Supt. Feldkamp continues to teach children about American Civil War
Story and photos by Monty Davis
With each deafening shot from the six-pound field gun, Valley Falls Supt. Loren Feldkamp wants his students to not only experience the Civil War, but have an understanding why it was fought.
“It’s hard for young people to realize that fighting for state’s rights was a very important issue back in those days,” Feldkamp said.
Feldkamp was hired as superintendent three years ago and he brought with him the 2,400-lb. brass field gun. During the school year, it is fired to give students an idea of the kind of fire powder Union soldiers had at their disposal during the war.
“What I think is the most important part of history is the hands on: see it, hear it and really feel what it was like,” Feldkamp said.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. Since 1993, Feldkamp has been participating in Civil War re enactments and plans to continue to do so as the country looks back on a war that divided the nation.
He plays the role of Capt. Feldkamp in the 3rd Kansas Light Artillery. The unit was attached to the 2nd Kansas Cavalry and was formed in December 1861. Many of the battles they fought were in Oklahoma, northern Arkansas, and southern Missouri.
“It was a real unit and that’s who we portray,” he said.
Feldkmap spent 20 years teaching American history at B&B High School in Baileyville. He invited re enactors to teach lessons to his students.
It was durng this time Feldkmap developed his passion and and was invited to participate.
“I was in the infantry at that point and I was hooked and loved it from the very beginning,” he said. “It was hard and something I had never done before.”
Earlier this month, the artillery unit was among 800 re enactors who participated in the First Battle of Booneville in Boonville, Mo. The original battle took place on June 17, 1861.
Feldkamp explained the battle was a minor skirmish and only lasted 20-25 minutes. Well-trained federal troops, led by Nathaniel Lyon, quickly defeated Confederate troops, led by John Marmaduke. In the end, the Union soldiers prevailed. Five men were killed in the battle: three union, and 2 conferates.
The 3rd Kansas Light Artillery did not fight in the original Booneville battle.
Throughout the three-day event, the artillery unit participated in re creating generic civil battle scenes.
Feldkamp said it takes five men to operate the six-pound gun which has a maximum range of three quarters of a mile using 1.2 lbs. of cannon grade cannon powder.
Artillery units were attached to cavalry units. It took six horses to pull the gun and could be placed into a firing line quickly, Feldkamp said.
“The artillery could support an infantry company with devastatging fire into the enemies ranks,” Feldkamp said.
He sid the artillery guns were called the “King of the Battlefield” during the Civil War.
“Well placed artillery could turn a Civil War battle into the favor of those who had better positions and better equipment,” Feldkamp said. “ By mid-1863, the Federal army’s artillery were clearly superior the the confederate armies artillery.”
Feldkmap portrays a Union soldier but says that the majority of re enactors prefer to protray the confederacy. He said there are several reaons for that.
“Probably the main reason for that is that the uniform doesn’t have to be a specific style.,” he said. “They can wear it very unique to their own personalties … and the romantisizing of the south and the lost cause and fighting for state’s right …people just like to do that.”
He said there was lots of reasons for the civil war and often times a soldiers viewpoint depended on what part of the country he was from.
“Everybody had a different reason for fighitng in the war,” he said.
He points out to his students that the civil war fought along the border between Kansas and Missouri was much different from battles fought back east at Gettysburg and Antitem.
“The border wars were very brutal … as a matter of fact it was guerilla warfare at some of it’s worst,” he said. “It was very common for pro slavery men to bushwacher anti slave men. There were all sorts of massares.. farmsteads burned down by the hundreds.”
As long as he is in Valley Falls, students can expect to keep learning the history of the civil war.
“It’s not so about the battles it’s about the social aspects of the Civil War and why people fought for what they fought for,” he said.
Loren Feldkamp stands with members of the 3rd Kansas Light Artillery: front row, l to r: Kent Johnson, Gerry Rauch, Richard Spacek, Roy Lafferty, Ed Patterson, and Todd Meek. 2nd row: Peter Stoddard, Charles Dugan, Alan Van Loenen, Larry McDaniel, Dylan Callahan, and Logan French.
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