Whitehall Civil War buff brings life-like lesson to students

 Messenger photos by Dianne Garrett

Whitehall resident and Civil War re-enactor Terry Hassell explains the Battle of Antietam to Etna Road Elementary students with a replica of the battle and village that he laid out using 2,800 miniature pieces.

Etna Road Elementary School students in Whitehall enjoyed a day of Civil War re-enactments May 19.  Resident Terry Hassell brings a group of volunteers each year to the school, complete with colorful uniforms, tents, cannon demonstrations and a battlefield display that fills an entire classroom.

Children learned about various types of weapons used in the Civil War, as well as other implements of survival including shelter, cooking utensils and clothing.  

The average size of a soldier was 5’6" to 5’8′ and about 140 pounds.  They carried half their weight in equipment.  They picked up extra clothing, supplies and food from dead soldiers.  It was not like they had the means back then to fly in what they needed along the way, so they had to make use of the resources at hand.

This year a Rosemore Middle School seventh-grade student, Alex Farrow, participated with the group in full uniform.  The youngster has always had a great interest in the Civil War and has traveled to Gettysburg several times.  

His parents, Timothy and Marjorie Farrow, took him to Gettysburg last year as a birthday present.  He said that it is his favorite place to visit.

Covering almost the entire floor of a classroom was a replica of the Battle of Antietam in Maryland, fought Sept. 17, 1862.  Hassell explained to the students that it was the worst battle in U.S. history where 26,000 Americans died in one day of fighting.  One and a half million horses were killed, as well.  

Rosemore Middle School seventh-grade student Alex Farrow observes as Samantha Ryan shows students the various types of lanterns and candles used during the Civil War.  The re-enactors visited the Whitehall school May 19.  Farrow assisted them last year, and has always been interested in the Civil War and Gettysburg, so asked to join the group this year. 

He said that some men had to kill their own horses when the enemy was approaching, or the enemy would use the animals against them.  Hassell shared that it breaks his heart to think of that many innocent animals dying.

When Hassell was a child, he loved miniatures, and used to build dioramas.  "I dreamed of owning buckets of miniatures, and now I do."  

He sets up the village using almost 3,000 miniatures.  Some, such as fencing, he made himself to offset cost.  He pointed out to the kids that even the cows had "cow pies" nearby, which brought a laugh from the children.  

He spent six years painting soldiers, horses and pieces, and has about $15,000 tied up in the set.

Hassell began setting up his miniatures Friday, May 16, and finished on Sunday for the Monday presentation.  It took him and assistants 12 hours to assemble.   

He didn’t forget any detail, even the buckets of arms and legs at the hospital, and the musicians who always played on the battlefield.  He pointed out that musicians were a big part of the Civil War, and no one on either side ever shot at them, as they were the morale boosters.

This is a small sample of the 2,800 miniatures used by Whitehall resident and Civil War re-enactor, David Hassell, to teach Etna Road Elementary students about the Battle of Antietam when he and his group visited the school May 19.

He noted how there came to be buckets of appendages at the hospital.  It was truly a bad day for a soldier if he got shot in the arm or leg, as they were then cut off with a bone saw.  To stop the bleeding, the stub was then charred over a fire.  

Injured soldiers would also hide in hay bales.  Sometimes the hay would catch on fire from gun blasts, and the soldier would be too weak to crawl out, and die in the fire.


Hassell is an electrician who now teaches his trade at a vocational school.  According to teacher Pam Lucas, his son, Cory, is a former student of hers.  Years ago when she was looking for re-enactors, he volunteered his dad.  He and his group now visit the school annually.

Hassell started the group of re-enactors about six years ago.  The Byrnes Battery Co. B, Fifth Kentucky Confederate States of America, is an all-volunteer organization that loves to teach.  The group will appear at the Reynoldsburg Tomato Festival, where they will actually fire their cannon in demonstrations, and have a camp-out.

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