of an interdisciplinary project developed by history teacher Larry Caskey and art teacher Kim Herman, the school's eighth-graders have been busy preparing to re-enact the 1861 battle that was fought between Union and Confederate soldiers early on the morning of July 2 on a 15-foot game board diorama carefully arrayed with 2-inch miniature toy soldiers, buildings, fields and other details.

When the project concludes next week, about 190 students will have worked to set up the battlefield and paint at least one of the nearly 100 soldiers on the board using authentic uniform patterns and colors.

For Caskey, who said he became aware of the battle only a year ago, it's the marriage of two interests - history and historical miniature gaming. The teacher calls the project a unique way to teach his subject.


"This has been an excellent learning experience for the students, as they have been extremely hands-on in the project," said Caskey, a Martinsburg native and a social studies teacher in Berkeley County for 30 years.

Making the project even more compelling for Caskey and his students was the fact that much of the battle, which had among its participants Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart, was fought on land now occupied by their two-year old school.

Sebastian Pensinger, 13, said he used to collect white musket bullets such as those fired on the battlefield in fields around his home north of Falling Waters, unaware that a battle had been fought nearby.

"It was surprising," said Hannah Hime, 14. "I would never have known about it."

The completion of the students' project will coincide with an open house at the school Thursday from 6 to 8:30 p.m. featuring local author and historian Gary Gimbel, who has researched the battle and written an account of it in an article in the fall 2005 issue of Blue & Gray Magazine.

Period music will be provided by the Tuscarora Brass Band, which is affiliated with Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va.

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