By Mary O’KEEFE
For many years, Rosemont Middle School students and their families have been able to experience the history of the United States Civil War up close and personal.
Civil War Days is a way for students to learn about the war that pitted brother against brother and changed the course of American history. The event includes testimonies from a Union infantry soldier and a soldier who survived the Andersonville prison camp. President Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth also speak about that fateful night at Ford’s Theatre.
For the event, the school’s campus was divided into sections, each relating to a specific aspect of the Civil War. One section was the Camp Sumter military prison that was located at Andersonville, Georgia. The camp was built to hold Union army prisoners. It was designed to hold 10,000 prisoners, but at its height held more than 32,000 men, explained teacher Hamilton Kim.
Union soldier John Ransom, portrayed by Charly Shelton, was held in the Andersonville prison from 1863 to 1864. He was one of the few who were allowed to keep a journal. After the war and the prisoners were freed, Ransom’s journal was published in newspapers and the country discovered the atrocities that were committed at the camp.
“My name is John Ransom. I was a quartermaster of Company A of the 9th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry,” said Ransom (Shelton).
He explained the layout of the camp, the guards and the walls that kept them imprisoned. The only water source was Sweetwater Creek that ran through the prison. It served as the source of the prisoners’ drinking and washing water and also served their sanitation needs.
“It was boiling hot and reeked of filth, with no sanitary privileges. Men were dying 140 by the day. From the day I was born, I never saw such misery,” Ransom said.
Students were asked to take notes as they walked from station to station thereby bringing history to life for the Rosemont community.