The 11th Texas Cavalry Reenactment Group held a demonstration to help students of the SHSU history department and some members of the community see the history behind the U.S. Civil War last Friday on the grounds of the Sam Houston Memorial Museum.
Dr. Susannah Bruce’s and Dr. Caroline Crimm’s classes were in attendance to learn about the lives of the American Civil War soldiers.
“It has been a huge turnout,” said Bruce. She said there were about 80 students for the morning demonstration and more students attended in the afternoon.
The afternoon also included students from Heritage Christian Academy and some kids who are home schooled in the area who just wanted to come and observe.
“It is really nice to see the community interest and kind of bringing those ties together,” said Bruce.
Bruce said this was all started when she attended a fellowship with professors at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. They would bring in professors and teach them how to teach Military History using some of the militaries improved methods they use with their cadets.
“One of the things they do is bring in a reenactment group when they are discussing the American Civil War to really give the cadets a [first chance] for the feel and the weight of the weapons, the uniforms and all the accouterments you have and how complicated a lot of the drill maneuvers are,” said Bruce.
Bruce said once you do the drill and you understand what the soldiers are physically going through, you become a much more sympathetic.
“This kind of hands on learning becomes an amazing tool to really explaining the life of Civil War soldiers,” said Bruce.
There were two men from the 11th Texas Cavalry, Colonel Wil Gibson and First Sergeant Charles Edwards, who were performing the demonstrations for the students. The demonstrations consisted of explaining the weapons, the history of the unit and how the weapons are used.
First Sergeant Edwards was wearing the full uniform and explained what he was wearing and what everything was used for. He also performed the drills in training to show the students were you start, the count offs, how you march and which ways to go.
Colonel Gibson and First Sergeant Edwards went over the safety instructions to show how dangerous black powder is, even without a lead ball.
“[This was] to make sure everyone took it seriously,” said Bruce.
This all really started last spring at the folk festival.
“The history department purchased four complete uniforms and weapons, two of the federal union and two of the confederate,” said Bruce. There were three history graduate students who wore the uniforms and did a demonstration on Friday.
These students had attended previous demonstrations as undergraduates and are now helping out in the reenactments.
“We all want to continue,” said Jeff Roberts, a history graduate student.
Bruce said the department plans to continue this and in the spring at the Folk Festival, the 11th Texas Cavalry will have tents and their wives there so students can see the women’s demonstration around the camp as well.
“We are hoping to get a full battle reenactment [too],” said Bruce.
“The support we have had from the university, the history department and administration has just been outstanding,” said Bruce.
She said the hopes to recruit some future historians and/or history teachers and help students see that you can use alternative methods for teaching.