Students Enlist In Civil War Camp

Seven area children have set aside a week of their summer vacation from school to prepare for, and enlist in, a war that happened 150 years ago.

The Fenton History Center’s annual “Camp Brown – ‘A Call to Arms” camp wrapped up Friday, and taught the students about the Civil War and the regiments that trained in Jamestown.

Open to area students who have completed grades 4 through 7, the camp was instructed by Civil War re-enactors Greg Johnson and Steve Johnson. The camp participants were taken on as recruits, and were provided with hands-on experience as Union soldier trainees while learning more about the infantry, artillery, medical corps and other units of the Union Army.

According to Greg Johnson, who portrays Gen. Dan Sickles with the Civil War Heritage Foundation, the camp offers students a comprehensive view of what it was like to be a Civil War trainee at Camp Brown – which was located on the southside of Jamestown behind the Fenton mansion.

“We’re here to teach them how the Civil War troops were trained here at Camp Brown,” he said. “What we’re teaching them here is, basically, the procedures of drill, manual of arms, taking up and down tents; various things that the average soldier would have to do. So they’re learning all of these various things, as well as Civil War history, starting with 1861 on through.”

Greg Johnson said the students in this year’s camp were portraying the 72nd Infantry Regiment Company B. whose captain-James Brown-was the namesake of the camp. He said this year is significant in that it is the sesquicentennial of Company B’s training at Camp Brown.

“This is 1863 in actual time,” said Greg Johnson. “So now these troops are entering service, and they’ll continue with the army – dependent upon where they’re sent – but, most likely, with the Army of the Potomac. And then they’ll go on to continue with the rest of the war, which will be roughly two years.”

Steve Johnson said the camp helps the participants to develop a deeper appreciation for the Civil War era.

“It’s surprising to me, over the five days that they’re here, how much they do pick up. I like to give them little pop quizzes about things we did two days ago, to see how much they’re storing,” he said. “For the past two years, we had two brothers that were here two years in a row. So, if it wasn’t beneficial to some extent, they wouldn’t have come back. And to have it here, on this specific piece of ground, is noteworthy.”

At the conclusion of the camp, Steve Johnson said the participants had an opportunity to meet with President Abraham Lincoln, have a short graduation ceremony and be served their enlistment documentation.

“When their nation calls, they’ll be ready to go,” Steve Johnson joked.

The next summer camp to be held at the Fenton History Center, “History Detectives – Explore Archaeology,” will take place Aug. 12-16 from 1-4 p.m. The camp is for students who have completed grades 4 through 7, and the registration fee is $50 per student. As of Friday, there were two spots remaining.