2016-06-11 / News

Homeschoolers learn about the Civil War


Pictured, left to right, are Luke Bradsher, Dale Painter, Derby Harris, Jasper Loftis, Jett Loftis, Brody Welch, Zander Welch, Eli Byerly, Zoey Welch, Thomas Byerly, Addyson Welch, Andi Bradsher, Ruby Harris and Josey Harris. Pictured, left to right, are Luke Bradsher, Dale Painter, Derby Harris, Jasper Loftis, Jett Loftis, Brody Welch, Zander Welch, Eli Byerly, Zoey Welch, Thomas Byerly, Addyson Welch, Andi Bradsher, Ruby Harris and Josey Harris. “Four score and seven years ago ….”

Actually, it was on April 15, 2016, that a local group of homeschoolers got together at Warren’s Grove United Methodist Church to bring the Civil War back to life, if only for a day.

Brandon Yocum kicked off the day with a bugle rendition of Taps. The children stood at attention while the haunting notes floated over the field, and then, unlike the soldiers who would have retired so many years ago, they got to work.

The students each chose a real person from history to study. Many students chose to share about their choice in prepared biographical speeches.

Abraham Lincoln, Robert Gould Shaw, Johnny Clem, Clara Barton, Louisa May Alcott, Elizabeth van Lew, Levi Coffin, and Robert E. Lee were all in attendance.


Brody Welch, Jasper Loftis, Thomas Byerly and Derby Harris try out a telegraph machine. Brody Welch, Jasper Loftis, Thomas Byerly and Derby Harris try out a telegraph machine. Each family prepared an activity to teach to the group.

Susan Byerly taught the group about how runaway slaves traveled the Underground Railroad through song and constellations, and then she gave them a prepared song. The students used the song lyrics to find each subsequent activity.

Next they headed to the field beside the church to build a Union-style army tent. Using poles, rope and a sheet, they built a shelter similar to the kind that the Union soldiers lived in during the first year of the war.

Dale Painter built a working telegraph, and he and his mother Lynn showed everyone how to send and receive messages using Morse Code. The students realized just how difficult it was to do, as well as how important it was to get each detail correct.


Josey Harris, Addyson Welch, Dale Painter and Zoey Welch send and receive messages via a telegraph machine. Josey Harris, Addyson Welch, Dale Painter and Zoey Welch send and receive messages via a telegraph machine. Michelle Harris demonstrated how to carve individual letters out of balsam wood so that newspapers could be printed outside of the office. Since the large printing presses of the day were not portable, this method allowed journalists to follow the armies and print papers wherever they happened to be. The students found this more difficult than expected.

Andi Bradsher, dressed as Union spy Elizabeth van Lew, showed the group how spies transported messages. She asked the students to find the two messages she carried, and they did – one was hidden inside a hollow egg, and they other was hidden inside her shoe.

The students were excited to retrieve the missive inside the egg. Afterwards, she taught them how to use the Pigpen Cipher and a code invented by van Lew herself.


Susan Byerly teaches about the Underground Railroad. Susan Byerly teaches about the Underground Railroad. Rhonda Welch taught the group to play “Annie, Over,” and a fiercely competitive game followed. Balls flew and students dove as they tried to win what seems to be an early version of “Dodge Ball.”

Jayne and Jason Loftis taught everyone how to make thaumatropes. These homemade toys trick the eye into combining two pictures, and it’s believed that these might be a predecessor to the modern movie.

Lunch followed. Each family prepared a Civil War-era dish, and the offerings included molasses cookies, hominy, fried apples, hoppin’ John, fried potatoes, gingerbread cake, and orangeades.

Jason and Michelle Harris also built a simulation of a Confederate field hospital, which greatly helped set the scene. The children enjoyed playing inside of it, as well.


Brandon Yocum starts the day with a bugle rendition of Taps. Brandon Yocum starts the day with a bugle rendition of Taps. In the end, the Union prevailed, and in Lincoln’s famous words, “… this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”



Luke Bradsher, Jett Loftis and Jasper Loftis gather inside a Union Army tent. Luke Bradsher, Jett Loftis and Jasper Loftis gather inside a Union Army tent.

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