By Todd Martin
Special to the Daily Herald

HARKER HEIGHTS — The large, grassy field behind Eastern Hills Middle School became a Civil War battlefield Thursday, with firing cannon and Union and Confederate banners.

Four seventh-grade Texas history classes and two eighth-grade U.S. history classes re-enacted battles from the Civil War based on research of strategies and formations from the Battle of Gettysburg.

Seventh-graders from one of Latisha McGee’s classes lined up in formation to play the part of Union soldiers.

They made their way across a field marked off with cones for boundaries.

Their eighth-grade counterparts began firing their three 8-foot-long wood and PVC pipe cannon, slinging water balloons onto the battlefield.

The Union seventh-graders, without heavy cannon, bravely hurled their water bombs.

After mostly errant shots from both sides, a call to charge sounded. Students grabbed the remaining balloons and bombarded one another until a whistle blow stopped the watery fray.

“We’ve been learning about the Civil War, and we wanted to learn what it was like,” said seventh-grader Hannah Bush.

She said just like real battles, plans don’t always follow reality. She said her classmates wanted to build cannon and a barricade, but they didn’t do it.

“We did this to experience what soldiers felt,” said seventh-grader Jaelyn Ashford.

“We’re learning, but having fun,” said seventh-grader Sasha Reyes. “We were scared before the battle like soldiers are,” she said, referring to the imposing-looking cannon.

Students came up with battle formations and strategies, spending parts of two weeks practicing on the field. They picked up on the importance of planning and the difficulty of anticipating what happens in battle.

“I thought the cannon would go further,” Bush said, “and I didn’t know they would steal our ammo.”

Lockett, the eighth-grade teacher, built the three large cannon. Two students made smaller ones.

Lockett said students would watch the movie “Gettysburg” and make connections to what they did in the re-enactments.

Students learned of the tedious nature of marching into battle, organizing and reorganizing formations.

“They can understand better and see where we’ve come from,” Lockett said. “It’s also a whole mess of fun.”

Seventh-graders Rebecca Bain and Colin McMurry, the first and second in command in one of the battles, discussed what went right and wrong.

“They started firing and we went to charge, but we reacted too late,” McMurry said, explaining that the enemy was stealing ammo while they were trying to regroup.

Still, he said, his Union soldiers stood their ground and unleashed a full bombardment.

“We had a flank ready to take their cannon,” Bain said, explaining that four students hid to the side ready to flank the enemy, but time ran out.

“We learned how much you need to plan and be ready for anything,” Bain said.