The 8th Bridge City Red Raiders once again set up camp at Claiborne West Park and got ready to give a living history lesson to students from Orangefield, Port Neches and Spurger schools. 

The howitzer fired to signal the start of the presentations and the infantry formed their line and marched out to begin the day. The infantry, under command of Lt. Zach Cole, Sgt. Major Tanner Cervenka and Sgt. Haydin Oceguera, was dressed in a variety of uniforms ranging from the familiar gray to butternut, to one sailor. 

In the Civil War when a boat, ship, or ram was sunk the crew often joined the infantry and continued to fight. Cole told the visiting students about the life of an infantry soldier and gave them the opportunity to march with the infantry. The visitors found that is was not that easy to stay in step. They did not realize the infantry had spent 43 hours since January practicing to gain the outstanding marching ability they exhibited that day.

At the blacksmith’s camp, John Ellis, Bryan Landrum, and Justus Milligan gave informative talks about the life of a Confederate blacksmith. They explained the working of the forge and demonstrated the art of the blacksmith. 

They proudly displayed the knives they made from railroad spikes under the tutelage of blacksmith Ray Broome, their mentor from the 3rd Texas Light Infantry.

New to the 8th this year was the addition of a spy, the fetching Madison Woodruff. Madison, along with Capt. Mike Bean, commander of the 3rd Texas, told visitors how the ladies were able to gain the attention of the Yankees and give military information to the Confederates. All they had to do was to be proper Southern ladies and the Yankees were mesmerized. Hoops in the skirts served as places for the ladies to hide their military information. The Ladies were very important to the troops. In addition to the occasional spy, there were the nurses and the camp followers who cooked, washed, and at times fought in the disguise of a male soldier.

One lady in disguise was Kylie “Kyle” Stump who served in the artillery crew with Clint Delahoussaye and Colin Smith. 

Kylie had to prove that a lady had actually served with an artillery crew before she was allowed to take her place in the 8th Bridge City artillery.

Under the careful instruction of Sgt. Kenny Peveto of the 3rd Texas, the crew became so proficient in the firing of the mountain howitzer they were allowed to fire a larger Parrott Gun at a re-enactment in DeRidder, La.

At the cook’s camp, Sydnee Granger and Samantha Morphew explained the fine art of cooking on an open fire and how the pots and pans had to be washed by carrying water in buckets and heating it on the fire. They also displayed a large pot of “Hoppin’ John,” a staple of the times made with meat, rice, tomato, onion, garlic and a few other things thrown in for good measure. 

Brooke Bertles and Hannah McAnelly were the members of the 8th Bridge City demonstrating laundry and cloth drying techniques this year. Making, and repairing clothing and bedding was a necessity of the times and the quilters, knitters, and spinners were as important to the times as the soldiers. Sitting in their camp and demonstrating every craft from quilting to the hand cranked sewing machine were Adraine Cude, Alexis Morris, Sydney Shepherd, Jordan Smith and Danielle Vaden. They had all spent a considerable amount of time learning and practicing the arts and crafts of the ladies of the era and it was evident as they kept the attention of the visiting students as they gave their presentations.

One of the most interesting of the camps was that of the doctor.
Company doctor Hayden Guidry and nurses Shanna Miller and Dani Sanders explained how the doctors of the army had to work under often very difficult conditions with medicines and equipment that were very primitive compared to today’s medical technology.

Dr. Guidry passed around a tin of tooth powder and let those in the audience that cared to, dip in a finger and try to use the powder.

Tooth care was important to the troops, they had to be able to bite of the end of their paper cartridges to pour the powder down their rifle barrels. Bobby Tisdale of the 3rd Texas was in charge of the display of the flags of the Confederacy. He explained the historical significance of each flag and stressed the history, not the politics of each flag. The objective of this re-enactment is to be a living history lesson, not a political commentary. 

“Our students have really become interested in the history of the period. They have been excited to learn history in a hands on manner. That it is exciting to them is evident in that we have grown from 18 to 48 members in such a short time. We are offering this as an elective course next year,” said Leslie Lloyd, who along with Bill Dixon are faculty sponsors of the re-enactors.

The re-enactors who gave the presentations at this years’camps had been faced with the recovery efforts of their families, school, and community from Hurricane Ike. Their re-enactment also had to be rescheduled after the scare of Swine Flu. The postponement meant that they would no longer have exclusive use of the north end of the park.

Another school had scheduled the use of the area around the softball field for a picnic. This school showed how rude some can be to others. When one of the Bridge City faculty, dressed in period clothing went to ask a group playing touch football to be a little more careful and try not to throw the ball into the re-enactment, she was asked, “Why are you dressed like a pilgrim?” and said they had the right to play where they wished. She simply turned and walked away.

This group had also hired a DJ playing hip-hop at a very loud volume. When Lloyd asked him to lower his volume because the noise level was interfering with the re-enactors presentations’, the DJ told Lloyd he was under contract to play and refused to lower the volume.

Lloyd also turned and walked away. The entire Bridge City group of students and faculty showed what ladies and gentlemen they are.

They simply carried on as best they could and tried to ignore the rudeness of the others.