The Civil War lept off the pages of the history books and landed squarely on the backs of our Middle School students as they found themselves working in army regiments, just like soldiers did during the Civil War. Confederate Instructional Training (CIT) was held at the local park with Ms. Erica as the Sergeant, supported by sixteen parents acting as Corporals. Each of the Recruits (our Middle School students), were randomly assigned their regiments. When one student was out of step, a shoe not tied, some other task not completed; the entire regiment was obligated to do 10-15 pushups. Students who may had never worked together before during the school year, found themselves depending upon everyone in their regiment to pull their own weight.
Five stations of training were set up including erecting a Sibley tent, building a stretcher, administering first aid, making and eating hardtack (a staple of the war made by mixing flour and water), and running with a thirty pound pack (simulating the hardship of carrying a pack for 20-40 miles a day during the Civil War).
As each of the regiments completed their tasks, the communications between the students increased as they saw the benefit of everyone doing well, and the hardship imposed on the whole regiment when one person failed. The CIT was the culmination of the study of the Civil War for the Middle School students. Not only did it bring to life some of the difficulties the soldiers faced, it inspired a deeper understanding of the complexities of the Civil War and the human cost of the conflict.
The underlying reaction by the Middle School students from participating in the CIT, was a deeper respect for the soldiers and the hardships they endured for the sake of their beliefs. After eating the hardtack during their simulation, Mary observed “how horrible the food must have been during the war.” She also was moved at how important it was to “move as one in their regiments” and to quickly bond with all of the students in her regiment.
Keji felt a deeper appreciation for the complexity of the Confederate’s side and how that many of the soldiers were not slave owners, but were simple farmers trying to preserve their sovereignty and felt compelled to push against the North, who they felt were threatening to take over their farms.
Kameron was impressed with the number of soldiers who were killed during the Civil War, but after doing the CIT, he felt more kindred to their stress’ and challenges. He said, “Before the CIT, I just looked as the dead soldiers as a number, now I have a much better understanding of how they might have felt.”
Participating in the regiments taught Hank, that multiple things were going on at the same time, and the “more we communicated among ourselves, the better we did.” He discovered that there was a need for the regiment to act cohesively, but at the same time he also experienced the “need for individuals to share their leadership skills and to initiate action, especially when they were erecting the Sibley tent. A-Sam also stressed the need for his regiment to work cohesively, as one misstep by an individual affected the whole group.
A common response to the CIT by all of the students, was the revelation that it was really hard to be a soldier during the Civil War, and the absolute agony our country endured when brothers fought against brothers. Abolishment of slavery was a hard fought change in the United States that emerged from the blood that was shed during the Civil War, but it came at a steep price, and now our Middle School students have a deeper appreciation for what that price was.