The loud explosion of cannon fire will fill the air in McKinleyville on Thursday morning, May 30, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. as part of the 15th Annual Civil War Days being held at McKinleyville Middle School.
Eighth graders, who have been studying the Civil War in Social Studies this year, will be active presenters and participants in a two-day event that will include live cannon fire handled by volunteers from The Comstock Civil War Reenactors and the Reenactors of the American Civil War.
Both reenactment groups are made up of volunteers who want to help students and the public understand how the war affected common citizens of the time and who use living history presentations as a way to show how the American Civil War shaped the country we live in today.
Students will visit a variety of workshops and demonstrations put on by the Reenactors, including the History of Women, Civil War Artillery and Cannons and Life of the Soldier.
According to Thomas Nelson, 8th grade Social Studies teacher, this special event has been around in various forms for many years. He says, “In its current incarnation as an extension to our work in the classroom, we have been doing the Civil War Days for about 13 years. The reenactors have been coming even longer than that. We have made changes over the years and for three years we actually had students campout in the classrooms. It was hilarious to watch them do guard duty!”
For the past several years, 5th graders from Dow’s Prairie and Morris Elementary Schools have been attending Civil War Days at McKinleyville Middle School. These younger students, along with the 6th and 7th graders from the middle school, will be present to watch the student presentations about life during the war.
The 8th graders have been working on special projects to present aspects of life and history from this period that include the medical treatment of the day, the life of children, slavery, clothing, food and, of course, military battles.
8th graders will fill out dance cards in preparation for the Blue and Gray Ball to be held Thursday afternoon in the middle school Multi-Purpose Room. The students have been learning the waltz and the Virginia Reel and other period dances in their P.E. classes over the last two months so they can participate in this annual dance tradition. The girls are encouraged to dress up in period costumes or long skirts while the boys will be wearing military or formal dress appropriate for the era.
Friday’s schedule of events is equally exciting as the 8th graders will participate in a battle marching tournament, complete with costumes, unit flags and officers. The winning contingents will bring honor and points to their army. In addition, there will be a special appearance by President Lincoln (actually a student) who will recite the Gettysburg Address. Students will learn to play “Rounders,” the precursor to baseball played in the 19th Century, perform a battle reenactment of Pickett’s Charge and witness a memorial service.
Parents or members of the public who wish to assist with the event or donate bottled water, Safeway gift cards or snacks can contact the school office at 839-1508. All visitors must check in with the office for security reasons.