Children learn team building, history during Civil War reenactment

Updated June 24, 2017 - 10:15 pm

With one “soldier” stabilizing each end of a plastic catapult, a sergeant commanded his officer to load a water-soaked sponge bomb into the weapon’s saddle.

“Enemy sighted!” yelled Jim Edwards, who plays a sergeant for the fourth California volunteer infantry in the Nevada Civil War History Association Inc.’s monthly interactive re-enactment.

“Back, little higher, little higher,” Edwards instructs his soldier, one of six children whose parents brought them to Spring Mountain Ranch State Park on Saturday morning for the activity. “Fire!”

The program is a chance for kids to learn about the Civil War in a participatory setting while gaining team-building and leadership experience, Edwards said. He’s a volunteer senior infantry tactics instructor with the organization.

“We can come up with any scenario we want. It’s so much fun,” he said.

For Edwards and his peers, it’s important to understand the history behind their play actions and stay in character, costume included — though on a hot summer day, that means shedding traditional wool coats and wearing light button-downs instead.

Edwards attributed low turnout to the heat — by the 10 a.m. Sunday event, temperatures already reached 100 in the Las Vegas Valley. Usually, he said about 50 people will show up to undergo an hourlong training, teaching them to march and fire “ammunition.”

Bill Haldeman has been involved in medieval and Renaissance re-enactments for nearly 25 years. Civil War re-enactment is a newer trade.

He said teaching children about history outside of the classroom helps engage them in learning. And the students, he said, remember the experience throughout grade school.

Saturday’s participants were all under age 10, though Edwards said parents enjoy firing the catapult at their children, too.

Genevieve, 10, and Catalina, 5, discharged sponge bombs — and took a few hits — Saturday morning.

Their mother, Tami Martinez, said the event seemed like a fun option, particularly in a city lacking cheap, family-friendly activities.

“It’s educational. Gets them out of the house, unplugs them,” Martinez said.

“The kids have a ball,” Haldeman said. “It’s a blast.” No pun intended.

Contact Jessie Bekker at or 702-380-4563. Follow @jessiebekks on Twitter.

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