Friday, July 9, 2004

Heritage Village imagines
Civil War with water weapons

Cool camps: an occasional series

By John Johnston
Enquirer staff writer

In a 19th century village, well-armed Union and Confederate armies creep closer, until finally the first "shots" are fired - with water balloons and squirt guns.

Captain, Bing Spitler, executive director of the Heritage Village in Sharon Woods led a group of boys on a march during a Civil War Camp Strategies at the Park.
(Tony Jones/The Enquirer)
Welcome to Civil War Strategies, a weeklong day camp for ages 11 to 14 offered by Heritage Village Museum at Sharon Woods.

"We're not trying to glorify war," says Bing Spitler, the museum's executive director, who leads his troops into battle wearing the blue uniform of a Union Army captain. "We're just trying to have fun and study a little history in the process."

For a week, the 20 campers - 18 boys and two girls - have been immersed in Civil War history, education coordinator Kris Mooney says. They have marched and drilled with re-enactors. They have cooked bean soup and made cornbread. They have learned how armies crossed creeks (and they've found plenty of crawdads in the process). They have studied the strategies of major battles.

Heritage Village Museum, operated by Historic Southwest Ohio Inc., offers a perfect venue with its collection of authentic buildings. Civil War Strategies is one of its five summer camps; registration has ended for each.

The final day of camp features a water battle between Union forces in their blue tie-dyed T-shirts, and their counterparts in gray. Using strategies from actual Civil War engagements, each side has a battle plan. The object is to remain dry.

But some campers are wet before the battle begins. Friendly fire, perhaps. Or in the case of Jackson Kosztala, an 11-year-old from Hyde Park, it's a case of a self-inflicted balloon burst.

"I was biting it," he says. "I was nervous."

Sounds from the battle:

"I'm running out of water."

"Save as much ammo as possible."

"This is awesome!"

In the end, the Union is proclaimed victorious. But the defeated Confederates don't seem to mind being drenched on such a hot, humid day.


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