15 year old Albertus McCreary was a typical Gettysburg boy, and enjoyed “playing soldier” in his Union soldier’s hat. Believing that he was actually a member of the Union Army, Confederate soldiers almost took him prisoner, until his father pleaded for his release, claiming that he was “only a school boy.”
Gettysburg resident Tillie Pierce was also 15 years old at the time of the battle. She fled her home in town to get away from the dangers of the fighting, only to end up working as a nurse and caring for wounded and dying soldiers outside of town at the Jacob Weikert farm.
The youth who visit Gettysburg 150 years after the battle will be able to learn about these stories and more at the Family Activities Tent, located in front of the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center July 1 through 4, and open daily from 10 until 5. All of the activities in the Tent are free of charge.
Programs will include the “Guess Who’s Coming to 2013” living history stage, where a different person from the past will appear every hour on the hour from 10 until 4, as well as “Join the Army” programs on the half hour from 10:30 until 4:30 p.m. Depending on the day, kids may be joining the infantry, artillery, cavalry or medical corps… for about 20 minutes.
In addition, the tent will include hands-on history stations, dress-up opportunities, a soldiers’ pastimes circle where they can repair a uniform button, play dice or dominoes, sketch a camp scene, or write a letter home.
From July 1 through 4, the Family Activities Tent will also be the place where families can pick up and turn in their Junior Ranger Activities Guide… and receive their special Junior Ranger 150 patch and certificate, as well as one of six Sesquicentennial Junior Ranger keepsake identity cards – designed to look like a Civil War daguerreotype.
With the directions on the card, families can explore and stand in the footsteps of a Confederate soldier fighting back in his hometown of Gettysburg; a local Underground Railroad conductor; a Cuban immigrant who became a Lieutenant Colonel in the Union Army by the time of this battle; a nurse from the Second Corps hospital south of town; a soldier’s wife who turned over her home to be used as army headquarters; or a farmer who helped to find, identify and rebury the Union dead.
Junior Rangers can earn all six keepsake cards by exploring the footsteps of the individuals – one by one – and bringing “proof” back to the Family Activities Tent or NPS Information Desk. (Proof can be in the form of a phone photograph, or other demonstration of knowledge from the sites identified on the card.)
For families visiting Gettysburg over the battle anniversary this year, there are so many opportunities to learn about the people involved in, and affected by, the battle of Gettysburg … and the learning starts at the Family Activities Tent!
Barbara J. Sanders, Education Specialist