Education

Pismo Beach eighth-graders re-enact Civil War

Judkins Middle School teacher Terry Handy leads the troops in a "huzzah!" as part of a living history exercise in which students re-enact the Civil War.
Judkins Middle School teacher Terry Handy leads the troops in a "huzzah!" as part of a living history exercise in which students re-enact the Civil War. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

About 150 eighth-graders were sent off to war on Friday afternoon — a re-enactment war, that is.

Judkins Middle School in Pismo Beach held its ninth annual Civil War Encampment from midday Friday to Saturday morning, complete with drills, a ball and guard duty, just as Union soldiers would have experienced during the Civil War.

Shortly after 2 p.m. Friday, the living history presentations, featuring professional Civil War re-enactors, were well underway.

In one corner of the large lawn the school used a campground, a woman’s voice rang out singing, “Oh children, where should I send thee,” as she taught a group of students wearing Union soldier caps and Judkins sweatshirts a song that would tell them which route to take on the Underground railroad.

In another corner, a Union soldier explained the pieces of the uniform, passing around muskets and lead bullets, as his daughter walked around the students in a sky-blue hoop skirt.

In the center, the Great Emancipator, President Abraham Lincoln himself, spoke to a company of students about his life growing up, how he met his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, and his rivalry with fellow politician Stephen A. Douglas.

The encampment is the brainchild of Judkins social studies teacher Terry Handy, who said he got the idea from his 38 years as a Civil War re-enactor.

Handy said the encampment “brings history to life,” for many of the students, showing them the many aspects of a person’s life in the 19th century that they might not otherwise think about.

His favorite part about the yearly adventure is watching all of the students learn how to perform the Virginia reel at the mock ball.

“At first they don’t think they can do it, but then they realize that if you can walk 20 steps, you can do the dance,” he joked Friday afternoon. “I love watching their faces while they realize that.”

Eighth-grader Mallory Bradbury — who identified herself as a “sergeant for Company C” — said she was most looking forward to the social that night, but she had already shown her merit while the students were marching in formation thanks to her experience in the school’s marching band.

“It was hard watching them not know, you know, left-right, left-right, but we got it eventually,” she said.

The students were scheduled to break camp Saturday morning at 9:45 a.m., after a breakfast of hard tack and dried beef at Price House, a morning parade and finally the Gettysburg Address delivered by President Lincoln.

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