Monday, June 18, 2012

Civil War Days - A Time Traveling Field Trip

Field Trips involving history are always fun, but there is nothing more fun than actually traveling back to the past and experiencing the history as it happens!  That's exactly what we did for our first summer field trip.

 Civil War Days takes place in Humboldt Kansas about every 3 years in the month of June and this was our second time attending.  This Civil War Days event is not about the Civil War in general but rather is focused on the Civil War that took place after the Kansas Territory was opened in 1854.  This war is often referred to as the Border Wars or Bleeding Kansas.

You see, Pro-slave Missourians wanted to expand slavery in the new Kansas Territory but Free State Kansans did not want slavery so they began to battle it out and it got rather nasty.  Many abolitionists including John Brown came to fight to keep Kansas a free state.  Kansas Jayhawkers and Missouri Bushwhackers battled and crossed state lines raiding towns and burning communities on both sides.

In Southeast Kansas the principle Confederate raider was Captain John Matthews, a long time Kansas resident.  He thought his brother-in-law Samuel Gilmore (a Union sympathizer) had taken goods from his trading post and was selling them in Humboldt.  Looking for his goods and for escaped slaves who had been known to find refuge there, Captain John Matthews along with his friend Captain Livingstone and Stand Waite, leader of the Cherokee Confederates, led a raid against Humboldt on September 8, 1861. That was the very day that we arrived!

It was a beautiful morning and the folks in the town were going about their business.   Families were shopping at the General Store.


 Wounded soldiers who had come home were finding rest.


 And kids were playing.


All of a sudden there was a big commotion!  We heard shouting, and gun fire!  Look!  Soldiers!


Captain John Matthews was accusing the residents of having his stolen property. 


The women and children were terribly frightened!


 Taking advantage of the women and children while their husbands were away Captain Matthews shouted orders for his men to take everything!  They stole livestock, liquor, money, jewelry and anything else they wanted.


I will jump ahead in time and tell you a bit more of the story.  Humboldt did get their revenge on the raiders.  200 cavalry from Fort Scott pursued them and 10 days later they captured and killed Captain Matthews.  However, on October 14th 1861 about 350 Confederate forces burned the town of Humboldt displacing 40 families and destroying residences and businesses.  It's a good thing we didn't witness that on our trip!  I told you it got nasty.  That's one reason why these border wars were also called Bleeding Kansas.  How sad.

The raid by Missouri Bushwhackers was only one of the reenactments that day and there were also speeches by John Brown and President Lincoln himself!  While we didn't listen to those (Gess is not a fan of passionate speeches) we did get to meet John Brown. (While we didn't get to meet President Lincoln this time, Gess had met him three years ago.)


Gess was so excited after the reenactment she spent the rest of the day pretending to be a soldier.  She was talking through her teeth trying to so hard to sound manly and grown up.  She even called me her wife a couple of times.  It was so funny!  Here she is spending some quality time with her brothers in arms.


She also wanted to check out the town.  She was most curious about the jail so she went and spent a few minutes behind bars.


Then she spent a little time at the saloon.  I was a bit worried as to why she was there, but maybe she was looking for work.  During the reenactment they did mention a little girl who made money for her family by washing their towels.


Oh and check this out!  Look at what my daughter is doing and where she is doing it!


That's right.  She is sitting in front of the telegraph office pretending to talk on the phone!  My husband first pointed that out to me and I quickly snapped the picture.  We then explained to Gess what a telegraph office was and how if she lived during the Civil War Days she would have to send a telegraph instead of talk on the phone.  There she is noticing the sign as daddy explained it to her.  What an absolutely cute lesson!


Oh and here she is with daddy.  Note the amount of stars on the flag and that Gess is saluting like a soldier.


This was just a small part of our time travel through history.  In fact, the next section I want to share about was so amazing that I want to save it for a blog all on it's own.  The North Star Express was a unique hands on interactive museum on wheels that focused on both the life of slavery and the opposition to it by abolitionists and the Under-ground Railroad in Kansas.  It was amazing so be sure to check my blog post about it to learn more!

Planning field trips around historical events, rather than just places can be really fun and summer time is a great time to do that.  Keep your eye out for these events in your community.  Seeing a reenactment was also one of the 101 things that Gess needs to do before she's 12.  You see for Gess' 9th Birthday she got this book titled 101 things you gotta do before you're 12.  It was a really cool gift and got Gess doing some things we would never have thought to do before, like eat flowers!  There are lots of summer field trip ideas in there as well. 


Taking your summer vacation and making a field trip out of it gives a whole new dimension to summer!  What cool field trips are you doing this summer?  Have some tips on what to do and where to go?  Please share!  Want to read more about summer field trips?  Then stop by the Schoolhouse Blog Cruise!


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2 comments:

Stefanie said...

Awesome trip! And thanks for the book suggestion. I'm going to check it out.

Kym Thorpe said...

That looks wonderful!! We live right in middle of a whole bunch of Civil War battlefields, so I find it fascinating.

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