NEW MADRID -- Last year the Confederates were rounding up soldiers. This year it will be the Union Army.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources Division of State Parks is once again sponsoring a Civil War Boot Camp at the Hunter-Dawson State Historic Site.
The program was tried for the first time here last year, according to Michael Comer, historic site administrator for the Hunter-Dawson State Historic Site. "The kids seemed to enjoy it and we thought we would try it again and make it a regular program," Comer said.
Scheduled from 10 a.m. until noon Saturday, children ages 9-12 will have the opportunity to participate in several activities which will bring to life what is was like to be a soldier during the Civil War.
"It starts out with a little background -- show and tell of stuff common soldiers used," Comer said. "Then we go through an enlistment. Last year we did Confederate soldiers, this year we're doing Union soldiers."
Following their enlistment, participants are issued equipment to use during their "service" as a soldier.
"We give them a scale wooden musket, a cap, a canteen," Comer said. "Then we will teach them some basic drill moves that every soldier had to know. Every soldier had to know what to do on the field of battle as far as movement as troops usually moved as a unit. They'll be taught how to do those basic movements -- in a battle line, in a column -- so they get an idea of what the soldiers had to do."
Drilling "was an aspect of the everyday life of the soldier," Comer explained. "New soldiers, like they are going to be portraying, do a lot of drills."
"We also will teach them the manual of arms -- the various ways the musket was to be held and used," Comer continued. "Everything they are going to be taught comes right out of the drill books from the Civil War, so they're learning the same things their great-great-grandfather may have learned if they were in the war."
It is because they want each participant to be fully equipped that they are requiring advance registration and limiting the number of participants.
Comer said if the morning session fills up they will add a second session in the afternoon, probably from 1-3 p.m.
"We're going to try to accommodate everyone that would want to take part," he said.
At the end of the session, each participant will be issued discharge papers and their "pay."
"They'll get to take those home with them," he said.
Comer said he picked the 9-12 age group for this program because this is the age when they are typically covering the Civil War in history classes and they are likely to be most interested.
"I remember myself that I was that age when I got interested in the Civil War," he said. "For me, I was in third grade when I came across the 'American Heritage Illustrated History of the Civil War' and I was hooked. I remember the impact it had on me. Hopefully it will peak some interest in some young folks about learning their history."
Comer said the program was well-received by the two dozen who participated last year and feedback they received was positive.
"We got comments like their kid talked about it for days," he said. "It was quite popular."
Comer said parents are welcome to stay and watch. "They may learn something, too," he said.
To register call the Hunter-Dawson Historic Site at 573-748-5340.