NEW MADRID -- History books and classes are full of information about important battles, the names of generals and their victories and defeats.
On Saturday, a special program at the Hunter-Dawson State Historic Site will give children ages 9-12 an opportunity to learn about the daily life of an ordinary Civil War soldier by participating in a Civil War Boot Camp.
"I think they'll enjoy learning what soldiers did on a daily basis. That's something that gets overlooked when we read about history," said Michael Comer, historic site administrator for the Hunter-Dawson State Historic Site. "The reason we're doing this here is that a good part of the 1st Missouri Confederate Infantry were raised in New Madrid and New Madrid County -- probably about half the regiment."
The Civil War Boot Camp will have two sessions scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Each session is expected to run for about two hours.
"We will start them out with a little overview of what we're doing and Missouri's role in the war, and then we'll talk about the common soldier," Comer said.
Participants will get an up-close look at "uniforms, equipment, personal items that a soldier might carry," he continued. "Most of them will be reproductions -- that way we can pass them around and stuff."
Then it will be their turn. Each of the children will fill out and sign paperwork "enlisting" them into the 1st Missouri Confederate Infantry. Following an examination by a doctor to make sure they meet the basic physical requirements, they will be issued equipment and get ready for their basic training to begin.
"The boot camp is a basic overview of things the men had to know," Comer said. "The men that were raised for the 1st Missouri Confederate Infantry would have been learning the same things the children will learn. They'll take the oath of allegiance like the soldiers would have done then we'll proceed to teach them basic drill."
Basic drill covers how soldiers moved in battle, Comer said.
"They'll be learning the actual drill Civil War soldiers learned, what they went through every day. We will also teach them manual of arms which teaches them how soldiers were to handle their weapons. We have some wooden muskets we've made for them," Comer said.
Following a break during which they will snack on hardtack -- a simple biscuit or cracker the soldiers ate -- participants will prepare to end their military careers.
"We'll give them a pay call and at the end of it, we'll muster them out of the army," Comer said.
Participants will be "paid" with reproduction Confederate currency which, along with their discharge papers, they can take home as souvenirs. "They're good reproductions," Comer said.
Sponsored by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the Civil War Boot Camp program is free but limited to 24 children per session on a first-
come, first-served basis. Advance registration is required.
"This will be the first time we've done this so we're going to see how it goes. If it's popular, we may make it a regular thing and do it a couple of times a year," Comer said.
The program is designed to "make the children a little more aware of Southeast Missouri's involvement in the war," Comer said, "and hopefully they'll have a good time doing that."
The Civil War Boot Camp is just one of several historical education programs offered by the Department of Natural Resources, according to Comer.
"We also have outreach programs we do," he said. "We've done a lot of school presentations."
As the construction of Hunter-Dawson home began in 1959 and it was occupied in 1860, this historic site's programs focus on life in 1860s from women's daily life and mourning customs to slavery.
For more information or to register for the Civil War Boot Camp, call the Hunter-Dawson State Historic Site at 748-5340 or the Missouri Department of Natural Resources toll free at 1-800-334-6946.