Kendall Gilbert, Centennial Volunteer Ambassador at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park
Here we are one month into my internship at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park!
One of the most exciting things to happen in the past week was that I got to assist our teacher ranger with a summer day camp for kids in the 4th and 5th grades.
Most of the kids who came to the camp had experienced a visit to Chickamauga and Chattanooga before. They had been here with their families, or had a relative who worked at the park, and some even had heard tales of family members who had served during the Civil War.
A Call to Arms Summer Day camp is a great way to get area kids into the park for an extended period of time to learn about Civil War history through hands-on activities. The camp challenges them to consider the meaning of some of the stories they grew up hearing about the Civil War and to help them find a way to make a connection between this history and their every day lives.
It was great to see that most of the kids were excited to be here. One girl said that history was her favorite subject, especially Civil War history. One young man said he definitely would have been a Confederate soldier if he had been around at the time. One boy participated in Civil War reenactments with his grandfather at the park. And one kid knew everything that a 9 year old can possibly know about artillery.
After “enlisting” during day one at camp, campers learned about the ranks within the military, and military structure. Our interpretive rangers guided them through what it might have been like to be a Union or Confederate Soldier, and campers got to experience a little bit of soldier camp with a demonstration area we set up with clothing, artifacts, tools, and other personal belongings that were common to soldiers during the Battle for Chickamauga. Campers and rangers talked about some of the reasons that men went to war, and the causes they may have supported, or values they may have held that would encourage them to enlist in one of the nation’s darkest times. Campers wrote fictional letters to family members or friends describing their service.
” Miss, did soldiers write their letters hotdog style or hamburger style?” (This camper wondered if soldiers wrote their letters vertically or horizontally).
Day two found us out in the field practicing methods of communication using signal flags. Campers made their own signal flags, and then used them to send messages back and forth to each other. The code was way too complicated,especially for me, so I was surprised when a few of the campers were able to successfully send their messages to each other. Following our investigation of communication methods, campers learned about wounds, illnesses, and diseases that were common during the Civil War and the treatments and medicines used to cure them. By far the most grotesque part of our day was looking at before and after photos of soldiers who had especially trying diseases or wounds. Everyone agreed that we were thankful for advances in modern medicine, and no longer needed to resort to amputation when trying to prevent the spread of infection.
Day three in the hot Georgia sun gave the kids some experience with a service project at the park. We set off on the trails off of LaFayette Road to a series of monuments and tablets that were due for some cleaning. We split into two groups and worked on washing the tablets that recount specific battle details that took place at Chickamauga. Shortly after we finished, a tour group came through and thanked the kids for their service.
We hope that the kids will remember their experiences at camp and the service project they completed. Hopefully by connecting with service at the park, they will become lifelong park lovers here at Chickamauga and Chattanooga!
These stories tell the story of campweek better than I do though.
“Ma’am you know they didn’t have Instagram during the Civil War. They had telegrams.”
A solid assortment of Civil War era accouterments.
A clean tablet and some happy campers