Andrew really wanted to call this site "Civil War for Parents and Kids" but the marketing guy in me thought
that was too long for a URL. Now that I really think about it that is probably a much better name.
While all war is horrible, the Civil War was arguably the bloodiest war we have ever been a part of. When you
think about some of the legendary battles in United States history, D-Day, Battle of the Bulge, Iwo Jima, etc., many of the
battles of the Civil War are still the bloodiest in our history, dwarfing those battles in terms of casualties and deaths.
It's not surprising when you really understand that every battle in the Civil War saw Americans fighting Americans - brother
against brother. In addition to helping preserve and protect our Civil War battlefields, Andrew wants this site to help educate
kids about "how bad the Civil War was." As a kid it is understandable that they have fun playing war and pretending
to be in battles. It is also important that learning about the Civil War is fun. It is even possible in our imagination to
look back on the heroes, legends and stories of the Civil War and to an extent romanticize war. Later this year, when Andrew
shares the story of Johnny Clem, a drummer boy for the Union Army who became a war hero, that might happen for him and the
kids that read it. That is not our intent.
I'm not trying to be "preachy" but at the
end of the day it is up to you as the parent of your child to make sure that doesn't happen. Maybe I should have listened
to him and called it "Civil War for Parents and Kids" as the point of that title for Andrew is that learning about
the Civil War, sharing the story of the Civil War and protecting the Hallowed Ground is something that parents and kids should
do together. As Andrew and I go on our Civil War trips, my lovely wife Nancy always tells us to "go make some memories."
I hope that what Andrew has created here not only helps protect the Hallowed Ground but also helps you and your child spend
special time together and creates an opportunity to make memories for you and your child. Enjoy.
Tips for sharing the Civil War with your child.
Share your child's interest. Make and take the time to read what they share with you and help them find things that will be
of interest to them. There are many good resources online about the war and why we became a nation divided. I've found them
helpful when Andrew asks questions.
2) When they ask you questions, challenge them to tell you
what they think, but share with them what you think as well. Some of the issues in the Civil War can be difficult to understand
and the blood and death can be disturbing. Slavery is a difficult for kids to understand. Two summer ago, Andrew and I visited
the Negro League Museum in Kansas City which helped Andrew understand our History of racism in America, but that doesn't make
talking about slavery much eaiser. But it is important that we talk and share thoughts around this issue. Your values and
feelings will be important to your child's understanding of the war.
3) I recommend going to visit
a battlefield, BUT, before you go visit the web site of the Park, check-out books about the battle and look at the maps so
you can understand what occurred and where. Civl War Trust has animated maps of many of the battles which can help you understand
where men where and how they moved. The National Park Service sites are also very helpful. Most helpful are the visitor's
centers and rangers - we've found the more you know and the more engaged you are, the more they engage with you.
Purchase the Battlefield Tour CDs. They are well done and add an element of entertainment to the trip that kids like. Having
read about the battle will also make these more beneficial. Depending on the Battlefield you visit Jeff Shaara's book Civil
War Battlefields, Discovering America's Hallowed Ground, is a really good guide to the battles and what to visit.
Complete the National Park Service's Junior Ranger program. These are really well done and age appropriate.
Consider hiring a tour guide. If your child really is interested and willing to ask good questions this is an amazing way
to see the park and learn the History. The guides are more expensive and longer than the other tours, so be sure your child
is ready for this - you'll appreciate it and so will the guide.
7) If your schedule allows try
to go to the site around the same time of year that the battle was actually fought. Touring Shiloh in mid-March gave us a
better feel for the spring buds and what the site actually looked like during the battle. That's not realistic for some of
the sites, particularly with kids. I don't know that we would have appreciated Fort Donelson in a blizzard like the soldier
endured. But it can provide a sense of the way it was.
|The Bloody Pond, Shiloh, TN
|A site and memory passed from my parents to me and enjoyed with my son 35 years later.
I was blessed with wonderful parents. My dad was a high school history teacher and my mom was a teacher's aide,
which meant we had summers as a family. We packed up the old Starcraft camper and toured the country. I have many
great memories from those trips, but one that always stuck in my mind was "the bloody pond" from our visit to Shiloh
Battlefield in Tennessee. I was about Andrew's age at the time and remember it vividly now - 35 years later.
spring break, Andrew and I visited Shiloh and stood in the same place as he looked on the pond. It brought back wonderful
memories for me and created a new one as I watched him soak in the history and imagine in his mind, like I did before him,
what it must have been like on that horrible battlefield. It's hard to imagine hundreds, maybe a thousand men, converging
on that small pond wounded, bleeding, many dying and not be moved by the Hallowed Ground.
we are also blessed. Andrew gets his smarts from his mom and his tendency to obsess from me - thus we're building this site.
He asked me to provide some tips for parents to help them support their kid's interest in the Civil War. So that is
what I will try to do. My first piece of advice is that you better try to keep up with them on the learning or get really
accustom to being wrong or not knowing the answer.
8) Take the kids to a "Camp of Instruction" or "Living History" event. Some people
call them re-enactments, but most of the people who participate prefer "living history." These individuals are not
putting on a show, they are dedicted to keeping history alive. We have found that they love to talk about the period, what
life was like for the soldiers, their families and the communities where battles were fought. From the food they ate and clothing
they wore, it is an interesting opportunity to learn and engage. We visited a "Camp of Instruction" at Franklin
for Cavalry soldiers. It was very enlightening and even made me more interested. It was amazing to watch almost 80 cavalry
soldiers riding across a field and trying to imagine what it might have been like to see 6,000 cavalry soldiers like fought
at Gettysburg. Imagine the logistics involved in finding a camp that had food for 3,00 horses, soldiers and..the smell.
Be a great example. The ramparts and entrenchments help keep our history alive and they are endangered from both time and
development. Don't let your kids climb on the ramparts, cannons or monuments. Also remember that you will be on Hallowed Ground,
make sure you leave the park cleaner than when you arrive. Andrew makes me bring a trash bag to pick up trash others leave
behind. (I even bought latex gloves because some of it was disgusting.)
10) Have fun and make memories.
Even if your child doesn't become a fanatic like mine, I guarantee that when they are older they will look back on the trip
with fond memories - to this day I can still see the "bloody pond" at Shiloh in my mind from when my parents took
me when I was about 10-years old. I was blessed to be able to take Andrew when he was 10 and I am sure, God willing (and with
the continued support of preservationists and people like you and me), he will someday take his son.
Consider making a financial donation to protect Civil War history. The National Park Services need your support and Civil
War Trust is leading the way in preserving our Civil War battlefields. Not only can we make memories for families who visit
the sites, we can keep our history alive and the memory of the men who fought and died there. Andrew has set a goal to raise
$7,000 to help save battlefields. If you are so moved, please help him:
Help Andrew save Civil War Battlefields.