Monday, May 2, 2011

Civil War: Camp Jackson Affair

I almost labeled this post "Why I Like Homeschooling Part 4."  The reason being, since I'm not tied to a scope and sequence I can teach subjects as the opportunity arrives.  In case you're not aware, this is the first year of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.  For the next four years we will be treated to re-enactments of most of the battles and skirmishes that resulted in the highest loss of life of any war in American history.  Few people probably know that Missouri was the site of more of these skirmishes than any state but Virginia and Tennessee, the first occurring just eight days after the attack on Fort Sumter.

This past weekend was the re-enactment of the first Missouri involvement in the War--the Camp Jackson Affair.  Missouri was considered a "border state,"  one of the few to allow slavery but remain in the Union.   The state legislature had voted against secession, but to remain neutral--providing neither arms nor men to either side.  Governor Jackson was in favor of joining the Confederacy and had correspondence with their new government.    St. Louis had a large arsenal with over 40,000 guns and there was concern that he would give these to the Southern cause.  A shipment of  howitzers, siege guns, rifles, and ammunition was sent from Louisiana to the Missouri militia in hopes that they could seize the arsenal.  The shipment arrived in crates labeled "Tamoroa marble."  Union Captain Nathanial Lyon used a force of 6000 volunteers (mostly newly arrived German immigrants) and army regulars to capture the militia before the plan was carried out.   Sadly as the surrendered militia was marched through St. Louis, the watching crowd hurled rocks and insults at the German volunteers.  Just like the Boston Massacre, no one can say for sure what happened next but the end result was 28 spectators killed and 50-75 more wounded.

Schnickelfritz and I didn't watch the actual re-enactment (women and children were killed) but we enjoyed a morning of period music, cannon fire, education, and espionage!

A re-enacting family take time to get a family portrait using real tin-type photography.  You can see the arm of one of the devices designed to help them hold still for the five minute procedure sticking out behind the boy's back.  Thank goodness for instant digitals!

We encountered this "grieving widow" several times on our adventure.  Fritz always hid behind my back when she was near.  At first I assumed this was the same way some kids are frightened by clowns or theme park mascots.  But as I studied her closer I noticed this lady was "packin' heat" and there was a bearded face under the veil.

   It seems we'd encountered Capt. Lyon in disguise as he gathered intelligence on the Militia Camp.  Rumors have said that he did disguise himself as a farm woman in order to spy.  His photographs show him with a beard so perhaps he did have to hide his face behind this deep black mourning veil.  I bent down to whisper to Fritz and let him in on the secret and from then on he was intent on following the "Widow" around and see what would happen next.  As the couple walked away from the militia camp my son ran up to ask if it was indeed Capt.  Lyon.  Placing a finger over where his mouth would be, the figure gave a silent nod.  (Note to future spies: if you are going to disguise yourself as a widow, be sure to cover your hairy hands with gloves.  Some of the militiamen thought you had a glandular problem).

The widow and her escort quickly discovered a guarded tent.  They tried to discover why a crate of marble would need such protection.

Such attention to detail.

A member of the Illinois Artillery Company D lent Fritz his hat for this picture.  If you take your kids to any event you may want to bring hearing protection as it was quite loud.

This gentleman is a fine example of the passion and attention to detail that these re-enactors have.  He is giving a lecture on the history of ammunition and creating realistic (but dummy) cartridges for the soldiers to carry in their ammunition cases (that will probably never be seen by the viewing public).

As I said, Camp Jackson is just the start of the conflict so you've got plenty of time to check with your states tourism division and see if there are any Sesquicentennial events in your state.

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