By RJ Walters/ For the Jackson Citizen Patriot
Student soldiers were taking over at White Pine Academy in Leslie on Friday, but it was no reason for concern.
The 7th Michigan Volunteer Infantry, Company B Inc. helped bring student textbooks to life, as seventh- and eight-grade students learned what it was like to be a solider during the Civil War.
Students ate a lunch of bread, beans and bacon cooked over hot coals, played old wartime games, and learned how to take marching orders.
“We’ve got to start looking at education without walls,” White Pine Principal Jared Vickers said. “Making the text come alive gets the kids to understand what life was really like back then.”
Vickers has several personal connections that helped him bring in the infantry for the day.
His great-great-uncle, Jerome B. Scovel, was in Company C of the 4th Michigan Infantry from 1862 to 1865 and even had Scovel’s discharge papers on hand.
A father of one of Vickers’ students, Steve Heinstock, also happened to be part of the 7th Infantry, and the school allowed the re-enactors to do training drills at their facility in return for a day of educating the students.
Keith Harrison, 7th Infantry president, said Civil War re-enacting is the largest single type of re-enacting in the United States today, and he enjoys it because it sparks youth to find new resources on the history of our country.
The kids took a keen interest in all aspects of the special day, but the hands-down favorite was getting to shoot a gun.
“I’ve never shot a gun,” said seventh-grader Melissa Williams. “At first it was kind of scary because I thought it would have a big kick, but it didn’t.”
Seventh-grader Chris Sweetman said the gun was heavier than he expected. Aside from taking a few shots, he said he really liked the games.
“I did like playing with the marbles and the hula hoop things,” he said. “I could do that stuff (more often), but most other people probably wouldn’t want to.”
While it took kids upwards of a minute to load, aim and shoot the musket, 7th Infantry volunteer Don Everett said troops in the 1860s would be expected to get off three shots per minute.