The problem with learning about history is that it’s all-too often reduced to an abstract notion that’s hard for kids to identify with. Well, let me tell you that I’ve just come back from a remarkable camp program at Petersburg, Virginia’s 430-acre Pamplin Historical Park that transforms the history of the Civil War into a truly extraordinary experience.
The park itself is a pretty phenomenal place, dedicated to preserving the site of the Siege of Petersburg, a nine-month struggle that led directly to General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. The park’s centerpiece, the 25,000-square-foot National Museum of the Civil War Soldier, is absolutely state-of-the-art to the extent that it makes the interpretive centers at other battlefields I’ve visited look quaint by comparison.
What’s really cool here though is the park’s Civil War Adventure Camp program that’s offered from May through October. Unlike the many Civil War reenactments that take place around the country, the program supplies everything you need to experience the life of a Confederate or Union soldier, from period-correct uniforms to walled-tent accommodations to some pretty tasty grub (with the possible exception of the hardtack biscuits). High points include the chance to fire reproductions of a Civil War black-powder rifle and a 150-pound “portable” mortar. I can tell you from first-hand experience that this part of the program is an absolute BLAST!