Civil War Camp is Back in Action!

Gigi Hanner

This past Monday and Tuesday, September 27th and 28th, CHS History teachers Mrs. Anna Zervos and Mr. Robert Deruntz presented juniors with the annual Civil War camp. All Chesterton juniors are required to take some form of United States History, which ranges from regular track USH to AP. During their history block earlier this week, juniors came down to listen to the 70-minute presentation, and learn about the Civil War in an interactive way.

     This camp has been going on at CHS for 17 years, and has always been coordinated by Zervos and DeRuntz, and even saw fellow social studies teacher Mr. Jamie Sensibaugh helping out from time to time in the early years. The setup is incredibly impressive, with a tent set up, a fire, mannequins wearing uniforms, and includes DeRuntz sporting an era-specific bayonet. All involved with the camp wore civil war era clothing, and all of the soldier uniforms even signify rank, as they would have during the war. 

     Three types of Civil War-era food were served to students to show what union soldiers ate. Hardtack, a mixture of salt, flour, and water, serves as a sort of bread, although it could easily chip teeth! Salt pork was served as well, and was heavily salted as a way to preserve the meat. Finally, a bean and pork soup was served, also salted more than most of us are comfortable with today. Considering the circumstances, the food was surprisingly good.  This is the only living museum of its kind at the high school, and Zervos believes the experience to be invaluable. 

     “We do of course have classroom work with the Civil War, but this a living museum, we have exact replicas of things people in war would have used. So by having the camp we feel students get an immersive experience,” Zervos stated, “[students get] a sense of the hardships and what the soldiers went through, the difficulty of the war, and a real sense of what history means today.”

     Zervos also notices a significant difference in student engagement on the days of the camp compared to a normal lecture day in the classroom. 

     “The camp is about a 70-minute experience, and right until Mr. Deruntz is finished with his stories, the kids are very focused.”

     Early on in the presentation, Deruntz loads and fires the bayonet. The noise could be heard from inside the building, quite startling for unexpecting students. This, too, has been happening for 17 years. Getting approval to fire the gun was not as difficult as some might expect.

     “Because we’ve been doing this for so long, we’ve proved ourselves and they’ve come to appreciate it as much as the students,” Deruntz insisted.

     The camp was a refreshing, exciting experience for the junior class. Deruntz and Zervos once again did an excellent job of setting up and carrying out the camp, and we look forward to seeing it again next year.