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Students relive Civil War's hardships

Today, history again comes alive as 1,500 re-enactors portray 1864's Union attack on Confederate troops at Bayport.

[Times photo: Kevin White]
Abraham Lincoln, played by Joseph Ames, tells students about his life, including his assassination.

By JAMIE JONES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 20, 2002

SPRING HILL -- Pack rat Bob dug into his wooden crate and pulled out a box of matches, a hardened biscuit, a bone toothbrush with pig bristles.

"The government issued one of these for every 13 men," Bob Smethurst said as he displayed the supplies of a typical Civil War soldier.

A group of fifth-graders from Eastside Elementary School sat cross-legged on the ground, sipping Capri Suns and root beer. Several snickered and others frowned at the thought of a community toothbrush.

Smethurst laughed. "That shows you how far we've come, at least in terms of hygiene," he said.

About 1,215 students and 160 parents and teachers from schools in Hernando and neighboring counties spent Friday at the Sand Hill Scout Reservation for a live history lesson from people like Smethurst, who unpacked Civil War-era relics in tents as part of the 22nd annual Brooksville Raid Festival.

On Friday, the festival was dedicated to students, who arrived in buses and walked from tent to tent learning from shopkeepers who would have followed the troops. Students heard from apothecaries and surgeons, observed bayonets and muskets and listened to an old cannon boom.

"I like history a lot," said Kristofer Fisher, a fifth-grader from Eastside. "I like seeing how things were made."

"I like the root beer," said John Suber, also an Eastside fifth-grader. "It's a lot more fun being here than in school."

For some students, the highlight of the day was spending 50 cents on rock candy, buying a $5 hat or purchasing their own Confederate flag.

Other students enjoyed meeting Abraham Lincoln, who wore a suit and top hat as he stood under pines.

"It was a bit like getting kicked," said Joseph Ames, who traveled from Michigan to play Lincoln. "John Wilkes Booth fired a single shot into the back of my head. It was Good Friday. I didn't make it."

The grounds also were filled with re-enactors who plan today to dramatize a battle inspired by a day in 1864 when Union soldiers attacked their Confederate counterparts in Bayport.

The Confederate soldiers fled, and the Union prevailed. At 2:30 p.m., nearly 1,500 re-enactors are expected to depict members of the infantry, cavalry, artillery and medical units.

Judy Everett of the Hernando County school district said the students benefitted from attending the raid on Friday because they were able to ask questions about the Civil War and the relics they observed.

"They can stand near the cannon and ask how it works, or ask questions about how uniforms were designed," she said.

Parents who accompanied students said the field trip provided a good learning experience for all.

"They're having a great time," said parent Rochelle Randlett. "It's a good history lesson for them, and a nice change."

-- Information from Times files was used in this report.

-- Staff writer Jamie Jones can be reached at 754-6114. Send e-mail to

If you go

The 22nd annual Brooksville Raid Festival ends today at the Sand Hill Scout Reservation, 1 mile east of Weeki Wachee on State Road 50. The grounds will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Brooksville Raid battle re-enactment takes place at 2:30 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for youths ages 6 to 17. Here is today's schedule of activities:

7:30 a.m.: Reveille

8 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Registration for re-enactors

8 a.m.: Presentation of colors

9 a.m.: Camps open to public

9 a.m.: Church service

10:30 a.m.: Battalion drill

1:15 p.m.: Army formation on color line

1:30 p.m.: Grand review

2:30 p.m.: Battle re-enactment

4:30 p.m.: Camps closed to public

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