Civil war re-enactors bring history to life

Published 6:20 am Tuesday, June 3, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Two soldiers from Michigan's First Regiment who set up camp outside Ring Lardner Middle School Monday didn't do it just to spend a day in the sun.
With reproduced tents, backpacks, muskets, uniforms, pots and pans, they did it to give the school's eighth graders a taste of how it was to be a union soldier during the American Civil War from 1861-1865.
Tom Traverse, when not a lieutenant in Michigan's First Regiment is Niles street superintendent. He has done big battle re-enactments for 25 years and small camps like the one at Ring Lardner for five years.
He said the intention with small camps is to give students an experience of what it was like to be a soldier back then, without glorifying war.
Traverse, dressed in a lieutenant's uniform, handed out salt pork and hardtack (a biscuit made of flour and water which was a staple for soldiers during the Civil War). His companion, Doyle Fuelling, re-enacted as a private, told students about uniforms.
Having only been a private in the regiment for three years, Doyle said he initially joined because he likes to camp and enjoys the outdoors.
Like Traverse, however, Fuelling too sees the value of bringing history to the students.
But he also said it's a good opportunity to remember those who fought and died in the Civil War.
Marti Wegner, a Ring Lardner eighth grade history teacher, said it's no coincidence the two regiment soldiers came to the school to set up camp.
Having brought in re-enactments to the school for the last five years, Wegner said it gives students a snapshot of what it was like to be a soldier during that period.
Eighth grader Jerome Warburton, who takes a special interest in the Civil War because his father's relatives from Pennsylvania fought in it, was excited about the re-enactment.
Warburton was able to put on a uniform and hold one of the long muskets Traverse and Fuelling had brought with them.
Warburton, who said he watches the History Channel a lot to learn more about history, said it's the first time he has worn a Civil War uniform.
Nick Guajardo, another eight grader, tasted the salt pork and the hard tack to make up his own mind of what Civil War soldiers' food was like. "It's a little plain, but it's all right," he said.
Guajardo said he probably wouldn't like to eat it for days on end, like the soldiers did.
Having tasted the food, seen the uniforms and the other equipment Traverse and Fuelling brought, Guajardo said he was better able to understand the hardships Civil War soldiers faced.