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Students have a historic holiday
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Reiden Hylton gives his speech in character as President Abraham Lincoln at Patrick Henry Elementary School. (Contributed photo)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Fifth-graders at Patrick Henry Elementary recently brought history to life with a “Civil War Thanksgiving.”

To culminate their study of the Civil War, students chose a historical figure from that time period to research on their own, said teacher Cameron Cooper. They then dressed in character and gave a speech about the person’s life from their subject’s point of view. Many students dressed up as Abraham Lincoln, while others chose Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, soldiers and drummer boys.

“I encouraged them to be creative as much as possible and use items they have at home,” Cooper said. “I was highly impressed.”

Amber Rountree said she has been interested in Harriet Tubman “ever since third grade.” Amber chose Tubman for her report “because of all the things she did, helping people escape to freedom. She was a good person who was tired of being beaten.”

Tubman escaped from slavery and helped hundreds of other slaves escape to freedom in the north. During the Civil War, she worked for the Union Army as a scout, nurse and spy.

Aaliyah Turner wore a wig and a long dress for her report on Tubman. “I really like Harriet Tubman — what she did for the slaves, and how she changed the world,” Aaliyah said.

Several students chose to dress as John Clem, a famous drummer boy for the Union Army who was about their age when he joined the service. Clark Givens, who brought in a real drum with his costume, noted that the drummer boy’s job was to give soldiers the signals to attack and retreat on the battlefield. He also would work as a stretcher-bearer for wounded soldiers.

“Being a drummer boy is not a safe job,” said Chas Whitfield, who wore his baseball pants and suspenders as part of his drummer costume.

Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross who was known as the “Angel of the Battlefield” for her work tending to wounded soldiers during the Civil War, also was a popular choice. Faith Young wore a long black skirt and even made an Iron Cross pin for her depiction of Barton; she noted in her presentation that it was Germany’s highest honor, presented to Barton by the emperor for her work in nursing during the Franco-Prussian War.

Christian Kissee got creative for his costume of Nat Turner, a slave who led a bloody revolt in Southhampton County in 1831. While Turner's revolt and execution took place long before the Civil War, students study the event as one of the factors that contributed to secession and war.

To create rags, “I got old sweatpants, cut them up and put paint on them,” Christian said. He also gave his speech in bare feet.


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