Battle at Bordewich
June 2, 2005
The sound of a drum rang out over the field.
Fidgeting rippled the gray lines.
Some chased their caps, blown from their heads by a slight and beguiling breeze.
Others looked around, restless as they anticipated the upcoming battle.
And then Keith Anderson’s voice called out: “Company, march. Company, charge.”
And the fifth-grade Confederate soldiers ran forth, their cardboard rifles little defense against the Union soldiers.
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The Union troops were undermanned, but better equipped with cardboard cannons, and at an advantage on an hill, even if only a hill that existed in their imaginations on the field at Bordewich Bray Elementary School.
“We were outnumbered,” recounted Union soldier Josh Kiliam. “But in the conclusion, we had more cannons and we had more firepower and we just mowed them down.”
Confederate fifth-graders began falling little more than halfway across the field. The cracking sound from cardboard rifles snapped near their ears as students popped bubble wrap. The fall of cannonballs thumped on the ground as others whumped plastic bags full of air.
“Basically, we had to charge uphill,” said Keith, the fifth-grader playing General Robert E. Lee and leading his troops against the Union soldiers. “They were on higher ground from which to shoot.”
Fifth-graders in teacher Kinkade DeJoseph’s class were taping a re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg, where it is estimated up to 60,000 soldiers died. At Bordewich, the numbers were much less – two Union soldiers lost their lives; about half of the Confederates did.
Students began taping scenes related to the Civil War some two weeks ago. With about 20 minutes of tape total, students have captured mock interviews with Union and Confederate supporters and with a slave. They filmed a set-up of the Underground Railroad and interviewed Harriet Tubman, and even taped a re-enactment of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.
“We tried to make it as real as we could for the video,” DeJoseph said. “We’re not sure what we’ll do with the video, but I told the kids this was their legacy for future classes. I wanted them to have a feel of what was going on.”
Many of his students were fascinated to learn about Gen. Stonewall Jackson, one of many historical figures fifth-graders study when learning about the Civil War. Many of them wanted to re-enact the Gettysburg Battle with Jackson, but Jackson had died by then, DeJoseph said.
“A lot of teachers have trouble keeping their students interested at the end of the year,” DeJoseph said. “But these kids were very interested in this. If I said, ‘Let’s go to lunch,’ they said, ‘Let’s work on this instead.'”
To re-enact the Battle of Gettysburg, DeJoseph used fifth-graders from other classes, fifth-graders like James LeVins, who dropped his drum, grabbed his rifle, and charged at Union troops when Anderson, playing Lee, called them forward.
“I thought there were more of us than them,” James said. “But they were just laying there behind their cannons.”
n Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at email@example.com or 881-1219.