I was reading up on Civil War reenactments the other day, when it struck me – why couldn’t we do our own reenactment at school? After mulling over it, I realized that we could do it. And so MVHS: Antietam 2013 was born!
In January I teamed up with a friend of mine, Arjun Krishna, and started planning for the event. We assigned roles – I was Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and Arjun was Union General George B. McClellan – and started figuring out some logistics. Costumes were pretty easy: just wear your side’s color. Weapons… not so much. After heated debate on the topic, all the generals decided that gray pool noodles would be the safest option. Unfortunately, we faced a slight problem here – namely, that the pool noodles did not resemble muskets in the least. If the soldiers who fought in Antietam actually carried pool noodles as weapons, it wouldn’t have been the bloodiest day in American history. People would have died of laughter.
But the reenactment was held at school, so therefore, we had to abide by zero-tolerance policies, so therefore, on May 25, we found ourselves commanding 77 people holding flags, hats and gray pool noodles. Our instructions were to “drop down and shoot,” but it’s a bit hard to follow those particular instructions when you’re carrying pool noodles, so people ended up fighting each other in a myriad of interesting ways. These included:
1) Using the pool noodles as rapiers and engaging in enthusiastic sword fights
2) Using the pool noodles as bayonets and attempting to stab each other in the chest
3) Using the pool noodles to repeatedly whack each other on the head
Pool noodle abuse aside, however, the reenactment went splendidly! Like the real Antietam, no one was quite sure which side won (although that might be because everyone gave up fighting and rushed to coo over my teacher’s baby in the end). Like the real Antietam, a good portion of people fell on the battlefield. In fact, so many people died that we had to call an emergency meeting and resurrect a few corpses, since we didn’t have enough living soldiers left to fight.
But all of that is absolutely fine. Because, like the real Antietam, our soldiers were young and inexperienced. They didn’t know exactly what they were doing – they just had to follow their generals and hope for the best. And that, dear readers, is the essence of the 1860s – that feeling of unsureness is exactly what the young men of both the South and the North had to go through when they fought and later, when they rebuilt the country. It doesn’t matter that we fought with pool noodles, doesn’t matter that we ate pizza and drank juice and played video games after it was over. All that matters is that for one precious hour on a Saturday morning, 77 people banded together and made history come alive.
Wish you’d been there to see it? Check out the videos of the reenactment here:
1. Trailer 1:
2. Trailer 2: