Civil War Project - Students share work with public

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Central sophomore Olivia Backes plays “Taps” ending a Civil War presentation at the Carter House Annex, Elkader.

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor

Standing on the stoop of the Carter House Annex on a bright, sunny Tuesday afternoon, Central sophomore Olivia Backes brought to an end her work on the Civil War in a most appropriate way. Solemnly lifting a polished bugle to her pursed lips, the experienced trumpeter played a moving and mournful verse of “Taps.”

The trumpet that Olivia used was part of a display that she and Maddi Beckman gave on the 1st Ohio Volunteer Infantry. As part of their research, they learned that “Taps” was written during the Civil War so they decided to incorporate the song and the bugle into their work.

“We discovered that by 1891, it was required at all military funerals,” said Maddie. “I’ve played it before but never really knew much about it.”

Olivia and Maddi were part of a group of 28 sophomores who last week filled the annex of Elkader’s Civil War-era museum with display boards, reports, photos and timelines of the “War Between the States.”

The students worked in pairs on the assignment, which carried through their history, English and science classes. Social studies teacher Mark Wiley required a research paper; English instructor Carolyn Yanda wanted students to understand primary sources and report-writing techniques like footnotes; and Ann Gritzner, who teaches science, helped students learn about the nature of disease and the role it played in the war.

This is the third year that Central students have displayed their Civil War research at the annex. A number of Elkader residents stopped by the museum to look at the displays and ask students questions about their work.

Students were intrigued by many of the things they learned during the project like the long journeys to the battle fronts (2,500 miles on foot was not uncommon) and the lack of adequate medicine (morphine was in short supply so whiskey was often used). The fact that many soldiers weren’t much older than the Central students wasn’t lost on them, either. Jenna Jansen found a dairy of a soldier who was just 14 when he joined up with his dad and 17 by the time the ward ended.

“There was a real change in his attitude toward the war,” she said. “He was ready to go at first but by the time it was over he was more than ready to go home. He said it was a ‘good fight’ but he was glad it was over.”

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