MOULTRIE -- Confederate enthusiasts contend that public classrooms are not adequate in telling the story of the Civil War. So this year, the George Fennell Newton Camp #674 of Lee's Cadet Corps set aside a special day to give Colquitt County youngsters a close-up of what life was like in that time period as it related to the Confederate soldiers and their families.
The "Living History" took place Friday at Old Bethel Church.
These cadets are part of the Georgia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. This is the first year that this event has taken place, and it will now be added to the annual Battle of Old Bethel weekend schedule. The underlying tone of the event is to educate children about Georgia's history with a hands-on experience that will make it a living history for them.
Keith Taylor, who is the organizer of "School Day" and charitably helps maintain the Old Bethel Church cemetery, wants to make sure that Southern history about the Civil War and other periods of Georgia history be portrayed in a "realistic manner."
Resembling a movie set, students arrived to a panorama of white tents and colorful flags unfurled beneath majestic, moss-covered trees. Taylor has presented several "Living History" programs in area schools and for this, there is no charge because he does it for the love of preserving history. He believes that there are some historical facts that text books overlook, and he wants to bridge that gap. He said he would like Georgia students to "take pride in their history."
Lee's Cadets were present in full period dress to escort the classes. They wore black armbands in memory of Wayne Cook who died recently and was the commander for the Georgia Division of Sons of Confederate Veterans. The cadets have participated in 41 events this year.
Eleven-year-old Jacob Hall's great-great-great grandfather was the namesake for the cadet corps camp participating on Friday, and they have the honor of being the first Lee's Cadet Corps Camp in the nation.
When young Hall was asked why he was there, he said, "To teach other people about our heritage and to have fun and learn." Kenny Mason, 11, echoed those sentiments.
Old Bethel learning stations were set-up on the grounds with knowledgeable speakers to man them.
Several elementary schools, including Okapilco Elementary, a couple of Brooks County schools and Hamilton Elementary, arrived in buses to attend the event. The students were educated in everything from the H.L. Hunley, the recently raised Confederate submarine, to the different flags of the Confederacy.
Students learned that ambulance corpsmen wore badges that flagged them as non-combatants. And they learned that the "Bonnie Blue Flag" had Scottish origin. Also, cotton played a large role in saving soldiers' lives.
It was an interactive event. The children asked questions of the station teacher and were asked questions in return.
Kathy Connell and Kirsten Saunders brought their fifth grade classes from Hamilton Elementary because the Civil War is a large part of the required fifth grade curriculum and has a significant presence on the CRCT test. They thought that this would be a wonderful opportunity for a "hands-on" experience for their students.
Connell said that the outing is more than just a fun field trip.
"Notes will be taken. Pop quizzes will be given," she said.
As a teacher she thought the booths were very educational and would recommend that all fifth grades attend.
When questioned about the "School Day" program, Jack Bridwell sums it up by saying, "It is providing an insight that they don't get in the public schools. We need to educate these little guys about the time period."
The Battle of Old Bethel Living History and War Between the States Reenactment continues through Sunday and has many events planned, including a ladies tea, a headstone dedication, and a period wedding to name a few. There are booths set-up, selling a variety of items commemorating the time period, and of course there is the battle at 3 p.m. on Saturday.